AutoBIM

Software plug-in tools that automate BIM workflows to improve consistency and increase adoption.

Last updated: 28th May 2021

Date uploaded:

Approved for use

Innovation Lead: Sherrie Rad
Project number: 104796
UKRI funding: £608,823

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Website:
autobim.co.uk/


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Summary

Inputting information into BIM can be a labourious process and a blocker to its wider use, particularly as data comes from many different sources in different formats. AutoBIM is a plug-in software solution that supports easier use and adoption of BIM for construction professionals. It automates task delivery plans; it provides an embodied carbon calculation tool; it has a health check tool to validate the quality of design data and spot gaps; and it has a risk alert tagging tool to share lessons learned. The software will support organisational BIM adoption, industry compliance and collaboration.

Innovation type: Digital, Process
Organisation type: Construction tier 1 contractors, Innovative SME, Research centre

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Project pioneers

Balfour Beatty is a major global infrastructure company which has recognised the wider industry issues and blockers to the adoption of BIM (Building Information Modelling) when working with its supply chains on complex projects.

The problem

In a 2017 survey, only 20% of clients were choosing to engage BIM for project delivery. BIM compliance is seen as laborious and time consuming, with manual input needed at the early stages of project start up. Even where BIM is used, some projects have only assembled digital information without fully realising the information management aspect - neglecting to provide either useful information for construction in the short-term, or data for asset management in the long-term. Added to that, the need for BIM is growing. Projects are generating increasing amounts of data as they shift to improved processes that are automated and make greater use of manufacturing methods. It can involve thousands of pieces of data from hundreds of different sources in different formats. How that data is collected, sorted and shared to greatest effect is a challenge. If it can be collected in a simple consistent and structured way, then partners can be aligned and aspects of the project can be carried out better.

Vision

Use of BIM will be intuitive and new workflows will provide seamless population of information systems that manage projects. Consistently-collected data will unlock automated information plans and automated calculation of embodied carbon. Design health checks and tagging of risks will be easier, as known issues from previous project data can be compared with the 3D design model. Lessons learned from previous projects will automatically be highlighted improving project delivery which will be faster with reduced errors.

Key Insight

Balfour Beatty looked at industry data that showed only 23% of clients on average were stipulating outputs or deliverables that followed a BIM process, and only 30% of those asked for it to be contractual. This is despite use of BIM being mandated in publicly procured projects, and indications that a strong digital offering equates to a 5% increased market share.

First step

Recognising that BIM is often seen as simply 3D modelling, Balfour Beatty formed a consortium with Hertfordshire University, Leeds Beckett University and White Frog Publishing (a BIM digital consultancy) to tackle the issue of inconsistent BIM delivery. A major issue was disjointed project information - which is the backbone of a BIM system, so Balfour Beatty hosted a series of stakeholder gathering workshops to harness the opinion as to what information could be consistently analysed utilising the BIM model to result in the maximum added value for the project. It was this that led to the development of the software tools.

Barrier

Using BIM on projects facilitates better exchange of information from design through to handover and ultimately management of a building or asset. The barrier to greater use of BIM is the labour intensive task of populating the data in the model at the start in a consistent way or the perception that it requires technical coding skills.

Digital Innovation

AutoBIM is made up of software plug-in tools to solve four distinct challenges in BIM:

  1. Automated Task Delivery Plans: This tool assists teams at the earliest stages of BIM Stage 2 compliance by automating the customer's Exchange Information Requirements (EIR) which sets out which party will be responsible for each data deliverable. It defines how data will be received from each project partner and ensures consistency of information.
  2. Model Health Check: The Health Checker tool validates the quality of design data in the models, and spots gaps. It standardises contractor required minimum design detail expectations and assesses what elements of the design are missing and prompts action.
  3. Carbon Calculator: This tool auto-calculates carbon impact of a 3D design by detecting the materials used in the model and components and automatically links the BIM data to embodied carbon data from the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) database, an online source which provides energy and embodied carbon information for construction materials. The tool allows designers to swap elements to improve decisions around embodied carbon. In addition, the platform allows users to input information from environmental product declarations sheets; verified and registered documents that provide transparent and comparable data about the environmental impact throughout the lifecycle of a product or material.
  4. Model Risk Tagging: This tool is a pre-coded learning platform that tags the BIM model by element with relevant hazards using Health and Safety Fatal Risk Register data. It enables lesson learning from previous projects to manage out risks.

Collaborators

Balfour Beatty is a leading international infrastructure group, who finance, develop, build and maintain innovative and efficient infrastructure that underpins daily life, supports communities and enables economic growth. Hertfordshire University and Leeds Beckett University are public research universities and the academic partners on this project. White Frog Publishing Ltd is an independent BIM digital consultancy, offering industry-approved, international standard, technology-driven BIM training, based in Leeds.

  • Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick
  • Hertfordshire University
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • White Frog Publishing

Lead support

The Transforming Construction Challenge Fund supported the development of the new tools.

Long Term Vision

The AutoBIM software will support organisational BIM adoption, industry compliance and collaboration. It will help with seamless project management as well as consistent, automated data collection and calculation. Tagging of risks will be easier and lessons learned from previous projects will automatically be highlighted improving project delivery which will be faster with reduced errors.

Human Stories

Project teams can view the labourious upload of data as a barrier to the adoption of BIM. AutoBIM can remove this time-consuming element, freeing up teams to focus on other priority tasks and work to the most accurate and consistent data. AutoBIM also enables automated risk tagging, drawing on lessons learned from previous projects and reducing safety risks.

Powerful Processes

AutoBIM is a plug-in software solution that creates four easy routes into BIM for construction professionals. It automates task delivery plans; it provides an embodied carbon calculation tool; it offers a design health check system; and it has a risk alert tagging tool to share lessons learned. 

Fascinating Facts

The AutoBIM Carbon Calculator is currently being trialled across four of Balfour Beatty’s projects. During trials on live projects, the use of this tool has evidenced a potential saving of up to 14% embodied carbon through more informed design choices.

Benefits

Cost
Fully collaborative and data-rich BIM can lower project costs by 33%(Government Construction Strategy, 2011). The AutoBIM tools aim to inspire and support the industry's adoption of BIM through its enhanced standardisation, that generates efficient procurement savings. It's coordinated consistent standard of information will eliminate issues that lead to rework, which accounts for about 5% of cost over-run (Hwang, 2012).

Emissions
The AutoBIM Carbon Calculator is currently being trialled across four of Balfour Beatty’s projects. During trials on live projects, the use of this tool has evidenced a potential saving of up to 14% embodied carbon through more informed design choices.

Safety
Automated risk tagging from previous projects ensures lessons learned are carried forward and safety risks are reduced.