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Why we should implement BIM for residential projects now

It is not just software but a process, a method to adopt in order to organize and manage the entire design and execution process intelligently and accurately

Published: 27/06/2018

Country: United States

BIM (Building Information Modeling) has proven to be beneficial and has a progressive approach in AEC Industry. It is not just software but a process, a method to adopt in order to organize and manage the entire design and execution process intelligently and accurately.  BIM not only helps in building a virtual 3D model, but also gives an insight to the materials used, life cycle of a particular building, and cost of making it. The workflow essentially helps to prepare the schedule in which the construction should be executed. It is a digital aid for all architecture and design firms. BIM in the real sense acts as a smart catalyst in construction industry if used to its full potential. 

However, it has become stagnant recently. There are several reasons which are responsible to bring it to this stage, but majorly there are two of them which hit the BIM progress in its gut.

The first one is the adoption of BIM in several architectural and design firms and the second one is improper implementation without realizing whether it’s good to build an in-house team or collaborate with experts in the field of BIM. 

Setting the reasons apart, BIM is still in its infancy, yet bearing such advantages in its initial stage. Unfortunately, adding on to the above-mentioned reasons it is gradually observed that people think of BIM as a tool that is relevant to the development of large and complex commercial structures only. It is believed that the workflow is beneficial for complex structures such as hotels and industries. 

But there are major benefits of BIM in residential sectors too and is beneficial for smaller firms as well. This fact is being overshadowed by its uses and advantages seen in the commercial sector. 

The newly published Hackitt Review into regulations and building safety says that BIM should be mandated in the design and construction and operation of all new high rise residential buildings over 10 storeys and their refurbishments.

Followed after the Grenfell Tower disaster in June 2017, Dame Judith Hackitt states that this type of disaster should not happen in 21st century. Yes, it is agreeable that there is a lag in accepting digitized approach in the industry, there should be the introduction of BIM also in the housing sector, demands Judith. She criticizes current situation where it is difficult to know who is responsible for making decisions and changes that can lead to unsafe buildings.

The Hackitt Review says: “Government should mandate a digital (by default) standard of record-keeping for the design, construction and during the occupation of new HRRBs [higher risk residential buildings of 10 storeys or more]. This is to include any subsequent refurbishments within those buildings.”

This type of disaster in these times is surely an eye opener for many developers and designers who invest in such projects. Surely there is no one person to pinpoint at or one reason for what happened and why it happened when it was preventable. It is the matter of health and security for the consumers of a space. Moreover, it is a residential space we are talking about and is meant to be occupied for most time of the day. 

Importantly, Hackitt also makes the point that “digital records are to be in a format which is appropriately open and non-proprietary with proportionate security controls” Where it means that the records should be accessible enough to be understood widely by people. However, there is a slight risk factor in itself if the building is understood and accessed by everyone virtually. Therefore, she adds that it should be tagged along with proportionate security controls and that the information will be used by key people responsible for building safety. 

To this, she adds up that “The information must be transferred when building ownership changes to ensure that the golden thread of information persists throughout the building life cycle.”

Government should work with industry to agree on the type of information to be collected and maintained digitally (by default) to enable the safe building management of existing HRRBs.”

“Dutyholders must identify and record where gaps in the above information exist and the strategy for updating that relevant information.”

“A BIM system will enable the duty holder to ensure accuracy and quality of design and construction, which are crucial for building in safety up front.”

Having BIM-enabled datasets during occupation means that duty holders will have a suitable evidence base through which to deliver their responsibilities and maintain safety and integrity throughout the life-cycle of a building. Information can be updated as and when changes are made during the building life-cycle.”

Out of all the sectors that are adopting the method of BIM into their designs, the housing sector is the slowest. When, apparently, this sector seems to be in need of it the most. If we weigh the crucial failure moments in a life cycle of a commercial building and a residential one, it can be seen that the residential buildings are the ones which are occupied almost all time of the day and by several people of different age groups. In these times when carbon footprint, carbon emissions and a healthy livable atmosphere are key features in the residential sector, it is necessary to ensure the safety of building throughout its life cycle. 

BIM has all of this covered in its method of implementation. The major concern is that the tech is at disposal, but the failures are not in the tech and inside the acceptance and paradigm shift of certain developers and designers. The benefits of BIM are manifold if taken into consideration.  

Hackitt review says that the report covers the urgency of implementing BIM in those residential buildings which are 10 storeys and higher, and which can have student accommodation and other types. She also makes clear that the review must reach widely if the industries wish it to be. 

Responding to the publication of the Review, Andrew Carpenter, chairman of BIM4Housing, a coalition of organizations from across the housing sector working to support the implementation of BIM, says that it is welcoming that Judith is taking up this topic as an alarming concern and it is a mandate to implement BIM in housing sector so that the key safety features of a residential building are maintained digitally. He also adds up that BIM has a potential to avoid risk and to increase efficiency and quality in the lifecycle of a residential building. “BIM4Housing is ready to work with government and the housing sector to ensure this recommendation is now implemented.” He said. 

However, Peter Barker, managing director of BIM Academy rightly says that the notion of BIM doesn’t exist in a vacuum, meaning that talking about the potentials of BIM and praising its advantages, spreading the word of its implementation and seeing its benefits from afar doesn’t solve the purpose. It still makes it inaccessible and amuses. It has to be implemented in order to enjoy its benefits. 

With Judith claiming that the process should be phased and not immediately in order to give time to develop and adopt the set of skills required for this, it might be pointing towards the stagnancy again. It has to be rapidly implemented and people need to understand that BIM should be manipulated for its better use. 

The tech has all it needs to decide on a proper functioning building, be it residential or a commercial or a leisure one. We always believe as a designer that designing the space is a crucial task, selecting the materials is another crucial stage, and then comes the execution which is as crucial. But we tend to forget that the life-cycle of the building is a crucial part as well.

The technology provides us with all the tools possible in judging the design, selecting appropriate materials, setting the delivery schedules, feasible not only to the design phase but to the HVAC, Electrical and Plumbing departments as well, avoiding the clashes beforehand itself. There is certainly nothing more left to be done from the tech side, but it is necessary for the developers, stakeholders, designers and all the AEC fraternity to understand the benefits of BIM in all the sectors. And, also the fact, that it does demand rapid adoption to avoid disasters such as the Grenfell Tower Fire.


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