New BIM standard removes barriers

Posted by Erica Coulehan on 07/04/2019

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New BIM standard removes barriers

In the closing weeks of January 2019, the first two parts of a new international BIM standard were published. Providing the initial framework for managing information on collaborative projects, and forming part of ISO19650, the frameworks cover areas including concepts, principles and asset delivery. 

But although these newly international standards are set to refine the construction industry’s approach to work, what kind of obstacles are in the way of their adoption? What traction will the standards have in an industry which is already falling behind in terms of the education and adoption of supporting technology?

Undoubtedly, the UK’s current PAS1192 suite has provided a solid framework for BIM Level 2 adoption in the UK. The UK is a trusted authority with over three years’ experience working to the PAS1192 and is recognised globally as being at the forefront of BIM technology and project delivery processes. The recently released standard, BS EN ISO19650, is an evolution of the PAS1192 suite, except the new standard can now be adopted internationally, providing a common term of reference for approaches to design, construction and building operations. During a period of Brexit uncertainty, does this new International standard provide further opportunity for UK Construction Plc to export our skills and knowledge to overseas territories?

The international opportunity

UK construction businesses that are working with or targeting overseas clients and project work should embrace the move towards the ISO. Given the UK BIM experiences and education to date, you could argue we are best placed to advise overseas clients and lead projects. A universally accepted industry ‘language’ and ‘process approach’ (that has evolved from the level 2 standards) means less will be  lost in translation and projects will run more smoothly.

What are the implications?

However, whilst the new ISO is set to refine building standards, some are concerned the changes will only cause further polarisation between those early adopters who fully embrace BIM and those that are still catching up, uncertain of the application and benefits of BIM to their businesses. It could be argued that large tier one consultants and contractors have stolen a march in terms of BIM Level 2 adoption, being better placed to secure positions on public sector frameworks and having the available finances to invest in training and technology.

Inevitably, as the pace of technological innovation and standards evolution outstrips the pace of industry digital transformation, some businesses are at risk of being left behind.  Whilst some Asset owning clients, and Tier 2/regional SMEs have fully adopted BIM into their everyday operations, the majority are still behind. For this reason, for a healthier, performant industry this gap needs to be brought to a close.

Education is the key

The widening disparity between construction businesses is mostly a result of under-investment, notably in terms of understanding the business case for change, and educating companies on the benefits of technology. Therefore, to increase BIM adoption, continual education is key to recognising the benefits of BIM and the wider change it will deliver to clients and the supply chain alike. BIM is not a technology or a solution - it is a holistic approach to collaborative working that drives benefits to all project participants, most notably the asset owning client. It provides a standardised framework to monitor performance across a built assets entire lifecycle, from initial design, through construction to real-time operation. It ensures data is consistently captured, approved and retained to support better decision making at every stage of the capital phase as well as operational occupancy/asset use . And the benefits of this approach must be articulated with this in mind. BIM isn’t another tax on the industry borne out of the maintenance of more regulatory controls, its real enabler for change for a marginal industry that has historically been slow to adapt and evolve.

Educating companies on the standards are equally as important as BIM itself. As a matter of course, clients want to be able to access trusted, reliable and secure, digital information about their physical assets. Adopting standards ensures that construction companies can offer their clients consistency in delivery approach, and with that consistency, a better designed and constructed building solution. At the same time, those companies embracing the standards have an opportunity to develop competitive differentiation and better position themselves to win more work.

At a time where the industry is under enormous pressure to deliver projects to stringent affordability criteria, attain carbon targets and meet tight deadlines, solutions which drive efficiency and standardisation are a must. The ISO19650 is a more unified, transferable standard which will help companies adopt a straightforward approach to managing information on digital platforms and across international boundaries.

However, whilst the new standard provides a solid framework for improved project and asset information management, there needs to be continual education to encourage industry-wide BIM adoption from large tier one contractors and consultants down to regional trade contractors . In doing so, the effects will be transformational. Only then might the Construction industry be viewed as progressive rather than polarised and primitive.

This article was first published in BIM+