BIM model of a sludge treatment facility

+ The UK’s BIM legislation is fostering partnership working but it will only truly succeed if clients change their procurement mindsets.

Opinions differ on exactly how, and indeed how much, governments should legislate for building information modelling (BIM). My experience has shown me that the UK’s approach is certainly good enough to make good things happen.

UK legislation acknowledges that information is key and aims to make BIM 'one version of the truth'. It’s seen as a lifecycle of data that grows over a project and is useful for design teams, contractors, owners and operators through time.

The government’s ultimate aim is Level 3 BIM, which would see everyone working together in a joint venture with shared liability and gain. The stepping-stone to this, Level 2, is the target for all centrally procured public projects by 2016.

There’s much to like about Level 2 BIM. It requires minimal changes to standard contracts, encourages project teams to collaborate and makes partnership working possible in a way that never really happened before.

So is there a downside? The legislation is certainly well written, but there’s currently an education gap. While working in the way that BIM demands is second nature to some private sector clients like vehicle manufacturers, it’s new to most others, particularly in the public sector.

Healthcare, education and local authority clients certainly like the idea of Level 2 BIM but many don’t really understand how it works or know what to ask for. They don’t know what they want included in their models.

The government could specify this for them, but tighter legislation risks being anti-competitive. Clients could, as many are doing, appoint BIM consultants to show them what to do. But I don’t think this is a long-term answer; BIM should just happen, it shouldn’t be about creating a whole new sector of advisers.

With this in mind, I think BIM will work best when it’s not seen as a specialism, but when it’s just something that everyone in the team – client, consultant and contractor alike – does. I’m seeing this starting to happen and I think that as more people gain experience with BIM the knowledge gap will start to close.

In the UK, we’re still a long way from realising the ultimate goal of BIM but we’re well on the path to it. The government has set a target and the industry is coming together to work towards it.

But success relies on more than just new roles and new skills on the delivery side. Clients must now change their procurement mindsets if they are to unlock the full potential of BIM.