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How far has BIM come in the last 12 months?

by on April 25, 2014

It’s been almost a year since we last talked about BIM – building information modelling – and at that point the jury was very much still out on its importance to planning.

However, the latest annual report from the NBS, BIM is now ‘almost universal’, with 54% of those surveyed having used it in the last year, but a huge 93% of the respondents expecting to use it in the next 3 years.

You can download the free report from the NBS website but in the meantime I’d welcome your thoughts on whether anything has changed in relation to BIM and planning over the last 12 months.


  1. In my opinion, for the purposes of the planners, BIM has enabled viewer applications such as Graphisoft’s BIMx to be utilized, however for this to be fully exploited Council IT departments need to allow viewer apps to be installed and planning officers need to learn how to drive the viewer applications.

  2. Andrew Ashworth RIBA permalink

    what has this got to do with the majority of applications for small medium residential or commercial projects where there is no economic logic or substantiation??

    • David Smith permalink

      I couldn’t disagree more Andrew, BIM very much has it’s place in small / medium residential and commercial projects, I can only assume you are speaking as somebody who has limited experience in BIM and the efficiencies that it brings.

      • Andrew Ashworth RIBA permalink

        ok- thanks for your comments- I have no experience whatsoever!, but I can’t possibly see how I can substantiate (or absorbe) the costs of buying in/ learning how to use and applying a system like this on a one off residential basis-

  3. Edward McGill RIBA permalink

    I attended a planning committee meeting last week, where vertical scale of images projected on the screen for members to view was very, very much out of scale with horizontal (around 30%). A vertical as well as horizontal scale bar would have helped but no one appeared to notice. Extra info on over complex planning drawing made the situation worse than it already was, BIM was a step to far here.

    The meeting was barely able to vote as so few of the committee were able to attend due to more urgent matters, leaving a handful of dedicated elderly members who clearly struggled to understand what they were being shown. They failed to understand most of the problem was with badly projected images. The images were projected behind the planning staff who viewed applications on small laptops and were clearly not aware how silly it all looked from the public gallery.

    This problem was compounded when the images on the laptop froze and the planning officer had to hold up the meeting to download from the planning portal. The projected images from the portal appeared OK but without a vertical scale or dimensions who can tell? The officer was then was unable to enlarge the images for the mostly elderly committee members who had taken the trouble to attend to be able to view the often complex images projected on to the far too small small and distant screens.

    We need to manage the presentation of often complex data so that elected members can give a reasoned view and not rely on so much on planning officers telling them what they should be able to see dont we?To this end drawings and presentation must be clear and planning staff should make sure that elected members of the planning committee are given a fair and reasonable chance to view applications.

  4. BIM can have a useful input to the planning process. Not for the whole life cycle and information interrogation benefits but probably only for visualisation. Not just the building in isolation but for the surrounding environment / context, site levels, etc.

    I use ArchiCAD and export the 3D model as BIMx for clients and contractors. The majority of projects I work on are small scale residential and commercial, <£500k construction value.

    BIM was invaluable for a recent presentation at a hostile planning committee, a c£300k new build dwelling. The planning authority had quite an archaic, slow and under performing IT system but nevertheless had the means to present a 3D Sketchup model on four overhead projectors [each corner of the room] as they have the free Sketchup software installed. I exported the 3D model from ArchiCAD as a Sketchup model, emailed to the LPA prior to the committee and it worked straight off. At the committee I could then easily navigate / fly round the 3D model so everyone could understand the scheme in context. I also identified 'contentious' neighbouring dwellings in 3D re. overlooking and proximity etc. As a result it took seconds for people to understand and grasp the scheme. Very useful when opponents are tabling 2D photo montages that do not show the heights / levels correctly and the average age of the committee was about c75.

    It could have been easier if I could have connected my laptop to the projector and eliminated the Sketchup export process or there was proper BIM software to import an IFC model into.

    – Nationwide government task force [already one in existence I understand] to train LPA's and their IT department on BIM application, IFC, import, export, benefits, hardware and software requirements, software operation, etc.
    – All LPA's need to use an identical system / platforms so different agents can present at different LPA's and have the same system to hook up to.
    – Appropriate investment – the hardware requirements are generally quite high performance and can be costly, LPA's need to invest in suitable hardware. This will not be easy when central government are cutting local authority budgets year on year.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Tekla BIMSight = free BIM collaboration software.

    • Just a thought, If the LPA’s had IFC’s sent to them, they could build and hold a database of all the buildings produced using a BIM authoring package, and eventually create a model of their entire region. Albeit, its as only as good as the person who modeled the buildings in the first place.

  6. Ricki permalink

    Not sure what the missive about distorted graphics has to do with BIM? However as planning is nowhere near as detailed nor does it need to be as detailed as construction phase drawings or building regs drawings etc I don’t see certain clients using it, they just aren’t interested in building, merely getting permission and selling land, for this BIM is of no use, you need something quick and easy, sometimes I still revert to a pen, anyone remember them? In an ideal world where we all had infinite time to input everything into BIM it would be wonderful to have all of that data there to interrogate, as it stands not all of us are given such opportunities and neither is it wanted nor required of the task at hand. As with everything in life there is a tool for every occasion. I wouldn’t use BIM to edit my photos and I won’t be using it to do site locations plans, site plans etc, it may be because I’m an urban designer and I’m sure some landscape architects may agree, planning is not always about a building

  7. Arq permalink

    I’m sure the time will come when we’re all using BIM to some extent – I was a little reluctant about CAD back in the early ’90s but by the early 2000s and then no longer owning a drawing board I was pretty much committed to it. I still think it’s slower off the bat, but when one’s into the umpteenth revision and for measuring stuff it (CAD) comes into its own.

    BIM is clearly (and I don’t know much about it, to be fair) taking building design to the next level and I can imagine some applications where there would be some value-added benefit in the small-scale one-person-practice stuff I do.

    But, the ‘buts’ are tipping the balance well out of my way for now – the software is so costly to buy (from what I’ve seen) – until we’re back to some sensible fee levels and stronger future confidence it’s well beyond my reach. Furthermore, I feel quite strongly that the Planning process has become increasingly and un-necessarily complex for smaller scale stuff in recent times. This has doubtless been led by the level of reporting deemed necessary for developments with greater impact. Once BIM becomes as ‘universal’ as the NBS find (Since when does 54% using it mean it’s almost universal btw ? In three years time anything could have happened – including another recession. who was surveyed by the NBS ? Did this include one-person practices too ?) will this mean that energy efficiency modelling, life-cycle costing, perhaps various services issues (Noise ? Glass reflections ? Quantities of structural fixings ?) become part of the planning process too ? These kinds of things may well be of value on the multi-million ‘landmark’ commercial schemes but please, no more ‘additional reports’ for a basic, small scale bit of infill !

    The issue of presentation is an interesting one – at a recent Appeal we found that the Inspector was looking at drawings printed to the wrong scale (despite drawing notes and references in the pdf filename to try to ensure otherwise) and with sections missing because they’d been printed on the wrong size of paper. I’m far from a Luddite (I hope) but reserve the right to be skeptical of change for changes sake without a full and comprehensive understanding across all ‘viewers’ of the proposal that what they see is what they see. How many ‘lay’ people can actually read an orthographic drawing ? How many perspective/3D renderings are produced based on eye-level and from a relevant viewing position ? Lets not run too fast before we can properly walk !

  8. antonioperez606119653 permalink

    I use ArchiCAD too and export the 3D model as BIMx for clients, other times, i download 3d models from and same operation.

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