BIM Mandates & BIM Levels Explained

BIM BIM BIM…not only does it seem to be everywhere these days, but now governments and industry bodies are getting involved too. BIM Mandates are emerging around the world, and this is causing people who thought BIM might not affect them to sit up and take notice. So what does it mean for you?

What are BIM Mandates?
There is no one absolute definition of Building Information Modelling (BIM), rather, BIM is widely referred to as an aggregation of technologies and processes which provides a collaborative data repository for all project members. Fundamentally, BIM Mandates simply entails BIM policies implemented by the government for centrally procured projects (regardless of size) spanning, and made applicable to the associated supply chain.

Why is it important?
A lot of construction veterans may question the credibility of BIM and the subsequent mandates, convinced that it is a gratuitous scheme between the wealthy and the government. However, if they take one step back and embrace an open mind, they can recognize BIM not as a corrupted conspiracy, but as a catalyst for a leaner and more efficient project. More specifically, BIM is regarded as the key to reinventing the construction industry by increasing delivery and operational efficiency, reducing cost, reducing waste, lowering the carbon footprint (green construction), improving collaboration across the supply chain and ultimately, enhancing the quality of the final outcome.

What might a BIM Mandate involve?
BIM Mandates are really only in their infancy internationally, but the ones that have been implemented so far vary widely in terms of their content. The United Kingdom has set a precedence, with a heavy focus on the various levels of BIM. Other countries have implemented a similar approach. We’ll look further into the particular mandates of the international community in an upcoming blog post.

So what are the levels of BIM and what do they mean?
The notion of BIM Levels was developed as a practical “adoption process” for being BIM compliant. Fundamentally, the levels of BIM are a set of criteria which progresses from 0 to 3, where distinct milestones are defined to move the construction industry into a full-fledged collaborative environment. Whilst there may be some disputes on the exact description of each level, the general concept is as follows:

Levels of BIM

BIM Level 0
Level 0 BIM, also known as “unmanaged CAD” is essentially the starting block for any sort of BIM implementation. It defines the move from generating information by hand to creating 2D drawings using computer aided design. Nevertheless, there is minimal collaboration where files are being shared either traditionally or digitally as separate sources of information. Technically speaking, a firm using any form of CAD tools would be considered level 0 BIM compliant and most firms (if not all) have already made this breakthrough and are well ahead of this by now.

BIM Level 1
Moving from “unmanaged CAD”, we have “managed CAD” in Level 1 BIM. Generally, this encompass a combination of 3D and 2D CAD drawings, however, there is still minimal to no collaboration between project members. CAD standards are managed to BS1192:2007+A2:2016 (British Standard documentation; ultimately addressing the process for managing the storage of data and the convention for naming data), and electronic sharing of data is carried out from a common data environment. This is the level at which most firms are operating, where the standardised structures and frameworks set the foundation for proceeding towards Level 2 BIM.

BIM Level 2
Once enterprises are comfortable working with 2D and 3D drawings, Level 2 BIM comes into play and is differentiated by collaborative working. The crucial aspect of this level comes in the form of how the information is exchanged between stakeholders, however, this does not necessarily involve working on a single, shared model. Instead, you may have different parties using various 3D models and design information, which is then converted and shared via a common file format such as IFC. The standardised format is structured and reusable, allowing parties to combine data or models and carry out a more validated audit on the project to reduce risk of errors and waste. Ultimately, Level 2 BIM requires all asset information and data of a project to support efficient delivery throughout the project life cycle via a standardised electronic transfer. This was set as the minimum target by the UK government for all centrally procured work by 2016.

BIM Level 3
Looking ambitiously beyond Level 2, Level 3 BIM, often regarded as the “Holy Grail”, constitutes total collaboration between all stakeholders. The UK Government Construction Strategy paper published in March 2016 aims to mandate Level 2 BIM across departments, which was to ultimately enable the gradual phasing to BIM Level 3 – or at least this is what the Government envisions. While Level 2 BIM has just passed the initial infancy stage, where firms are still steering towards being Level 2 compliant, it may seem a little hasty to start conversing about Level 3. However, the current uptake of Level 2 BIM has been five years in the making, and much preparation and planning was required.
Where Level 2 BIM has no integrated arrangement in leveraging BIM data, Level 3 facilitates complete synergy enabled through a single, shared project model saved into a central repository (normally in the cloud) – an “integrated” open standards centric solution. Stakeholders of all discipline may access and modify the file, ultimately fostering end-to-end efficiency by delayering risks of conflicting information. However, as with all new approaches, conflicts will arise such as who owns the model (copyright), which party is held liable if any misfortune were to fall upon the project and obviously, the resources (time and money) administered into mobilising the Level 3 movement.

How can you start implementing BIM?
It is crucial not to confuse the “Levels” of BIM with the “Dimensions” of BIM. Where the Levels of BIM are guidelines or protocols to implement and ultimately adopt BIM practises, the Dimensions of BIM (4D, 5D & 6D) are attributable data inherent to the project model. For example, you may have 5D and 6D BIM Dimensions within a Level 2 BIM project but not necessarily the other way around.

Although Level 3 BIM may seem distant, a commitment was made to formulate a new digital standard for construction with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in the UK, unveiling an issuance of £15m to be rendered over the next three years for the development of Level 3 BIM.
To ensure you’re in the running for future mega projects, it is inevitable to start investing in becoming BIM compliant. To find out how CostX® can help you prepare for International BIM Mandates, send us an enquiry or give us a call.