Adam Salt, design engineer & BIM co-ordinator at Wavin, explains how manufacturers can help bridge the gaps for developers and construction teams on the ground to get to grips with BIM.

It’s now seven years since legislation mandating Building Information Modelling (BIM) workflows be used on government-commissioned projects was introduced, and the industry is certainly no stranger to the benefits of the technology.1 BIM is central to the improvements in productivity, efficiency and sustainability that we need to see across the sector, but it’s yet to be completely embraced across the board.

The equation for businesses considering adopting BIM workflows is more complex than seeing the benefits and flipping a switch – difficult market conditions and staff shortages in a sector already slow to embrace technology mean investment in new software is often passed over for more immediate concerns.

Even if decision makers are ready to make the switch, they are then faced with negotiating a plethora of different BIM platforms and the task of bringing everyone in their business up to speed. And this is where we see an important role for manufacturers to do more to make their products as accessible virtually as they are on site - softening the learning curve as a result.

The real deal

The value of BIM is that it enables seamless collaboration between different professions and stages of the construction process. A true-to-life model of a project (known as a digital twin) allows contractors and engineers to know exactly what they’re going to encounter when they arrive on site and where their work slots in.

On complex, large-scale projects, this means investing a significant amount of trust in the accuracy of the digital twin. Manufacturers can help settle some nerves by guaranteeing that the products that come off their assembly line match up to their digital counterparts. It’s something we very much see as a duty, with Wavin’s product packages verified with a BSI kitemark that testifies to their accuracy, for example.

Cutting through complexity

Although BIM paves the way for a simpler way of working, consolidating a variety of stakeholders into one plan that everyone can access throughout the project, the systems themselves can be complex. The most effective BIM workflows begin at the design stage, but for designers, specifiers and installers used to working with the real thing, it’s crucial that they’re able to achieve the same level of accuracy with the digital twin.

This is where BIM platforms need to lend a hand in the design process. The intelligent assistance and clash detection features are central to Wavin’s BIM offering. They allow designers the freedom to get to work without having to become an expert in the whole product portfolio, safe in the knowledge that they’ll be alerted when something doesn’t fit.

The long-term view

As buildings age and need to be maintained and repaired, the importance of BIM only grows. Here, an up to date and accurate digital twin is worth its weight in digital gold. The unfinished uptake of BIM is a handbrake on the growth of the entire industry – the technology is there, and it’s up to all of us to unlock its potential.