UK Construction Media

Taking BIM to the next Level: An exclusive interview with David Philp

News   •   May 06, 2016 12:41 BST

UK Construction Online spoke to David Philp – Head of BIM for the UK BIM Task Group – ahead of the April 4th BIM Level 2 mandate to discuss the industry’s readiness, the challenges associated and the prospect of Level 3 BIM.

How will you and the BIM Task Group be spending your time in the run up to the mandate?

We are busy working on many different fronts; we’re working especially with the British Standard Institute to put a wrapper around the Level 2 suite. Some of that will involve making sure there is good coordination and guidance around about it as well.

There will also be a new website – www.level2BIM.org – that will be on-hand to provide a great deal of guidance to people. This site and the guidance will grow through the currency of the year. There is also a lot of hard work going on in the BIM4 Communities to make sure that knowledge is being passed on and message of good practice, and collecting all the good case studies to make sure those lessons are distributed.

We are working hard with the relevant government departments in making sure they are on their journey and Level 2 artefacts are being embedded, and indeed by the 4th April, it’s all about putting out good quality employers’ information requirements.

The ECA BIM readiness survey suggested that BIM awareness in the industry was high but in terms of being BIM ready, only 1 in 6 described themselves as being ‘fully BIM ready’. Do you see that as a concern or it more of a case of companies just needing a helping hand?

I think you’re right on that one. There’s a huge pipeline of Level 2 projects going through at this moment in time and I think it’s fair to say that the work that’s out there, the industry has responded very well to it.

There is always that period as well between putting in your pre-qualification and actually starting a project. In the last four years, we have seen people get on the ramp and people are still on that journey towards Level 2. Our BIM4 groups have done a great job in terms of helping people to close that gap in terms of BIM.

When we cut through the whole of Level 2, it’s about sharing information collaboratively over a project lifecycle. It’s what we are doing or what we should be doing already – putting it in a digitised and consistent format.

Are you satisfied how the industry is currently positioned?

Yes, the industry is very well positioned. Industry has a long tail but what we are seeing is those at the front are well placed and are supporting digital services already. Those that are coming up the curve are now delivering Level 2 projects. No doubt there is a long tail but people on that ramp are starting to use the standards and are starting to embed Level 2 within their process.

I think it’s fair to say that within a few years, we will no longer talk about Level 2 BIM because hopefully it will be business as usual. We are starting to see that early adoptive departments such as the Ministry of Justice – it’s what they do now. It’s a digitised project management approach that they have got with BIM Level 2 embedded within it.

Are we far away from achieving the tipping point in terms of BIM adoption?

I think we have certainly reached that point of no return. We are seeing drivers on the different sides of the coin. On one side, we have mandates out there – we’ve got client requirements, EIRs, etc – but at the same time what we’re seeing on the other side is that the supply chain is realising there’s efficiency out there in terms of what they’re doing. It’s helping them drive more innovation, it’s de-risking the process for them and it’s helping them win work for added value.

I think to some extent for the larger organisations, they are seeing it as what’s what expected of them now. At the same time, SME’s are quick to innovate and are doing great work to take this opportunity.

How are SMEs faring in comparison to the bigger companies?

I think in a lot of cases they have been quicker off the mark. They actually see the benefits of what it means for them and in a lot of cases they can compete with some of the bigger players as well. One of the great things about digitisation is that it becomes a great leveller in terms of what we’re doing. We often use the term ‘early contractor engagement’ but one of the things we are seeing with Level 2 BIM is ‘specialist engagement’. BIM4SME is a great reference group and reference point.

What advice would you give to companies struggling to implement BIM?

I think there are a couple of things. Number one, they are probably on the ramp already. We find that if we take the term BIM away, they are probably doing information management or some other component.

A company in this position should try and assess where they’re at now. Have a look in terms of the Level 2 suite, which are all free to download. Where are the gaps? Put together an action plan to try and solve this, maybe not across the whole business but on certain aspects.

Essentially, just go and do it – don’t be afraid of it! Let’s be honest, we’re essentially talking about information management mostly when we talk about Level 2 BIM – don’t be afraid of it. There are a lot of good resources out there – the BSI, the BIM Task Group website, B1M. Have a look at it and get ready. Also, make sure you’ve got people working in your business who are excited about it and get people to engage with it.

There have been a number of people in the industry calling for a recognised government backed training scheme – RICS for example have their ICS certified BIM management qualification – do you think this is something that might and needs to happen?

I think in terms of accreditation UKAS will make a decision of whether or not there is a need for it but undoubtedly there is a need for consistency. There are some good tools out there just now for the clients to use – PAS 91 has pre-qualification questions in there. However, we have to be very careful that we don’t add yet another layer of accreditation when we are actually trying to make some things more efficient. This is should be something that is actually embedded within an organisation’s business management systems.

Where are we in terms of the private sector driving the use of BIM?

We’re seeing great examples out there at the moment. We saw some early adopter private sector clients such as Great Portland Estates really driving it as well. We’ve got the BIM4privateclients working group with lots of private sector clients on it and they are starting to uptake elements of Level 2, working their way through to a full Level 2 project.

What we are seeing in the private sector is a much more consistent execution of Employers Information Requirements (EIR) and indeed, it’s not just putting an EIR out but they are actually well informed in terms of organisation information and asset information model requirements. We are also now talking more about soft landings, asset models. Four or five years ago we wouldn’t be having such a mature Totex conversation.

Following from Level 2’s implementation, how do see you Level 3 developing?

What we always have to remember about Level 3 is that it is going to be a progressive journey. It’s not an analogue zero to one from Level 2 to Level 3. It will be 3a, 3b 3c and 3d. We are still on a journey but Level 3 will undoubtedly be the paradigm shift where we are starting to think about moving from outputs to outcomes and potentially seeing construction as a service.

We will have all this performance data from sensory networks that could potentially be the real paradigm shift, as we will move from collaboration to integration and optimisation of performance outcomes.

Do Level 3 and future Levels be more easily achievable?

The mandate has helped to get clients and organisations onto the digitisation ramp, starting with BS1192:2007 then onward to Level 2, which is staging post towards a Digital Built Britain. Level 3 will require a lot of hard work and commitment but the reward will be well worth it – the holy grail of integrated digital working is a real paradigm shift.

What we have been trying to do with Level 2 is think about information exchanges and collaborative domain-based environment. As we move to Level 3, we start to think about integrated forms of contract and outcome based delivery and what that looks like. Level 2 was constrained often by the commercial model more than anything.

Do you see the European Public Procurement Directive eventually leading to a European-wide BIM mandate?

I don’t think there will be a European-wide BIM mandate but we will definitely see much more harmonisation in terms of what we’re doing. The new EU BIM Task Group – www.eubim.eu – will start to foster a world-class digital open competitive European public works and construction sector.

We’ll probably start to hear more focus towards an optimisation for the full cycle of public works and hopefully it will improve efficiency and effectiveness and indeed ultimately better value for public money. The EU BIM Task Group is about bringing a European public approach together and bringing National BIM efforts to a common European approach.