How architecture and building consultancy AHR has addressed the challenge of BIM
AHR is a multi-award winning architecture and building consultancy practice, with a legacy dating back to 1835, operating in the UK and internationally. Based on its strong heritage and breadth of services, it provides imaginative solutions to make a positive contribution for its clients, society and the built environment.
AHR offers a wide range of services, working across industry sectors, on both large and small projects, new-builds and refurbishments. It has established an enviable reputation for award-winning design and the creation of innovative environments where we live, work, learn and enjoy life.
How did AHR address the challenge of BIM?
Background on BIM
Since April 2016, companies looking to secure Government building and infrastructure contracts have been required to demonstrate Building Information Modelling (BIM) Level 2 capability, or face exclusion from public sector tenders.
BIM is essentially a process to ensure all the right information is available to the right people, at the right time and in the right format. It is supported by a suite of standards, including PAS1192-2, which address the BIM requirements for the design and construction phase of a project.
BIM brings together all the components that make up projects in the development stage, creating a common language, shared knowledge and increased transparency between all the parties involved, from developer and architect to main contractor and sub-contractors.
Ahead of the game
Long before the Government’s BIM condition of contract, AHR was a pioneer in the use of digital technologies to improve design decision-making, communication of ideas and quality of information, and reduce the risks to cost, time and quality of projects, as well as environmental performance.
As Joe Stott, architect and BIM manager for AHR, explains, “Our track record of early adoption of BIM technology started back in 2007, when we recognized the potential benefits to the construction industry of moving to three-dimensional design software.”
By collating accurate information, from drawings and specifications to materials and measurements, Stott says problems can be avoided, by architects, as well as throughout the supply chain, saving time, costs and waste. “We invested heavily in new systems, training and resources. In fact, we were already fulfilling a lot of the requirements of BIM Level 2, but without using that label.”
As technologies have advanced, AHR has maintained its position at the head of the implementation curve. Today, it has innovative and interactive ways of working in the virtual environment that combine Building Information Modelling and ‘Scan to BIM’, a process that utilizes high definition laser scanning to create accurate three-dimensional BIM models for retrofit, refurbishment and renovation projects.
As AHR’s BIM champion, Stott’s aim is to ensure best practice in the use of BIM software and process delivery to provide the best possible outcomes for clients. He expands, “BIM is integral to projects across our services and offers us the tools with which to build computer generated models of our designs – using and containing digital objects that carry information about the design, construction and operation of an asset.”
He continues, “In this virtual world we can explore our designs – to appreciate a space or a function and to collaborate on the coordination of the design with the stakeholder team. This adds value for clients, giving them a one-stop-shop for the multiple aspects of their requirements.”
The challenge for many architects and contractors in the construction industry, has been how best to become BIM Level 2-compliant. A particular problem has been so-called ‘BIM wash’, whereby companies have made false claims about their BIM capability.
One way to help counter this is through independent third-party certification, which reviews process compliance with PAS 1192-2 in all areas of BIM implementation. This was the route taken by AHR, which, in March 2016, became the first architecture-led practice to receive BIM verification certification from BSI.
“As the government mandate approached, we started to receive a lot of questions,” says Stott. “Clients and contacts were asking: ‘Do we comply with the Government condition of contract?’, ‘Are we working at BIM Level 2?’. I was always able to say ‘yes’, but the BSI certification was hugely valuable in supporting this claim. Our clients and collaborators can be confident that our working methods have been rigorously assessed and independently verified.”
According to Stott, there have also been internal benefits from the audit and certification process. “It has provided a lot more clarity,” he says. “There is a lot of industrywide confusion about what is and isn’t involved in BIM, but by revisiting and restructuring how we go about meeting our BIM Level 2 requirements, we were able to demystify the subject. We were able to make it accessible and digestible for all staff members, not just BIM specialists.”
Looking to the future
Looking ahead, AHR is interested in the new BSI Kitemark™ scheme, which can be integrated with its existing certification. While BIM compliance can be proved through verification certification to PAS 1192-2, the BSI Kitemark would provide assurance of successful delivery of specific projects and outcomes, providing further reassurance to the practice’s clients and prospects.
In the meantime, Stott is convinced that, ultimately, verified BIM Level 2 capability is helping AHR to drive business, “because it has given us the ability to differentiate ourselves from a lot of other architectural practices.”
He concludes, “We continue to implement and deliver excellence in BIM Level 2 and our advancement to Level 3 is well underway.”