Driving BIM level 2 forward

Dwight Patten, Legal and Compliance Director for the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), speaks to Anne Kemp, Chair of UK BIM Alliance about how to drive BIM level 2 forward.

I am pleased to see the interest and momentum being generated around the UK BIM Alliance (UKBA).  Could you say a bit more about how it came about and who is involved?

We were originally approached by the UK BIM Task Group in late March last year.  They were aware that in moving to BIM Level 3, the Task Group could leave a vacuum, and asked the BIM4Groups and Regions whether we could step into the void, and provide much-needed industry-wide leadership around BIM Level 2.  After some discussion, by June 2016 we had agreed that rather than being simply the BIM4s and Regions, this initiative had to embrace all of industry – and so the name of “UK BIM Alliance” came about.  Thus the Alliance includes trade associations, institutions, academia – and over 80 signatories from across the client and supply chain ecosystem.  We realised that we could not be inward looking, but needed to reach out continually to ensure that we were as open, inclusive and transparent as possible – however difficult that seemed.  And we were clear that this was only a step towards digital transformation of the industry – important as that may be – and must be seen within that context.  We are NOT doing BIM just for the sake of it.  There have to be clear objectives and benefits – and a justification for targeting 75% implementation of BIM Level 2 across the demand chain and the supply chain by 2020.  Just as described in Construction Strategy 2025.

How did you come to be the Chair of UKBA?

At the first meeting, I offered to facilitate the discussions.  By June, we agreed to formalise the position of chair, and I was voted in by the Leadership Group for the Transition period up to our launch in October 2016.  This was ratified once again by the expanded Leadership Group in September to take the Alliance forward into BAU.

What do you see as the major challenges for UKBA and how could they be addressed?

Firstly, on-going engagement, at all levels.  This is no trivial task.  Next, garnering support from industry through resource or funding – and managing this t ensure the greatest value to industry as a whole to deliver our objectives.  We have divided our activities into five workstreams: Awareness, Upskilling, Business Case, Knowledge Bank and Optimisation – and identifying the priority projects for the next 6 months, and subsequent 3 years.  And we are currently identifying an appropriate host for the Alliance.  We do not want to become an unwieldy organisation which is costly to run.  Nor do we want to draw membership away’[ from the participating organisations whether they be institutions, trade bodies or the BIM4 Groups and Regions.  So we are also leaning on our signatories and Strategic Advisory Group to guide, advise and challenge us to get this right.

In my discussions within the industry I meet a lot of BIM high achievers, from larger, better resourced entities within the supply chain.  In light of key capacity issues such as investment and business case, qualifications and competency, does UKBA have a strategy on how best get the whole supply chain up to speed, in particular SMEs?

The UK BIM Alliance is clear that the way the industry is engaged, so as to cover the whole spectrum – across whole life, across sectors, and across demographics, has to change.  We are working through an implementation plan spanning awareness and upskilling in the hope of addressing this very point.  But I think the key is that we are not targeting the BIM high achievers.  To a large extent they will look after themselves. But BIM should be about digitally enabling all players in our industry, so it is the lower tiers of the supply chain, and the SME’s who need that help. And it is the client who sets the ball rolling in the right direction.  So they too need help in knowing what to do.

The Task Group articulated Level 2 in terms of a collection of standards, protocols, formats as the 'Pillars of BIM'.   Is there a need to review the way in which we articulate what Level 2 means?

The feedback which we have been receiving is that this collection of standards, protocols, formats seems impenetrable.  And there is debate about the appropriateness of “The Pillars”!  So working on Guidance and tools which bring them alive, and enable a pragmatic route through, is what we believe needs to be developed as quickly as possible.    This is what we are prioritising over the next few months.  An example is that with the Task Group we are undertaking a review of potential next steps for the dPOW and BIM toolkit.

Of course there are many projects in which digital technology is used to manage project information, albeit not necessarily through the use of 3 D models or  the full rigours of Level 2.  It can be done badly, leading to data dumping and poor labelling, or it can be done well.  I am thinking about for example implementing the BS1192 Code of Practice which pre-dated the PAS 1192-2 standards.  Taking into account the wide range and size of building and engineering projects, do you see a continuing validity for this sort of approach, if done well, alongside or complementing the development of Level 2 and more sophisticated approaches?  

I absolutely agree that we are on a journey here, and a progressive approach to implementing BIM Level 2 is actually a sensible way forward.  I’d cite how we approached this at Atkins, if I may, where we emphasised implementation of our IM standards, within a largely 2d environment, as implementing BIM Level 1, employing our own dPOW to inform appropriate data delivery and 3D modelling as being BIM Level 2, but only achieving full BIM Level2 if our clients had clearly defined their Information Requirements.

Dwight Patten is the Legal and Compliance Director for Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).