Although the idea of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been around for a while, it appears to have taken off only relatively recently in the UK, with central Government setting a target to get to Level 2 BIM on all of its major projects by 2016. BIM comes with its own layer of jargon and anachronisms.

BIM is intended to be a repository of information containing a history of a structure’s inception through to its construction.

The RIBA Outline Plan of Works defines BIM as “digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility creating a shared knowledge resource for information about it forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, from earliest conception to demolition.”

The National Building Specification defines BIM as “a rich information model consisting of potentially multiple data sources, elements of which can be shared across all stakeholders and be maintained across the life of a building from inception to recycling.”

There are four levels of BIM of increasing complexity starting with Level 0 ending at Level 3.

The levels reflect the presentation and storage of data. Level 1 has a mixture of 2D and 3D unique to each participant. Level 2 is where you may have 3D information produced separately by members of the building team. The holy grail is an integrated business information model system, in other words Level 3.

With the different levels there are also various degrees of information which can go into the model. From 2D to 7D, the technical data of a 2D or 3D system gets an overlay of the information in 4D; cost details in 5D and facility management issues in the 6D version. It would be an incremental increase adding in data that might assist with end of life issues.

Given the different levels of BIM, you are probably already doing part of what BIM requires routinely.

The challenge is in adding more information into the model, ensuring that whoever supplies the information understands how it is to interact with what is there; keeping information up to date and tracing the information.

The current view is that the only way to achieve an integrated model is to have a specific model manager, acting as a “gate keeper”, making sure it is kept up to date and the information that goes into it can be traced back to its source. Furthermore, anyone using the model will have to know on a daily basis to what extent it has been upgraded and be certain that they are working on the current version. The consensus is that BIM modelling will be led and co-ordinated by contractors who will have to co-ordinate their work with that of the others inputting into the BIM model.

It is also thought that working to Level 2 is not going to alter the terms of the standard construction contracts available in the market place. A BIM protocol will need to be put in place, setting out how the BIM is to be developed for each project.

However, the complications of a fully integrated model (Level 3), suggests that there may have to be amendments to the standard contracts to establish lines of responsibility and liability to cover the risks involved in creating an integrated model.

Insurers seem to have given BIM a cautious welcome, but have not yet created specific products for it. If BIM does reduce technical errors and de-risks the project, insurance premiums may decrease. Project insurance may take a step forward as the most effective way to merge into one pot, the different insurable risks that parties to a construction project have.

Whether you use the BIM process now or not, it does look as if its use is going to increase, at least for larger projects in the UK.