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BIM - The Opportunity

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P King Colour

Phil King, Design Director, discusses the opportunities BIM can bring to the future of the built environment.

The Building Information Modelling (BIM) revolution is well underway. The UK Government has set a target to reach BIM Level 2 on public sector work by 2016, private sector clients are increasingly requesting BIM on their projects and the construction industry has been busy equipping itself with the systems and processes necessary to make it standard practice.

BIM improves the way that the industry works together, leading to better collaboration, coordination and exchange of information. For the client, it helps to mitigate risk, reduce costs, minimise waste, shorten programme and smooth handover and facilities management.

For the MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineers, it means early involvement and a lot more detailed work at the front end, giving us the biggest opportunity we’ve ever had to reduce overall construction time and cost through the MEP services design. It also means that a higher volume of pre-fabrication and modularisation is achievable within the timescales, with benefits in quality, reduced snagging time, speed of installation and economies of scale. 

BIM in practice

BIM is a shared, digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a built object, on which critical project decisions can be based. When we reach Level 3 BIM, we’ll be using a fully integrated and collaborative process enabled by web services and using 4D construction sequencing, 5D cost information and 6D project lifecycle management information.

20 Fenchurch Street BIMThis means inputting more information and detail in the design phases, which takes up more resources. In fact, it marks a more fundamental shift in the way we’ve always looked at the costs associated with building projects.

Traditionally, the costs associated with each stage look like this:

Design                    1 Unit of Cost

Construction           10 Units of Cost

In Occupation         100 Units of Cost


Using BIM, they look more like this:

Design                      1.5 Units of Cost  

Construction             8 Units of Cost  

In Occupation           90 Units of Cost


Interestingly, this new cost structure supports Paul Morrell’s change programme, achieving both greater integration and a 20% reduction in building costs, not to mention the savings in operation.

Vince U BIMWith such a change in the overall cost structure should come a change in emphasis in the professional team’s fee structures. More time and effort at the design stage and less in construction should be reflected in the fees awarded. In reality, to achieve this we’ll need to be able to quantify money saved during the construction and operation stages as a result of early involvement.

Changes to contracts will inevitably come too. With lots of information comes liability, so appointments and building contracts need to encourage an open culture and cover the use of BIM as well as outputs (2D drawings, specification, 3D model or all three), responsibilities, including transfer of the model, and liability.

There should be a single owner of the 3D Model during the design and construction stages so all parties contribute to one model, avoiding confusion and delays. Additional responsibility and liability impacts would need to be reflected in the owner’s contract. On handover to the client, agreement on how the model will be updated after practical completion is needed.

BIM What We Need GIFLastly, there’ll be a change in how we work together – engineer to engineer. There will be greater coordination between mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, public health engineers and BIM operatives. We’ll need to think in 3D, work in areas not systems and eliminate paper mark-ups, using the software instead.

We’ll also use BIM to do much more, including the creation of 3D Geometric models for the following:

  • DTM – Dynamic thermal modelling
  • CFD – Computational fluid dynamics 
  • Comfort studies
  • Pedestrian Wind comfort analysis 
  • Natural ventilation studies
  • Fire & Smoke modelling
  • Acoustics modelling
  • Part L assessments
  • EPC Assessments 


BIM is an opportunity, not just for engineers and the built environment as a whole, but for the government too in meeting its cost reduction targets. Its success now and in the future depends on people, processes and the technology itself. But it won’t happen seamlessly and, as with any new technology and process, we’ll all need to evolve.


Please advise who completes the construction documents for your Clients? RIBA 2013 Plan of Works has Technical Design and then Specialist design. Are Client's wasting their money asking Consultants to prepare Construction Documents when most BIM experienced MEP sub-contractors say they cannot use the Consultant BIM model nor drawings. The above approach would require early appointment of Main Contractor and the MEPSC with Client perception that there is no cost certainty. How is this fear overcome?
Posted by: Richard A. Haddon ( Mashreqbank, United Arab Emirates ) at 03/05/2015 10:21

We should first be clear what we all mean by Construction Information, so in the response below, we are using the term ‘Design BIM Model’ as the output from the Design Consultant which is sufficiently detailed to demonstrate spatial coordination to allow the project to be tendered and priced by the Contractor with high levels of confidence. The term ‘Construction BIM Model’ is the evolution of this model, which is developed further to incorporate all the information necessary to construct from and is the Contractors responsibility.

Our approach is to develop the Design BIM Model to achieve high levels of design coordination and in doing so, reduce or potentially eliminate construction risk for our clients, but not to attempt a provide a Construction BIM Model, as this requires input which specialist sub-contractors are better placed to provide and allows this further development to be carried out in conjunction with the final selection of equipment and any contractor design elements, such as the sprinkler installations. This is directly comparable to the 2D process of tender/contract drawings by the professional design team and the developed working/ shop drawings by the contractor/specialist contractors.

Furthermore, whilst not essential with design teams experienced in BIM design, early Contractor involvement, via a limited Pre-Services Agreement, can be useful to ensure the Consultants Design BIM Model is provided to the Contractor in a way where it can be developed to form the Construction BIM Model, even where differing software platforms are required (as is often the case) thereby reducing the risk of the Contractor needing to start the BIM Model again.

For further information please feel free to get in contact with Tony Morris, International Director, at
Posted by: Phil King [Hilson Moran] ( Hilson Moran ) at 25/06/2015 12:09

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