BIM People – Tim Segal – Course Coordinator, Institute of Technology Tralee


Tim Segal is the course coordinator for the Certificate in Building Information Modelling at IT Tralee. He has been lecturing at IT Tralee for 11 years, including a spell as Head of Department for Science and Engineering. He previously spent approximately 10 years working professionally as an Architect in Ireland and abroad. Tim talks to about his background and the BIM offering at Institute of Technology Tralee.

Course: Springboard Certificate in Building Information Modelling (BIM)

Why did IT Tralee choose to develop a BIM course?

IT Tralee has been developing and delivering courses associated with the design and construction of our built environment for over 30 years. The principles and practices involved in Building Information Modelling are integral with these activities so we have been adopting BIM tools and techniques in our existing programmes and engaging in professional development as lecturers in any case.

More recently, as experience with BIM and BIM-enabled software tools has become expected of building professionals, we have found that there is an increasing demand for upskilling in this area. This demand has been exacerbated by the raft of recent changes to Building Regulation requirements and the use of advanced energy efficient technologies. Experience with the production, operation and interrogation of building models and the ability to simulate building performance-in-use are now considered minimum skills for building design and construction professionals.

The recent Springboard call from the Irish Government, intended to facilitate upskilling of the workforce to meet the needs of the future, included these advanced construction sector IT skills among those expected to be high in demand over the coming years. Following consultation with our own partners and contacts, as well as prospective students, we developed this course to assist experienced construction professionals and practitioners to satisfy these key employment criteria.

Please, briefly tell us about the Institute’s development of previous building courses?

For many years, we have offered higher certificate and degree-level major awards in Construction, Facilities Management and Civil Engineering. The downturn in building construction activity over the last several years had a knock-on effect in the demand for third level places on these and other built environment programmes. Where in the past, construction courses were oversubscribed, many courses around the country began to find it difficult to attract students.

Only recently has the trend started to reverse. IT Tralee continued to operate courses in these building construction-related areas during this time, but found that student demand turned more to the energy technology and sustainable construction aspects of the sector. Additionally, a nationwide reduction in the number of building trade apprentices left many local students searching for other options.

We responded by broadening our portfolio of courses to include a Construction stream for students on our Energy Technology programme and a new Wood Technology course. These programmes were developed through our in-house expertise in Building Construction and Facilities Management, also taking advantage of our Mechanical and Electrical Engineering as well as Carpentry and Joinery skills in the School.

Furthermore, we had the opportunity to participate in the development of several CPD and short course developments including one of the first BER Assessor certification courses as well as Building Insulation Applications and a Renewable Energy and Energy Management part-time course.

More recently, we have found that employers are starting to feel the effect of the recent lack of student uptake on construction courses. Construction Management and Quantity Surveying roles are becoming increasingly difficult to fill. This has led us to a position where we are working to re-launch our Bachelor of Science in Construction programme from next September (2016). The new programme will be based on the successful aspects of the previous course such as an integrated final project and high practical content combined with access to BIM tools and techniques and building performance simulation.

What have you noticed in the building industry which influenced you to launch a BIM course?

We found the use of BIM among industry practitioners to be spotty, particularly in relation to smaller practices and developments. Those who were using it had a head start while those who weren’t were expressing concern that industry was moving forward without them.

Most of the people we were speaking to took the view, particularly in light of the UK BIM mandate which comes into effect next year, that BIM was an inevitable method for the delivery of future building projects and infrastructure. Many felt they would have to buy in expertise as they couldn’t see how they would keep up with the scale of the changes. Particularly in rural areas such as Kerry, construction professionals were struggling to see how they could make a transition to BIM and compete with bigger players.

Lecturing staff have taken this uncertainty about BIM and the concerns about the future to be a direct challenge to our role as an educational institution in the region. We consider it to be our responsibility to take some leadership within the community and the wider region and we feel it is our role to provide a centre for communication and education around the latest technologies and processes within the built environment sector. The development of the specific courses flows from our aim to fulfil this role.

Will you offer off-site courses and or evening courses?

Aside from our more standard full-time course portfolio, the recently launched BIM course is offered part-time during the evening to facilitate the target group. We are engaging and will continue to liaise with local and regional employers as well as those further afield, as well as local job-seekers to see if we can develop targeted courses to meet specific needs.

Within the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at IT Tralee, we have been very successful working with larger employers, in engineering and manufacturing in particular, to develop targeted courses at all levels. This is a model we are looking to replicate in the construction sector.

When did the course start?

The first cohort began in September this year (2015).

What are the main modules? Could you please describe them in some detail, and the reasons for their selection?

In Semester 1, students participate in the following Modules:

  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) with Revit (10 ECTS Credits)
  • Sustainable Architecture 1 (5 ECTS Credits)

In Semester 2, the following modules are included:

  • Energy Performance Modelling (5 ECTS Credits)
  • Sustainable Architecture 2 (5 ECTS Credits)
  • Building Measurement with BIM (5 ECTS Credits)

In principle, the students will begin by familiarising themselves with the theory behind BIM and the current status of its implementation. This serves as background to the process of engaging with Revit software for the production of a full model of a medium-sized non-residential structure, including architectural, building services, structural and site information. This model, produced in the first semester, is then used as a source of data for the measurement and pricing activities that are undertaken using primarily Cubit software in semester 2. These two BIM modules form the spine of the programme and address the use of the main BIM technologies and techniques as learning outcomes.

The Sustainable Architecture modules, combined with the Energy Performance Modelling Module offer the learner the opportunity to further inform the development of a building model during semester 1. In semester 2, students look at methods of interrogating the model to populate the various energy simulation methodologies that are in common use. Students are provided with a sense of the main energy performance criteria, the means of measurement and the mechanisms for optimising performance.

All together, these modules combine to address the major developments of the last 5-10 years in the construction sector in terms of building performance improvement through modelling and simulation as well as demonstration of Building Regulation compliance.

Which professional groups will this course attract?

Through the use of teamwork for project development, this BIM course is designed to address the needs of a broad range of construction practitioner who has experience in the design, costing or construction of buildings. Therefore, it is suitable for professional Architects (RIAI/RIBA), Surveyors (RICS/SCSI), Structural, Civil and Building Services Engineers (Engineers Ireland) as well as technicians, CAD operators and site supervisors or clerks-of-works.

Have you links with industry (Industry Partners)? If so, could you please describe them?

The School of STEM in IT Tralee has maintained links with construction industry employers including general contractors, specialist sub-contractors, quantity surveyors, architects and engineers both within and outside the Southwest region. All full and part-time programmes benefit from formally appointed industry as well as academic external examiners who help the programme teams to develop the courses and make sure that they are keeping up with the latest relevant developments. Accreditation of many of our courses through Engineers Ireland among other bodies also assists in this regard. The BIM course, like all new programmes, was subject to a quality assurance procedure during its development that required the engagement with external industry experts at several stages in the process. These links are continually exploited by the lecturers and indeed students on the course to ensure that content is relevant and current.

How do you hope to develop the course over the coming years?

As indicated above, BIM is now a key component of all full-time and part-time building-related courses at IT Tralee. This part-time course will be offered in its current form, subject to normal review, as long as there is demand, but it is expected that the skills deficits and opportunities for which the course was designed will start to subside over the coming years as more and more graduates of the traditional full-time programmes progress with these new skills already on board. Given the nature of the industry, it is likely that new developments will present new challenges for the education sector.

Who are the course leaders/ module leaders? Could you please describe their professional backgrounds?

I am currently the course coordinator. I am currently teaching modules in various CAD software packages as well as building design and construction technology, and I am module leader for the Building Information Modelling (BIM) with Revit module on the BIM course.

Mr. Con O’Regan was co-leader of the course development team and continues to support the delivery of some of the construction management and engineering aspects of the course. He is a professional Engineer and construction project manager and brings his vast experience from both industry and education. He lectures in Construction Project Management and acts as module leader for many of the STEM School’s degree level dissertations. He has also served as programme leader for the Construction Management and Facilities Management Level 8 degrees at IT Tralee.

Mr. Mark Bourke is module leader for the Sustainable Architecture modules as well as Energy Performance Modelling. He is a qualified Architect with experience in the private sector as well as his 10 years as an educator. Mark’s expertise in construction technology and building performance simulation is invaluable to the programme.

Mr. Jim Stone is a qualified Quantity Surveyor who supervises the Building Measurement with BIM module. He has been lecturing at IT Tralee for well over a decade and has also worked externally as a Project QS. He brings vast experience in teaching the standard measurement and costing methodologies to students at all levels and provides the expertise in specification interrogation and cost data analysis that is a crucial part of the potential of BIM.

Have any international courses influenced the development of this course?

A significant amount of the theory behind the implementation of BIM in construction stems from abroad, particularly the US and the UK. While this information underpins a lot of the content on the course, there is no specific single course on which this programme is based.

What are the costs of the course?

The course is eligible for Springboard funding which covers the full cost of fees for students who qualify. Refer to the Springboard website for further details. Otherwise, fees for this year were just under €2800 for the full year. Registration on the course enables students to access free student copies of the relevant software and allows access to student computer labs and library facilities for the duration of the course.

How, where, and when should interested individuals apply?

The course starts in September and is offered through the IT Tralee Department of Lifelong Learning. Future start dates will be confirmed subject to demand. Prospective students are encouraged to contact Ms. Mary Strich in the Department or contact me directly.

IT Tralee sees its role as one of leadership in the development of advanced skills in the construction fields as well as many others. Therefore, all queries related to BIM or construction skills in general are welcome. People should not hesitate to make contact if we can be of any help or indeed if they are looking for a collaborative partner.

Do you plan to develop further BIM courses in the future?

BIM is fast becoming a core part of all built environment courses and our main full-time programmes are no different. We intend to continue to operate at the cutting edge of construction best practice and BIM will be at the heart of all of our construction and related programmes into the future. We are willing to discuss the possibility of operating bespoke courses with employers in the area and there is every possibility that further BIM-based courses will become necessary over the coming years.

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