BIM – The implications beyond April 2016

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With only a few months to go till the introduction of compulsory BIM compliance for Government construction projects, the minds of non-compliant manufacturers are now increasingly focused on creating BIM objects to ensure their products are still able to be specified.

However, the longer-term implications of BIM are likely to be much further-reaching for suppliers of products such as lighting systems, particularly when it comes to ensuring the final building is constructed in line with original specification.

BIM is already proving its value in significantly reducing the costs and lead times of new build projects of all kinds. An architect working with CAD versions of all the desired components can know instantly whether or not they will fit where planned (and how many of each will be needed). BIM is allowing a quicker way of completing different schedules by working digitally rather than manually, reducing design time and increasing productivity.

This is a far cry from previous ways of working where potential ‘collisions’ – products being found not to fit where they are meant to – do not come to light until the actual time of installation, leaving contractors with a desperate rush to find an alternative to meet the completion deadline. The knock-on effects of this can be numerous but in an era where minimising energy consumption is a watchword for so many, the use of less efficient products than was originally planned is not something that the customer and end users of the building will be prepared to countenance.

April sees the availability of BIM objects becoming compulsory for all publicly-funded projects and those companies who have not taken steps in this direction are now having to rapidly find a supplier who can create these on their behalf as well as choosing the best platform to host them on.

BIM requirements – both currently and in the future as they become more stringent – will place greater power in the hands of consultants and specifiers who will in effect supply project contractors with a list of products which they have to buy, many of which will have been selected on the basis of their energy efficiency level. This will make for a more efficient transfer of the project from the consultant to contractors and installers and will effectively ‘tie in’ manufacturers of products, drastically reducing the opportunity for original specifications to be broken.

The breaking of specification has been a common theme on many build projects, particularly in the area of lighting. As lighting systems are among the final products to be installed, they have frequently been seen as an area where economies can be made if costs in other parts of the build have been higher than anticipated. Instances have occurred where the original lighting budget is required but the budget has been reduced by 50 per cent.

However, not only is this practice likely to result in the specification of an inferior product in terms of performance, functionality and reliability, but energy efficiency will almost inevitably be compromised too. However, in the era of BIM with its associated requirement for proven energy efficiency, the use of products and systems which do not come up to scratch in this key performance area will simply not be permitted by those with the responsibility for signing off the final build.

With BIM in place, contractors will have the opportunity to work with the chosen manufacturer who has the opportunity to examine the specification in detail and recommend the most appropriate and cost-effective solution which will also satisfy energy efficient requirements. Not only does this process enable closer collaboration between contractor and manufacturer but best pricing is guaranteed, as is on-time delivery as the supplier knows when the products will be needed and can plan production accordingly. All this is a far cry from last-minute ‘shopping around’ to find a supplier who can deliver, for example, several hundred luminaires, within a few days after the products originally specified were found to be the wrong size or unavailable for any other reason.

The advent of BIM and likely future developments in and around it are set to drastically change the overall specification, purchasing and build process and therefore the relationships between those involved.

Future developments in BIM are likely to be driven more by Government targets in the area of speed of build rather than by the requirements of consultants for greater information – but even so BIM represents a great opportunity to ensure optimum environmental performance while reducing overall build times through a smooth, coherent design and build process with all parties from consultants, specifiers and contractors to installers and manufacturers working in true partnership.

For further information visit www.cpelectronics.uk.com.