BSRIA BIM Network event review – Delivering the Level 2 BIM tools

John Sands blog 1BSRIA’s BIM Network focusses on bringing particular issues around BIM to its members in an informal environment.  As part of this mission, it has previously held two events specifically looking at the Innovate UK (formerly Technology Strategy Board) competition to provide the missing Level 2 BIM components – the digital plan of work (dPoW) and the classification system, all wrapped up in a user-friendly on-line tool.

The competition was won by RIBA Enterprises, with a team including NBS, BIM Academy, BDP, Laing O’Rourke, Microsoft, Mott MacDonald and Newcastle University.  The period of the initial delivery phase was six months with a due date of mid-April.

This topic was first looked at in the Network in February 2014 when the competition was about to be launched, and a second event in September reported on progress and the outcome from the second stage of tendering.

The latest event, held on 21st April 2015, was timed to follow hot on the heels of the launch by RIBA Enterprises.  As it turned out, a beta version was the subject of a ‘soft’ launch, made at the BIM Show Live on the 8th April, with the ‘hard’ launch now planned for some time in June.  The contract calls for RIBA Enterprises to ‘maintain’ the product (known as the BIM Toolkit – but more about the title later) for five years so development is expected to continue.

Almost thirty people attended the half day event, and represented a wide cross section of the built environment industry with designers, constructors, manufacturers and utilities suppliers all taking part.

The format for the event was very simple, with the aim being to give as much time for debate as possible.  Following a brief introduction from the chairman, Rob Manning from the Government’s BIS BIM Task Group gave a presentation describing the background to the UK Government’s Level 2 BIM requirement, and to the Innovate UK competition.

John Sands 2Rob’s presentation ran through eight key themes, all seen as vital to enabling effective Level 2 BIM:

  1. The Level 2 BIM journey
  2. Consistent work stages
  3. The Employer’s role
  4. Innovate UK project – A digital tool for building information modelling
  5. Digital Plan of Work
  6. Classification
  7. Validation tool
  8. Multi mode access

The first three items demonstrated the need for BIM Toolkit, and the remaining topics explained the requirement contained within the Innovate UK competition.

Sarah Delany of RIBA Enterprises then gave a presentation on the Toolkit, giving some background to the project from RIBA Enterprises’ perspective, and demonstrating its main features.  The presentation looked at the various features of the Toolkit, against the backdrop of the project phases identified in PAS 1192-3:2013:

  • Assessment and need
  • Procurement
  • Post-contract award and mobilisation
  • Production
  • Following hand-over then “in-use”

The BIM Toolkit is a project-based tool.  As well as the usual project information, the tool lets the user input data and assign roles at each stage of the project (the RIBA 2013 Plan of Work is used).  Certain key themes are displayed in the pane on the left hand side (see red box in the image below) which can be completed for each stage.

John Sands 3The Toolkit also incorporates a classification structure (Uniclass 2015), and a data validation facility, although these weren’t included in the presentation.

There was a lot of information to take on board and the coffee break after the last of the presentations was welcomed by all.  It also gave the audience a chance to collect their thoughts and frame some telling questions.

As was expected, the questions were wide-ranging, from how the tool affected what information manufacturers were expected to produce, to how the tool was intended to be used.  This latter enquiry highlighted a key aspect of the tool, which had previously been misunderstood – at least by us.  One of the MEP constructors asked if the tool was meant to be hosted in the project environment, where all members of the team would be able to see it.  Rob Manning’s response was that the tool was meant to be used by the client, who would then export it into another environment for use by the project team if required.  The same person then asked if it was in fact a tool for the client and Rob Manning said that was indeed the case. We must admit that at that point we were struggling to see the collaborative element of the Toolkit.

The name of the tool also raised some questions.  Given that it was for the use of the client, someone asked if the name of Toolkit was perhaps not as helpful as it could be.  Rob Manning said in response that perhaps the name may need to be reconsidered.  Someone in the audience suggested that EIR Writing Tool or Briefing Tool may be more appropriate.

BSRIA is considering holding a similar event in early June.  This will give the industry another opportunity to ask questions once they have had a chance to look at the Toolkit in more detail, and consider how it relates to their working environment.  This will also act as useful feedback to RIBA Enterprises at the end of the beta testing period and help to shape the new release, currently due sometime in June.  In the meantime, BSRIA agreed to take any comments attendees may have between now and June and feed them back to RIBA Enterprises.

In summary, it was good to see the BIM Toolkit and to hear the Government client’s aspirations.  Also, it is worth bearing in mind how much has been achieved in such a short space of time.  However, we think that there is a lot of work still to be done to get the beta version to what was intended in the original competition brief.  It will be interesting to see how the June release has progressed.

Have a look at the beta version of the BIM Toolkit (www.thenbs.com/bimtoolkit) and send any comments to RIBA Enterprises.  It’s important to have your say and to help make the final output of real value to the construction industry.

BSRIA provides one-day training courses to introduce BIM and how to implement a BIM plan.  Visit https://www.bsria.co.uk/information-membership/events/ for more information

Renewable Energy – The Vital Missing Link

This blog was written by BSRIA's Henry Lawson

This blog was written by BSRIA’s Henry Lawson

For years, renewable energy, especially solar power and wind, has offered the tantalising prospect of almost zero carbon energy; tantalising because, even as costs fall, solar and wind are inherently unreliable, especially in temperate climates such as those that we ‘enjoy ‘in regions like Western Europe, and much of North America not to mention most of the developed world.

While a lot of progress has been made in demand response, which manages the energy that we need to match that which is available at any given time, we need a cheap, safe and efficient way of storing electrical power. Up until now, storage of electrical power in particular has been expensive and inefficient, and sometimes a bit scary.

The electrical vehicle market of course already faces this problem in spades. Electric cars are never likely to become main-stream so long as they need to go through a lengthy recharge process every 200 miles or so. It is therefore no surprise that much of the running is being made by manufacturers of vehicle batteries.

Tesla’s announcement that it is moving into the home energy storage market could represent a significant step. Being able to store electrical power not only makes local wind and solar power generation more practicable, it could also be invaluable in the many areas of the world where the grid is unreliable or virtually non-existent.

The biggest barrier, at least initially,  is likely to be the price tag. The 7kW battery which could, for example power a laptop for two days, or run one full cycle of a washing machine, or boil 10 kettles, will cost $3,000 to buy: That’s a very pricey home laundry service, and a frighteningly expensive cup of coffee, especially if you only need to use it occasionally.  The 10kW version represents slightly better value.

At this stage this is surely going to appeal only to wealthier individuals living away from a reliable grid, or those willing to pay to make a green gesture.  However, as with other technology initially aimed at the ‘smart home’ we may well find that much of the demand is actually from businesses. If you are running a business, even a small one, then any loss of service can do you immense damage. If an investment of a few thousand pounds or dollars can help guarantee that you will keep running, then it may well seem like an attractive return on investment.”

A further significant sign is Tesla’s announcement of an alliance with the international Energy Intelligence software supplier EnerNOC, which already has a presence in the USA, Canada, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Ireland, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.

Ultimately, success for energy storage in buildings, as in vehicles is likely to hinge on the two Cs: cost and capacity. It is a familiar catch 22 situation with most new and emerging technologies, where the market is waiting for the price to fall, but, other things being equal, production costs will only fall once you have achieved  real economies of scale.  The other factors that could influence the market are regulation, requiring builders or building owners to make provision for storage, or someone willing to take a loss leading initiative.

Safety concerns will also need to be allayed, given problems that have occurred with various types of battery technology, whether in laptops or vehicles. Storing a lot of energy in a very small space, inside the home is always going to raise concerns. And while batteries may offer the most promising option at the moment, other forms of energy storage might prove more effective in the end.

Still, the paradox is that sometimes problems get solved precisely because they are so big. The whole direction that the world is moving in, the growing realisation that we need to slash CO2 emissions,  demands cheap, efficient, safe energy storage. It seems likely that companies like Tesla, along with the other major energy companies involved in energy storage  will continue to concentrate their fire power on this until a viable solution emerges. And for the first few who get this right, or even approximately right, the potential returns are huge.

For then we really will have found the missing link.

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