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BIM Level 3: is the industry ready?

There’s a new evolutionary step in the world of BIM, known as BIM Level 3. If you’re already delivering BIM projects within construction and engineering chances are you’ve heard it mentioned – let’s take a closer look!

The different levels of BIM explained

As you may know, the UK government mandated all public sector infrastructure projects to be delivered using BIM Level 2 by April 2016. Now, four years after its mandatory implementation, many organisations and professionals still struggle to understand what BIM Level 2 involves. The truth is BIM is a complex matter and requires a significant amount of effort to fully comprehend all its facets. Many engineers and contractors still think of BIM as a simple 3D model. As we explained in another post, BIM is far more than a 3D model. For example, a BIM model – or PIM – also includes important metadata and documentation.

The superseded PAS 1192-2 included a diagram that became very popular when trying to explain the different levels of BIM maturity. The first level, known as Level 0, could be seen as the most basic of CAD systems. This included simple drawings containing lines, text, etc. The information exchanges in Level 0 were based on paper documents. BIM Level 0 then evolved into Level 1, which is the traditional 2D and 3D CAD representation that most of us know. In this level, we started to see models, objects, and a certain level of collaboration. When BS 1192:2007 was published, it raised the bar in terms of requirements for CAD. One could say that this Standard was the father of BIM Level 2.

BIM Level 2 to save millions across the construction sector

At the abovementioned point, the UK government realised that most engineering and construction teams were working in silos. Consequently, millions of pounds were wasted each year on abortive work due to a lack of collaboration and coordination. It was then, that the UK government mandated all public sector projects to use BIM Level 2. This relatively new level of maturity for BIM advocated for increased collaboration and coordination. It was rooted in a file-based collaboration and library management. To be BIM Level 2 compliant, one had to follow all the recommendations found in PAS 1192-2. This included having a Common Data Environment and a Project Execution Plan in place, assessing the BIM capabilities through PQQ’s and delivering COBie, among many others.

The UK government and Digital Built Britain

Currently, there are thousands of case studies showing the advantages of using BIM. These range from cost and programme savings to improvements in Health and Safety and stakeholders’ engagement. As a result, the UK government has decided to continue to invest in BIM. To that end, Digital Built Britain was created. It is a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. In February 2015, the government published its strategic plan for Level 3 BIM. In this plan, it committed to invest more money towards achieving BIM Level 3 implementation during the 2020s.

Key requirements for BIM Level 3

One of the main requirements for BIM Level 3 is the availability (and implementation) of an international set of standards. In other words, there should be a set of ISO standards that regulate BIM processes and procedures. Well, we are halfway there. As we wrote in a recent post, ISO 19650-1 and 2 are already available. At the same time, ISO 19650-3 and 5 are being developed and should be published this year. This brings us a step closer to BIM Level 3.

Another key requirement to deliver BIM Level 3 projects is the use of IFC models. The acronym IFC stands for Industry Foundation Classes. Its aim is to describe architectural, engineering and construction data in a common format. It is an open file format specification that is not controlled by a single vendor. The idea is that IFC models can be easily exchanged between different software without having compatibility issues. This aims to resolve the current challenges when exchanging data between stakeholders. With the use of IFC models, interoperability between Autodesk and Bentley software should be straightforward, for example. The IFC model specification is open and available to everyone. It is also registered by ISO in the official standard ISO 16739-1:2018.

Whole lifecycle management becomes critical

To achieve BIM Level 3, it’s also necessary to use Integrated Web Services as a BIM Hub to exchange information. To maximise collaboration, it’s necessary for all parties to access the same information from a single source of truth. Currently, organisations use Common Data Environments. However, these are generally specific to each organisation. This poses certain difficulties when trying to exchange information with others. In a BIM Level 3 environment, this issue won’t be present. The solution is a cloud-based CDE – a Common Data Environment that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

This cloud-based CDE is one of the main challenges for the full implementation of BIM Level 3. There are many technical experts developing server query databases to facilitate this hub. However, there is no clear solution now, with each organisation having its own preferences.

With BIM Level 3 comes the concept of Open BIM. BIM Level 3 is all about the whole lifecycle management of the assets. Open BIM is the process of full collaboration by all parties during all stages of a project, from concept to demolition. The idea behind it is to have just one BIM model throughout the lifecycle and for this to be accessible by everyone. The aim is to eliminate abortive work related to the inaccuracy of the data or duplication of efforts. At this level, it’s important to think about all stages, including construction, operation, maintenance and demolition.

BIM Level 3 – it’s on the horizon

For BIM Level 3 to happen, the industry needs to skill up its professionals. From public bodies to consultants and contractors. We need a whole new mindset in the construction industry. A mindset where open and collaborative working is not only encouraged, but also rewarded. In many ways, BIM Level 2 was about processes, whilst BIM Level 3 requires fundamental changes in the way we communicate at work. Is it possible? Absolutely. Is it easy? Not at all. We are still some years away from achieving BIM Level 3 as an industry. But we are confident that, working collectively, we’ll get there soon.

What’s your experience working with BIM Level 2? Do you think we are ready to implement BIM Level 3? Let us know in the comments below!


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Graham

    Is anyone doing BIM level 3 ? It all seems very abstract to me and some examples of what is meant to happen will help me understand this better.

  2. Nick Phillips

    BIM level 3 can be achieved theoretically, as can herding cats. The Government can mandate change, to push through its objectives, but if it does not have widespread backing, the industry will continue to drag its feet and supply poor data. Too much time, effort and finance has been invested by all parties to admit the roadmap is flaky at best. If MMC is the goal, then start with the right design tools that have machine code built-in. Often given as the star example of productivity gain, automotive and other design and manufacture industries did not require BIM. Existing PLM systems have a level of maturity that can solve many, if not all of the commercial, social and environmental issues we face. Albeit, there is a need for business model change, what ever the technology. Freely sharing data, knowledge and experience across all projects on a collaborative platform will bring the efficiencies and outcomes all clients are seeking. Unfortunately I don’t see most large firms giving up their IP any time soon for the common good.

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