Rob Charlton, CEO of space architecture, looks to the cloud and the process changes required for real time integration of the design team.
The UK construction industry is notoriously conservative and reluctant to invest. Only a small number of companies saw the early potential of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and decided to take a lead. Organisations like our own were fascinated by the potential and skilled our whole team in the new way of working. Construction companies such as Laing O’Rourke were also early adaptors and pushed the technology through its business.
It took until mid 2011 for BIM to become mainstream in the UK. The announcement by the UK government in May 2011 that all government-funded projects would be delivered in BIM by 2016 legitimised the technology and approach.
Paul Morrell from the government task force significantly raised awareness, but more importantly demonstrated that BIM was not going to go away.
Right across the industry from designers to builders and clients there is a varying level of adoption.
At consultant level all professions are aware of the technology and are adopting it at different paces. Large practices are making a commitment with smaller practices taking a more cautious approach.
Builders are now aware of BIM and their commitment ranges from a reactive response when required through to pro-active investment in research and development.
We have moved into a period where clients are starting to appreciate the benefits of quality building information in the process of managing risk and importantly managing their assets and facilities in the long term.
On the level
The UK government has adopted a range of established levels to identify progress and growth in the maturity of BIM. The target for 2016 is that all projects will be delivered to level 2 BIM.
Level 2 BIM is a relatively straightforward development in that individual project teams can still work within their own authoring software with the individual models being federated into a central file and co-ordinated independently.
This is largely a replication of how design management and development has progressed for many years only using models as opposed to 2-dimensional information.
We are now moving towards Level 3 BIM, which will not only require that the industry adopts new technical skills in using software but also a change in how procurement and liability is managed.
Over a number of years several of the software developers have been developing cloud-based strategies and it is clear that software suites being hosted locally is likely to be phased out with software solutions and storage being held in the cloud. This will also provide the ability to access a wide range of services and to ensure that information and services are current.
It is likely that, rather than making one-off capital savings for software, organisations will be encouraged to use credits, which can be utilised on a project-by-project basis.
This new infrastructure has been a catalyst to reconsider how not only software needs to be developed but how we approach design co-ordination.
Level 3 BIM encourages design team members to work together in real time in a single project environment.
This approach clearly challenges everything which has been known in the industry for decades.
There are a range of new products currently being developed that use cloud-based solutions and encourage real time integration of a design team.
We recently have had the opportunity to review Autodesk BIM 360 Glue in detail.
Whilst previously I have been sceptical about how Level 3 BIM could be achieved. BIM 360 Glue clearly demonstrates that real time model management is achievable.
Glue allows designers to share information in real time and provides tools to share comments and notes via hyperlinks and pin locations.
The technology is surprisingly similar to social networking, which will prove familiar to the industry’s emerging talent.
When we reviewed the software the room was split between designers and builders. Many of the builders had concerns about the approach with their traditional methods involving control. Every decision is recorded to protect future liability.
Software approaches such as Glue working in a Level 3 environment encourage collaboration through the design stages. The key milestones are model delivery packages, which become the baseline contractual position.
The benefits of continuous dialogue were all too clear to see during our trial.
There is no doubt that the technology is more than capable of achieving impressive results however my concern is in adopting completely new practices across the industry. The industry is already struggling to learn new skills in platforms such as Revit and Navisworks. A further need to rethink the design development process will be a challenge.
These new technologies require a complete change in mindset. Clients will have to reconsider their appointments, constructors need to rethink their management process and designers need to be flexible and open when working with other members of the design team.
As well as BIM 360 Glue there are more products coming to market which will raise similar questions and provide equally exciting solutions.
These new cloud-based platforms are likely to form the basis of BIM 2.0. We are already adopting this software on a live project however we are aware that the technology is far more about changing hearts and minds than it is about learning new skills.