G4C Berks – BIM in Industry – Building Services / by David Mather

On March 7th I spoke at the “BIM in Industry” event, the latest event in G4C Berks’ 2017 programme. G4C Berks organises events to promote cross-discipline communication of young professionals within the construction industry, across Berkshire. Attendees of G4C events are employees of companies which are members of the local Constructing Excellence (CE) group, in this case CE Berks.

The event was split into three sections: Architecture, Building Services Engineering and Civil Engineering. Following Elitsa Boyadzhieva’s overview of BIM and how it affects the way that they undertake architecture projects at Barton Willmore I presented an overview of how BIM has affected my role as a design engineer in Building Services.


As some background I have over ten years’ experience in the Building Services industry. When I started we printed A1 copies of drawings, folded them neatly and posted them to the client and design team. For big projects, with multi-copy requirements, this could take up as much as 20% of my week when I first started work. Now we issue pdf’s, IFC’s and Revit models to a CDE (Common Data Environment). In between these two contrasting methods for issuing information I spent many-a-year emailing information. This involved battling with zip files and 'we transfer' links to avoid email attachment size limits.

The first impact BIM has had on my working life is the document PAS 1192-2:2013. I first read it during an extra-curricular unit on BIM at university, and it seemed very logical in theory. When you try to put the processes into practice on a live project that you realise it’s not something you can do alone, or even as a single consultant working in a multidisciplinary team. For a BIM Level 2 project to be a success you need a collection of team members willing to try out the processes. The key is for everything to be agreed in advance and set out in the BIM Execution Plan (BEP).

When working on BIM level 2 there is a learning curve regarding the design and production processes, and a lot of lessons learned. I have been involved in live BIM projects for approximately a year and have learnt so much already and I will approach future projects differently. This was a theme shared with the architecture presentation too. The architecture presentation also suggested the use of external BIM consultants can assist with the transition to BIM.

BIM has been promoted in a number of ways, and in some cases the software/training/workflows still fall short of the dream. Software integration with 3rd party design packages is one example. Integrating 3D geometry from an architecture model into thermal models for calculating Part L compliance and heating & cooling loads is still not reliable and practical in my experience.

During the presentation I also discussed how the use of a digital model, such as a Revit model, can be used to generate sections and 3D views, and also schedules of parts and equipment, in addition to the traditional 2D layout drawings. The use of this 3D information has many advantages when it comes to communicating the design to clients and stakeholders, especially with 3D walkthroughs and renders.

The evening started with the design of buildings and then how these buildings are serviced. The final section of the evening was dedicated Civil Engineering. How the people, vehicles, utilities and drainage get to and from the buildings is considered on a whole estate scale. The Civil’s section was presented by Amy Bartholomew and Leighton Jewkes, colleagues of mine at Peter Brett Associates.

As the Civil Engineering design is undertaken in different software to that which is used for building’s design the workflows and transfer of information from one format to another is a part of the digitalisation of the design progress which is key to ensuring that the designs are co-ordinated using a computer model. It was a valuable insight into how communication processes between teams, both internal and external, need to defined and then refined to ensure the success of the project.

Following the four speaker’s presentations it was clear that the common theme of the evening is that BIM is not a 3D Revit model, but a process.

BIM is a design process with clear, project specific, definitions of information sharing and communication. It creates a framework for collaboration between teams on construction projects in a standardised way allowing for adaptation to new technologies.
— David Mather

A great resource to find out more about BIM is the B1M.

G4C Berks’ next event is scheduled to be a site visit, stayed tuned to their site: https://constructingexcellenceberkshire.wildapricot.org/G4C for more details.