BIM Around The World Series: David Philp discusses BIM in Scotland


David Philp is AECOM’s Global Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Information Management Consultancy Director, Chair of the Scottish BIM Delivery Group and a member of the UK BIM Task Group Core Team.

David is a well-known international BIM expert – travelling worldwide, speaking at conferences and events, including last year’s CitA BIM Gathering. David will be a judge for CitA’s Irish BIM Innovation Awards. He took some time out from his busy schedule to talk to Irish building magazine about BIM adoption in Scotland and BIM in the UK.

Please tell us about the work of the Scottish Futures Trust and your involvement?

In October 2012, Scottish Government launched a review of public sector construction procurement. Published in October 2013, the report identified the benefits in adopting BIM and made recommendations to how Scottish Government and procuring authorities should adopt BIM, including the reference that “BIM will be introduced in central government with a view to encouraging adoption across the public sector. The objective should be that, where appropriate, projects across the public sector adopt BIM level 2 by April 2017.” The recommendations of the report were endorsed by Scottish Ministers and supported by six supplementary BIM recommendations.

The implementation of the recommendations is being conducted on behalf of Scottish Government by a collaborative team, comprising of the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) and Scottish Government. A Scottish BIM Delivery Group has been established with a remit to lead, manage, coordinate and deliver a BIM implementation plan on a day-to-day basis. The BIM Delivery Group is supporting Scottish Government meet its objectives for a move towards a digital built environment, with BIM featuring as a key part for the future of the Scottish Construction Industry.

The BIM implementation plan is going through a series of defined stages to support the Scottish public sector in their adoption of BIM. This includes pilot projects where certain strands of the strategy, or specific information exchanges are being tested before it is refined and published as final guidance.   

I have the pleasure of being seconded into the SFT as Chair of the BIM Working Group helping the team implement the programme and chair the various supporting groups which we have established.

Holyrood Student Accommodation for University of Edinburgh by Balfour Beatty. Photo David Cadzow

Holyrood Student Accommodation by Balfour Beatty. Photo David Cadzow

How is BIM adoption progressing in Scotland?

SFT undertook a series of BIM training workshops for the public sector clients across the country and as part of this, we evidenced some real advancement in BIM adoption at all levels of the client and the supply-chain. Industry does have a long-tail and organisations are at different stages of their digital journey, some are starting and some early adopters such as NHS Scotland and are well on their way to Level 2 BIM implementation. There is a lot going on to be extremely positive about.

How do you think the Scottish BIM Implementation Plan will progress?

We are working on the guidance at the moment in parallel with the pilot projects. What is unique about the SFT approach is the need for “appropriateness”. Whilst Level 2 BIM by April 2017 is still the goal we have created an online grading tool and return on investment calculator to help determine a BIM journey depending on capability levels and how data will be used. In some cases moving from Level 0 to Level 1 will be the recommended guidance. We want to ensure that the Scottish public sector clients embed in Level 1 BIM working practices as a logical stepping stone to Level 2. We are also creating an online BIM portal tailored towards the individual procuring departments and their plans of work and stage related tasks.

What problems has the Scottish Construction Industry faced?

Until now there has been a lack of targets and milestones to create a strong push for BIM.  The recommendations from the review of public sector construction procurement are remedying this.

Does London heavily influence the Scottish Construction Industry’s approach to BIM implementation?

Lots of Scottish organisations work in London and indeed globally and are already refining their working practices to reflect best practice from around the digital world and indeed from other industries.

Are consultants more interested than contractors?

The drivers for BIM are such that there is benefit for all members of the supply-chain and there is now I perceive to be parity in uptake. Contractors are really raising the bar with how they want to use their data from digital scoping of work packages, digital quantity take-off, 4D simulation, setting-out straight from the model etc. Consultants are equally becoming smarter in creating data, quicker, more accurate and more collaboratively. We should all be interested no matter who we are in the supply-chain, digitisation of construction will affect us all.

What is the attitude to BIM among smaller Scottish firms?

They see it as an opportunity to level the playing field with the bigger players and a catalyst for innovation. Obviously, there is a business case stage that they need to go through first but they are agile and are well placed to exploit these technological advances.

What has motivated the UK Government to adopt BIM on public projects?

Need to reform procurement, drive efficiency in cost, less risk, better decision making and assets that perform better. There is also a need to help industry perform better in the backdrop of growing international competition.

Considering the BIM mandate this year, has BIM adoption been a success so far in your opinion?

I am obviously quite biased but yes extremely effective. The spotlight really is on the UK and how far we have come in the last 5 years. We have world class standards for information management, security, soft landings and data delivery, we have tested the Level 2 hypothesis and helped a mass shift by industry onto the BIM maturity wedge in some category. So a big “yes” from me and really proud to be part of it – but we must remember we are just at the start line!

After BIM Level 2, what is the next step for BIM adoption in the UK? Is it BIM Level 3?

The journey to Level 2 will continue either making it business as usual or for some it will be next step from Level 1. In my opinion, there won’t be a binary shift to Level 3 but a gradual move firstly looking at the optimisation of the Level 2 model. The Digital Built Britain business plan sets out a staged plan examining all the different themes and the need for new standards especially security in a telemetry rich environment.  The supply-chain will also organically start to push into Level 3 paradigms as they look for competitive advantage through real-time working and new business models. Level 3 is very much outcome driven so thinking about new commercial models is key.

You travel a lot. What is BIM adoption like around the world?

No matter where I travel it is evident we are witnessing a construction sector in a state of change, demystifying and understanding the impact that digital will have. In some countries this is manifesting into policy such as in the UK where BIM is a central focus or in other countries it is being led by the supply-chain with many different flavours. I have noticed that the BSI Level 2 suite of BIM standards is well recognised in many countries. Information management and collaborative working is the golden international thread. We are globally on a journey of sector modernisation where innovative delivery methods are key to organisational success. 

What countries impress you with their BIM plans?

The Built Environment (BE) group has released a report commissioned by the SFT which aimed to gain a better understanding of the international area of BIM realisation this is a really usefully benchmarking study and highlighted the countries such as Scotland, UK, Singapore and Norway as having strong direction.

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