The Construction Products Association has worked to encourage our sector trade associations to develop Building Information Modelling (“BIM”) at a generic level for products; e.g. a brick, a WC, or an insulation board, so that designers have access to a range of products in BIM format. It is then up to individual companies to decide whether to take the next step and give the designer the opportunity to specify their particular products using BIM information.

The decision for whether a company wishes to invest in making information about its construction products ‘BIM-compliant’ revolves around an assessment of when making that data available will become commercially essential. Certainly if the company’s products are used in central government contracts there will be a requirement to meet the government’s BIM standards from April 2016.

Some argue that being an early adopter will give market advantage. However, if everyone invests in getting their product data ‘BIM ready’ it is unlikely that any one company will benefit or sell extra product. Essentially being BIM ready becomes part of day to day business.

Investing in BIM has other advantages. These include better internal management of technical data, integration of multiple data sources into one place and for some industries, the possibilities of linking designers directly to manufacturers, thus reducing the risk of contractors, quantity surveyors and others undermining the designer’s intent and the manufacturer’s skills by ‘value engineering’.

Ultimately the decision is not whether to invest in BIM, but when to invest in BIM. Investing in a planned way is almost always better than being forced to invest at short notice. It is a strategic management decision, not just a technical one.

All construction projects require information to be transmitted from the designer to the builder. At its simplest this may be a verbal instruction such as “Dig that hole over there” ranging through to complex masses of documentation in paper and electronic form for mega projects such as Cross Rail or the Olympics.

Building Information Modelling, or “BIM” as it is commonly known, is the next step in the evolution of this process. At present most information is transferred using a mixture of two dimensional drawings, usually drawn with computerised systems known as CAD, and written documentation such as specifications and contracts.

BIM requires amongst other things that all the information is transferred electronically and that three dimensional models are collaboratively shared between the parties. The biggest challenge is not the move to three dimensional modelling. Rather it is the changes needed for the whole supply chain to work collaboratively.

The UK government has stated that, beginning April 2016, all central government building procurement contracts must use BIM. To help the industry and government departments achieve this, a joint government industry BIM Task Group has been set up and the Association is working with this group.

In 2013 the Construction Products Association published "BIM for the Terrified", a guide aimed at the general reader who does not have a detailed understanding of BIM, but wishes to gain sufficient understanding to assess the possible impacts of BIM on their construction product manufacturing or distribution business. The guide explains the basic vocabulary of BIM, how BIM has evolved and the requirements that will fall on to the supply chain.

The Building Information Modelling (BIM) Task Group is a UK Government-funded group, created in 2011 to "drive adoption of BIM across government". It aimed to strengthen the public sector’s capabilities in BIM implementation so that all central government departments can adopt, as a minimum, collaborative 'Level 2' BIM by 2016.

The core BIM task force, to which companies seconded employees, identified four work streams, each led by a core team member: stakeholder and media engagement, delivery and productivity, commercial and legal, and training and academia. Working parties were established to focus on particular areas including: materials and products suppliers (Construction Products Association), training and education, COBie data set requirements, Plan of Works, software vendors (the BIM Technologies Alliance); and contractors (UK Contractors Group, now superseded by Build UK).

BIM for Manufacturers and Manufacturing (“BIM4M2”) is a working group consisting of people and organisations concerned with BIM for manufacturers (the organisations) and manufacturing (the process). Developed to support the work of the BIM Taskgroup, BIM4M2 was formed by the Construction Products Association, but is separate to and independent from it. Members include a healthy mix of manufacturers (SMEs and multi-nationals), consultants and content providers.

A joint initiative between the Construction Products Association, BIM4M2, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and NBS has been formed to provide consistent product data parameters and templates to enable manufacturers to prepare their product information in readiness for the Government’s April 2016 BIM mandate.

There is a real and urgent need for accurate, accessible and consistent digital product information.  The manufacturer community needs a single and unified approach to product data, using a common language.  Manufacturers already have the required information, but a simple and industry-wide approach to product data parameters and templates has until now been a challenge.

Through this initiative, building and infrastructure manufacturers will have free and ready access to product data parameters and templates that are relevant to their products and have been developed through a defined consensus process.  By using these templates manufacturers will be able to supply product information in a form that aligns with the UK’s Level 2 BIM requirements.  Each template defines the minimum information about a product that is required for UK Government BIM projects.

The benefit of this initiative to the supply chain is significant.  The availability of product data in a structured form equips designers with the information they need to create project information models reliably and accurately.  It will lead to the provision of higher quality project data that can be checked and validated by clients, designers and contractors.  The successful electronic validation of BIM data relies upon this initiative considerably.  Product data template development work has been ongoing for a number of years and this initiative aligns the work of BIM4M2, NBS and CIBSE to create a unified basis for product data parameters and templates.  These organisations have agreed to align their processes, approach and terminology, which will enable consistent and transparent development of full peer reviewed product data templates.

The templates and common product data parameters will be made available on both the CPA and NBS BIM Toolkit websites as well as the existing CIBSE website.  The current product data templates defining the minimum information for Level 2 BIM can be found via this link; further information can be found here or directly from our partners NBS, CIBSE and BIM4M2.