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Realising the benefits of BIM in the water industry

18th April

The UK Government Construction 2025 strategy recognises Building Information Modelling (BIM) as a contributor to delivering 33 per cent cost reductions in construction and operations, and 50 per cent faster delivery from conception to completion. With BIM expected to drastically improve efficiency of construction projects, what else is the process capable of changing?

Here, Glyn Shawcross engineering and design director at engineering solutions provider Boulting Ltd explains why BIM is redefining the water industry and how digital technologies are driving opportunities throughout the asset management cycle.

BIM is already radically changing how capital projects are delivered and is often spoken of in relation of government guidelines, which have been mandating its use on projects since 2016.

In fact, following the government directive for BIM Level Two on centrally procured construction projects, the method has gained considerable recognition from other industries. As with any other technological advancement, software licences and computer power can prove costly, as can the required training. But with the industry knowledge and expertise of a solutions provider that incorporates BIM into the design and build of its projects, such as Boulting Ltd, it is also possible for the water industry.

Typically, BIM is a process of creating and managing a project’s information, to produce a model that contains a digital description of every asset. Building on 3D modelling, BIM includes the data behind the model. In addition to the benefits of a 3D model, such as physical coordination, BIM brings together data at the required level of detail, making it accessible to all involved parties.

Deeper than 3D

In addition to perceptions that BIM is best suited to new-build projects, it is all too often perceived as being principally about impressive 3D graphics. While this isn’t untrue, the crucial fact that these models are embedded with valuable data is often overlooked.

In the water industry, things go a little deeper. BIM is also about better information management across the asset lifecycle as well as the recognition that we are moving into a data driven digital world.

When applied in operations and project delivery, BIM is able to produce may benefits for end users. For example, using digital technology allows utility managers to better engage with customers, letting them know of any future water works or maintenance that may affect them.

BIM also means that asset maintenance becomes less reactive, improving the level of service that utility managers can provide to customers by reducing the risk of water issues such as sewer flooding.

Doing more with data

BIM also holds the potential to help operators deliver big-scale projects more competently, reasonably and more speedily. According to BIM4Water — a dedicated volunteer group that works to devise a strategy for the sector — BIM makes data more user-friendly and gives operators a better understanding as to why it’s important.

By providing operators and maintenance teams with a semi-automated data capture validation tool, rather than requiring them to manipulate data from traditional paper-based maintenance manuals, the quality of information is increased. Traditionally, projects often operate in a silo environment. The consequence of this is that where there is a repeatable solution involving the same data being used, the same information is delivered by different projects.

This replication of data is both wasteful in terms of time and cost, and harms capital efficiency as it unnecessarily adds to the amount of data that operators are expected to manage and maintain. In a BIM process, data handlers share responsibility to ensure that data is open, accurate and accessible across the asset’s lifecycle, so every operator and maintenance team member is on the same page of a project.

As the water industry heads into a more digitalised future, it must consider how its projects are managed. Regardless of whether a current project mandates the use of BIM, ensuring your business is BIM-enabled and that your operators understand its benefits will ensure the best service is provided to each customer, operator and maintenance team member involved in any project.


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