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BIM – Building a solid foundation

The BIM mandate signals progress for the UK, but where is Ireland in the BIM development process? ​

The UK Government mandate to work to Building Information Modelling (BIM) Level 2 was introduced on 4 April 2016. This means that all centrally procured UK public sector projects will require the implementation of BIM Level 2. In addition and very importantly, centrally funded government departments will be required to provide clear and complete Employer Information Requirements (EIRs) with all contracts. 

In a review of the period since the strategy for BIM delivery was launched in 2011, Mark Brew, Chair of the UK Government’s BIM Task Force notes the following, 'we haven’t any better capabilities or technology than anyone else in the world, but the simple fact we had a plan is what set us apart'. As the industry in the UK begins to assess whether mandated requirements have been achieved, the question for the construction industry in Ireland is where are we in the BIM development process? The recovery in the Irish construction industry will see a significant increase in the number of projects being delivered and as a result there will be increased opportunities for the industry to realize the benefits which BIM can provide. The journey which the UK has travelled has been a planned one and could be described as having two major characteristics, structure and standardization. Structure and standardization provide the framework which allows technology to improve project workflows, communication and industry processes.

In Ireland, 2015 saw a significant increase in enthusiasm for the use of BIM. This was evidenced by the creation of and attendance at the CITA BIM Regions and the CITA BIM Gathering in Dublin in November. The challenge now for the industry is to harness this enthusiasm and use it to create and develop a digital environment which will be accessible to all industry stakeholders and participants. 

The benefits of the adoption of BIM are becoming very clear and there is a growing acceptance that project delivery through BIM is here to stay and that it has the potential to produce more intelligent buildings in a faster and more efficient manner. The conversation is moving away from 'what' and 'why' to one of 'how' we can maximize the benefits which BIM can offer the industry.

... we are seeing the requirement to reach BIM Level 2 without the appropriate Employer Information Requirements (EIR) being in place. 

Unlike the UK, there is no mandate for the use of BIM in place or planned in Ireland, and there would not be universal agreement in the industry on the introduction of such a mandate. While there is currently no mandate in relation to BIM on public works projects we are beginning to see the requirements for projects to achieve BIM Level 2. Two such current projects are the National Paediatric Hospital and the re-location of the National Maternity Hospital. However in many cases we are seeing the requirement to reach BIM Level 2 without the appropriate Employer Information Requirements (EIR) being in place. As a result we are creating a form of soft mandate which has the potential to create problems for the industry as with the absence of a common industry structure and agreed protocols, project teams will create their own rules and structure. 

In addition to the potential vacuum created by the lack of standards and agreed procedures, the industry is not moving forward at a single pace and this has the potential to create a two or three tier industry. Some within the industry have been working on 3D/BIM for a number of years and have developed their skills and capabilities to a high level. There will always be industry leaders and early adaptors who are leading the way but for many the journey has just commenced. To address this issue there is a requirement for key industry stakeholders to come together with relevant leaders from Government and academia to create a roadmap for the industry. Much of the groundwork has already been carried out in the UK, which provides a template which could be adopted or modified to meet the needs of the industry in Ireland.

... there is a requirement for key industry stakeholders to come together with relevant leaders from Government and academia to create a roadmap for the industry.

On the 4 April 2016 it will have taken the UK industry four years to have reached the BIM Level 2 mandate. If we set out to build on the progress already made in the UK, we should be able to reach a similar position in Ireland in a much reduced timescale. In relation to the issue of whether to mandate or not, this debate can happen in parallel with the development of agreed industry standards. In developing a way forward for BIM, consideration should be given to developments in Scotland where they have recently established a BIM Task Group to prepare and train the public sector procurement authorities in the drafting of their project specific BIM requirements.

Looking at the journey which has been travelled in the UK the areas and issues which need to be addressed by the Irish industry include:

  • PAS 1192 Series
  • Digital Plan of Work
  • Classification System
  • Contract Amendments (CIC BIM Protocol)
  • ARM 4 Measurement Rules
  • Employer’s Information Requirements


As we make our way through this developing digital environment we will find ourselves facing a new language / terminology.

Examples of some of the new phrases and acronyms we can expect to encounter are:

  • AIM - Asset Information Model
  • BEP - BIM Execution Plan
  • CDE - Common Data Environment
  • DIM - Design Intent Model
  • EIR - Employer’s Information Requirement
  • IFC - Industry Foundation Classes
  • VDC - Virtual Design & Construction
  • BIM 360 Glue
  • BIM 360 Field
  • Data Drop
  • Model Maps

Finally, while we debate the delivery of BIM Level 2 in the UK, their focus has already moved on to BIM Level 3 with the publication of Digital Built Britain in 2015. 


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