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Reduce costs by making smart use of BIM

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Local government can reduce lifetime facilities and asset management costs by making smart use of BIM, according to Michael McCullen who is Chairman of Sitedesk, an innovative and dynamic software and services business specialising in collaborative BIM solutions.


Local authorities are faced with juggling the constant need for investment in local resources and services, ranging from health and social care to education and infrastructure, with the ongoing austerity measures seeing their budgets dwindle further and further each year. They have no choice but to seek out ways of meeting local needs as cost-effectively as possible.

One imperative is to respond to the challenge of a changing local demographic. A growing population puts pressure on local housing, schools, healthcare and infrastructure. Following the lead taken by central government many councils are turning to BIM (Building Information Modelling) to drive greater efficiencies and cost savings from construction projects, seeking the 15% to 20% savings that central Government claims it can achieve.

However, the cost of building itself is far from the only issue. Lifetime operation and maintenance costs are the sting in the tail for local building projects. As councils create buildings and assets to support local needs, the key to balancing the books in future will lie in using BIM not only to realise cost savings today during the construction phase but using the organised recording of as-built construction information to drive efficient operation and maintenance programmes in the future.

This means that councils must sometimes look far, far ahead at risks and costs. Coastal erosion is one such challenge; it creates a very real public safety risk for hundreds of councils around coastal Britain. It is in this area that one group of councils, collaborating on a stretch of North West coastline, have decided to use BIM. It is considered critical as a way not just to build coastal defences with the aid of 3D modelling, or even to do so efficiently, but to manage the lifetime costs and future maintenance of these vital structures.

Carl Green of Wyre Council recognised early on the challenges of capturing data and making it useful for part of a coastal defence system project in Rossall, Lancashire. “I was determined that the next generation of people who would be renewing the defences in 50 years’ time wouldn’t face the same challenges as my team,” says Carl.

The team was keen to gain one of the major benefits of BIM: a much clearer view of total expenditure, CapEx and OpEx. “We looked at our requirements during the pre-design, design, construction and operational phases and decided on the data we would need to capture at each stage to meet these, and optimise asset management and minimise maintenance costs throughout the lifecycle of the project.”

BIM has been mandated for centrally-funded government construction projects from April 2016 and the industry has been gearing up for this change since 2011. Today growing expertise in BIM is being put to good use: not only for centrally-funded projects but to address a growing demand from enlightened clients in the private sector and local government, who have an eye on the cost benefits to be had from BIM over the lifetime operation of their assets.

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