With about 22,000 students from 80 countries, Birmingham City University (BCU) is a large and diverse institution, injecting £270 million into the regional economy and supporting thousands of local jobs in the area. The university is investing £260 million in its estate, including a major expansion of the city centre campus at Eastside.
BCU was keen to incorporate a solution that enabled best practice management throughout the operational life of the buildings, post-completion and handover. For many years, BCU's estates team had recognised the value of good information management practices for its asset information. Building on a strong foundation in the use of smart database solutions to manage its estate portfolio, the university became a driving force for building information modelling (BIM) adoption, mandating its use on its project. This made it one of the earliest clients in the UK to see the potential of BIM.
BCU was keen to incorporate a solution that enabled best practice management throughout the operational life of the buildings, post-completion and handover.
When the first phase of the city centre campus project began in 2010, however, most BIM commentators were focused solely on its application for design and construction. BCU wanted these benefits too, but, with a leap of insight, it realised that the biggest prize would be the post-handover use of BIM to efficiently operate and maintain its assets. BIM and asset management work together to help infrastructure owners and their suppliers to develop and implement processes, tools and collaborative working practices that optimise infrastructure asset costs and performance. It's now increasingly recognised that BIM has an important application across the entire lifecycle, providing a structured framework for the creation, collation and exchange of asset information.
BCU’s goal of achieving transferable data, that could be utilised for the operational maintenance and management of the asset post-handover, meant finding a software solution that could support this, as well as the design and construction phases. One of the challenges was to define requirements for use of the BIM model post-handover. The university chose to implement software that allows a detailed 3D information-rich model of the building to be accessed via tablet, by scanning barcodes embedded into the doorframe of each room. The model had to be populated with the required information during the project's design and construction phases. A BIM process manager was appointed to the BCU estates team and worked alongside the project team to support a soft landings process that ensured end user requirements were adequately reflected.
The university chose to implement software that allows a detailed 3D information-rich model of the building to be accessed via tablet, by scanning barcodes embedded into the doorframe of each room.
The project benefited from the richer conversations BIM created among the stakeholders and project team. It's easy to become pre-occupied with BIM technology, but the use of the BIM methodology as a fully co-ordinated and collaborative process is usually the greater challenge and the greater benefit. Success at BCU required the client and project team to define from the outset the type and level of detail of information which would be embedded into the model – and there were no previous BIM projects of this type to use as a baseline. The university's aspiration was to create a first-class teaching facility and seeking input from the end users early in the design process was essential to delivery. Typically, end users are inexperienced in interpreting 2D CAD drawings. The 3D models, however – converted into photorealistic presentations of teaching space and key areas – brought the proposed BCU designs to life, allowing richer stakeholder feedback to inform the design process as the project phases progress.
The university's aspiration was to create a first-class teaching facility and seeking input from the end users early in the design process was essential to delivery.
Separate computer models were developed by different suppliers for the architectural, structural, and mechanical and electrical details of the design. These models were synchronised on a regular cycle to create a single federated model of the design. The federated model and separate design discipline models were actively used during design co-ordination meetings. The models proved to be more useful than 2D CAD images and associated documents in communicating design progress and revealing design co-ordination issues. As cost consultants, we found that the models communicated the design intent more effectively than 2D CAD, reducing the need to seek clarification from project partners during the estimating process.
This pioneering project is pushing the boundaries of construction methods and practices, by mandating BIM to achieve optimal performance for the whole life of the asset. In collaboration with the University of Reading, we have prepared a detailed case study to share lessons learned and best practice from this innovative BIM project.