Blog / BIM & Construction Management

BIM in the UK: Success in progress

The goal has been to have good information and construct better projects

BIM in the United Kingdom

Currently, the United Kingdom leads, in the world and in Europe, the initiatives related to BIM. NBS (NAtional Building Specifications) is a UK construction specification system used by architects and other construction professionals to describe the materials, standards and workmanship of a Construction Project. It was launched in 1973 and is now used by more than 5000 offices. The phased approach created by the NBS will be explained below.

The History of BIM in the UK

According to Dan Rossiter, Senior BIM Communicator at BRE Global, BIM came about in the UK simply because construction was terrible, making building too expensive, never completing on time and upsetting clients. The government wanted to improve this situation. In 2008, with the global financial crisis there was an opportunity for change. The public sector no longer had the money to spend on wasteful projects. So in 2009, the report from Construction Excellence highlighted some of the key points of the construction industry in the UK. This report established that the industry was doing quite poorly. It wasn’t meeting cost and time targets and was highly unpredictable. This led to the UK government mandate. Essentially a phased approach with different levels of BIM maturity. Below is a description of these different phases or levels.

The National Building Specification Levels

The National Building Specification is owned by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Below are the different levels of BIM implementation established: Level Zero: This level consists of the absence of collaboration. This level has been surpassed by the majority of countries around the world. Level 1: This level comprises a mixture of 3D CAD for conceptual work and 2D (two-dimensional) for the drafting of legal documentation and the production information. CAD standards are managed according to standards while electronic data exchange is carried out in a common data environment (CDE), often administered by the main contractor. Level 2: This level is characterized by extensive collaborative work. This requires the exchange of information specific to the project which is coordinated between various systems and project participants. CAD software must be capable of exporting to a common file format: IFC or COBie. This level has been set as the minimum target for all public-sector construction by the UK government. BIM Level 2 has been a success in the UK. In the year 2013 it helped save over 804m pounds in construction costs. Level 3: Although this level hasn’t been fully defined at the moment, there is some agreement regarding its most important characteristics. This includes the creation of new international 'Open Data' standards that would pave the way for easy data sharing across the market. Another key element would be the creation of a collaborative environment keen on collaborative and open work as well as training the public sector client in the use of BIM. For more information on these different levels, view the NBS website which explains them in more detail.

The Government Mandate

As of April 2016, all UK government construction suppliers tendering for centrally-procured government projects must be working at BIM Level 2. Basically, if you don’t do BIM you will not get work from the government. The Government as a client can derive significant improvements in cost, value and carbon performance through the use of open shareable asset information. This covers everything; both building and infrastructure projects. The idea was to center data around one single source of information, also referred to as a Common Data Environment. This way each project would revolve around the reports, drawings and models contained in the Common Data Environment. Everything would be better organized and better planned. Essentially, it became more important to spend more time planning so that execution could be done right the first time around. The implementation of BIM Level 2 on a governmental level will eventually help define and move into BIM Level 3 or “Digital Built Britain” which will encompass cross sector collaboration. During the BIM World Implementation Summit hosted by Zigurat in Barcelona, Rossiter declared that "now is the time to rethink how we procure, deliver and operate our built environment going forward to ensure we meet our fiscal, functional, sustainability and growth objectives."

BIM in other parts of the UK  

Since this mandate is only applicable to centrally mandated projects, and the majority of those projects are constructed in England, the level of BIM maturity among its neighbors is slowly and its approaches are varied.
  • Scotland has their own ideas. From April 2017 they will be looking at BIM for projects above 5m euros. Although Scotland has a different starting point, it is following the same standard.
  • Northern Ireland has formed a committee and are consulting but they have no strategy in place yet.
  • In Wales, there are no strategies, documents or processes. However, Rossiter is a committee member of Constructing Excellence’s Youth arm G4C, Chair of Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists Welsh community, and is supporting BIM adoption in Wales through community groups and events.
However, there is hope. The UK BIM Alliance is trying to pull everything together and maintain BIM Level 2 and create a single cohesive voice. In conclusion, the focus has been on having good information for good projects. BIM has contributed to annual savings and UK BIM Alliance is trying to create a single voice for the industry in the UK.

Become a BIM Certificated Practitioner

Zigurat recognizes the importance of being certified in the UK, which is why we offer the opportunity for students of our Master’s in Global BIM Management and Master’s in Global BIM Management for Infrastructure Projects to apply for BRE Global BIM Level 2 (UK) Certification.

Zigurat Global Institute of Technology