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The future of BIM: Digital transformation in the UK construction and infrastructure sector

RICS insight paper, July 2020

The influence that technology has had on the surveying profession has been the subject of much debate. Recently, this debate has centred on building information modelling (BIM) and the potential benefits it can bring to a project and asset life cycle. Traditionally, surveyors have employed technology to design and manage the construction process but, now, asset surveyors are increasingly realising BIM’s potential to create efficiencies throughout the project life cycle. BIM not only allows the sector to offer innovative solutions to small- and large-scale problems, but also supports stakeholders in creating an efficient method of working that is capable of creating and adding value.

BIM has evolved into a much bigger paradigm, and what this means for chartered surveyors is constantly shifting. This has been brought into stark focus during the global COVID-19 pandemic where the industry has had to adjust to a new working environment. Nevertheless solace can be taken in the Chinese proverb ‘in a crisis be aware of the danger but recognise the opportunities’. The digital transformation of the industry has taken immense steps forward both in mitigating the working restrictions and bringing forward new ways working that may have previously been seen as future adoption possibilities – indeed it has been estimated the advancements over the last 2 to 4 months have taken a 5-year leap forward.

The industry is now on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution: digitalisation is having a profound impact on the work itself and the way the industry works together.7 As clients increasingly look to technology for solutions that create efficiencies, the profession needs to gain a better-informed understanding of:

  • what BIM has to offer in terms of technology and
  • how the narrative surrounding BIM is changing.

Surveyors need to be more proficient in the use of these technologies so that data, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are at the core of service provision.

However, BIM is not only about technology but also about processes, protocol and standards. The publication of the BS EN ISO 19650 series has introduced a collaborative framework for managing information through BIM throughout the whole life cycle of an asset, irrespective of its type or size. BS EN ISO 19650 identifies BIM as methodologies that offer a solution to store and exchange information (BIM technology), and as a method to manage information through these internationally agreed standards. BIM maturity is described in terms of stages and information management, not around BIM levels 1, 2 or 3.

Therefore, it is essential that surveyors understand the current BIM framework within which they operate and the technologies that can not only support them in their role but also provide the client and end user with the information they need in order to efficiently manage the asset.