CitA – Building Smarter with BIM


With the 2016 Level 2 BIM mandate in the UK just around the corner, momentum for BIM in Ireland is growing. Companies who are unsure where to start when it comes to adopting BIM are well catered for by CitA and their series of educational seminars.

In February 2015, CitA held a breakfast meeting focused on PAS 1192-2, a standard which specifies requirements for achieving BIM Level 2. By promoting the standard to Irish construction and design firms, CitA is helping businesses to successfully deliver BIM Level 2 projects both at home and overseas.

Dr Alan Hore, one of the founders of CitA, chaired the event. “Up until recently, I think the Alliance has been looking at BIM in a slightly unordered fashion. What’s needed now is practical information on how we can adopt BIM in Ireland in a more structured, efficient way.” CitA has been promoting the implementation of BIM since 2012. Initially, this stemmed from global interest in the technology but the UK’s brave decision to mandate the technology has ramped up interest. “Whilst the scale of interest in BIM in the UK is phenomenal, I’m not sure they’re going to achieve all the objectives they’ve set out by 2016. In saying that, a lot of companies will have reached Level 2 BIM capability and so they’ll be ahead of the pack when it comes to competing for projects.”

Alan-Hore-picApproximately 130 people attended the seminar in February, which focused on the PAS 1192-2 standard. A number of speakers took to the stage, including Paul Shillcock, co-author of the standard, Michael Earley, technical architect and software developer at Scott Tallon Walker and John Hunt, Senior Market Advisor in construction at Enterprise Ireland (UK). Back in 2012 CitA’s seminars were focused on investigating what the UK’s intentions were in relation to BIM implementation. In 2013, a lifecycle programme ran through BIM requirements from inception to facilities management while in 2014 it was all about the client. “At this stage, we know what BIM is and why it’s so important for Irish businesses. Now we’re at the ‘how’ part; how do we work with BIM? That’s what the seminars in 2015 will very much be focused on.” Dr Hore believes the best vehicles for that are the Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) in the UK, of which there are four. The second one, PAS 1192-2, helps companies learn how to use BIM at various points through the project’s lifecycle. “In a way, it’s quite a radical document. It professes a complete reordering of how things are done. New job roles are explained and new documents are included, like for example the Employers Information Requirements (EIR) which is the subject of our next event on the 29th of April.”

One of the new roles outlined in PAS1192-2 is that of the building information manager. “In addition to being proficient in different software packages, these people also need to be proficient in IFC which is an industry foundation class, meaning that if you receive a CAD file from a vendor, it should be possible to transfer it into your own system interoperably.” The person who takes up this new role will manage and coordinate all the information from the very start, eliminating the traditional problems that plague the industry. “The reason we’ve got so many problems in construction is that people seem to accept the fact that it’s ok to start building before the information is in place. Then you wonder why you have delays and cost overruns.” To avoid this, the information manager needs to ensure that as the building is being constructed, there is sufficient accurate information in place before that part of the building is built. “Build it digitally first and then you build. It’s a simple concept but an alien one for the industry.”

The lack of delegates at the seminar actually using BIM was surprising to Dr Hore. “The one thing that surprised me at the February seminar was the relatively few companies using BIM. I asked the audience how many had moved from a 2D to a 3D environment and less than 10% raised their hand. What also surprised me was that the people who did put their hands up were the smaller, leaner companies and not larger firms. In a sense it’s easier for these firms to adopt BIM as there’s less software to buy and less training to do. I do know however, that many of our larger Tier 1 are maximising the benefits that BIM can bring to their businesses.”

CitA’s aim for 2015 is to promote these publicly available specifications to the Irish construction industry so firms don’t have to interpret BIM work processes. “If they’re used and as firms move from project to project, they’ll see a repeat of the process. We have a relatively small construction industry here so companies will be able to align their business processes.” Six events will be held over 2015. For the April meeting, the focus will be on employer information requirements and what should be included in these documents. 

Enterprise Ireland are playing a big role when it comes to promoting BIM to Irish companies competing for work in the UK. John Hunt, Senior Market Advisor in Construction at the organisation addressed delegates at the seminar and spoke about the strategic importance of Irish exports to the UK. “In terms of scale there’s no other sector that Enterprise Ireland has responsibility for that generates as many exports as the Irish construction industry. It’s essential that we look after that.”

John, who’s based in London, is part of the overseas team at Enterprise Ireland. His role involves working with indigenous Irish owned companies looking to the UK for business. “We invest in and support architects, designers, principal and specialist contractors, manufacturers material suppliers and technology companies that have a compelling proposition for the UK construction sector.” Last year the UK construction sector generated circa €1.2 billion of exports which supports thousands of jobs across Ireland. “About five years ago we could see that BIM was going to impact quite heavily on UK construction, particularly with the announcement of the 2016 mandate and so could impact on the Irish companies we support. We looked at the UK government’s commitment to creating the rules that allow BIM to move forward – ‘the 7 pillars’; it’s one thing creating a mandate but it’s another actually supporting the industry to achieve it ‘together’.” John recognised the importance of BIM implementation in the UK and the threat to Irish companies if they didn’t understand the implications of moving to digital. “These firms run the risk of losing market share. There’s also a real opportunity to support Irish companies and improve their trading position so that’s why we started looking at it.”

In response, over the past two years Enterprise Ireland have developed two new BIM programmes called BIM Enable and BIM Implement. Enable is the first programme of strategic consultancy that’s offered to clients. “With BIM Enable what we’re really incentivising is the strategic implementation of BIM within an organisation. We’re trying to get away from the attitude that says ‘we can do BIM’ albeit in a very ‘light touch’ way’. We’d like to see company wide, people deep implementation of the BIM process that will achieve a significant step change in efficiency and productivity throughout businesses. This change would occur not just in design or operational delivery and not just in sales and marketing or logistics but in all those things.”

About 20 companies have been through or are currently going through our BIM programme. “It’s still quite young; we’re going to run it for two years and it’s our intention to bring 100 companies through the process. BIM implementation represents a very real opportunity to improve our trade position with the UK.” Enterprise Ireland recognise that there are firms in Ireland with a strong BIM capability who may not yet be in a position to compete for work in the UK. “Initially, the prioritisation will be around companies with a UK trading footprint, but we welcome enquiries from companies that are seeking to develop international trade capability across the world. Clearly these companies trade in Ireland as well and I think the more people who are doing this together and seeing the benefits, the more other firms will also see the opportunities. Our programmes are creating a small group of leaders which we hope will help the industry in the transition.”

At the seminar, John stressed the importance of firms utilising the PAS1192-2 standard and being in a position from a client point of view to successfully demonstrate BIM capability. “Clients are looking for more than just evidence of having worked on a BIM project to Level 2. People might say ‘we’ve got Jim and he can do BIM’ but what we’re looking for is cross organisation, sustainable benefits. That will distinguish companies who can do BIM from those who cannot.” Just because a company has had some involvement with a BIM project doesn’t necessarily mean they’re BIM compliant. “The danger is that in two years’ time, everyone will say they can do a BIM project as most companies will have touched BIM, but if they’re not genuinely getting the productivity and efficiency out of it and it’s not embedded across the organisation, they’ll only be adding cost and time to their existing process. Let’s do it deep and right the first time and let’s promote those who are successfully developing capability in Ireland. That’s the kind of organisational capability and proposition we can really get behind and support in the UK.”

John says the Enterprise Ireland Construction Sector Team ambition is to promote Ireland as a home for BIM capability, skills and expertise. “Our role in Enterprise Ireland is to connect that capability into UK projects, design teams, and contractors, as the UK goes from a small percentage of BIM projects to a significant percentage of BIM projects.”

Also speaking at the CitA Seminar was Michael Earley, technical architect and software developer at Scott Tallon Walker, who looked at where BIM stands in the UK, Northern Ireland and in ROI. “The UK is the first country to demand BIM on public sector projects and obviously there’s no mandate in Ireland. As part of a reform of the EU procurement process, the European Parliament approved a EU Procurement Directive stating that all 28 member states have the opportunity to recommend or require the use of BIM on public projects.  This change allows governments to mandate BIM without falling foul of competition law and requires that each member state must consider the technical platforms and standards which they intend to use in order to ensure that they do not restrict access or competition between potential tenderers.”

Michael also spoke about PAS1192-2, the British standard that deals with the supply chain process or BIM Level 2. “Despite the fact that there’s no requirement to do so, it has been adopted by some clients in Ireland as the standard for BIM. We find that it’s being used in Ireland as best practice procedure for the technology.” The standard sets out exactly who does what and the processes involved, from procurement right up to hand over and operation of the building. “We actually use the standard ourselves. We have an office in London in which the majority of work is undertaken to BIM Level 2 based on PAS1192-2 and BS1192:2007 standards. Larger clients in Ireland like for example universities are asking for BIM on larger projects and in the UK it’s for every project that requires central public funding. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s mandated for all public projects here. I think the Irish government will probably look and see what the first six months of 2016 brings and then decide.”

BIM shouldn’t be regarded as just a bolt-on for design and construction firms. To achieve maximum efficiency, the technology should be seen as an essential part of a company’s procedures. “In Scott Tallon Walker, we want to make BIM the only process we use. We’d find it extremely difficult to keep a BIM process and a non-BIM process working at the same time; it would mean huge overheads and inefficiencies.” For firms that are considering competing for work in the UK, now’s the time to get up to speed. “One of the points I made was that really if you want to use BIM you have to really start now. Firms risk losing market segments through procrastination.”

Paul Shillcock is the co-author of PAS1192-2, the inaugural chair of BIM4Infrastructure (UK) and a member of the Construction Project Information Committee (CPIC). Addressing delegates at the CitA Smarter Building Series in February, Paul introduced PAS 1192-2, a publically available specification published by the BSI in 2013 that provides the framework for BIM Level 2 in the UK. “The driver behind the UK Government, as a client, mandating BIM Level 2 was to eliminate wasteful activities during the delivery of their assets, therefore reducing the cost of the assets by 20% and having good quality data at the end of the project, upon which the asset can be operated and maintained. We are now starting to see other public and private sector clients implementing similar mandates around the world, so this has to be a wake-up-call for the Irish construction industry. The clear message is that if major construction firms in Ireland are looking to compete for work overseas, particularly in the UK, they need to have the capability and capacity to work in this way.”

However, Paul believes adoption isn’t being taken up quickly enough in the UK, in Ireland or indeed anywhere. “Take-up certainly isn’t moving as fast as we would like, but there is a momentum starting to build up across the UK construction industry. It was encouraging to see over 100 people from the Irish construction industry at the seminar and a lot of positivity from across the supply chain. It reminded me of conferences in the UK a couple of years ago where people were keen to understand more and wanted to know what their next step should be.”

Paul says the priority right now is to get more clients asking the right questions to stimulate innovation and competition amongst the supply chain and ensuring their contracts allow suppliers to work collaboratively. “Once we see more of this happening, you’ll start to see the supply chain responding positively.” The key to success is education. “This represents a new approach to how we do business in the construction industry so it’s essential that current professionals within the industry are re-educated and that future professionals are educated in the right way.”

What about smaller firms who don’t feel BIM is for them due to financial or staff constraints? “Like any capital investment, each business needs to have a robust business case and in most cases, this is based around the ability to do more with less or to bid for a wider range of projects. But that’s not what PAS 1192-2 is about.

Whatever tools are used, information has to be produced and managed on all projects and PAS 1192-2 defines a lean business process that can significantly reduce the associated risks and wasteful activities typically found on most projects; essentially protecting their profit margin. At a project level, as we know, many of the issues we face relate to organisations and teams using different standards, methods and procedures to manage and produce their information, so PAS 1192-2 offers a unified approach, which many clients are now requiring their suppliers to adopt.”

As the BIM Development Director at Headcount Engineering, Dr Shawn O’Keeffe’s role is a pretty unique one. Among his responsibilities is upping the firm’s capabilities in the areas of 3D parametric product data modelling, 4D scheduling, 5D cost database,…,nD (Energy, Sustainability, FM & OM, Safety, Code Compliance, etc). Other areas of interest include BimServer and OpenBIM interoperability through the utilisation of the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), Energy Modelling (e.g. Part-L Compliance), Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) – dimensional control compliance, implementing Scan-to-BIM and Scan-vs-BIM and Historical Preservation utilising TLS and BIM. Finally, as the Principle Investigator of R&D at Headcount Shawn is also in charge of developing new tools for TLS and BIM integration. “We’re in the process of developing new software systems that do not exist. These will be totally new novel OpenBIM systems that Headcount Engineering will use to improve efficiencies and the way they work and collaborate with other companies.”

Headcount Engineering complies with BIM Level 2 and beyond. The firm specialises in energy analysis and Part L compliance and has completed projects in countries all over the world including the US, South Africa, the UK, Denmark and Ireland. Shawn is delighted to be on the CitA Organisation and Scientific Committee of the CitA BIM Gathering Conference due to be held in November this year.  He also lectures at DIT and for CitA, both at Masters level. Event programmes like the CitA Smarter Building Series have highlighted the industry’s interest in all things BIM but says Shawn, the learning curve is high here. “We were very happy to be part of the panel at the seminar. Everyone wants to get on board but a greater degree of education is required for this to happen.”

Shawn believes the UK mandate is accelerating BIM implementation in Ireland. “If there was no UK mandate, I think there would be far fewer Irish companies moving forward with BIM. Many would probably not be as proactive as they are. By no means do I think the UK mandate is perfect or best practice, but without it the industry would not be moving as fast as it is. Just the word mandate itself lends it an air of formality and impetus. It’s a great opportunity for the Irish industry to be involved on a global scale and get working on proper BIM projects.” BIM documents that work in the UK may not necessarily work in Ireland but, Shawn says, we have an opportunity to utilise and build upon the progress already made in the UK. “If you have a model to work off of you don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”

Shawn, originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, has taught in the University of Southern Mississippi and career highlights include creating BIM software systems and conducting research for the US Army Corp of Engineers. In the US, BIM adoption is on a state by state basis. “It’s not a federal mandate. Some states are very advanced while others are less so. I would say that the Irish industry have the opportunity to follow models like Singapore where they could make the technology federally mandated to be more BIM compliant. The opportunity is here for Ireland to move quicker than larger countries who are less likely to get everyone on board quickly.”   

One company reaping the rewards of switching to BIM is Murphy Surveys, a firm that provides surveying services to the industry. Managing director Raymond Murphy has noticed a change in the types of services clients now expect. “Our clients don’t want just one particular service anymore, they prefer to use companies that are seen as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all of their project requirements.” It’s not just traditional surveys like utilities, topographical and measured building surveys provided for by the company; a design teams’ complete existing situation model file is also supplied. “This combines all three types of survey in one 3D file, as well as incorporating rich data about these items within the same file.” BIM has also allowed the firm to build on its laser scanning expertise and add value to complex construction projects in BIM that rely on interactions between accuracy in setting out and verifications of construction design models. BIM for us is about getting it right the first time and using our expertise in 3D measurement to fast-track projects.

Murphy Surveys has been delivering 3D data for more than 10 years. Raymond believes more firms are starting to use it but it’s still new territory. “Many other firms are using it but have struggled to come to terms with implementing BIM procedures properly.” Some of the barriers to BIM implementation are related to why we use BIM in the first place, says Raymond. “It’s not just a set of drawings, it’s a complete documentation tool of all information on a project. The ability to combine various types of information in an intelligent model file rather than separate files and spreadsheets is of huge benefit to any project. Being able to show a client a 3D model cuts down the time spent analysing masses of plans and elevations simply to check where a few services or risers are connecting.”

Raymond isn’t convinced that a mandate in Ireland would necessarily be the best way to promote BIM for projects. “It would certainly be one way of getting companies to upskill and implement before its needed. Ultimately I think we may end up having to mandate it if we want to get ahead in BIM.”

According to Raymond, a big problem at the moment is the usage of BIM by the design team but a lack of usage or knowledge of BIM by trades on the ground. “This results in non-usage of BIM ultimately or a fall back to a 2D workflow which is not as efficient. Educating those on the ground in how to use BIM in the field will save time and money and get BIM the wider audience it needs to be accepted fully.”

Education is at the forefront of CitA’s message when it comes to promoting BIM to Irish construction firms. Educational institutions that have implemented BIM into their modules in an innovative way include Trinity College. Students in the five year civil engineering course at Trinity are introduced to BIM from 3rd year onwards. The approach taken by the college allows students to experience all disciplines in their first two years of study; they only come into the Department of Civil Engineering full-time in 3rd year.

“Once they hit 3rd year, students are introduced to BIM straight away. They have classes in BIM techniques and the capabilities of the technology but primarily, they experience BIM through a design project,” says Roger West, Associate Professor in the Civil Structural & Environmental Engineering Department. Problem-based design projects focused on civil engineering elements keep students busy throughout the year. In 2015, students have been tasked with finding sites for student accommodation no more than 10 minutes away from the college. “Students have walked around the streets and identified either derelict buildings or vacant sites. They’ve then proceeded to do everything a civil engineer would do, right from the beginning of planning through to construction details and buildability.” Students will have produced BIM drawings from only a small number of lectures; for the most part it’s self-directed learning. “I’ve been very impressed with the drawings produced after a relatively short period of time.”

“Once students get to 5th year, we have a whole module on facade engineering run by my colleague Dr Oliver Kinnane. For example, for the past couple of years we’ve looked at Liberty Hall with a view to recladding it and developing the area around it. We encourage them to do conceptual changes but also quite detailed changes in relation to energy conservation, solar gain etc.  To do this, students aren’t just using BIM for the model but are exporting the model into other pieces of software than enable them to do energy, wind and structural analysis.” At the end of the year, students must ‘sell’ the project to the ‘client’ or academic staff. “This is a full module so counts for credits towards their degree. The advantage is that the groups have to take it very seriously.”

Over a short number of years, the Department has been able to incorporate BIM from 3rd year to 5th year. Students leave the course with an excellent foundation in BIM. “They wouldn’t have the detailed knowledge of what would be required of someone at BIM Level 3. Our students will understand concepts behind BIM and the current difficulties in relation to BIM. We like to think that anyone leaving our course can pick up any other piece of software and use it very quickly. The adaptability of our students  rather than their specific detailed knowledge is what is important in life-long learning”.

Roger says the state of readiness for BIM in Ireland is a major question. “I think private sector projects here will follow BIM naturally as they will have developed the capability to do it on public projects. In Trinity we’re hoping to build a new engineering/natural science building and we’re pushing hard to use BIM on it. We’d like to use it as a showcase for BIM. We as engineers and academics could use this as an opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of using BIM and then use that to convince others in Ireland to do the same.”

The roll out of BIM capabilities in the construction industry provides a great opportunity for educators to reassess what their degree programmes provide by way of the collaboration, creativity and information sharing that is required in this digital age. Since 2012, the Department of Civil Engineering & Construction at LYIT has been introducing BIM technologies into the degree programmes offered. Initially incorporating BIM software, such as 3D modelling, into the BSc in Architectural Technology programme, it is now being employed in all our other programmes: engineering courses in Civil, Building Services & Renewable Energy as well as Fire Safety and construction courses in Quantity Surveying and Sustainable Construction Management. The department has more recently moved to further implement Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) processes and practices by developing multi-disciplinary modules and collaborative working between students and staff.

LYIT has an excellent mix of school leavers and mature students in the classroom. They’ve found that a 3D model provides a means of communicating engineering and construction information in a new way that better assists learners to visualise construction details and procedures in comparison to traditional 2D formats. “In the context of the challenges that the construction industry currently faces, the education sector can take the opportunity to review its own provision and set an agenda for change,” says Anne Boner, Head of Department of Civil Engineering and Construction at LYIT. “It can start with simple changes to existing modules – incorporating BIM models into first year modules such as Construction Technology to aid visualisation and communication – and progress to incorporating additional multidisciplinary VDC project modules into programmes so that processes and protocols for information sharing between disciplines are part of the student learning experience.”

The challenge for higher education institutions is to provide graduates with the BIM and VDC skills required by the industry. Eleanor Diver, Civil Engineering lecturer at LYIT continues “We are an active member of the Construction IT Alliance (CitA) and last year the Institute joined the BIM Academic Forum in order to gain further understanding of best practice and share knowledge with UK higher education institutions. Learning objectives of international standards will then be incorporated into LYIT programmes.”

Learning that allows students to develop the skills of information sharing and management, professional collaboration in a commercial context are as important as the technology aspects says Eleanor. “Our aim is for students to be exposed to the dynamics of collaborative design early – the technology and professional knowledge ages quickly but the soft skills of integrated project work and collaboration will be remain throughout a career.”

With nearly 20 years’ experience in the industry, Leica Geosystems products and services allow construction professionals to capture, analyse and present spatial information.  John Kerrigan is the Ireland Country Manager for the company. He talks in depth about the need for BIM in businesses: “Every day I’m asked about getting into the laser scanning sector or how to get involved in high volume data capture or 3D cloud. So I think people are definitely becoming more aware of BIM and its benefits. Investment in people is paramount to successful implementation”. Companies need to invest in their employees when it comes to upskilling and training. “Because it’s not compulsory, the drive isn’t there so it needs to come from the top down”, John explains.  “Although BIM adoption is a big undertaking, it’s been proven time and time again that investment in BIM in the long-term will save money. No reworking of a building is a huge benefit. The big companies adopting BIM aren’t doing it for the good of their health; they are doing it because it’s a business decision. They recognise the benefits.

For smaller companies, John says, there has to be investment. “I think the government should be helping out with this. Part of the problem is that everyone is just so busy all the time. It’s a case of companies pulling their heads up and looking around to see where the business is going. It’s great that people are busy but there’s smart busy and then just running around”.

Education is fundamental, says John.  “I also think a positive message needs to come from some of the big players in the market to help out the likes of CitA in promoting BIM. At Leica Geosystems we attend all the CitA meetings and answer the questions that companies are asking. We need to prove that it works. People worry that BIM will take jobs away from people but that’s not the case and actually the opposite is true. There are opportunities for people who want to work hard and educate themselves.”

A company who has just embarked upon the BIM process is Seamless Aluminium, a company that manufactures and distributes aluminium rainwater systems along with fascia and soffit systems for domestic and commercial use. At the moment, the firm is using a 3rd party to translate their drawings into 3D. “The reason for the move is that we want to keep supplying into the UK. To do that, we need to upgrade all our products and move with the times. We’re very early stages with BIM and it’s a slow process but it’s necessary if we’re to continue to compete.” says Colin Farrell, Operations Manager. It’s also an expensive process but Colin has no doubt that the firm will recoup monies spent on the technology. “It will help us to sell our products, even in Ireland where BIM is not used as much.”

The 3rd party route was decided upon after several other options were explored. “We talked about purchasing the software and taking on a part-time person to do the 3D drawings but it was just too big an outlay. When we need new drawings in the future we’ll outsource again but the plan is to take on someone eventually.” The firm are currently working with IT Sligo who have organised for someone to do the drawings for them.

We’re certainly one of the only companies in our sector going about the process. About 25% of our turnover is in the UK so it is essential we keep an eye on our competitors over there. We’re happy that we’ve gone down this road. Anyone who already operates in BIM will be yards ahead of everyone else. It’s a good tool to help you sell your product.”

Masters in Construction Informatics

The CitA online MSc in Construction Informatics is open for applications. If you are interested in learning more about how technologies and new work practices like Building Information Modelling (BIM) can streamline your business and you need the flexibility that online education offers then the Construction IT Alliance (CitA) MSc in Construction Informatics is the programme for you.

This part-time programme is designed for a broad range of industry practitioners who have a common interest inimproving the productivity and efficiency of their business communications. The programme is fully accredited by the Dublin Institute of Technology and is run over a two-and-a-half year period. Online delivery is streamed live on Monday and Wednesday evenings. All classes are recorded and assessment is 100% project based. All modules are delivered jointly by experienced practitioners and highly-qualified academics from both at home and overseas. Uniquely the programme modules are shared across a number of colleges based in Ireland, Austria and Slovenia. The following are examples of modules that have been added to the course in the past academic year:

BIM Execution Planning and Project Protocols;

Sustainable BIM Design and Construction

Understanding Data Set Management and BIM

A 20% discount on programme fees can be secured for members of CitA Skillnet. To find out more about the course contact Dr Alan Hore, Head of Quantity Surveying, School of Surveying and Construction Management, Bolton Street, Dublin 1. T (01) 402 3873. E

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