Digital technology is transforming the built environment sector. Specifically, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is enabling collaboration throughout the supply chain like never before.
As a result, construction industry architects and specifiers are increasingly requiring digital versions of building products, whether generic or manufacturer-specific.
To satisfy the need where specific objects are required, manufacturers must provide digital versions of their own products. With BIM, manufacturers can access new revenue streams – making it a golden opportunity that some are already grasping.
The drive to digitise
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 industry is being transformed by new and evolving digital solutions.
In the UK, the government has long recognised as much, publishing a succession of strategy documents in recent years that present a vision of the country’s construction sector leading change. The potential rewards of this strategy are enormous.
If successful, it will enable the built environment sector to perform more efficiently, 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). This BSI Whitepaper explores the nature of BIM and, specifically, why manufacturers supplying the sector should understand ‘BIM Objects’ – digital versions of products – and welcome the new world of opportunities they offer.
BIM is a process that uses three-dimensional digital modelling and intelligent structured data to improve collaboration between companies throughout the supply chain for building and infrastructure projects. As such, it represents a significant digital step forward in the construction and asset management markets.
It 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 sub-contractors, specialists and professionals.
It can provide the framework to manage costs, timescales and material quantities, and so optimise the efficiency of construction projects.
BIM can be used for a wide range of projects. The process can be adopted for individual buildings, infrastructure, and for complex developments involving many and varied structures in the built environment.
Importantly, the use of BIM extends through the whole life-cycle 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.
Matt Crunden, training and BIM manager at Legrand, a global specialist in electrical and digital building infrastructures, explains: “BIM is just one aspect of the overarching strategy towards a more sustainable future. If we consider that just 20% of the total life costs of a building are consumed during its construction, then 80% are its operational costs. This represents massive savings potential and BIM is a great vehicle to help achieve those savings.”
Crunden, who has been recognised by the construction industry for his commitment to digital transformation throughout the sector, adds: “From manufacturers to consultants and architects, and everyone in between, it is essential for us to understand how the built environment sector recognises and exchanges digital information. It is all about being able to work smarter and build more relationships across the industry to encourage collaboration.”
Manufacturers and BIM objects
BIM has enormous impacts for manufacturers and suppliers of construction products, as architects and designers increasingly use digital versions of products – BIM Objects – in the development and design process.
As a manufacturer you will be a provider of products directly to a developer or contractor, or to another supplier in a supply chain. Through BIM, specifiers are now interacting with their supply chain in a different way, providing new digital routes to market.
Andy Butterfield, Director of Built Environment, Product Certification at BSI, explains that BIM represents a significant opportunity for manufacturers.
“They need to provide BIM content for their products because their route to market has changed,” he says. “In effect, online BIM Object libraries are their new shop window, increasing the visibility of those products to potential customers.”
Many manufacturers are now producing “digital twins” of their products alongside the physical product to enable their products to be incorporated into BIM.
Butterfield stresses that, as long BIM content is provided in the right format to specifiers, it can help manufacturers become preferred suppliers. Visibility of manufacturer content within BIM models can also help to raise brand awareness and future engagement with facilities management providers.
“They can become more resilient by embracing the technological change that’s transforming the built environment sector, opening up new business development opportunities,” he concludes.