In the construction industry, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is becoming a crucial and even mandated process. There are even different levels of the process, called BIM levels, and these are important to understand if you live where BIM Level 2 is mandated.
What is BIM?
BIM is a process that allows multiple stakeholders and professionals to collaborate on the desig of a building within the same model. BIM also spans into the development and operation of buildings using digital data that all relevant stakeholders have access to. This data allows owners and stakeholders to make decisions based on pertinent information derived from the model - even after the building is constructed.
Rather than describing the technology used, or just the 3D model that accounts for the ‘M’ of the acronym, BIM refers to the process of all parties involved in the construction and lifecycle management of built assets, working collaboratively and sharing data.
This information is shared through a mutually accessible online space known as a common data environment (CDE), and the data collected is referred to as an 'information model'.
Information models can be used at all stages of a building’s life; from inception right through to operation and even refurbishment and renewal.
Now that a definition of BIM is established, let's move on to BIM levels.
What are BIM Levels?
BIM operates at different levels. Each level describes a different set of criteria which, when met, demonstrate a particular level of ‘BIM maturity’. These levels begin with 0 and go up to 4D, 5D and even (less common) 6D BIM. They are used to gauge how effectively, or how much information is being shared and managed throughout the supply chain.
What isn’t immediately clear is what each level involves, and it can be confusing to identify at which level you're working - and how you can develop your BIM maturity. Here is a brief description of the first three levels and an explanation of what criteria are involved at each stage.
Level 0 BIM
If you’re working at Level 0, you will not be operating collaboratively at all. If you’re using 2D CAD and working with drawings and/or digital prints then you’re at level 0. These days, most of the industry is working above this level, although there is still some unease among those who are yet to fully understand the benefits of moving up the BIM ladder.
Level 1 BIM
If you use 3D CAD for concept work, but 2D for drafting production information and other documentation, then it’s likely you’re working at Level 1 BIM. At this level, CAD standards are managed to BS 1192:2007, and electronic sharing of data is carried out from a common data environment (CDE) usually managed by the contractor. Many businesses are working at this level where there typically isn’t any collaboration and each stakeholder publishes and maintains its own data.
Level 2 BIM
Level 2 BIM sees the emergence of working collaboratively. Since April 2016, it’s also been a mandatory requirement on all publically tendered projects in the UK. At level 2, everyone uses 3D CAD models but, typically, not the same, single, shared model. However, the way stakeholders exchange information is key to level 2. Information about the design of a built-asset is shared through a common file format. When businesses combine this with their own data, they can carry out checks that save time and money of manpower or reworking. Because of the way data is shared, CAD software must be capable of exporting to a common file format, such as IFC (Industry Foundation Class) or COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange).
Level 3 BIM
The UK Government is committed to Level 3 BIM being prerequisite for all projects in the future. Many people regard it as a BIM panacea. Instead of each party working on their own 3D model, Level 3 sees everyone using a single, shared project model. The model sits in a ‘central’ place and can be accessed and modified by everyone. This is what is referred to as Open BIM. This means that another layer of protection is added against clashes, adding value to the project at every stage.
Globally, there is a drive to reduce waste in construction. Much of the wastage in the sector currently is attributed to supply chain inefficiencies, aborted work, clashes and reworking. Working collaboratively in a BIM environment makes all of these considerably less likely.
Hailed as the industry’s saving grace, it’s certain that BIM is set to stay. It has defined goals and objectives that are clearly beneficial to all those who work their way through the levels. Undoubtedly, the future of construction is collaborative and digital. As BIM becomes increasingly more sophisticated, 4D, 5D and even 6D BIM will start to play a part in the process.
For now, however, it’s enough for most to battle jargon and tech talk in a bid to understand levels 0-3.