Data Collection and Management;COBie part 1

This is a short video I created aimed at providing an introductory awareness of BIM, from zero forwards. This particular video focus on the Data collection and Management and was created in 2014. The work has been supported by multiple existing research and statements made by industry and academic individuals which I’ve then collated and interpreted into my own perspective.

Links to Coventry University, where we have a selection of courses that include BIM and Construction – Coventry University – School of Energy, Construction and Environment



What should we be assessing in BIM Education?

What should we be looking to assess in regards to BIM in education today? Also what should we be looking to assess in the future as all parties, industry, education and research knowledge of the best BIM practices and processes evolves?  The UK Government is attempting to establish BIM learning outcomes and such but I’d like to hear first-hand off people actively involved in BIM what they feel should be assessed and taught  in Higher Education


Over the past few months I’ve discussed many topics revolving around BIM, the what, the why and the drivers. This week I want to follow on from a previous article on ‘The challenges of integrating BIM into Higher Education’. Many parties are now in consensus that we need to be integrating BIM in some shape or form into academic curriculum at HE level. But what exactly should we be teaching and just as important what should we be assessing students on in BIM?

Teaching BIM in my opinion is just as much about the people and processes as it is the technology, maybe even more so. This is because if you don’t get the collaborative processes right than how can you expect your staff or students to begin to tackle the more technical aspects of BIM. For members of a team to be able to accept a change in their working process there needs to be an understanding as to why any change is being pushed.  For some this maybe a slight adjustment but for many this maybe a complete culture change.   The whole business view reflects the ground level people view in this respect in that some companies are already practicing collaborative working and in office protocols etc. so they will only need minor adjustments where as other companies may need to make wholesale changes to adapt to BIM processes.


If education is to provide the construction industry with graduates that have the applicable skills which are required by industry then education institutes need to ensure that the skills that are being taught in lectures and classes are relevant to the realities of an ever evolving industry.  One of the key challenges I see for BIM education curricular and assessment is being able to continually keep up to date with the changing nature of the construction industry. As I’m sure many of you are aware industry guidelines and practicing policy can often change almost as often as a change in the wind.  Just look at the UK planning guidelines fiasco with bringing in changes and then making abrupt turns in policy. The same can be said for schemes like the feed in tariffs for the solar panel industry.


sourced - google images

sourced – google images

With this in mind I feel it’s imperative that academia tries to keep their finger on the pulse as best as reasonable possible in regards to BIM curricular. And yes this may mean that lecturers may spend weeks preparing a module syllabus only to have to completely rework it a year or two later.  Gone are the days when a lecturer can get away with turning up with the same PowerPoint’s and coursework’s year on year for 10-20 years! Well that my opinion at least.  With a continually evolving industry we need a continually evolving and adapting curriculum.  This practice should not only be restricted to BIM teaching it should be the ethos across all courses.  Many courses today are based technical aspects of the industry and with anything technical it continually gets updated and altered year on year; I’m thinking Autodesk policy here!  Culture changes are generally less regular but in the case of BIM beyond the overall wider culture change aspect there is multiple smaller changes down the BIM road. This is a natural progression as BIM feels it way through it implementation.


With all this in mind I’d like to evoke some discussion on what should we be looking to assess in regards to BIM in education today? Also what should we be looking to assess in the future as all parties, industry, education and research knowledge of the best BIM practices and processes evolves?  The UK Government is attempting to establish BIM learning outcomes and such but I’d like to hear first-hand off people actively involved in BIM what they feel should be assessed and taught  in Higher Education. Please feel free to join the discussion below with you thoughts and opinions. 


Drivers behind BIM Part 2

The article this week will follow on from lasts week’s article looking at the drivers behind BIM. This week I will focus on the NBS surveys from the last few years as well as looking at some of the industry take up and commitments towards BIM that has taken place recently.

wheel BIM

Drivers Behind BIM Part 1 can be found here

Another key driver in the push for wider adoption of BIM across the industry is the positive effects that BIM working practices will have in regards to delivering low impact sustainable buildings for the future, in an increasingly energy conscious time.  By increasing the BIM awareness and skills of the industry whilst at the same time parallel to these further increasing the industries abilities to analyse and design low impact buildings, the construction sector will be in the best position to contribute positively towards a low impact future.

The National BIM Report 2012 canvassed the opinions of over 1000 participants with differing levels of awareness and understanding of BIM for 2011. The results showed that 73% of participants agreed that the industry was simply not yet clear enough on what BIM actually was. Following on from this, NBS repeated the survey in 2012-13 titled the NBS National BIM Survey 2013, once again canvassing the opinions of the industry for the year 2012. The same question was asked and this time around 74% now felt that ‘the industry isn’t yet clear enough on what BIM is yet’, clearly with this continued statistic there is still further work to be done in regards to preparing the industry for full adoption of BIM.

Also highlighted within the findings was the lack of awareness amongst all participants. The National BIM Report 2012 established, “that awareness of BIM is (was) not universal, with 21% of participants stating that they were not aware of BIM (in 2011)”. In the repeated study, NBS National BIM Survey 2013 the same question was asked again, this time around however the number of participants ‘neither aware nor using BIM’ fell to 6%. This result is a marked improvement on previous years amongst the industry participants.  As good as an improvement as this last result is it would be somewhat counterproductive if the industry was to stand still in regards to BIM adoption and training. Similarly once again it would also be counterproductive if Higher Education institutions continued to allow graduates to leave university without any awareness of BIM themselves. I believe if this was to happen it could hinder the Government and the industry in their push for greater adoption of BIM.

Personally I feel it’s the responsibility of Governments, the firms who can realistically afford to, as well as Higher Education institutes to ensure that the necessary training is provided to enable graduates and existing professionals to succeed within an increasingly competitive industry, with a clear awareness and ability to work within a BIM working environment being one of those skills.  For those smaller companies who work to an ever increasing tighter staffing and technology budget I’m afraid I don’t have all the answers! Yes I feel that the smaller SME’s need to adapt to survive but at the same time I recognise the barriers. What is encouraging is various funding schemes that are popping up to assist SME’s with CPD funding etc. such as the Sustainable Building Futures (SBF) based in Coventry to assist SME’s in and the Midlands region.

The extent to which BIM is adopted across the construction industry depends on whether industry leaders buy into the Governments sentiments. Currently major players within the industry are making strong drives towards the adoption of BIM, with some already delivering projects at maturity level 2. Balfour Beatty has recently invested a considerable amount of funds into the adoption of BIM across their company. In 2012 Balfour Beatty “signed a three year, $12 million agreement that will help Balfour Beatty expand its adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM)” balfourbeatty (2012). Capita, formally known as Capita Symonds soon to revert back to Capita!, have also been investing heavily in the adoption of BIM they announced last year that from  “July 2012 all its new design projects will use BIM Level 2 as standard” capitasymonds. (2013). The Royal BAM Group have also recently signed a three year contract worth “(£2.8m) with software firm Autodesk to provide Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology across its global operations, including all BAM projects in the UK” building (2013). Speaking about the deal in October 2012, BAM Construct Design & Marketing director Chris Gilmour stated that BIM would be used across all projects, “Not just special projects – no matter how big or small the project, we will be fully embedding BIM” (February 2013). This review of the construction industry is by no means exhaustive; it is however a small indication of the commitment that industry is making towards adopting BIM.

So as you can see there are many factors at stake when we talk about the drivers behind BIM, whether it be Government, Industry or Education they all have a big part to play in the future of the construction sector. What are your thoughts on BIM, do you believe enough is being done push forward with BIM? Also do you feel it’s he to stay, or is it just another buzzword or phase that will pass?


Drivers Behind BIM Part 1

This article is the first of two parts, the focus will be on the drivers behind BIM, why are many companies adopting this new or not so new (depending who you talk to!) way of working. BIM has many believers and just as many critics! But one thing is for sure as it stands, the UK government believes it’s here to stay as well as many of the early adopters who are making whole sale changes to the infrastructure of their project set-ups.

Over the last few years the UK Government has made significant moves outlining where they expect the construction industry to be over the coming years in regards to BIM. 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, or higher by 2016.  Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office has recently stated in 2012 that, “The Governments four-year strategy for BIM implementation will change the dynamics and behaviours of the construction supply chain, unlocking new, more efficient and collaborative ways of working. This whole sector adoption of BIM will put us at the vanguard of a new digital construction era and position the UK to become the world leaders in BIM”.

Now….within this particular article I’m not going to get too caught up in the whole debate of how much of this ‘new’ BIM methodology already existed in certain people’s workflows and how much is a ‘new’ way of thinking. Yes certain collaborative working processes did exist previously, what I feel BIM has brought and is bringing to the table is a repackaging of the best aspects of collaborative working processes and protocols along with new ones as well as establishing further integration of existing 3D CAD technologies and the newer BIM technologies that are sprouting up on what seems like a daily basis!

Sourced from-

Sourced from-

The Cabinet Office states in the Government Construction Strategy (2011) “there is a detailed programme of measures Government will take that will reduce costs by up to 20% by the end of this parliament”; it is believed by many that BIM will be one of the key factors in achieving this target. I still feel that even with all the good work that the BIM task groupBIM Regional hubs, OpenBIM network and the BIM academic forum are doing more work will be needed to move onto the next phase. We’re at the point now where all the believers are fully on board and committed to BIM ethos. What phase 2 needs to do now is move beyond the tight-knit and familiar group of people who accept and believe in BIM and begin to convince some of the remaining doubters on board. I say some because I feel you will always get some people who don’t like change an d wish to stick with what they know and are comfortable with.

As well as the Government drives i also feel that education has a big part to play in BIM adoption. As discussed in the BIS BIM strategy Report carried out by the BIM Industry Working Group (2011, p6) “key to any successful change programme is communication of the change and adequate support during the process”, part of the responsibility to provide that support will fall on Academic Institutions. The BIS BIM strategy Report (2011, p6) goes on to state that in regards to how training is provided the “recommended solution is a strongly led hybrid provider drawing on the educational and research expertise of universities, the robust experience of accrediting bodies and the engagement of credible industry led best practice, as well as vocational training delivered by CPD or the training supply chain.” From this information it’s clear to me that the incentive or at least the outwardly perceived incentive is that education is seen as a major supporting act. In my opinion however I feel much more has to be done at undergraduate level (UK at least). In respect of this point I also feel further guidance and support needs to be established and clearly set out and put forward to higher education institutes as to what their role is.

Barison and Santos (2009) found the application of BIM in HE to be focussed predominantly on single course integration rather inter-disciplinary. However as we all know by now the application of BIM in the industry is an integrated practice! The aim for education has to be for effective collaboration between different professionals.  This is why I feel that BIM should not only be taught in theory and technical lectures but imperatively all of the knowledge should be brought together in multidisciplinary collaborative projects.

So as you can see there are many factors at stake when we talk about the drivers behind BIM, whether it be Government, Industry or Education they all have a big part to play in the future of the construction sector. What are your thoughts on BIM, do you believe enough is being done touch forward with BIM? Also do you feel it’s he to stay, or is it just another buzzword or fad that will pass? Catch up here next week for part 2 of this article.

Driver Behind BIM part 2 can be found here


What does openBIM, IFC’s and COBie actually mean for BIM?

This weeks article looks at giving a brief explanation of OpenBIM, COBie and IFC’s whilst also asking a few questions on what all this means for the future of software vendors. What does openBIM, IFC’s and COBie actually mean for BIM?. With Autodesk holding a 63% (NBS National BIM Survey) share of the CAD drawing market what affect will this have on open BIM for the future? What does open BIM actually mean and what are these COBie files that we keep hearing about? With these points in mind this week’s article will focus on open and closed BIM and the interoperability of BIM software as well as asking one or two questions about what all this means for the future of an open BIM collaborative working environment.

Closed BIM generally refers to when BIM processes are carried out on a single platform whereas open BIM refers to when the BIM environment crosses multiple platforms regardless of the software vendor, in essence an ‘open’ shareable design environment using open standard data.

To achieve an open BIM project environment information needs to be shared/exported to a non-proprietary format, such as IFC’s. Currently there are strong opinions and voices behind the drive towards open BIM with the Government specifying in the BIS-BIM-strategy-Reports that Maturity Level 4 BIM should achieve “Fully open process and data integration enabled by IFC/IFD.” Many individual BIM experts are also pushing for the drive towards an open standard BIM future.
Sourced from - BIS-BIM-strategy-Report (2011) BIM Data integration COBie IFC

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

To briefly explain what IFC data formats are, they are in essence an ‘open’ and neutral data format which set a data standard which if utilised can assist in the ‘interoperability’ between software packages. As stated by BuildingSMART  “Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) are the open and neutral data format for openBIM.” The data standard which has been developed by Building SMART international, if adhered to enables for the exchange of models and information between multiple software types, in essence achieving interoperability.

Interoperability is a significant word which if involved in BIM already you will be more than familiar with, if not it’s something that you will begin to understand the significance as you progress further into the world of BIM. For files and models to be shared and merged amongst multiple analysis tools and offices they need to be ‘interoperable’. If software packages have the ability to be interoperable then it means that time can be saved through not having to continually redevelop new building geometry for each tool that you wish to utilise to carry out your various analysis.  The importance of this interoperability of files and models across all the teams involved within a BIM project is a pressing concern within BIM which is continually being intensely developed.  Interoperability is a key factor that needs to be drummed home when considering BIM and is seen as being a key component in the future success of BIM projects and needs to be carefully considered at every step.

If the work produced by varying teams is carried out and outputted in an interoperable manner then it allows for multiple teams to work collaboratively on a project without necessarily holding the same software skills and licences. When reading and encountering BIM these are key words that you will soon become familiar with; interoperability, collaborative working, shareable data, data integration, IFC’s, data sharing protocols to name a few….all of these words and terms hope to lead the construction industry to one place, a ‘fully open process’ and working environment.

COBie is another tool that is also vastly becoming synonymous with BIM. COBie is a tool which allows for a multitude of non-graphical data and information to be stored in an organised manner, in essence a spreadsheet. All of this data can then be handed over to the client/facilities management department allowing for easy access to a multitude of details post-completion without having the unenviable task of sifting through a mass of fragmented documentation looking for specific details such as the manufacturer’s contact details of a door handle! With COBie the intention is that all of this information can be kept in an up-datable database which can be easily accessed and kept up to date throughout the whole life cycle of a building, from concept through to demolition. Interesting further reading on COBie can be found at NBS by Stephen Hamil.

Sourced from BIM COBie Spreadsheet

Sourced from

It is argued that this topic of interoperability of file formats and software packages will be a major factor in determining BIM’s success and whether it’s a smooth transition from isolated design practices to a truly collaborative BIM environment. Software programmes such as REVIT can sometimes be referred to as closed BIM, but I feel this is not a clear defined point as REVIT does have the capability to export file types in the ‘open’ BIM IFC format which allows for interoperability between designs and models. For instance REVIT can export all of the information and modal data from REVIT in the IFC data format which can then be imported into various other software packages, beyond the Autodesk circle of software.  So with this in mind you have to be careful when considering what is truly open BIM and what is closed BIM as the boundaries are not always clear.

The voices behind ‘open’ BIM are actively encouraging BIM practitioners to utilise the IFC data formats and open BIM standards, with part of the hope that no one software vendor will have a monopoly on the market. According to the recent NBS NationalBIM Survey 2013, within the scope of their research pool Autodesk currently hold a 63% share of the CAD drawing market so clearly they have a large proportional share of the market. What will be interesting over the years to come will be to see how this large market share affects the progression and evolution of BIM in the coming years. Will Autodesk’s share open up or close down the interoperability of BIM? Are Autodesk going to be happy to push forward with open BIM or is it in their interest to actually tie practitioners into their product package? This is something that will be interesting to see how it pans out and how far down the open BIM road BIM can progress with Autodesk and the other software contenders a clear defining factor in how ‘open’ BIM becomes.


To collaborate efficiently with a goal at reducing cost, time and carbon central to the ethos of BIM then in my opinion surely we need to push forward with an open approach to BIM sharing standards. I feel that with the research being continually progressed by the likes of BuildingSMART, NBS and the OPEN BIM Network as well as many others a collaborative open BIM future is possible and with the likes of the big guns within the software industry supposedly on board than surely it’s just a case of how do we get there rather than should we head in that direction?


Do you feel an open BIM future is or should be the only way forward for BIM or do you think one software vendor will end up ruling the roost and lock down the market? Please feel free to add to the discussion 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.



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