Ten Tips for Planning Your BIM Journey

Adrian Malone
With the summer holidays upon us many of our readers will be getting ready to embark on their annual break. Alongside the spirit of the holiday season, I offer a light-hearted guide to planning your BIM journey.

Tip 1: Do some research and choose your destination carefully

Your building information modelling (BIM) journey can take you many places; make sure your tour guide listens to your requirements and provides you with a package which meets your needs. Do a little research for yourself and speak to people who have been on successful BIM journeys already.

Standard packages are becoming available, with more and more clients choosing BIM for the design and construction of new assets. Other destinations which offer rewards can be found off the beaten track with some clients, such as Birmingham City University, taking BIM on a longer journey through design and construction and onwards into BIM enabled facilities management.

Tip 2: Consider a “Staycation”

BIM is most commonly used for the design and construction of new buildings and there is normally a big focus on its use on new build projects; however it can be used to upgrade your existing assets - BIM for refurbishment. At City College Plymouth, Faithful+Gould worked as cost consultants alongside our Group colleagues in Atkins who provided design services on the refurbishment of the college’s engineering building. A BIM model was created for the design and to guide the refurbishment process, delivering smart new facilities for teaching staff and students.

Tip 3: You Don’t Always Need to Pay for an Upgrade

It is tempting when embarking on a BIM journey for the first time to feel the need to purchase lots of new and specialist equipment to take with you on your journey. Depending on your outcomes you may need to purchase new software or recruit BIM expertise into your estates or procurement teams, but it may be more cost effective to hire this expertise as you progress your projects, at least for the first one. Where you are making an investment, make sure that you will have the expertise to use it effectively and that it really does meet your needs both now and in the future.

Tip 4: Pack Your Suitcase Carefully

It can be tempting when packing for your BIM journey to cram everything you might need into your suitcase just in case you need it along the way. Taking this approach may lead you to exceed your baggage allowance! Equally, travelling too light can be a mistake – leading to expensive purchases when you reach your destination.

To avoid these two scenarios think about what your journey will entail. If you are planning a BIM journey which will involve facilities or operational management you should ensure the information needed to manage your asset is included in your model. Think about what you will need when you reach your destination and ensure you have all the essentials with you, but don’t take the kitchen sink!

Tip 5: Choose your travel companions wisely

We’ve all had experiences where our travelling companions, who seemed like a perfect fit at the start, turn out to be less than ideal as the journey gets underway. When embarking on your BIM journey it is important to ensure that the BIM credentials of the team are effectively tested at tender stage, alongside traditional metrics. Once the team is selected, ensure that there is open communication about individual team members’ experience levels in working with BIM. With early identification of any weaknesses, training and support can be provided to help ensure that everybody is up to speed. It is important therefore that a spirit of openness is created within the project team from the earliest stage.

Tip 6: Plan for a soft landing

Arriving at your destination – the handover of your new building – can all too often be a bumpy experience, something seasoned travellers, who are often to be found in estates departments, brace themselves for.

Plan for a soft landing. Government Soft Landings aims to ensure a smooth transition as a new asset is handed over into operational use. Whilst soft landings is focused on handover, the process begins early in the design process to ensure that the needs of the client are fully understood and incorporated into the design brief. At handover, soft landings aims to ensure that users are properly briefed in how the facility will operate.

Tip 7: Look to the horizon

Today it is possible to undertake journeys which were once impossible or too expensive. Technology is progressing rapidly and making new things possible or affordable. One example of this, in a BIM context, is the use of 3D laser scanning. Whilst still not commonplace, laser scanning is increasingly used to capture rich 3D data, a pointcloud, about existing assets. This data can be converted into a BIM model which can then be used for refurbishment and facilities management purposes. Faithful+Gould has used 3D laser scanning on projects such as Bridlington Leisure World where pointcloud data has been captured and fed into the design of the new building which will be constructed when the existing facility is demolished later this year.   

Tip 8: Show Off Your Holiday Snaps

BIM models can be an immensely powerful tool for stakeholder engagement. Static views and animated walkthroughs from the model can allow end users to get a feel for a new facility before construction work begins. The richer stakeholder engagement supported by BIM can help ensure fewer requests from end-users for late design changes, helping to ensure the project is delivered on time and to budget – and meets the needs of the end-users.

Tip 9: Take a Good Map with You

A good BIM execution plan is essential. This should map out key information about project outcomes, roles and responsibilities and set out how the BIM process and model will be co-ordinated. Alongside this a BIM protocol should be agreed early in the project, setting out how information will be structured and organised in the model, providing a base for project team collaboration. The Construction Industry Council BIM protocol provides a standard document for this purpose.

Tip 10: Choose a good tour guide

Make sure whoever you choose as your tour guide really does understand the whole package of BIM rather than just the technological side. Your tour guide should also have practical experience of delivering projects successfully through BIM, it is not sufficient to have read the brochure. Choose a guide who will listen to your needs and be honest about the right package for your project outcomes. Remember that when it comes to BIM, the collaborative journey is as important as the destination.