BIM Level 3 in Digital Built Britain

Terry Stocks
What is Building Information Modelling (BIM) Level 3 and what role does it have in our digital future?

On April 4th 2016, the Building Information Modelling (BIM) Level 2 mandate arrived. Since the May 2011 Government Construction Strategy (PDF 0.50MB) set the target for BIM use in key central government departments, much has been achieved: formation of the UK BIM Task Group, creation of the BIM document set, testing of the BIM Level 2 hypothesis and collaboration between government departments, industry, academia and estate clients. This has created a BIM Level 2 community that has effected one of the biggest changes in UK construction procurement and delivery.

The creation and implementation of BIM Level 2 was a bold step and an acknowledgment, by the government, of the construction industry’s importance to the UK economy.

This support has been maintained through the revised Government Construction Strategy 2016–2020 (PDF 0.52MB) and the Construction 2025 (PDF 2.2MB) strategy.

The 2016 Budget Report went further, supporting the development of BIM Level 3 as outlined in the February 2011 Digital Built Britain (PDF 1.9MB) strategy, and stating: "The government will develop the next digital standard for the construction sector – Building Information Modelling 3 – to save owners of built assets billions of pounds a year in unnecessary costs, and maintain the UK’s global leadership in digital construction."

BIM Level 2 is still important

So does this mean BIM Level 2 is completed? The answer to that is easy – NO! The foundations are in place for BIM Level 2, awareness and capability are growing but there is some way to go to establish a strong and deep maturity in its implementation. This journey is understood and supported in the BIM Level 3 approach.

Introducing BIM Level 3

The Digital Built Britain strategy describes the Level 3 BIM approach:

  • Level 3A, Enabling improvements in the Level 2 model 
  • Level 3B, Enabling new technologies and systems 
  • Level 3C, Enabling the development of new business models 
  • Level 3D, Capitalising on world leadership

So what is BIM Level 3? In some ways that question is like asking, back in the early 1990s, what today’s internet would be like. We now know the internet can be anything; its open source approach and classification of data has made it part of everyday life. BIM Level 3 will invoke disruptive change in the same way. Invoking change in every part of the asset lifecycle, performance and management, going well beyond the asset itself and into the way we engage with public services, live our lives and feel about our environment.

We now know the internet can be anything; its open source approach and classification of data has made it part of everyday life. BIM Level 3 will invoke disruptive change in the same way.

Over time, BIM Level 2 will become integrated BIM. This creates integrated design environments, with designers working simultaneously on a single hosted model that is used first for asset design and delivery, and then used by the client for life-cycle and asset management in operation. Contract changes will be required to get to this point, along with a greater understanding of cyber and model security, data ownership and design liabilities, but this environment will become a reality.

Figure 1 Graph Image

A new industrial and data revolution

We’ll see the proliferation of emerging technologies, some of which are already mainstream in industries such as aerospace and high-tech manufacturing. Sensor technology will stream data on asset performance, linking with facilities and asset management systems to enable real-time maintenance planning.

Acting as a single point of data, the model will be capable of scheduling maintenance and will be accessible by the workplace facilities team, resulting in more efficient servicing, enhanced health & safety and improved productivity.

We have already seen drones used in construction, developments in offsite manufacture, 3D printing, automated design programmes and lots more. It could be said we are at the start of a new industrial and data revolution. Beyond sensor technology, data streams from social media sources, phones, oyster cards, travel payments etc are expected to support the planning of our towns, cities and infrastructure. The continued growth of open source data will support modelling of our world, social, economic and financial data, providing rich seams of intelligence that enhance strategic asset management and planning.

Fig. 2 Based on Bew, M, 2015, Digital Built Britain – Level 3 Building Information Modelling – Strategic Plan.

Data availability will grow, supporting the progression of data capture applications, data analytics and services, creating new industry opportunities and enhanced versions of existing industries. This disruptive environment will deliver the Construction 2025 targets of faster, cheaper, greener and better. Quantum changes in online contracting, construction process and practice, and asset operations will gradually become mainstream.

However, let’s not forget that BIM Level 2 is the foundation, so we need to embed it as business as usual. In doing so we can move to delivery of the Construction 2025 targets and beyond. The aspiration is billions of pounds savings per annum, a target we all need to support to deliver better outcomes in our built environment. The data revolution is happening in other industries, so why not ours?