The Challenges in Integrating BIM into Education

BIM will be a major aspect in the future of the construction industry I think that’s clear; I also feel that Higher Education will play a major part assisting to prepare Graduates with the relevant skills required. Is however, the current structure in place sufficient enough to provide the industry with BIM ready, or at least reasonably BIM skilled Graduates today though and if not what challenges may Higher Education face? The Challenges in Integrating BIM into Education;

This week’s article will be looking at the challenges that Higher Education Institutes will or may be facing in the near future. BIM is clearly on the rise within the construction industry as covered in my previous article on BIM maturity levels, which referenced that according to the NBS National BIM Survey 2013, 47% of you out there in the UK have already at some point reached BIM ‘Maturity Level 2’. But where do we really stand in education? With this in mind I’m going to be concentrating this week on Higher Education at an undergraduate level.

 Looking across the spectrum of Higher Education in the UK it doesn’t take long to establish that there clearly are some institutions that are ahead of the game in regards to BIM content and courses. This is at least true at Post-Graduate level, with an increasing number of Higher Education institutes offering BIM courses at Masters Level, with a selection of institutions beginning to offer some BIM content at undergraduate level as well but not as prevalent. It is at undergraduate level that personally I feel needs to be improved in the majority of cases.

To look at the challenges which we may face I’ve very loosely utilised a framework which was initially developed by Charles Hopkins (2006), which has been worked on and developed over a number of year looking at the ‘Challenges and Barriers to Education for Sustainable development (ESD)’. Even though the framework developed by Hopkins was focusing on the challenges faced by ESD, many of the issues identified are applicable to the challenges that will be faced in the adoption of BIM in education. I’ve took this base and then run with it! 
One of the first challenges I feel will be to increase the awareness of BIM amongst the existing teaching staff within institutions. If BIM is to be developed and integrated into undergraduate courses then members of staff who may not be directly impacted by BIM still need to be made aware of it and understand why institutions are pushing forward in the direction of BIM. Additional to this more specialised individual professional learning will more than likely be required by staff to ensure that all those involved in the delivery of BIM are competent and understand what they are preaching. This may sound like an obvious point but one I feel needs highlighting. This is an area where I feel government needs to work together with Education institutes and cohesively come up with and progress a clear plan which can then be rolled out and communicated to all Higher Education Universities and Colleges teaching Built Environment courses.
The next issue concerns how BIM is integrated across the Built Environment curriculum. Personally I feel that all construction students should at least leave university with an awareness of what BIM actually is and what it means to them; not only as an individual but also as a part in the overall spectrum of the industry. The difficulty will be in ensuring that the differing disciplines who are studying in their fields of expertise gain the appropriate amount of skills which are needed, beyond that of an initial ‘BIM awareness’. This is something which needs to be continually developed and accessed as BIM in the industry naturally develops, education should follow suit and adapt its processes to ensure that Graduates are leaving with the right skills.
Another issue in teaching BIM is dealing with the complexity of some BIM concepts.  It is paramount that the skills and theory that are to be taught do not confuse students more than when they started. When something is hard to define it can also be difficult to teach, an aspect which BIM can be guilty of on occasion! Teaching needs to be clear that BIM goes beyond that of the 3D model, with efficient information sharing a critical factor which needs to be adopted and understood.
Another challenge to be considered will be how far should, and could current courses be changed in regards to integrating BIM. Built Environment courses are set up carefully to cover many specific learning outcomes which are required to ensure that the courses have content within them that is education and industry applicable. One of the major issues which Higher Education institutes face is the congestion of courses. There a lot of content which already exists in specific courses which quite simply can’t be removed as the timetables are designed in such a way to cover discipline and accreditation content requirements which are generally clearly set out and defined.  Currently there is a lack of knowledge in regards to BIM which prevents clear standardised accreditation; once this is achieved or defined it may make it easier to incorporate BIM into courses. The solution or challenge, depending how you look at it may be for education to integrate BIM seamlessly within the structure of existing courses and modules rather than attempting to create brand new BIM specific courses or modules which will directly compete for timetable space with existing modules.  
Sourced from-

Sourced from-

An important criterion concerning the success of the adoption of BIM will be the sharing of the responsibilities. The adoption of BIM into an educational department cannot solely be the work of one BIM initiator, as experienced by many industry drivers in BIM’s early days. The correct framework and desire needs to be in place amongst all staff.  Support for BIM in education has to be provided right form the top down; through Government to university heads, department heads to lecturer’s and then dissipated from the lecturers to the students accordingly.  I feel a clearer path forward needs to be outlined by all parties on what Higher Education’s part will be in the integration of BIM across the construction industry, beyond that of ‘It has an important part to play’. This will ensure that everyone involved is pushing in the same direction, it’s no good education flying off with ideas and learning outcomes if it’s not what the Government, education or industry require. Education shouldn’t be solely designed to fulfil industry’s needs but it is part of Higher Education’s institutions responsibility to ensure that Graduates have a good chance of employability when they leave university, and if BIM is an industry required skill then it falls on education to assist in instilling this skill into their Graduates.  
To do this Higher Education institutes will need to continue to develop new ways of engaging students and improving their soft and hard skills, relevant to successful practice in a multi-disciplinary field of construction. The aim should be to teach more efficient design processes which lead to reduced costs and time whilst also enhancing student’s skills of design integration, analysis and collaboration.
The next steps for Higher Education should be to continue to develop new BIM integration strategies whilst at the same time continually assessing the effects of the current strategies that have been implemented. Is what we are teaching today sufficient? Personally I don’t think it is, at undergraduate level at least, but I do know first hand that big strides are happening across various universities who’ve adopted a progressive attitude towards how we teach BIM at undergraduate and post-graduate level which is a big step in the right direction. BIM will be a major aspect in the future of the construction industry I think that’s clear; I also feel that Higher Education can assist in preparing Graduates with the relevant skills and knowledge to be able to succeed within a continuously developing and collaborative industry. 


What challenges do you think Higher Education faces? Maybe you have first-hand knowledge of how you’ve succeeded in integrating BIM into you’re courses? Success’s or challenge’s; University Lecturer’s, Industry or Student’s, please feel free to comment with your thoughts below.
Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

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What is BIM? Part 2 – Building Information Modelling and BIM Maturity Levels

It’s clear that BIM’s popularity is on the rise, with an estimated 47% of the participants who took part in the NBS National BIM Survey 2013 stating that at some point they had reached Level 2 BIM. What I’m interested in hearing this week is how far down the BIM maturity levels are you today and what gains do you feel BIM tools and protocols are bringing to your design and management processes? A look at the BIM levels of maturity and BIM for Professions ;
How we use BIM tools can differ depending on each each party involved, whether you’re coming from an Architects point of view or whether you’re looking at it from the Facilities Management angle, what gains you take away from following BIM practices can vary. Some of you out there may see and use BIM tools purely to enhance the communication of 3D designs in an isolated design environment.  While others may be at BIM ‘Maturity Level 1’, still preferring to work in 2D yet adopting the ‘Information’ protocol aspects of BIM to enhance file based collaboration. According to the NBS National BIM Survey 2013  47% of you out there have already at some point reached BIM ‘Maturity Level 2’, which is great news for BIM. Within the same NBS National BIM Survey 2013  8% stated that they have reached the iBIM Level 3 of maturity at some point, working within a fully collaborative and integrated environment, does this mean the future is surely bright for?
The UK Government has mandated that all public building projects will have to be using BIM design processes at level 2, fully collaborative 3D BIM with Library Management, or higher by 2016. To briefly outline the levels of maturity to give you a general idea of what all this means here is the BIS-BIM-strategy-Reportsmaturity level definitions;

Sourced from - BIS-BIM-strategy-Report (2011) BIM maturity Level BIM task group

Sourced from – BIS-BIM-strategy-Report (2011)

0.Unmanaged CAD probably 2D, with paper (or electronic paper) as the most likely data exchange mechanism.

1.Managed CAD in 2 or 3D format using BS 1192:2007 with a collaboration tool providing a common data environment, possibly some standard data structures and formats. Commercial data managed by standalone finance and cost management packages with no integration.
2.Managed 3D environment held in separate discipline “BIM” tools with attached data. Commercial data managed by an ERP. Integration on the basis of proprietary interfaces or bespoke middleware could be regarded as “pBIM” (proprietary). The approach may utilise 4D Programme data and 5D cost elements.
3.Fully open process and data integration enabled by IFC / IFD. Managed by a collaborative model server. Could be regarded as iBIM or integrated BIM potentially employing concurrent engineering processes.
This week additional to briefly discussing the Levels of BIM I’m going to be giving a brief outline of how BIM tools can assist a differing selection of disciplines;
BIM for Architectural Design and Modelling
As many are aware BIM models can be used to allow the designer to present and communicate 3D designs in a clear, easily accessible way for all to see. BIM models and information analysis packages provides a platform for multiple discipline teams to analysis, interrogate and navigate the project further, beyond the limitations of 2D design. Once the information is data dropped to the core model further clash detection analysis can take place, reducing issues and conflicts. As discussed earlier having all of the information centralised in one core model will inevitably lead to improved design and document efficiency. It is these added values that take BIM beyond that of a simple 3D visual model.
Sourced from- ARUP BIM Structure Model ECB Coventry

Sourced from-

BIM for Structural Modelling and Analysis

BIM software can assist the structural designer in their analysis of the structural performance of a structure. Employing one core structural model means that there is no need for multiple models to be created for each different structural analysis that’s needed. Time is saved through not having to continually transcribe information from one design package to another. All the related information to the project can then be easily shared and accessed by multiple project disciplines.
BIM for MEP Modelling, Detailing and Energy Analysis
Creating MEP details in a BIM model allows building service engineers’ and Architectural designers alike to be able to visually appreciate how the services within a design relate to the building as a whole, ensuring that clashes and issues are identified early on. Using MEP and energy analysis software many analytical programmes can be run to test the overall efficiency of the design. This should result in a circle of design – analysis – redesign, with an aim at establishing the most energy efficient design at as early stage as possible.
BIM for Programming and Scheduling (4D BIM)
BIM 3D models can be utilised to assist contractors in the programming and scheduling of BIM projects. This is achieved by adding programming and time data to a BIM project, once the data is married to the building project then the 4D programming schedule can be established. The 4D programme can then be used to assist contractors and designers to improve and refine the schedule of the project.
BIM for Quantity Schedules and Costing Information (5D BIM)
Quantity Surveyors and Designers are able to produce accurate quantity schedules and cost information for building projects. Standardised data can also be integrated into BIM models ensuring that all the building components meet the required Building Regulations. Your probably picking up on the theme here…. all of this information can then be stored and accessed within the BIM core model by all those involved in the project.
BIM for Facilities and Asset Management (6D BIM)
The management processes and time that it takes for a facilities management team to continually assess and maintain their asset stock can be considerable.  For instance if you think of a University estates team, with tens of buildings to manage trying to find a detail specification of a fixture or fitting in a building that was built 40 years previous you can imagine, it can be a tough task. Having all of the information available within one core model could be invaluable, at the click of a button the details, manufacturer, performance criteria and cost could be accessed almost instantaneously.

How far down the road of the BIM maturity levels do you feel you or your offices are at today? What gains if any, do you feel that BIM tools and protocols are bringing to your design and management processes within your working environment?
Feel free to comment and discuss the topic further.  
Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog. 


What is BIM? (Part 1 – Building Information Modelling)

In the context of ArchitectureBuilding Information Modelling,  BIM is a design methodology, which enables all of the design details, decisions and characteristics to be held within a collaborative digital model and information package. Having all of the information centralised in one core model will inevitably lead to improved design and document efficiency. It is this added value that takes BIM beyond that of a simple 3D visual model.
Designed by and Property of Danny McGough  BIM Model

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough

I’m going to open with a few statistics but don’t be too frightened, 4 stats and I’m done!

The knowledge of BIM within the construction industry is on the rise, the recent NBS National BIM Report 2013 states that only ‘6% of the industry were neither aware nor using BIM’ in 2012, compare this to previous years of 21% and 43% in 2011 and 2010 respectively it is clear that the awareness of BIM amongst construction professionals is rising. Looking at these particular statistics it does paint a promising future for BIM.
Designed by and Property of Danny McGough BIM model

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough

However following on from this, in the same NBS BIM Report 2013, the statistic that ‘74% of the industry is not clear enough on what BIM is yet’ does mean that we’re not completely past the ‘What’ stage just yet for all construction professionals. It’s with this in mind that has led me to write this week’s blog, ‘What is BIM?’ In the context of Architecture Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a design methodology, which enables all of the design details, decisions and characteristics to be held within a collaborative digital model and information package. All of the design and project information can then be shared, accessed and even altered live, facilitating an efficient and fluid collaborative design and asset management process across the whole life cycle of a building. For the wider range of parties involved the concentration may be more on the ‘Information’ sharing aspects of BIM.  A predominate aspect of BIM which continually needs to be expressed and driven home is that the ‘Information’ side of BIM is just as important as any design model. Working within a BIM environment, adopting BIM information sharing protocols, collating the data in an interoperable format, and utilising documents such as BuildingSMART’s ‘Project Execution Plan’ into a project aims to improve how information is shared amongst all varying parties involved in an efficient interoperable manner, regardless of whether you’re the Architect or the contractor.

A core feature of working within a BIM environment is the drive towards encouraging multi-disciplinary collaboration from the very outset of a project. The benefits of all disciplines working together within one core BIM environment are multiple. A major issue that is experienced within non BIM design processes is the matter of conflicting design issues; the ethos of having a core central BIM model is to facilitate a smoother transition through these issues by identifying conflicts earlier on in the project stages thus reducing the negative effects on schedule and costs. From an early stage projects can be visualised allowing the client and designer alike to gain an appreciation of how the design is going to materialise, this allows for important design decisions and alterations to be made at an early stage where the cost repercussions are little cost or even zero. The efficiency of the effects of changes within documentation or design is greatly improved as any changes made which are linked to the main BIM package will be carried through and updated to all corresponding linked documents and models automatically.

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough  Independent silo separated design BIM Closed

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough

To the right you can see a graphical example of an ‘Independent Separated Design Environment’. This simple graphical representation expresses the chaos when all parties are working independently of the others.  Having the design process completed within a BIM environment using 3D BIM models with a core 3D BIM model at the centre of the project leads to multiple benefits post model creation. The models can be analysed allowing for a multitude of model interrogations to take place including; energy analysis, structural analysis, accurate schedules and quantity take-offs to name a few. It is argued that by using BIM processes for building projects it will improve the energy efficiency, improve the scheduling, facilitate a reduction of waste and possibly paramount to this, a reduction in costs.

Below is another graphical representation , of a  ‘BIM Collaborative Design Environment’ showing how a BIM core model and digital information package can assist the project team to deliver a fluid fully collaborative project.

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough OpenBIM BIM collaborative integrated design

Designed by and Property of Danny McGough

In summary, through carrying out all of this pre-construction design analysis and interrogation the result will be a reduction in conflicts and changes made during the construction phase which usually will have a detrimental effect on a project in terms of wastage, quality, time and costs. At the same time the stringent energy analysis that can take place in the early stages of a BIM project aims to improve the performance of a project in regards to low impact design. And finally post project completion the BIM model can continue to be utilised by the FM team to assist in the management of their assets in an environmentally conscious manner.What are your thoughts and experiences on BIM today? Is BIM something that is completely new to you, a foreign confusing topic or are you in the, we love it and were flying with it category?

I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts below in the comments as it would be great to hear where you are all coming from so we can keep the discussions and articles moving.
Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog. 


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