There are many definitions of Building Information Modelling (BIM) but it is simply the means by which everyone can understand a building through the use of a digital model. Modelling an asset in digital form enables those who interact with the building to optimise their actions, resulting in a greater whole life value for the asset.
Through BIM the UK construction industry is undergoing its very own digital revolution. BIM is a way of working; it is information modelling and information management in a team environment, all team members should be working to the same standards as one another. BIM creates value from the combined efforts of people, process and technology.
The UK Government’s Construction 2025: Industrial Strategy for Construction is targeting lower costs, faster delivery, lower emissions and improvements in exports to position the UK at the forefront of international construction. The UK Government’s Construction Strategy 2011 is a framework for a range of work streams, all of which contribute to the 2025 strategy. This framework forms the basis of the government’s BIM hypothesis:
“Government as a client can derive significant improvements in cost, value and carbon performance through the use of open sharable asset information.”
The objective of the Construction Strategy 2011 is to accelerate the adoption of BIM throughout the UK construction supply chain. The requirements by 2016 are for all centrally procured Government projects to be a fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being digital). Since the publication of the Construction Strategy in 2011, the following have been implemented:
This chosen information format was Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie).
COBie was selected as the container for non-graphical information and the reasons for its selection were pragmatic. It is cheap to implement with tools readily available and has forward compatibility with international open standards such as ISO 16739.
More and more assets are being ’built with BIM’ and this provides a fantastic opportunity to revolutionise the way in which users interact with the information contained in those assets.
To achieve this the digital building blocks that are used to create virtual assets needs to be standardised. These building blocks are commonly known as BIM objects.
The availability of manufacturers’ BIM objects is an important factor in achieving success with BIM. The number of manufacturers engaging with BIM is rising but not quickly enough. The construction industry needs a comprehensive library of manufacturer BIM objects.
These objects need to be of the right quality, and connect with generic objects and associated technical specifications to support the digital plan of work. Achieving standardisation between generic and proprietary information is what NBS has been doing for over 40 years, and its entire product range is geared towards supporting the digital plan of work.
This standardisation of information is at the heart of the UK BIM strategy. The information exchange facilitated by the staged COBie data drops is fundamentally concerned with collecting information that can be compared in various ways. With COBie, construction data can be compared across project stages: has the cost changed or has the delivery time improved or reduced? These are typical stage-to-stage questions.
On a broader scale, being able to compare construction data across numerous built assets will help to assess greater whole life value. By comparing projects, data optimisation becomes possible; lessons can be learned from what works well, and this knowledge can influence future projects, refurbishment works and maintenance activities.
A BIM object is a combination of many things:
For each of these BIM object essentials, it is important that a standardised approach is taken, as creating digital assets using a consistent kit of parts will yield all of the benefits that standardisation brings.
Objects will be efficient to use, more easily comparable and will be interoperable.
From the outset, the NBS National BIM Library set an industry standard. It created each object with a core property set that:
All of which support efficient workflows and enable the creation of high-quality, digital building assets.
By standardising the information recorded within objects, they can be compared and an appropriate selection made for the project. Common approaches to the modelling of the physical characteristics of products make the BIM objects simple to use, affording the designer a reliable, consistent and intuitive experience. The hard work is in the detail, for example BIM objects in Industry Foundation Class (IFC) format; these IFC files are manipulated so that they have their information properties consistently grouped and organised. This makes their use in various BIM platforms straightforward and consistent. Another example is the use of standardised properties. The benefits of this become obvious when using objects from more than one manufacturer in the same project. When creating schedules that span products from many manufacturers, the use of a standardised property set enables information relating to each of these products to be displayed in a single column. This is the start of the common data environment.
With each BIM platform vendor having their own approach to information handling, the importance of setting minimum requirements for information transfer is vital to achieving collaboration and interoperability.
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