The newly published Hackitt Review into regulations and building safety says that BIM should be mandated in the design and construction and operation of all new high rise residential buildings over 10 storeys and their refurbishments.
The creation of a digital set of records was one of more than 50 recommendations set out in Dame Judith Hackitt’s Review, Building a Safer Future, commissioned by the government following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. She said clients should lead this digital transformation.
In what would be a huge change for the housing sector, where digital processes have been slower to catch on, Dame Judith is demanding the use of BIM as a tool to ensure there is a “golden thread of information” that runs through the project from design, completion, and operation.
She criticises current situation where it is difficult to know who is responsible for making decisions and changes that can lead to unsafe buildings.
The Review says: “Government should mandate a digital (by default) standard of record-keeping for the design, construction and during the occupation of new HRRBs [higher risk residential buildings of 10 storeys or more]. This is to include any subsequent refurbishments within those buildings.”
Importantly, Hackitt also makes the point that “digital records are to be in a format which is appropriately open and non-proprietary with proportionate security controls”.
The Review says that the information will be used by key people responsible for building safety in beefed up CDM Regulations, to report to a new regulatory authority. This is to be called the Joint Competence Authority which will be formed from Building Control (to be called Building Standards); the HSE and the fire services.
“The information must be transferred when building ownership changes to ensure that the golden thread of information persists throughout the building life cycle.
“Government should work with industry to agree the type of information to be collected and maintained digitally (by default) to enable the safe building management of existing HRRBs.”
“Dutyholders must identify and record where gaps in the above information exist and the strategy for updating that relevant information.”
“A BIM system will enable the dutyholder to ensure accuracy and quality of design and construction, which are crucial for building in safety up front.
“Having BIM-enabled datasets during occupation means that dutyholders will have a suitable evidence base through which to deliver their responsibilities and maintain safety and integrity throughout the life-cycle of a building. Information can be updated as and when changes are made during the building life-cycle.”
Housing has been one of the slowest sectors to adopt BIM, with low uptake in both the public and private sector. Even publicly funded projects in housing have not been covered by the Level 2 BIM mandate introduced in April 2016 and covering central government-funded schemes.
While the Hackitt Review says the report notionally covers higher risk residential buildings in multiple occupancy over 10 storeys, which could include student accommodation and other dwelling types, Dame Judith makes it clear that the application of her recommendations could go much wider should the industry wish it.
The Review stresses the need for clients to lead: “It is important for the client or asset owner to specify a requirement to deliver information, or work in a BIM-compliant fashion. The client needs to set the requirement at contract initiation stage. If it is left to the supply chain it may not be as effective.”
Responding to the publication of the Review, Andrew Carpenter, chair of BIM4Housing, a coalition of organisations from across the housing sector working to support the implementation of BIM, said: “It is welcome news that in Dame Judith’s report she recommends that key safety and quality information must be stored and maintained digitally.
“This has real potential to significantly improve the quality and efficiency of building and maintaining homes and will be crucial to establishing a ‘golden thread’ of risk management and responsibility throughout the building lifecycle.
“BIM4Housing is ready to work with government and the housing sector to ensure this recommendation is now implemented.”
However, Peter Barker, managing director of BIM Academy, warned that clients will need to wake up to its use. He said: “Broadly I think this a move in the right direction, however it’s all very well mandating the use of BIM to create a more comprehensive and reliable digital record of the built asset, but BIM doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
“This approach will only work if it is correctly articulated by better informed clients and through better procurement methods and then rigorously enforced through contractual and commercial imperatives. It also needs the industry to stop paying only lip service to Level 2 and fully embrace this approach, after nearly seven years of dancing round the initiative.
John Adams, head of BIM services at BIM Strategy, said: “If accelerating towards BIM Level 2 as a default might stop the same happening again, we surely have to adopt the recommendations without delay.”
Dame Judith did not set a specific timetable for the use of BIM. Instead she called for phased adoption. She said: “Many developers will already have the capability to adopt these standards immediately. However, where they do not, it is important to adopt a realistic timeline to successfully implement such a standard throughout industry.
“This phased adoption will give industry the time it needs to adapt to these new standards, while taking into account other time restrictive factors such as the increase in skills required across the sector.”