Balfour Beatty BIM
The road less travelled: Balfours uses BIM to generate information from early in a project

Balfour Beatty joins universities to tackle BIM inertia

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Nicholas Fearn

Construction giant Balfour Beatty has joined forces with two universities to develop a building information modelling application.

Leeds Beckett University and Coventry University will work with the said on an automated solution to “tackle the challenges faced by the construction industry”. BIM utilises 3D modelling to help real estate firms streamline the way in which they plan, design, construct and manage buildings and infrastructure.

However, according to Balfour Beatty, the construction and real estate industries haven’t fully embraced this technology due to “a lack of access to the level of design information required at an early stage to effectively use the tool”.

Balfour Beatty is looking to change this through its higher education initiative, which will see it work with university experts to explore how BIM can be automated with a plug-in software solution.

Another aim of the project is to help users comply with industry standards, as well as reduce the time and cost of construction, by adopting BIM as part of the UK Government’s Construction 2025 Strategy.

Rachel Sudlow, project lead and continuous improvement project manager at Balfour Beatty, said: “As an industry leader in the development and integration of BIM, the new automated software tool is yet another step forward in driving change and allowing the industry to fully realise and enjoy the benefits of BIM across complex infrastructure and building schemes.

“Balfour Beatty has been using BIM for the last decade; drawing on our expertise and application of digital technologies, we’re proud to be collaborating with our partners to develop a solution which will benefit the industry as a whole, both clients and contractors alike.”

Balfour said the developed software will “automatically populate the 3D representation of products or elements with the appropriate building information”.

This, it went on to explain, will simplify the “process of sharing data between design, procurement, maintenance and operation teams” and allow “for increased predictability of building performance through more detailed asset planning”.

The project is being supported by a £12.5m investment programme organised by Innovate UK and financed by the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which aims to improve productivity, quality and performance in the construction sector.

The research will develop the automated BIM solution over the next two years and share the results of the project in 2021.

Dr Saheed Ajayi, senior lecturer in the School of Built Environment + Engineering at Leeds Beckett and the academic leader of the project, added: “The challenges companies are facing include: the learning curve embracing the new technology and getting everyone involved to use it; the need to comply with set standards and codes of practice; and the need for sufficient information about the building to accompany its 3D representation.

“Companies do not know what format the information should be in and how much information to include – there is currently no standardisation. Through the research and innovation with Balfour Beatty, we are pleased to present this solution to the industry.”

Other firms selected for Innovate UK’s construction competition include digital communities firm GlobalCom, London-based construction site data producer Contilio, automated construction specialist Easi-Space, software company Trimble Solutions and structural steel giant Severfield.

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