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Will BIM benefit design?

The RIBA Journal's 'Innovation in Architecture' conference provided a timely snap shot of how different parts of the construction industry are embracing BIM Level 2

A month after the government deadline for BIM Level 2 adoption, a RIBA Journal sponsored conference provided a timely snap shot of how different parts of the construction industry are embracing this new way of working.

Entitled ‘Innovation in Architecture’, speakers representing architects, engineers, contractors, facilities management and manufacturers predominantly discussed their experiences of BIM and, of particular importance, their differing and potentially conflicting views on its current and future benefits.

According to Chloe Obi, Head of BIM at Bouygues UK, the key advantages for the contractor are mitigation of risk and increased efficiency – particularly through the reduction of RFI’s on site. A coordinated BIM model provides improved cost, time and quality certainty, whilst compatible software allows them to intelligently sequence construction in 3D against the programme, minimising the wastage of both materials and labour.

Digital technology and BIM are increasingly being adopted by contractors

Facilities managers (FM) will benefit from an asset data rich model post-handover to better understand the completed building, helping to bridge current performance gaps. In addition, Deborah Rowland, Director of Facilities Management for the Ministry of Justice, insisted that as a key end user, FMs should be part of the client team during early briefing stages to ensure a sustainable operation and maintenance strategy is embedded into the design.

Window manufacturers Schueco are providing importable 3D digital libraries of their products with imbedded metadata and have developed parametric tools to model more bespoke solutions, streamlining design to fabrication workflow.

For architects and engineers the discussion focused on how to resist the early-stage certainties of BIM from straightjacketing the often non-linear design process.  This involves mastering (rather than being mastered by) pioneering and even developing increasingly sophisticated new software and technology; something architectural training increasingly lends itself towards.

These type of events are an important opportunity for the previously disconnected disciplines to openly share information, fostering the spirit of collaboration upon which the success of BIM will rely. Amongst the speakers the common consensus was that architects, along with the other disciplines, would have to adapt to thrive, retain and even regain influence in new, increasingly fluid professional environment.

At Cullinan Studio, since adopting BIM over two years ago we have invested considerable time and energy into understanding pioneering new software in order to build on our design culture and continue to convince increasingly data equipped clients of the importance of other, less tangible qualities that define a good building. We are doing this in a number of ways;

Innovative Technology

We are utilising Immersive Virtual Reality and gaming technology in order to convince clients of the importance of the spatial qualities of our designs. Furthermore this has enabled us to lead early-stage consultations engaging multiple stakeholders and end users (including facilities management) to ensure the final design meets their needs.

Stakeholder using VR goggles to explore 3D model

Collaborative Research

Our Innovate UK supported research project IVIC (Immersive Visualisation in Construction) explored the transfer of processes and workflow from automotive design to construction. A product of this research; BIMspace is a multiple projection board, trialled by four partners for site offices to simultaneously review BIM models, traditional drawings and schedules to make quick and better informed decisions on site.

A short film about the IVIC research project


As demand for evidence-based design increases we are conducting detailed post occupancy evaluations to provide proof of the success of design strategies to future clients. We have learned that it is essential to get clients and consultants signed up for POE from the start of the project to ensure it is incorporated into the contractor’s responsibilities.

Academic Research

We have a long history of engaging with and being the subject of academic research. Most recently we are supporting Professor Flora Samuel’s study into ‘Evidencing and communicating the value of architects’.

In addition we are conducting a variety internal research initiatives; from a feasibility study on how to reintegrate housing estates into their surrounding urban fabric, to exploring alternative procurement methods for housing in London with a multi-disciplinary group of other practices.

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