Complying with the new BIM mandate for high-rise residential buildings – By Julia Valentine

What to do with the quality of high-rise residential building has been a UK focus ever since the Grenfell tragedy two years ago.

The Government’s response in mandating Building Information Modelling (BIM) for all new residential buildings above 18 storeys is a start. While many forward-thinking organisations have already been doing this for some time, this step indicates the importance of BIM. The UK construction industry is progressing with BIM thanks to the UK government’s Level 2 BIM mandate on public sector projects. This non-public sector building mandate takes us a step further.

High-rise residential buildings are just the start

By making BIM mandatory on high-rise residentials, the government is making a clear statement that BIM is going to positively impact health & safety. The mandate was introduced following the Hackitt Review of how the deaths of Grenfell could have been avoided. If there had been a BIM model of the building, the cladding could have been better analysed. The building owner could have noticed the lack of sprinklers sooner.

Introducing this mandate will ensure that all current high-rise residential buildings will become easier to monitor. Building owners will instantly be able to understand the building’s health & safety implications, fire precautions and more. We at Kreo have been talking for some time about the advantages of BIM for the property and real estate industry. We hope this mandate will speed up action and encourage more conversation about BIM in the industry.

Since the introduction of the government’s public sector mandate of BIM level 2, construction companies scrambled to get to grips with the processes. Before this, BIM was not really pushed, as it requires new ways of thinking and working. It requires more time, effort and money up front in the planning stages of a project. While this was generally agreed to be a good idea, few companies in 2011 felt they had the resources to take this on. Now, eight years later, most general contractors are able to comply with BIM on major projects. It’s a matter of making business change a priority.

The new BIM mandate on high-rise residential buildings will push the property industry to further invest in BIM. Again, few developers are interested in or see relevance in BIM. It’s usually just the developers who go on to own the building who see value. But thanks to the government mandate, we expect more developers to see for themselves how BIM will improve project outcomes on all projects.

Making BIM open to everyone

For the property industry, the government mandate may still seem irrelevant. Surely BIM is the contractor’s problem? Magomed Galaev, Kreo’s CEO & founder, spoke at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference about digital transformation. He made developers and housing associations aware of the dangers of doing nothing when it comes to BIM. Those who adopt it first will be the disruptors in the industry. Those who delay will lose out…

So how can developers get more involved?

Firstly, it needs to be easier for developers to start using BIM. Developers are used to getting an idea of what a building will look like from an architect. If the architect doesn’t have time to create a BIM model, 2D sketches are relied upon in the planning process, leading to inaccuracies. Technology companies should make it easy to generate multiple building design options accurately from the start. This would give developers a true idea of a building project’s feasibility and offer the architect a better starting point than a 2D sketch.

BIM could be made so much easier with the right technology in place. Once you are aware of the basic requirements of BIM, technology can help you achieve each milestone of project planning by carrying out calculations faster. For example, test out steel vs concrete frames on a building, understanding cost and schedule impact right from day one of project planning. This is before you even get an architect or structural engineer involved in discussions, speeding up feasibility studies and improving the next planning phase.

Advantages of BIM for all buildings

In the UK, on average, there have been 39 construction worker deaths every year for the last five years. We can’t simply put this down to individuals making poor decisions on site. We can’t write this off as inevitable. It is completely avoidable – and proper project planning is the key to improving health & safety on site.

The real estate industry and facilities management companies are fast becoming aware of the advantages to BIM. Developers who sell their buildings will result in higher returns if they are able to prove the quality of building in a BIM model. It will be easier to create a “digital twin” of a building that already has a BIM model.

Most importantly, adopting BIM for all major projects across the construction and property industries will ensure we reach a new standard of building quality. Better project planning will reduce the risks of another building disaster like Grenfell from ever happening again.

Julia Valentine is the Head of Marketing for Kreo, a software company that aims to improve pre-construction design and planning outcomes using AI. Prior to working for Kreo, Julia worked in Digital Marketing for Gartner, a research and advisory firm specialising in technology.

twitter: @juliakreo 

2 thoughts on “Complying with the new BIM mandate for high-rise residential buildings – By Julia Valentine

  1. Had to read this piece twice, as I was beginning to think how can 18 storeys be significantly relevant and what on earth determines the logic behind the predetermined rule of that many floors…..?

    Then, I referenced my earlier acknowledgement to a piece by my learned colleague Denise Chevin over at CIOB, who – last month, June 2019 – affirmed that a fully functional and auditable BIM-led working environment would be mandated on any residential project of 18metres (I.e. 6 storeys or more). The suggestion and forthright intention of the UK government (MHCLG), is part of a raft of tighter measures identified in the Hackitt Review, and are designed to improve safety in higher risk residential buildings (post-Grenfell).

    Notwithstanding, I am in general agreement with all other points stated above.

    In summary, unless and until the industry falls in love with a need to future-proof its own relevance, it is abundantly clear that many firms (both Contractors and Consultants) will be significantly disrupted to the point of material ‘positive’ change or, conversely, complete annihilation.

    #ModeniseOrDie – watch this space……..!

    1. Thank you, Bola! Both for taking the time to read and for discussing the point. You’re absolutely right about the fact that the industry needs to future-proof its own relevance. I look forward to seeing how quickly it will happen…

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