Head of Built Environment
Built Environment at BSI
Product Certification Director
Built Environment at BSI
The ’Digital Revolution’ continues to affect almost every aspect of human existence – and the built environment is no exception. From building design and construction projects to infrastructure development and ongoing asset management, the built environment industry is being transformed by new and evolving digital solutions.
To resist the tide of change is as futile as King Canute attempting to hold back the ocean waves. Technological innovation will continue, indeed hasten, and organizations must embrace it.
The potential rewards of this strategy are enormous. If successful, it will enable the built environment sector to perform more efficiently and sustainably, and win a larger share of the vast global construction market, which experts predict will grow by more than 70% by 2025. A key element of digital transformation in the built environment is Building Information Modelling (BIM).
Opportunities of building information modelling
In the early days, BIM was mostly associated with 3D design. While it’s true that digital visualizations and models are an important part of the BIM process, this perspective misses the wider benefits. BIM’s overriding strategic advantage is how it brings experts together often across borders, to foster innovation.
BIM brings together all the components that make up a project in the development stage, creating a common language, shared knowledge and increased transparency between all the parties involved, from the main contractor through to subcontractors, specialists and professionals. It provides the framework to manage costs, timescales and material quantities, and so optimize the efficiency of construction projects.
BIM can be used for a variety of projects. The process can be adopted for individual buildings (from hospitals and houses to stores and schools), infrastructure (from roads and reservoirs, to ports and pylons), and for complex developments involving many and varied structures in the built environment.
Importantly, the use of BIM extends through the whole lifecycle of a built asset. The process defines a set of procedures for the production, management and exchange of information generated in the design, construction and asset management phases, from initial drawings all the way through to final decommissioning. Asset data, both current and historical, is available in the cloud for interrogation and use by all project stakeholders around the clock.
The improved collaboration is not just via virtual means and conference calls. Many BIM users have introduced shared physical spaces and resources for projects teams to congregate. Bringing multidisciplinary experts together to overcome challenges as they arise sparks innovation, reduces delays and improves cohesion and trust.
Introducing international BIM standards: ISO 19650
Launched in 2019, the first substantive international BIM standards, ISO 19650 are set to play an instrumental role in cross-border collaboration and supply chain relationships.
ISO 19650 defines the collaborative processes for the effective management of information throughout the delivery and operational phase of assets when BIM is being used. ISO 19650 has been built on the principles and high-level requirements as BIM Level 2 and has been designed to help construction companies realize he full collaborative benefits of information management using BIM – whether that’s between engineers, owners, architects or contractors in a fully integrated project environment.
The publication of ISO 19650 creates an opportunity for international organizations collaborating on projects to minimize wasteful activities and increase predictability around cost and time, through a common approach to the management of information.
Did you know this about ISO 19650?
Beyond BIM: what’s next?
Beyond ISO 19650, a broader, standards-led approach to business strategy and management helps large construction organizations maintain best practice structures and foundations, whilst allowing flex to accommodate innovation and change. For example, ISO 9001, the international standard for quality management, provides an ideal foundation from which to progressively increase BIM maturity. For smaller supply chain members, looking to secure bids and tenders, the adoption of standards and certification can set them apart in a competitive marketplace.
All members in the supply chain can set themselves up to derive maximum benefit from BIM collaboration by prioritizing a standards strategy, to build true resilience. It’s often helpful for organizations increasing their BIM maturity to consider how new processes will impact the rest of their operations – particularly those areas which seem unrelated to BIM.
For instance, ISO 44001 provides a management system for collaborative business relationships and is suitable for construction businesses of all sizes and types working in the public and private sector. It prepares organizations to manage relationships optimally, whether the focus is on a single application between operating divisions or more complex relationships. In addition, ISO 55001 is a new suite of standards created to guide asset management best practise. They help construction businesses develop a proactive lifecycle asset management system, while reducing ownership risks from a cost and safety perspective.
The benefits of a standards-led approach to business strategy are felt by construction companies of all sizes. In the past, some smaller business owners have dismissed this approach, concluding it is only for larger, well-established organizations.
This perception is understandable in a resource-stretched SME, but the truth is that standards help small businesses just as much as larger ones and can often have a more significant impact on smaller companies. For example, they can be used to accelerate tender pre-qualification, and simply legislative and regulatory compliance.
Standards inspire confidence, both internally and externally, to give small organizations a competitive edge.
Making the built environment more resilient
The influence of digital technology on the built environment is only set to increase and BIM is an important aspect of this new world. For those organizations looking to gain competitive advantage, reduce outgoings and work more efficiently and increase their resilience, standards will undoubtedly help to support this strategy.
The ISO 19650 series which was created in response to growing consensus around BIM’s transformative potential for global construction, will help to optimize international collaboration, reduce project costs and timescales, and improve quality.
Of course, there are many other non-constructive specific standards that every built environment organization can use to improve – including BS ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety, which helps improve employee safety and reduce workplace risks and BS EN ISO 14001 Environmental Management which can help improve environmental performance. ISO / IEC 27001 Information Security Management is an internationally recognized framework which helps organizations manage and protect their information assets so that they remain safe and secure.
Crucially, certification to internationally respected standards sends a clear message to existing and potential customers and partners, as well as industry peers. It communicates a commitment to quality, resilience and innovation – regardless of where a construction sits in the supply chain.
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