BIM Show Live speaks with Jason Whittall
BIM Show Live spoke with Jason Whittall of One Creative Environments and asked him his views on BIM delivery in the UK and where he thinks the industry is heading.
Can you please tell us about your involvement with BIM delivery and how this impacts on your current role?
I am one of the Directors of the multi-disciplinary company, “One Creative Environments Limited”, and my current role is extremely varied as I get involved in much of the front-end support related to BIM Projects and their delivery. Whether this is assisting clients to generate usable EIRs, BIM Strategies or managing our own projects to interrogate BIM deliverables issued to us, I ensure that we are able to fully understand, interpret and deliver models and information as efficiently as possible.
A part of my role now also includes knowledge sharing and education – particularly relating to clients, contractors and their supply chain partners. I often find that I am approached initially to simply deal with a BIM related aspect of works, only for the client to quickly become interested and engaged once the process is explained to them, and they begin to understand that BIM really does unlock so many ‘easy wins’ for them in the procurement and operation of buildings.
When did you first start working with BIM?
One Creative Environments became fully multi-disciplinary in 2008 offering a ‘one stop shop of’ masterplanning, architecture, landscape architecture, structural and civil engineering and building services. At this point we were already seeking solutions to provide a more integrated delivery service, where information could be shared and reused more readily. When the Government launched its construction strategy in 2011, we immediately aligned our thinking with the intentions, and saw the digitisation of the industry along with standardisation along common workflows as a huge opportunity for One to enhance our offer to clients. At this point we adopted BIM rapidly and aligned our practice across all of our design disciplines, and shortly after in early 2012 I led our first pilot project (the £50m Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry) within a BIM workflow, and we have not looked back since.
Each of our disciplines has their respective BIM champion(s), and each core team has staff with BIM-related qualifications to ensure that our BIM knowledge remains high, and that standards are consistently applied to ensure that we are able to share information and work in a co-ordinated BIM workflow.
In your opinion what has been the greatest benefit to the AEC industry by the introduction of BIM and digital construction processes?
In my opinion the greatest benefits that BIM has to offer have not yet been fully realised.
Given the current maturity of the industry generally, and what I regularly see on a day-to-day basis, I would say that so far the ability to undertake clash detection has currently been the greatest benefit that BIM has brought about.
The reason I say this is that so many tier 1 contractors have driven BIM implementation for this very reason – wastage and abortive time whilst on site has the ability to disrupt and cause delays, and the clash detection process helps to reduce the causes and effects of construction co-ordination.
We are also seeing very positive effects on standardisation of naming conventions and classifications. Although classification systems and naming standards have been around for a long time, it hasn’t been until the arrival of modelling that we have all begun to realise how important they are. Without standardisation, it makes reuse of information more challenging, and the usage of classifications such as Uniclass, NRM, SFG20 and alignment with BS1192 / PAS1192 for document management allows information to be exchanged and reused far more easily.
With regards to the greatest benefits, we will eventually see these materialise within facilities management and through the introduction of smart buildings/smart cities. As models begin to be specified through better EIRs, clients are starting to realise that there are huge benefits to them after the construction process – operational savings promise to far outstrip capital cost savings.
Do you have a particular stand-out or flagship BIM-led project?
My stand-out BIM-led project has to the be the very first one that I was involved with – the £50m Birmingham Dental Hospital & School of Dentistry, purely because it was such a ‘baptism of fire’!
It was a steep learning curve, and it was very challenging to implement new software, new hardware and new processes onto such a complicated project that had a strict programme, however, we quickly appreciated how much time and effort the new process was saving us. We rapidly realised how traditional old methods of creating Room Data Sheets, schedules and undertaking construction co-ordination was so time consuming and prone to human error. Not only was the new BIM workflow more accurate and faster, it was also way more fun!
What technologies in the AEC industry currently impress you the most?
The most recent technologies that are impressing me are the advances in pointcloud data capture and our application of this is bringing huge benefits to our clients at One. With the advance of handheld devices and the use of drones, the capture of data of existing structures has never been so readily available, affordable and accurate.
The advance in cloud-based collaboration software is also making communication far more easy and accessible to more project stakeholders. Some platforms that we are currently testing now make it even more simpler to communicate than sending an email, which will help to focus effort and allow more transparency.
Are you optimistic the industry is moving in the right direction in terms of digitisation?
I am absolutely optimistic that the industry is moving in the right direction and I am seeing the extensive benefits on a daily basis, particularly in my role as Oxford BIM region co-chairman.
It is very encouraging to see now so many companies regard BIM as ‘business as usual’, which is vitally important for the UK construction industry to keep pushing the boundaries to set our skills apart from others on the global stage.
I do become concerned at times, particularly where I see many projects claim to be at BIM Level 2 (and even beyond sometimes!), as there seems to be some confusion as to what a BIM Level 2 project is, which is surprising given the rapid deployment of usable standards in the form of the PAS 1192 suite of documents.
I appreciate that BIM hasn’t been adopted by all and when speaking at events I still occasionally hear suggestions that BIM might be a trend or a fad that will eventually disappear. I firmly believe, however, that BIM is here to stay, and it can only get better.
What do you think will be the next big thing in BIM and digital construction?
We only have to compare the digitisation of construction with other previously analogue industries to look at precedents for how rapidly technology advances once digitised. The analogue phone became a pocket-sized supercomputer, internet browser and camera all within the space of 15 years, and we are now at the start of this exciting exponential advance in digital construction.
When we see how far the construction industry has already advanced in 5 years, it is not inconceivable for the entire construction process to be overhauled very soon, to see the end to more traditional labour-intensive processes, increasing safety whilst reducing cost and risk. We have seen the start of things to come with pointcloud scanning, and relatively primitive 3D printed technology and I believe ‘the next big thing’ will be fully printed projects containing everything from MEP, structure and finishes. It certainly will make us all apply a more rigorous approach to design, as how many would happily press a ‘print entire project’ button on your BIM models today!?
I believe a big breakthrough will soon also come about in FM; for too long the ‘dark art’ has remained the source of some mystery, and some facilities management companies collecting and holding on to out of date information, not willing to share it, but still using it as a basis to generate budgets. There is a huge opportunity for an FM provider to step forward, embrace BIM and provide the transparency that is so desperately sought and that is now available which could unlock huge savings for the operational phases.
Jason is presenting at BIM Show Live on Wednesday 28 February at 14:45 in the data stream on: Data use for FM – Yes, it actually works! See the full programme for further details on Jason’s talk.