The rise of the BIM Consultant


It’s boom time for BIM globally. Thanks to a combination of government backing, passionate professionals and energetic marketing, the collaborative process has become one of the construction industry’s key buzzwords.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) – which has been evidenced to improve efficiency throughout an asset’s life-cycle has a reach far beyond the design stage of a project. It has the potential to transform the way entire portfolios of assets are procured, designed, constructed and maintained.

The current construction industry focus on BIM means it is regularly identified as being a requirement in tender documents, even if in many cases critical information is missing. There is considerable excitement, maybe because much of the industry has so far only scratched the surface of BIM’s potential.

Clearly, the client’s decision to use BIM should be based on far more than just stating “we want BIM”. As the ultimate owner/operator becomes increasingly mature in their understanding of the value that BIM might provide, and with that their associated responsibilities, they are recognising that to glean most benefit for them directly (rather than the supply chain), they need support of an independent specialist BIM consultant.

The UK leads, but Ireland is catching up fast

BIM began its growth in the UK earlier than in Ireland. It was embraced by many in Britain during the downturn in the construction industry as a means of driving greater efficiency; and probably partly gained traction due to the UK being a global pathfinder for new technologies.

A key factor in awareness raising has undoubtedly been official sanction from Westminster. By 2016, all centrally procured UK government construction projects must be delivered to Level 2 BIM.

Soon such recognition could come to Ireland too. Among the calls for the government to mandate the use of BIM, one of the most recent is within Property Industry Ireland’s 2016 Budget – which calls for BIM to be compulsory in Irish public sector projects from 2017. 

There is a strong BIM community of professionals within Ireland who have for many years been tirelessly promoting, learning and teaching the processes; and recently the UK’s BIM Task Group gave its backing to the set up of three Regional BIM Hubs in the Republic of Ireland.

This is a fantastic step forward, as one of the principles of the Hubs is to ensure the most up to date and consistent information is disseminated.  Courses in BIM technology are also beginning to appear in Irish educational institutions as well as via distance learning, web based means.

Healy Kelly Turner & Townsend, is part of the global programme management and construction consultancy Turner & Townsend, who are the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS’) chosen partner for the design, development and delivery for their Certificate in Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Project Management distance learning training course. These resources provide a trusted source of learning for industry professionals across the globe.

Seeing the BIM picture

BIM is much more than a mere design tool, and it’s not just 3D modelling. Its real value lies in enriched data attributes for all maintainable building components and its ability to help clients make the right decisions not just during the construction phase – but across the life-cycle of all their built assets. Potentially the largest savings coming post construction, throughout the lifetime of the asset.

At its most granular level, BIM Level 2 is the creation of a 3D model featuring “intelligent objects” – whereby every element (such as a lighting system) has associated information attached (such as its dimensions, power consumption and projected replacement date). 

The associated data provides valuable information that can influence design decisions, for instance balancing natural lighting capital costs with the on-going power consumption and replacement for light bulbs. Post construction this information can support the creation of a predictive maintenance schedule, thereby helping the client to balance expenditure during the asset’s entire life-cycle.

Clearly understanding operational requirements of an asset at such a granular level enables objective decision making during construction: spend X now or Y later.

Dublin Institute of Technology - Grangegorman Campus

Dublin Institute of Technology – Grangegorman Campus

A BIM for all seasons

At Healy Kelly Turner & Townsend we work for a vast range of private and public sector clients – from global companies with large and complex property portfolios to smaller, regional players. We’ve applied BIM at multiple levels within their organisations. At it’s simplest this is manifested in an objective approach to project delivery – for instance, assurance of the model during design development and construction can identify exactly to what extent every element within the design has progressed (the terminology is Level of Development). At a more strategic level, convergence in thinking across operations – the asset management, IT, security, HSQ and FM, aligned to capital delivery teams applying BIM, is providing our clients’ executive boards with much better decision making information.

Successful projects should have their parameters defined at the organisational level. These can then be reflected in either campus or asset level parameters. (e.g. for a supermarket chain a strategic partnership might be established with a supplier of fridges, with the physical size, weight, heat gain, power requirement and life-cycle established – for a specific project these are then reflected in the Employers’ Information Requirements for a given store, thus enabling larger contracts to be placed and life-cycle knowledge retained at a strategic level as well as local.)

BIM can support clients with everything from asset strategy and planning, to managing programme delivery and maximising performance from their portfolio. But such wide-ranging facets lift BIM out of the remit of the conventional construction supply chain. Hence, for a client to realise BIM’s true potential, a new type of specialist needs to emerge – the BIM Consultant.

Johanna Wallwork, ( Dublin-based Senior Project Manager at Healy Kelly Turner & Townsend, part of the global programme management and construction consultancy Turner & Townsend

Johanna Wallwork, (
Dublin-based Senior Project Manager at Healy Kelly Turner & Townsend, part of the global programme management and construction consultancy
Turner & Townsend

The BIM Consultant should be one of the first professionals to be engaged – prior to the design team. Responsibilities are wide ranging and will vary considerably depending upon project size and complexity. Critically the successful application of BIM relies upon design consultants’ contracts deliverables aligning (e.g., 3D models and associated information, rather than 2D drawings, the regular sharing of progress and compliance with the programme – overdesign being as problematic as under-design). The BIM Consultant will support the client in articulating information required to support their overall business objectives, and from there the information required to be generated by those appointed to work on any given project.

As a global business, we have unparalleled exposure to the impact BIM can make on development projects and programmes.

For example we recently project managed the development of a multidisciplinary BIM model for part of the University of Cambridge’s project to develop a 150-hectare site. This initial piece of work ultimately led to our supporting the University on developing a ‘standard’ set of documents, including an EIR and BEP to be applied to their future estate. The uptake of BIM by universities won’t surprise many, what has been surprising is the overwhelming demand from commercial end users – high end residential, hotel chains, airports, banks and blue chip companies with large global portfolios. There may be a mandate, but such organisations are not interested in public sector statutory compliance, they are making hard financially motivated decisions to implement BIM on their estates.

Currently in Ireland there are no mandated BIM protocols, however the industry is leaning towards using those created for the UK market;  PAS1192/ Parts 1-5, that have seen considerable traction in other mandating authorities globally. Locally there are fewer examples of projects being developed to Level 2 BIM. However, the Grangegorman Development Agency is one of our local clients for whom we have worked to implement BIM protocols and processes.

Ireland’s BIM market is maturing fast, as the technology is embraced by ever greater numbers of clients, designers and contractors. However, for the next step in maturity to be made more dedicated BIM Consultants – impartial experts who put the client’s long-term needs first – will need to join the fray.

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