On 31st May 2011 the UK Government published its ambitious plans to reduce both capital cost and carbon burden from the construction and operation of the built environment by 20%. At the heart of this report was the Government's intention to require collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) on its projects by 2016. The most important word here is 'require', as all businesses, contractors, sub-contractors and partners bidding for major UK Government Construction projects must demonstrate BIM compliance in order to be successful.

It is important to first understand that BIM is not a single product, software or process. Neither is it designed as a single function at a given stage in a project. BIM is an over-arching term to describe the way in which technologies, processes and collaborative behaviours must interact to unlock more efficient ways of working at ALL stages of the project life-cycle, including Facilities Management following the As-Built completion. Therefore even businesses which own but don't build the commercial premises – such as large retail groups - should be taking an interest in the benefits of BIM.

It is also worth mentioning an assertion which is commonplace among BIM specialists: that in some ways the 'B' of BIM is possibly misleading as the initiative relates to more efficient management of all infrastructure not just buildings. For instance the UK Rail and Road sectors are already heavily engaged in implementing BIM best practice.

In brief BIM has the following intended outcomes:

  • Efficient and useful sharing of data across disciplines, software and platforms. An example might be the transferral of design drawings at the architectural stage – typically in a CAD environment – to the spatial design at the engineering stage – typically in a GIS environment. In the past the file formats and software used by these disciplines has not allowed the full value of the data to be passed on.

  • The removal of data and discipline silos within organisations. This is especially true of the different needs traditionally expressed by teams working in 2D and 3D.

  • The ability to create attributed (geo)databases, whereby all the asset information is stored within a 3D wire frame and 'hung' on the location of the asset.

  • To ensure that databases are live, editable and accessible to multiple parties at any given time. The databases should be a living and evolving information asset rich in detail.

  • The data structure should allow other datasets to be added and combined so as to allow bespoke queries, often spatial in nature, but always based on intelligent search functions. A GIS environment is tailor-made for this.

  • More efficient working practices, based on better and more accessible information, leading to better decision-making at all stages in the project life-cycle. This in turn will lead to more efficient project delivery and fewer disputes. It will also deliver considerable savings to the ongoing asset maintenance as data will evolve and remain relevant.

As a leading ISO Accredited Technology company, SBL is already engaged in supplying services in support of BIM. We have a large and experienced GIS team which delivers 3D wire frames derived from Lidar and Aerial Photography survey data. Our software division supports these efforts through the delivery of web-based GIS applications.

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