Summary: Can asset management benefit from Building Information Modelling (BIM), a technology widely used during the construction phase of a development? Our latest report weighs up the pros and cons of BIM, looks at 4 key ways it could save your company time and money throughout the life-cycle of an asset, and considers how the law can support an increasingly digitalised built environment.

Will ignoring BIM betamax you out of the market?

Back in 2011, the UK Government’s Chief Construction Adviser boldly proclaimed that professions which failed to adopt BIM risked being “Betamaxed out.” Fast-forward five years, and BIM is now changing the way built assets are designed, constructed and operated around the world. Implemented properly, BIM can provide a powerful digital resource that can improve performance, promote better collaboration and manage valuable asset data.

The excitement surrounding BIM was initially limited to the construction industry, with legal commentary focusing on authorship and design liabilities. However, now that asset owners are beginning to realise the benefits of BIM during the operational phase, focus must turn to the legal innovations needed to ensure these benefits are realised throughout the life cycle of a building.

Does BIM need a “Building Information Management” rebrand?

Construction professionals will almost certainly be familiar with the concept of BIM. However, much of the broader real estate industry is still unfamiliar with the technology. Perhaps one reason behind the slow dissemination of ‘BIM benefits’ is the ongoing debate (and confusion) around what exactly BIM is, and to what extent it is any different from what is already done in practice.

Larger developers/managers with a vested interest in recording the evolution of their assets already have longstanding systems in place to capture and process building information. As such, some consider BIM to be a rebranding exercise of what is already done. Only by stripping away the hype surrounding BIM can a more sensible appreciation of its benefits be realised. To this end, a more accurate definition of the three-lettered acronym would be “Building Information Management” – the focus being on the innovation of data management rather than just the use of geometric “models”.

The “one true source”

BIM is often used to describe the output of computer applications that design teams use to create intelligent 3D digital models of buildings, but this is only part of a much bigger picture. BIM is a process that involves the management of shareable and reliable digital information throughout the life cycle of a built asset. By working more collaboratively, design, construction and operation teams are able to use technology to capture and structure asset data at key stages during a project.

This information is stored and shared in one common data environment that can be accessed online by any of the team to extract documentation, non-graphical data and geometric models. BIM can deliver tangible benefits not only to architects, engineers and contractors, but also occupiers, asset managers and owners, which our report has more detail on. The goal is for the model to be the “one true source” of evolving asset information, which could be used to help measure social, economic and environmental outcomes and evaluate asset performance against set targets. 

UK Government’s “Digital Built Britain”

Implementing change and realising benefits throughout the entire supply chain will take time, which is why the UK Government is promoting a phased approach to adopt BIM. “Level 2 BIM” has now been mandated by the UK Government for centrally-procured projects under the Government Construction Strategy. 

“Level 2” involves project teams working on their own separate models that can be combined at various stages. More collaborative and integrated processes are planned for the future with “Level 3 BIM”, where all parties work on one integrated model. The ambition is to create a “Digital Built Britain” by rethinking how we procure, deliver and operate the built environment. To support this change, the Government has published guidelines and standards that are now being adopted for both domestic and international projects.