At the start of the year, the Department for Education (DFE) hosted a supplier engagement event to discuss its plans for an ambitious £2 billion school building programme utilising offsite technologies. The DFE anticipates that the new framework will deliver up to 100 new schools per year by 2023.
At the core of the proposed framework will be a standardised design solution which uses Building Information Modelling (BIM) to generate a 3D design and specification. This is intended to clearly demonstrate how offsite methods can be combined to achieve the output goals.
This is just one of the ways that BIM is helping to revolutionise construction within the Education sector.
BIM is a process through which a digital model of a building is created and populated with information about its constituent construction elements. In highly detailed models, this can include everything from the positioning of plug sockets to thermal performance of insulation.
BIM compliance is separated into four different levels, from Level 0 (essentially 2D Computer Aided Design (CAD)) to the long-term goal of Level 3, where a single model is created which can be accessed by all members of a project team.
Since 2016, Level 2 BIM has been mandatory on all centrally procured public sector contracts.
The second level of BIM is where the collaborative element of the process really starts to come to the fore. Each company within the project team is required to create a 3D model of their parts of the project. The models are formed from BIM Objects representing the different construction materials. These can either be generic or product specific (such as our freely available product objects). They should contain as much information as possible about the product’s performance.
At distinct stages in the design process, the individual models are united within a single master model. This allows for issues such as clashes to be simply detected and rectified before work begins on-site.
The advantages offered by Level 2 BIM have already proven particularly beneficial for the unique requirements of the education sector.
Education projects are typically designed to fit around term dates and any delays can cause considerable extra disruption and cost for the pupils and facilities. The collaborative design approach delivered through BIM Level 2 means many issues can be ironed out before any work begins on site, reducing the potential for unexpected delays.
BIM Level 2 has also supported the increasing adoption of offsite methods such as the Kingspan TEK Building System. The Kingspan TEK Building System comprises high performance Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) which can be erected to form the shell walls and roof of a building. The panels are cut to each project’s unique dimensions by a Kingspan TEK Delivery Partner. In Level 2 BIM, the SIPs can be accurately recreated in digital form – ensuring all parties are happy with the precise design before they’re cut. This reduces the need for adjustments and waste once on-site.
The benefits have also been particularly noticeable in areas such as building services where large modules can now be fabricated offsite and installed in a single operation. This can allow more reliable project scheduling which is advantageous for projects taking place on a live school site – ensuring deliveries are timed to minimise disruption.
The on-going adoption of BIM is also helping to achieve considerable cost-savings. For example, the project team on the £55 million Bristol Business School reported they were able to achieve £2 million in up-front savings by interrogating their models and adopting alternative design solutions.
It is also helping to close the so called “performance gap” between design and as-built by requiring any changes to the specification to be integrated within the model. This provides a check against issues such as the introduction of lower-performing insulation products which allow higher levels of heat loss, raising the building’s energy demand and cost.
Longer-term, the model provides a lasting record of the complete construction which can be handed over to the individuals responsible for its upkeep. This can provide a single point of reference which can be updated if any work is being undertaken on the building in the future.
A Bright Future
Industry adoption of BIM is still a work in progress, however, the Government mandate in 2016 has undoubtedly quickened the pace. The most recent NBS National BIM Survey showed adoption had leaped to 74% from 48% three years earlier. In addition, 72% of those responding thought BIM would help to meet the government target of reducing the initial and whole life cost of building work by a third and 65% thought it could help to half project time scales. These benefits are all great news for the education sector and ensuring our learning facilities are fit for the future.