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What is BIM?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a way of working together, a process for creating and managing all of the information on a construction project.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a process that encourages collaborative working between all the disciplines involved in design, construction, maintenance and use of buildings.

All parties share the same information simultaneously, in the same format. 

How much BIM is used can be measured at different ‘levels of maturity’. 

  • Level 0 – unmanaged CAD. 
  • Level 1 – a mix of 2D and/or 3D technology with a collaboration tool providing a Common Data Environment (CDE) 
  • Level 2 – collaborative BIM, in which 3D model information is shared within a CDE. 
  • Level 3 – is still being defined, although it is expected to have more advanced, single point of collaboration requirements and link to further advances such as ‘smart cities’. 

The UK government has mandated the use of BIM Level 2 on centrally procured contracts. The strategy and planning for Level 3 is being led by Digital Built Britain. You can  find out more or get involved on their website.

The design team typically generate BIM models and data sets, but it is the site workers who need to understand, interpret and manage the production and flow of information during the build. Awareness of the responsibilities and processes in BIM projects is therefore a key part of the skill set for managers and operatives.

While BIM may usher in some new roles, in many cases existing occupations will take up responsibility for various parts of the process.

On a typical BIM project site workers, and specifically site managers, will have a number of responsibilities, including:

  • Reading BIM models to get information on plans and products, problem-solve and avoid errors
  • Adding information about build stages, products and commissioning to the common data environment
  • Using BIM models to schedule tasks and manage workflows
  • Ensuring others under your responsibility are collecting and delivering information 
  • Recording quality assurance sign offs and health and safety processes.

 All these tasks add new ways of working and responsibilities. It’s important for site workers to know why information is asked for, created and supplied, and where it all fits into a BIM process.

The right training is therefore really valuable.

The recorded benefits of BIM include:

  • Better profit margins
  • Saved time and cost in pre-construction design
  • Time savings and costs savings in construction design
  • Greater safety and regulatory compliance
  • Efficiencies at the handover phase
  • Operational efficiency
  • Collaboration and reduced silo working.

Cost savings can be hard to quantify as no-one knows what mistakes might have happened without the use of BIM. Despite this, over a quarter of clients using BIM already noted cost savings in recent surveys.

An often cited benefit of BIM is clash detection, where BIM can identify where various elements of a building – be it structures, pipework or cables – will clash and need to be moved or re-designed. Having a 3D model that includes all the necessary information enables you to identify and deal with such issues before they occur on site.

BIM should be seen as part of a larger trend: the greater use of digital technology and data to help lower cost and improve quality. More accurate information about project plans and product specifications, everyone having access to the same set of information and being able to collaborate more easily – all of which are enabled by using BIM – are common benefits of digitising how we work.

CITB has worked with BRE Academy to create a specific course, BIM for Site Managers, to support this role.

There are other more general courses on BIM.  Here we’ve included links to a selection of providers (but inclusion on this list does not mean CITB endorses these courses or their qualifications): 

There are more sources of information about BIM online. Here are some useful links.

Are ready for BIM? is a useful resource from The Buildings Research Establishment (BRE).

There's no BIM like home is a blog about applying BIM (plus) to a two-bedroom terrace in Wales.

BRE Academy provides Education and training on BIM and a useful report on being BIM ready: Benefiting from BIM Level 2 [PDF] File size 461 KB.

Digital Built Britain is working on developing the use and practice of  Level 3 BIM

PAS 1192-2:2013 is BSI’s  specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using BIM

The UK BIM Alliance is a digital community promoting BIM Level 2 as the industry standard by 2020.

Image supplied by Trimble Solutions (UK) Ltd