The British Standards Institute (BSi) hosted a conference in Belfast bringing together experts from industry, practice and academia to debate key topics, to develop innovative solutions, and predict future trends. The conference included a range of presentations from Norman Foster & Partners, Copenhagen Airport, Schiphol Airport and Crossrail. Barry Neilson (CITB NI’s Chief Executive and BIMCert Project member) also presented on the findings and work being developed within the BIMCert project.
While the other presentations focussed on how technology and digital construction is being used to develop “models” of buildings and infrastructure, Barry’s presentation focussed on people and how digital construction needs to bring people on the journey, and in particular those who have to translate design into reality. Using data from the BIMCert survey he highlighted that across the countries within the BIMCert partnership, most engagement remains within the professions in general and the designers in particular. Only in the UK and RoI are we seeing contracting organisations engaging with BIM / Digital Construction to the same extent as the design professions.
The reasons for this are not explored within the survey but there is a correlation with Government intervention and incentives and the integration of BIM within the delivery side of the industry.
However, even where the delivery side are adopting BIM, it is still, in the main, restricted to the relatively short term design and build phase. The longer term benefits of BIM in managing our built environment in terms of energy efficiency and maintenance are not yet embedded in the industry. Outside of BIM, much of the sector is working digitally in the form of communication and sharing of files / information through common environment media like “Dropbox”. But the transition to BIM still appears to have a degree of resistance. For BIM and Digital Construction to yield all the benefits it can deliver, Barry Neilson contends, the industry has to focus as much on educating the entire workforce in using BIM as it does in developing the “clever technology” that allows it to happen. This is the focus of BIMCert, to allow everyone involved in the sector to take their first, or next, step in working within a BIM environment.
BIMCert has provided some insight into how this can be done. The perceived barriers to developing digital skills was explored within the survey element across 5 countries and the results were fairly consistent. The usual reasons of “time and money” scored high but after these the main reasons were finding training relevant to individual needs and lack of training materials / courses.
This has informed the development of the BIMCert curriculum. The aim is to devise a system whereby individuals, irrespective of their prior knowledge and skill, can access and gain knowledge and competence which is directly relevant to their area of work and appropriate for their level of expertise. The intention is to create a series of “bite sized” learning modules that can be selected and combined to provide the learner with the mix of skills and knowledge they require now, and to advance that in the future when their needs and ambitions grow.
In addition, a “blended” method of delivery will allow access to a variety of learning styles in the world of BIM. As the conference was told, “only when site operatives and the craft trades can access the BIM models and information that our designers and specifiers create will we achieve the energy efficiency and quality that will drive the built environment in the future.” We need BIM / Digital Construction to move away from being the plaything of technologists and designers to becoming the tool that it can be.