l have written previously about about the various "big data" issues that need to be managed from a legal standpoint in an earlier post. One of the practical ways that data can be harnessed in the construction industry is by using Building Information Modelling. BIM (in brief) is a set of technologies and processes enabling multiple stakeholders to collaborate in a virtual space.
Having all information about a particular building in one digital space is very useful, not only during construction, but also from the design stage through to occupation of the completed development. This has been highlighted by recent research undertaken by NBS as reported in the Construction News article below – with a significant proportion of respondents saying that BIM will be used to assist with compliance with the 'golden thread' rules, coming into force as part of the Building Safety Bill.
The golden thread refers to both:
- The information about a building that allows someone to understand a building and keep it safe; and
- The information management to ensure the information is accurate, easily understandable, can be accessed by those who need it and is up to date.
With that in mind, it is very easy to see the appeal and benefit of having a collaborative virtual space. Having a space which can be updated throughout the life of a building is probably preferable to the traditional health and safety file. This is especially true when it comes to the second limb of the golden thread – compliance with that will be very difficult if the information is in the form of a paper file which needs to be updated, copied and sent to everyone who needs it every time the building undergoes any work or ownership changes.
Whilst BIM can be a very useful tool it should not be viewed as a silver bullet to achieve compliance with the legislation, and all duty-holders will need to take an active (and continuing) role in ensuring that information is provided to occupiers in a compliant manner. The use of BIM both in compliance with this legislation and generally in relation to other types of building also needs careful planning to ensure that different problems are not created.
Nearly eight in 10 of respondents said they felt they would need to be working with digital software for the golden thread technique to work, while seven in 10 said they will have to use building information modelling (BIM) methods to help them with the golden thread. Three quarters said they thought using digital technology was helping make the built environment safer.