Apr 26, 2017 Last Updated 3:38 PM, Apr 26, 2017

Housing clients empowered by BIM

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Nottingham City Homes is currently undertaking the biggest council home building programme in Nottingham for 40 years. More than 100 brand new council homes are set to be built across two sites in Nottingham as part of the latest phase of Nottingham City Council (NCC) and Nottingham City Homes' (NCH) Building a Better Nottingham council housing programme.

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The £9.9m scheme, being delivered by community regeneration specialist Keepmoat, will include 48 new homes in Cranwell Road, Strelley, and 54 new properties across four sites in The Meadows.

NCH recognised an opportunity to adopt new Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology as part of the development and embarked on a project to undertake the use of BIM on The Meadows development, with the following key objectives:

  • Improve the communication process with residents allowing greater engagement and understanding
  • Accelerate the design and planning process through ease of 3D modelling manipulation
  • Provide more detailed tender information to support prospective contracting partners to submit the best and most competitive tender possible, provide greater, cost certainty and produce a library of core house types for use on future schemes

The project is the first pilot scheme nationally supported by the Home and Communities Agency (HCA) looking to achieve a BIM Level 2 mandate and is being supported by the Cabinet Office BIM4Housing Task Group.

Using BIM has already achieved huge outcomes for Nottingham City Homes. As BIM produces a much more comprehensive 3D model of the designs for both the homes and the streets that link the community together, it has meant that the planning and consultation process has been much more interactive as the team at NCH have been able to walk local residents through the plans and even show them round the proposed layout for each home.

The level of information produced by the system has enabled a much more comprehensive tender process with the first and second scoring contractors only being separated in price by 1%.

Justin Martin is working on the BIM project team for contractor Keepmoat and has been involved in the project since the start of the tender application. He said: “The level and quality of information that was supplied, enabled a much quicker and more accurate pricing process. The work invested by Nottingham City Homes and Arcus Consulting as part of the BIM process produced a level of detail we don’t usually see as part of a tender.

“Looking at standard drawings and information, some things are often open to interpretation. The 3D modelling and the individual material and cost schedules BIM produces have minimised the potential for variations and has meant that we, as well as our partners and subcontractors have a much reduced level of risk for the duration of the project.”

BIM has also enabled dynamic asset management as it is able to forecast life cycle costs for each property and will directly feed into the NCH asset management system. Providing greater cost certainty for the entire build project.

Richard Whittaker, Head of Development for NCH, believes that BIM will change the client contractor relationship in the future, he said: “BIM lessens the reliance on the contractor for delivering social housing projects. It has in effect empowered Nottingham City Homes and Nottingham City Council to take more control of the design and build process. It has also enabled us to have a better understanding of the cost of a project and the long term maintenance programme. We can use a working model to make small or large changes instantly and can look at how that will impact on our tenants and our budgets over the next 30 years.”

BIM allows issues to be explored and communicated more easily with local communities, commercial developers, asset managers and wider stakeholders such as the city council planners and elected representatives. Moving away from technical drawings to 3D models built in a digitised environment that shows a full size replica of the proposed project, promotes a full understanding of the project that will be delivered.

Nottingham City Homes is currently working with other local authorities and arms length management organisations to share the findings from the BIM tender process for The Meadows and will continue to do so for the build duration and beyond.

NCH aims to be the benchmark for best practice for BIM within the social housing sector. The savings and improved working practices achieved as part of the process represent a smarter and more cost effective way of working both within housing and construction.

Nottingham City Homes’ investment in terms of time and expenditure – which has the potential to revolutionise the way in which social housing is designed, communicated, procured and built – puts them at the cutting edge of current technology, communication design and delivery standards to ensure projects deliver cost effective solutions that meet the requirements of their tenants. Without investing in new innovations and technologies and see what benefit they can have, social housing will never move forward.

BIM is still in its infancy in terms of its application within social housing but already the outcomes are apparent:

  • Community and resident involvement has been improved due to the standard of information and ease of understanding due to having 3D models
  • 15% saving on design cost already being realised
  • More comprehensive tender information issued to contractors
  • Tender submission prices submitted had less that a 1% difference in cost between the first and second contractor
  • Tender quality submissions had less than 3% difference between the first and second contractor
  • Cost variations post tender award have been reduced by 14% when compared to similar schemes

BIM has been used as a tool to bring diverse technical disciplines together forming a common understanding at the early, critical stages of design. Information produced on The Meadows project will be replicated on future schemes.

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