So, what’s the big deal about BIM?

Mac Muzvimwe, 30 September 2019

Everyone seems to be talking about Building Information Modelling (BIM)… what is it? Do we need it in housing? Does it add benefit? Isn’t it just complex buildings that require 3D models?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) refers to a new way of working that encourages collaboration and information-sharing and utilises various digital tools and design technologies. At Arcadis, we see BIM as the processes and collaborative behaviours associated with the creation and sharing of object-orientated databases of an asset in its environment, relevant to all stages of the asset’s lifecycle including design, construction and operation.

In simple terms, BIM goes beyond 3D design or 3D models. It’s about building a facility twice: first, virtually and then, physically. The reason for creating a digital facility first is to develop the physical and functional characteristics of a facility in order to work out problems, to simulate and analyse the potential impacts before proceeding to construction where changes are very costly to make. It means data-enabled collaborative working and better information sharing throughout the supply chain. During the operational phase, an Asset Information Model (AIM) i.e. as-built BIM model, is used to understand and improve asset performance and make informed decisions for operations, maintenance and refurbishment activities.

What’s in it for the housing sector?

For one, the Hackitt Review states that ‘Government should mandate a digital (by default) standard of record-keeping for the design, construction and during the occupation of HRRBs (Higher Risk Residential Buildings). This is to include any subsequent refurbishments within those buildings. Digital records are to be in a format which is appropriately open and non-proprietary with proportionate security controls.’ By adopting BIM, a residential duty-holder is able to adopt digital asset management and comply with this.

Over and above digital asset management, BIM also offers a number of other advantages. Delivering more for the same budget: some case studies have shown reductions of up to 35% on the build rate due to BIM and standardisation, whilst in housing, some developers have been able to reduce the development cost by between £3-5k per new build unit.

Design efficiencies can result in time savings during design and construction, and also contribute to significant waste reduction. Improved ability to plan construction phasing and logistics and better collaboration and information sharing between the design team, the contractor and the wider supply chain.

This means better cost certainty and reduction in number of contractual claims as well as better understanding of the design by clients and customers through visualisation and use of technologies such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR). VR/AR also enable better marketing of the proposed facility and engagement with other stakeholders such as funders.

Delivery of sustainable assets – simulations and environmental performance modelling allow design optimisation and design of buildings which are sympathetic to the environment. Computational and parametric design tools enhance precision manufacturing and modular construction.

Remember that BIM is not just for new buildings, but also for existing buildings. Use of 3D scanning and photogrammetry enables capturing of condition of existing assets and creation of digital assets i.e. Asset Information Models.

Ultimately, it means that the operations and maintenance teams have immediate access to asset data through the click of a button – specifications, certificates, asset tags, 3D models, 2D layouts, etc. – meaning that reactive maintenance is much easier, and asset information is always available, digitally thus enabling informed decision-making throughout the asset’s lifecycle.

BIM4HAs toolkit

BIM4HAs has developed a free toolkit which takes the housing association sector through how to use BIM as a tool to deliver safe, high-quality and well-managed buildings. For housing associations using the toolkit, BIM4HAs has created a forum where users can share their experiences, ask questions and provide feedback.

Find out more