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The UK’s Building Information Modelling Mandate (And the Problems it Causes)


The UK’s Building Information Modelling Mandate (And the Problems it Causes)

Australia isn’t the only country that’s adopting Building Information Modelling. The United Kingdom has made its use mandatory on a number of projects. Find out about the problems that causes in this article.

You may have read about the increasing shift towards Building Information Modelling. The design and construction sectors have engaged in plenty of debate about its merits. Some see it as the next big thing in the sector. Others point to some important issues that may prevent its adoption.

But this debate means little in the wake of new developments. Since the 2010s, several governments have mandated the use of BIM for major projects. Australia is no different. Queensland will require the use of BIM for transport-related infrastructure projects by 2023.

Other governments have placed even tighter deadlines on firms. The United Kingdom is a good example. In 2015, the UK’s government mandated that firms must use BIM for all centrally funded work by 2016.

Simply put, there’s a trend towards Building Information Modelling. Firms that fail to adapt will fall behind their competitors. Moreover, universities must account for these changes too. Failure to teach BIM means that students don’t have the tools to succeed in the industry. They’ll struggle to adapt to the changes taking place right now.

The UK’s BIM mandate highlights how important the method has become in the modern industry. But it’s also a cautionary tale. Half of manufacturers claim that the UK’s mandate has failed. This article covers the reasons why in more detail later. But the short timeframe for making the change lies at the heart of the problem. To understand why that is, you need to understand what Building Information Modelling is.

What is BIM?

The UK’s problem may come down to a misunderstanding of what BIM is. That’s not uncommon. Many hear about Building Information Modelling and think that it’s a software package. They assume it’s the latest development in CAD software. As a result, they don’t give it the attention that it needs. This leads to severe problems for any firm that wants to adopt BIM.

Building Information Modelling incorporates new BIM software packages. But it is much more than new software. It’s a complete change in the way that a firm operates. It’s a collaborative methodology that brings together everybody involved in the project. Clients, designers, and construction crews work in tandem under the BIM model.

Let’s look to BuildingSmart for a more concise description. They say the following about BIM:

“BIM is a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a building. As such, it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a building, forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle from inception onward.”

What does this mean in practice?

For the various stakeholders in a building project, it involves the sharing of resources using a central database. The digitally designed models and CAD drawings are only the first part of the puzzle. All of the information that relates to the building also gets built into the model. This includes data relating to the materials used, costs, and structural issues beyond the model itself.

As such, you can break a project that uses Building Information Modelling into three parts:

  • The graphical data
  • The informational data
  • The central database

The model makes up the graphical side of things. All of the data that informs the design of that model makes up the informational side. The central database allows you to keep all of that data in one place. This makes accessing the data much easier. Plus, it allows for changes to reflect instantly across the entire project.

The key is that no part of the process works in isolation from the others. An architect doesn’t design a 3D model without any input from other stakeholders. Instead, every stakeholder can see the model as it develops. Of course, the architect can also see the information that other stakeholders contribute.

The end result is a more efficient and collaborative project. The superior flow of information cuts down on mistakes made during the design process. This saves both time and money. Building Information Modelling also cuts down on the time needed to rework models. With all relevant information in a central location, there’s no need for a back and forth exchange of information.

So, it’s difficult to argue against the benefits of Building Information Modelling. But things still went wrong in the UK.

What’s Wrong with the UK’s Mandate?

Notice the difference between the two mandates mentioned earlier in the article. Queensland gives firms almost six years to make the change to BIM. The UK offered only one year from the introduction of the mandate.

It’s a tight deadline for almost any organisational shift. But for one as massive as the shift to BIM, it’s tiny. Building Information Modelling requires a complete change in how firms operate. What BIM is not is a quick process change. It requires deep-seated changes that take several years to bed in.

That’s something that the UK government either forgot or didn’t know. Unfortunately, this tight deadline has created an array of problems. An NBS survey highlights the issue further. It found that about half of UK manufacturers believe the UK’s mandate has failed. The survey points to a lack of enforcement on the part of the government. But it’s also likely that few firms could make the switch in such a short timeframe.

It seems that the UK’s government may have made the same mistake that many do when thinking about BIM. They’ve underestimated the amount of work required to adapt to the methodology. Couple that with a lack of enforcement and you have a recipe for disaster.

Firms have to learn what BIM is and how it’s relevant to their projects. From there, they have to change everything to implement it. This usually means installing new BIM software, as well as providing training to staff. Firms also need to think about how they’ll change their current information streams to fit into the BIM model. Plus, they have to work with partners that follow the BIM framework too. That’s without mentioning the need to convince clients that switching to BIM is the right call. It’s no wonder that a year wasn’t enough.

Now compare this to Queensland’s mandate. Firms get almost six times the amount of time to make the change. This provides ample time to learn about the methodology before trying to implement it. The changeover date may be a while into the future. But it’s likely to go much smoother than it did in the UK.

Tips for Change Management


Switching to Building Information Modelling requires change management. As the name suggests, this relates to how you manage major changes within an organisation. Successful change management leads to adaptation.

Managers understand the change and can lead their people through it. This seems to be something that many firms in the UK struggled with. Managers didn’t have enough time to properly understand the changes required. As a result, they couldn’t lead their people through them.

That’s a situation that firms can avoid if they follow these tips for change management.

Tip #1 – Focus on Your People

Every new technology and methodology paves the way for change. But it’s not as simple as telling people that you’re going to do something. If your people don’t buy into the change, it will fail.

That’s why good change management always starts with your people.

Imagine you’re changing to Building Information Modelling. But your people don’t know what that is. Or, they’ve only heard horror stories about other firms failing.

It’s your job to bring them on board. Inform your people about the change before you start making it. With BIM, this involves stressing the benefits of making the switch. Moreover, you’ll have to help your people understand how BIM changes the way they work. Some may also need assurances about the roles they’ll play in the BIM framework.

You’re educating your people. In doing so, you build trust in the future direction of the firm. It’s this trust that will make the change run smoothly.

Tip #2 – Give Yourself Time


This is where the UK government’s Building Information Modelling mandate fell down. Change takes time. This is especially the case when making changes that affect an entire firm. If you don’t give yourself the time, the change will fail. This happens even if everybody’s on board.

You need a healthy dose of realism to manage change. Build the time it will take to convince your people into your schedule. The same goes for the time needed for research and training. Everything that relates to the change, as well as the time needed for the change itself, gets accounted for.

Once you add it all up, you’ll often find that such a drastic change takes longer than you anticipated. Having an accurate time estimate beforehand increases your chances of success.

Tip #3 – Engage Your Stakeholders

The people inside your organisation aren’t the only ones who need convincing. Your firm’s stakeholders also have to commit to the change.

This includes a lot of people with Building Information Modelling. After all, it’s a collaborative methodology. It can’t work if one of the stakeholders doesn’t like the framework.

Talk to clients, business partners, and service providers. Tell them about the changes you want to make well in advance of making them. Most importantly, listen to their feedback. It’s likely that some key stakeholders will have misgivings. They’ll see the time and money that has to go into making such a huge change. But they may struggle to see the benefits of it. Be transparent in your explanations. This will help you to engage stakeholders and make the change much easier.

Tip #4 – Figure Out Where You’ll Suffer

This is a big one that many people don’t take into account. You have to dedicate time, people, and resources to making a change. All of that has to come from somewhere. In most cases, it comes from other projects and processes in your organisation.

Understand that part of making a change involves figuring out how to keep your current model running until you have the new one ready. This requires prioritisation. Committing all of your resources to the change means your current processes shut down. But committing too few resources causes huge delays.

Figure out all of the trade-offs that you have to make to implement the change. This helps you to prioritise correctly during the changeover period.

Tip #5 – Communicate Constantly


You may think that you’ve handled all of the communication once you’ve convince your people and stakeholders about the change. But that’s just the start. These people don’t just want to know that the change is on its way. They want to know about the progress that you’re making. Moreover, many will want to contribute their own insights to the process.

This requires constant communication. Moreover, it means that you have to listen. You’ll often find that the people in the thick of the change are also most able to offer valuable insight.

There’s another benefit to regular communication. When you keep talking about the change, you turn it into a mission. Your people can see every milestone that you reach. This motivates them to keep pushing towards the next one.

Tip #6 – Prepare for Unexpected Challenges

Even with all of this preparation, you can’t assume that change will happen without issues. You’ll encounter small road bumps along the way that you have to adapt to.

There are all sorts of little issues that can arise when changing to Building Information Modelling. You may choose poor trainers or a bad certification scheme. This sets you back and demotivates your people. Some people may need re-convincing and you may run into issues that you didn’t anticipate.

Understand that this happens with all change management. In fact, build extra time into your schedule to account for it. The key is that you constantly analyse your progress. Evaluate every milestone and course correct whenever needed.

Final Word

Building Information Modelling isn’t a software package that you can learn to use in a few months. It’s a massive organisational change. If you don’t have enough time to make the switch properly, you run into the same situation as many firms have in the UK. The change management tips in this article will help.

But what about those who’ve yet to enter the sector? Students don’t just need to know about BIM. They also need to know how to work within the framework. A first year student today will enter an industry that’s widely accepted BIM in a few years’ time. If they don’t understand the methodology, they’ll struggle to find work.

That’s where your university has to help them. Teaching students about Building Information Modelling prepares them for the industry’s future. But this requires quality courses, as well as informed teachers.

Archistar Academy is here to help. We offer several courses related to Building Information Modelling and BIM software. Using these courses, you can give students an understanding of the essentials. Plus, you can help them learn about the software packages they’re likely to use when they leave school.

Do you want to get started? Get in touch with an Archistar consultant today to find out how.


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Posted on 20 Jan 2020

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