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Surveying the future of BIM

As an integrated way of working, Building Information Modelling (BIM) offers the potential to make business decisions that are more collaborative. Embracing it now for both new-builds and redevelopments will generate a host of future efficiencies, says Andy Beckerson, Director of Business Development at geospatial solutions provider Korec.

Andy Beckerson, Director of Business Development

The drive to adopt new design and construction technologies has been given added impetus by the government’s aim of making Level 2 BIM mandatory on threshold public sector projects by 2016. The move means that while separate disciplines may create their own models, the project data they use is expected to be shared electronically in a common environment.

As Trimble®’s main UK distributor, Korec has seen a significant rise in sales of laser scanners to survey companies, a key part of its core client base. Beckerson believes it is a sure sign that these companies are specifically factoring laser scanning technology into more and more collaborative projects with BIM in mind.

A section of Manchester Central Library

"Laser scanners produce accurate 3D models of built structures that can be introduced into the BIM process for redesign, visualisations and clash detection," says Beckerson. "Anyone involved in the design, construction or refurbishment of a building will be interested in BIM, but survey companies in particular are increasingly using laser scanners as part of their BIM contribution."

As the recommended process for generating and managing all kinds of data during the lifecycle of a building, BIM may be seen as the next stage in best practice after the original decision is taken about location.

Surveyor with a Trimble TX8 laser scanner

The best site for a proposed supermarket, for example, will tend to be decided by analysts studying a GIS database. They will consider issues such as brownfield site availability, land values, transport links, previous industrial use and current and future customer demographics. Once the optimum location is chosen, on the ground site positioning and measurement will typically be informed by integrated surveys and receivers using the OS Net® real time network.

Even at the location services stage, however, BIM could play a part. Under the localism agenda, stakeholders are increasingly likely to want to see designs and 3D models, the ‘what could be’, long before a spade goes in the ground.

"Location services help you make the business decision about where to build,’ says Beckerson. ‘The BIM process can move you forward by helping you demonstrate the value of the development and, as it progresses from planning to build, maximise project efficiency."

The full benefits of BIM for any particular project may not all be evident straight away, but will play an important role in the future, argues Beckerson.

"Taking the supermarket example, if the building has a projected lifecycle of 30 years or more, we may assume the original construction cost will, in time, become a small percentage of the total spend. Far more relevant, ten years after the build will be the ongoing costs of facilities management. With BIM, everything is seen through the lens of design and calculations are automated for you. You know from the start how many building blocks to order, how many litres of paint, how much flooring and so on. You can also detect potential clashes between, say, a structural beam and an air conditioning vent.

"In later years you will know, because all the information on pipes, cabling and electrics has been logged and shared, whether or not it will be safe to drill a hole at a specific point in the wall. As well as helping you reduce the percentage of waste in materials at the start, BIM will help deliver better value for money in future, by lowering the costs of maintenance and refurbishment."

Beckerson sees a parallel between the efficiencies created by OS Net in surveying and those of BIM in project management.

"In land survey, correction services all originate from Ordnance Survey data,’ he says. ‘OS Net technology replaces what has traditionally been an expensive and time-consuming data collection exercise. Likewise, having BIM in place for the design, build and maintenance stages of a building, means many other property decisions are made easier and more cost-effective. BIM has huge potential for efficiency savings."

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