Given the fast approaching April 2016 deadline for the Level 2 BIM mandate, it is time we understood what BIM means, what its aims are and its relevance for the electrical industry. Here Matt Crunden, Training and BIM Manager at Legrand, talks through the basics and what it really means for the electrical industry.
There remains a lot of confusion within the marketplace about what Building Information Modelling (BIM) is and, what it isn’t. Simply put BIM is ‘the creation, collation and exchange of shared 3D models and intelligent structured data’. It aims to enable greater efficiencies in both the design and build phases of a construction project and ultimately, through the whole lifecycle of a building as a result of greater collaboration at every level of the supply chain.
Where has BIM come from?
The UK is currently working towards the delivery of Level 2 BIM which basically means that the UK Government wants all publicly-funded buildings to comply by April 2016. Beyond the level 2 deadline in April 2016, the Digital Built Britain Level 3 Building Information Modelling Strategic Plan looks to build on the achievements of the Level 2 BIM programme.
Why do we need to do BIM at all?
The UK Government ‘Construction Strategy’ published in May 2011 and the subsequent ‘Construction 2025: Industrial Strategy’ outlines its goals and aspirations for the coming years - namely to be at the forefront of the world’s construction industry. The vision within this strategy will help the UK to not only deliver greater efficiencies and sustainability in construction now, but also provide the tools to help UK business exploit the opportunity within the global construction market, expected to grow by over 70 per cent by 2025.
BIM is just one aspect of the overarching strategy toward a more sustainable future. If we consider for example, that just 20 per cent of the total life costs of a building are consumed during its construction, 80 per cent are its operational costs. This represents a massive savings potential and BIM is a great vehicle to help achieve savings.
What does BIM mean for the electrical industry specifically?
For the electrical industry in particular, much of the market seems focused on 3D BIM objects but in reality, the main focus is first and foremost information - the objects can come later. And so, here is the point. If those specifying product are able to compare products and solutions like-for-like, specify based on efficiencies and in terms of the whole life cycle of the build, as opposed to material cost alone, then we are one step closer to building a sustainable future rather than the cheapest building. This is the goal of BIM and the wider strategies that feed into it.
What happens now?
For the time being, the focus is on manufacturers and all involved in the specification process, to share information in a common format making it easier to compare products and then merge then into a single central file. BIM therefore can be dissected down into two manageable chunks: firstly making sure manufacturers display information in the same language and format, so that specifiers can easily contrast and compare the information and then secondly, the creation of 3D digital models that can all be inputted into a single blueprint (i.e. structured data, within a 3D model) making the design and construction process integrated and seamless.
While the intricate details of BIM may seem complicated, the concept is a sound one. If UK industry, be that manufacturers, contractors, specifiers or architects, master and lead the charge on BIM, we have much to gain, not only in terms of a more sustainable building stock but also a saleable platform that will establish the UK as specialists in construction and ultimately exploit the global construction market opportunity.
For more information, support and advice regarding BIM and the 2016 mandate, visit http://www.bimtaskgroup.org
 BIM Task Group www.bimtaskgroup.org/bim-faqs/
 Global Construction 2025; Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics (July 2013)