Building information modelling in Ireland – what lessons must we learn?
29 August 2017
Image courtesy of http://www.scoreqc.com/
The Building Information Modelling (BIM) Innovation Capability Programme (BICP) is a direct response to the 2014 Construction 2020 report calling on Enterprise Ireland to work with industry organisations to promote the use of BIM.
The BICP has sought to capture the capability of the Irish construction industry and the higher education institutes’ response to the increased requirement for BIM on Irish construction and engineering projects.
One of the primary responsibilities of the BICP research team is to collate data to assist the Irish National BIM Council (NBC) in the formulation of a National BIM Roadmap. There are four distinct work packages to achieve the strategic objectives of the BICP, which include, amongst other things, a systematic review of BIM adoption in international regions, with particular focus on the enscablers to support national implementation programmes (Figure 1).
The BICP Global BIM Study focused on exploring the value proposition behind these initiatives and what governments and professional bodies are doing to advance BIM within their countries. A total of 27 countries within different continents, though with a strong focus on Europe, were explored (Figure 2). Over 50% of those countries reviewed had a regulatory requirement for BIM or were planning to introduce one in the near future.
Some of the jurisdictions explored include the UK, which has a Level 2 mandate in place since 2016. Indeed, Scotland has recently published a Scottish Procurement Policy Note 1/17 (SPPN) on the Implementation of BIM within Construction Projects.
Other EU countries investigated within the report include France, which is to deploy BIM within the housing sector on 500,000 houses by 2017, and Germany, which has established the Planen-bauen 4.0 limited company, which will guide and steer the implementation of BIM towards a 2020 mandate.
A focus on Scandinavian countries revealed that in Finland, the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries decided in 2002 that BIM would be a core element of its proposed changes to the sector. BIM has also been in operation in Denmark for a number of years – in June 2011, the Danish Parliament extended the mandatory adoption of BIM to all local and regional projects worth over €2.7 million, while central government projects had a lower threshold of €677,000.
The report also focused on South America, which has recently promoted a ten-year BIM implementation plan within Chile, and North America, where there has been widespread adoption of BIM by large public owners (including the General Services Administration and the US Army Corps of Engineers). buildSMART Canada has also created a Canadian Roadmap for Lifecycle BIM in the Canadian AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) sector. The BICP Global BIM Study also considered BIM within Asia, New Zealand, the Middle East and Australia.
The Global BIM Study concluded that Ireland should adopt a programme of partnership between industry and the Irish Government to affect a cultural shift in attitudes to collaborative working. The key components of this strategy are shown in Figure 3. The BICP BIM Global Study can be downloaded for free from www.bicp.ie/bicp-global-bim-study/.
Context and challenges facing Irish construction industry
The second key document, the BICP Irish BIM study, builds on the findings from the BICP Global BIM Study by providing an in-depth review of BIM in Ireland with regards to key government publications, BIM champions, existing standards and procurement routes, BIM training programmes, current initiatives and maturity within public and private sector projects. The results of this study have been recently published in the BIM in Ireland 2017 report (Figure 4).
Part one of this report sets out the context and challenges which now face the Irish construction industry and the necessary government response to these challenges. The report discusses how the collapse of the Irish construction industry and wider economy between 2007 and 2012 brought with it a number of consequences that are now creating a significant number of challenges.
The Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) Construction Industry Survey and the Irish Construction Prospects to 2016 report established the main challenges, which include securing finance for projects, competitive project pricing, scarcity of qualified staff and new graduates, and the ageing workforce.
Other barriers include the current housing targets, which remains a vexing problem that will require innovative procurement models, as well as the innovative use of ICT solutions to expedite housing delivery in Ireland. The application of technologies and innovative practices, such as BIM and Lean construction, have the potential to fundamentally enhance the construction industry’s competitiveness.
The BIM in Ireland report discusses how the Irish Government’s position in respect to BIM has graduated to a consistent message for the construction sector that BIM is important, if not essential, to future proof business if the sector is to remain competitive.
This is evidenced through several government endorsed reports, such as the CIF Construction 2027 report, which called for strong recommendations that industry organisations promote the use of BIM so that they can successfully compete in international markets.
The government published ‘Rebuilding Ireland – Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’ in July 2016, which included an array of actions to stimulate housing delivery in Ireland. A particular action flowing from the Action for Jobs 2017 (recommendation 32) included a requirement for the Office of Government and Enterprise Ireland to prepare a strategy for the adoption of BIM across the public capital programme and to mandate the manner in which it is to be adopted across the public sector (Figure 5).
In response to this recommendation the GCCC, following consultation with public bodies, prepared a position paper with the purpose of inviting responses from industry. The position paper titled ‘A Public Sector BIM Adoption Strategy’ outlines the context and rationale for the adoption of BIM on Irish public works projects and puts forward a proposed timeline for BIM adoption ranging from 12-48 months.
These projects range from Band 1, which are of low complexity such as low-density housing projects, to Band 5, which are complex projects with a specialist operation and maintenance regime, such as acute hospitals.
Other findings from the report
Part two of the BIM in Ireland report focused on learning from others and reaffirmed the findings from the Global BIM study. This section discussed how other international jurisdictions are using BIM to solve current infrastructure concerns.
Part three provides the key findings of the BICP’s research to date and highlights the important work being carried out by various BIM communities in Ireland, which include the CitA BIM Group, CitA BIM Regional Group, Revit Users Group and the Construction Industry Council BIM Group
It also includes the various BIM Groups set up by representative organisations in Ireland, for example the Royal Institute of Architects Ireland BIM Committee, Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland BIM Working Group, Construction Industry Federation Lean Construction, BIM, Innovation and Continuous Improvement Committee, Engineers Ireland BIM Working Group and the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland BIM Committee, among others.
In 2016, the BICP team set up a number of working groups to investigate key sectors that will need guidance if BIM is to become an industry norm. This includes the Client Working Group and the BIM Academic Forum Ireland (BAFI). While all of these developments are very positive, these groups need to unite in their quest to promote BIM in Ireland, as there is a danger of greater fragmentation of effort and a lack of joined-up thinking.
Further focus is placed on standards within the report. The Irish Digital Transition Survey shows an increase in adoption of PAS1192: 2 and PAS1192:3 from 33% and 35% in 2015 to 55% and 45% in 2016, respectively. An encouraging development was the application of the CIC BIM protocol, which increased from 20% to 35% in 2016.
In response to PAS 1192 becoming an ISO standard, amongst other things, Ireland has set up a National Mirror Technical Committee to follow the development of BIM standards in EU under CEN TC 442.
The BIM in Ireland 2017 report highlights that despite the current absence of a formal regulation for BIM, there is still a high level of uptake in BIM training and education in Ireland. All higher education institutes are actively aware of the growing requirement for BIM and, in that respect, they have tailored existing or created new programmes to respond to this necessary graduate skillset.
The report provides a systematic review of third level BIM education and BIM training programmes currently on offer in Ireland, which includes reposting on the entry and destination statistics of the graduates. A search facility for these programmes has also been included on the BICP website. An image of this resource is shown in Figure 6.
BIM promotion in Ireland
The report acknowledges the important work of Enterprise Ireland in recognising the value proposition of BIM, for both its client bodies but also that the wider construction supply chain in Ireland should be acknowledged. Enterprise Ireland aims to support companies that wish to implement BIM strategically and have tailored their BIM Enable and BIM Implement strategies to meet these needs. They have funded, through the EI Innovation Voucher programme, a number of industry-academia partnership projects.
In 2016, Enterprise Ireland initiated the setting up of the NBC of Ireland. This is a strategic group that will provide vision, leadership and a collective voice for the advancement of digital design, construction and operation of built assets. NBC Ireland will aim to develop a national road map to optimise the successful implementation of BIM Level 2 and beyond. The funding of the BICP and the formation of the NBC from Enterprise Ireland are significant interventions that will assist in the formation of a BIM policy for public-sector projects in Ireland in the future.
The prominent role that CitA continues to play in the promotion of BIM in Ireland is also expanded within the report. The popular CitA Smarter Co-operative Building Series, the successful CitA Skillnet training programme and the BICP all provide important resources.
Further to this, CitA hosted the International BIM Gathering Conference in both 2013 and 2015, with the third gathering scheduled to take place in November 2017. In between the gatherings, CitA facilitated the Technology Challenge in 2014 which was a four-day studio-based workshop and one-day symposium. In 2016, CitA held the Irish BIM Innovation Awards, which showcased 13 exemplar projects within Ireland.
In 2015, CitA was invited to become an honorary member of the UK BIM Regions Network. CitA quickly established three BIM regions, which have now expanded to nine throughout the country. The purpose of the regional network in Ireland is to raise awareness of BIM, promote a shared understanding of the value proposition, share experiences of working with BIM on local projects and address the challenges of implementing BIM.
The case-study section within the BIM in Ireland 2017 report provides details of the 13 projects presented at the Irish BIM Innovation Awards. Additional case studies collated include the New Children’s Hospital, Schools Bundle 4 and the Greenway Hub (Figure 7).
The report also provides details on the BICP team’s consultations with public-sector bodies which include the Office of Public Works, National Development Financial Agency, Irish Water, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), Department of Education and Skills and Dublin City Council. The report expands on the continued push from the NDFAs to promote the use of BIM technologies for public works projects and how TII is currently exploring the possibilities of using BIM for the Metro North.
The report provides details of the outcomes of the BICP’s ongoing engagement with industry practitioners. This includes two consultation workshops with representatives from 19 different organisations. The BICP team has also engaged with those who have a particular responsibility for BIM in their businesses in Ireland. An extensive database of these persons has been created, which extends to in excess of 100 individuals.
The sample identified an impressive number of BIM projects that their companies were working on in Ireland. These included the application of BIM on social housing, hotels, primary care, education, commercial, pharmaceutical and food-manufacturing facilities.
The penultimate section provides the results of a Macro Maturity Components models that have been utilised to measure macro BIM adoption across the world. These models can be used for assessing a country’s current BIM adoption policy, benchmarking the BIM maturity of different countries and developing a national BIM adoption policy.
The BIM in Ireland 2017 concludes by establishing how through digitisation and innovative practices, such as BIM and Lean construction, the construction industry can potentially enhance its competitiveness. This is why the government, educators and industry have responded in such a positive manner to date.
While this report documents an array of BIM initiatives, activities by BIM champions and acknowledges the importance of the leadership shown by Enterprise Ireland in funding BIM programmes in Ireland, leaders in industry and government need to bring an order to BIM deployment in the construction sector.
An important first step in this national BIM programme includes the recent GCCC position paper on ‘A Public Sector BIM Adoption Strategy’. It is hoped that this statement of intent, coupled with the imminent National BIM Council Roadmap to Digital Transition for Ireland’s Construction Sector, will go a long way to providing an orderly transition to a digital future.
The BIM in Ireland 2017 report can be downloaded for free from www.bicp.ie/irish-bim-study.
The BICP research team includes Dr Alan Hore (Dublin Institute of Technology), Dr Barry McAuley (CitA) and Prof Roger West (Trinity College Dublin).
Barry McAuley PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons), BEng, MCIOB,
BICP postdoctoral researcher,
23 Fitzwilliam Square,