Building Information Modelling (BIM) is changing how buildings, infrastructure, and utilities are planned, designed and built. The move from computer-aided design (CAD) to BIM has been heralded as an evolutionary advancement in building-design technology. This new approach promises to turn building plans into virtual libraries of equipment data and requirements – including, for example, product specifications, electrical connections and clearance requirements. BIM software provides a robust framework for building out complex 3D representations of building systems and it has already had a significant impact on the electrical contracting industry.

Blazing a trail for BIM adoption

The UK is leading the way in BIM adoption according to a recent survey by CONJECT. 41% of UK respondents indicated that their company had reached BIM level 2, the highest proportion of any country or region. Undoubtedly, this high level of usage can be attributed to the government mandate. Since April, all centrally procured public sector projects have required the implementation of BIM at Level 2. The government is the main driver behind the widespread uptake of BIM, embarking on a programme for sector modernisation with the key objective of reducing capital cost and the carbon burden from the construction and operation of the built environment by 20%. Central to this ambition is the adoption of information rich BIM technologies, process and collaborative behaviours that will unlock more efficient ways of working across all stages of the project life-cycle.

Benefitting electrical contractors

The main aim of the BIM strategy is to reduce waste and create a more efficient programme delivery. This should improve the contractor's margins and reduce contractual conflicts as it breaks down the work silos and promotes collaborative working environments. There are numerous cost savings and other efficiencies on offer through the use of BIM. A number of the cost saving examples have been around clash detection and waste reduction, both at the design stage and construction. Going forward there will also be cost savings in the facilities management of the building thanks to defined maintenance and repair cost reduction.

Technologically advanced

The driving technology behind BIM is more advanced when compared to other IT related design tools such as 3D modelling. Of course, 3D modelling and clash detection form an important part of BIM but BIM is much more than that. BIM Level 2 is a set of coordinated information which is both geometric and data centric. It is produced in a collaborative way across all of the disciplines and trades, and delivered in an electronic format. Recently, Schneider Electric partnered with BIMobject, Europe’s largest digital content management system for BIM objects. This partnership provides engineers, architects and designers access to a range of Schneider Electric products through the BIMobject Library.

The future

The industry as a whole is still beginning the BIM journey, with many still needing to get on board. Those who are not BIM ready or actively using it may well start to find that their pool of potential projects starts to dwindle. However, the UK has a window of opportunity to capitalise on the success of its domestic programme and to become an advocate of BIM on a global scale. By embracing BIM, we can enhance the global image of UK designers, contractors and product manufacturers as a whole, and drive industry-wide growth opportunities for all involved.