The Hackitt Report: Advocating a BIM-led approach to construction

The Hackitt Report: Advocating a BIM-led approach to construction

The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been heralded by many as a step in the right direction for the construction industry. BIM allows more collaborative work across services, better facilities and asset management, and finer detail and costing during the construction process. Despite this, take-up of the service has been puzzlingly slow. This year’s release of the Hackitt Report, which strongly advocates the use of BIM, may provide the necessary impetus for the increased adoption of BIM services.

The Hackitt Report – an independent report commissioned by the government after the Grenfell Tower fire – was conducted by Dame Judith Hackitt, and examined fire safety within buildings as well as related building regulations. The report concluded with a host of recommendations for boosting safety and accountability within the construction industry.

Of particular interest is the report’s recommendation for the use of a digital BIM approach to enable improved transparency and integrity of information throughout a building’s lifecycle: “A Building Information Modelling (BIM) approach should be phased in. BIM takes the digital techniques pioneered in other industries such as aerospace and automotive and applies them to construction. It is a process of designing, constructing or operating a building or infrastructure asset using electronic, object‑orientated information.”

For a long time, the construction industry has been criticised for lagging behind other industries in the implementation of new technologies, making digital information less readily available for the analysis and sharing of data. BIM, however, brings new advances to construction processes. There is greater transparency and reliability of information through the use of digital records, making it easier for key players to digitally store, retrieve and manage building information. The report suggests an improved method for creating consistent labelling and traceability of construction products, drawing from current processes in the automotive industry whereby vehicle parts are identified, labelled and digitally tracked throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle. Maintaining this digital record allows easy identification of faults, access to past maintenance and the ability to pinpoint where problems have arisen as a result of faulty products.

The question that arises is why these processes are lacking when the construction industry already possesses the necessary tools. BIM is the process of designing, constructing and operating the building virtually, and information lies at its core. It’s an existing method of creating digital data records that can be maintained and accessed rapidly and with ease, and yet many are failing to take it on board.

A major concern for developers and providers is the financial investment required – Will it cost more to embrace this new way of working? Are the touted benefits actually manifest once the building is completed? And does the cost of change outweigh its benefits?

In fact, the opposite could be said. The use of BIM through design and construction stages results in improved quality, coordination, less material wastage, quicker build times and a better understanding of the building, all of which ultimately result in cost and time savings. Post-construction management of the building sees better space management, greater awareness of building information, a higher level of responsiveness to building maintenance requirements (with the use of automated maintenance scheduling), and a better understanding of the materials or products required for maintenance, again leading to cost and time savings. In this way, the initial investment in BIM services reaps financial benefits in the long run.

It is time to radically rethink how we keep records of our asset information. Using a digital record from initial design and capturing changes during construction and occupation produces a ‘golden thread of information’ about an asset which is crucial for development in the industry. This in turn provides assurance for regulators that safety throughout the lifecycle of the building can be accurately presented and maintained by ‘duty holders’ in charge of an asset.

So, as an industry, what do we need to do? As a first step, there needs to be better understanding of BIM, more communication between service providers in the industry, more education, and a higher level of willingness to develop as an industry. It is equally important for construction professionals to learn what the benefits and pitfalls of BIM are – how we can make each project better and safer, and the information easier and more reliable for clients to digest and utilise.

BIM has its place in the industry, more so than ever before, and the Hackitt Report identifies this need. Like any new process, change takes time, but the streamlined and cost-effective design process of BIM offers clearly apparent rewards, and the sooner construction companies commit to it, the greater the benefits will be for the industry and its clients.

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