BIM Levels: What are they, and should I care?

Matthew Griffiths

January 14th, 2022
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Building Information Modelling is hardly a short and catchy title that flows off the tongue like mercury off of silk.

It’s certainly not catchy enough for us builder types and therefore is generally abbreviated to its more commonly known name of BIM, pronounced like ‘Tim’ or ‘Kim’.

BIM is catchy in name and function. It is a data system to ‘catch’ all the detail and data required to construct houses, apartment blocks, tunnels, roads, bridges, ports, utilities (water, electricity, gas and comms networks), to name a few.

Firstly, what is BIM?

What Is BIM?

Conceived in the 1970s, BIM is a management system for construction and operational information across a range of projects.

The practice captures the employer information requirements (EIR) by utilising technology.

Categorised across four levels (0,1, 2 & 3), BIM aims to improve and facilitate collecting information required on a project.

In effect, everything you need to plot, construct and then occupy a building is collated, wrapped up and presented in a neat and detailed 3D model following input from project stakeholders such as architects, engineers, MEP, surveyors.

BIM allows a design team to work more collaboratively on one federated model, enabling better decisions for the building design and future operation.

BIM is standardised under ISO 19650, BIM aids collision detection, allowing for easier identification of discrepancies. In addition, it will enable a federated approach from the project stakeholders, along with opportunities to pre-fabricate or pre-assemble some systems off-site.

The BIM Framework

The UK BIM Framework details how to implement BIM in the UK and includes:

  • standards required to implement BIM in the UK
  • UK BIM Guidance Framework
  • Links to other resources

The organisation is a collaboration between BSI, CDBB and the UK BIM Alliance and splits BIM into four segments:

a) Design – input from the appointed designers, using best practice information management to improve the design of buildings, homes and infrastructure.

b) Build – during the construction period, utilise the latest and best digital construction and manufacturing methods and technologies. Embracing the sharing of information allows clients, designers, suppliers, and the construction team to work more closely to improve quality, productivity, and safety.

c) Operate – BIM allows you to use real-time information that integrates the construction project. As a result, performance can be monitored and issues foreseen and corrected before any impact is or disruption of services and performance is suffered.

d) Integrate – to utilise information and understand how to improve the use of space and services to enhance the quality of life.

BIM Levels

In construction, we like levels and not just those in a high-rise tower in the City. We’ve looked at levels used to design building, RIBA’s eight stages in Design Now, Save Later. BIM is no different. It’s split into four levels, starting at ground zero and up to level three.

Level 0 BIM –

  • The base-level where BIM is yet to be utilised due to no collaboration.
  • Designs are traditional 2D CAD drafted.
  • This Level of design and BIM is distributed and used through paper printouts and PDFs on electronic devices such as computers and tablets.
  • Level 0 BIM equates to RIBA Stage 4 Technical Design. See in article Design Now, Save Later.

Level 1 BIM –

  • Collaboration remains limited, if at all.
  • Taking 2D drafting and advancing to bring forward elements that are 3D CAD.
  • 2D drafting is used to gain statutory approval.
  • 3D at this stage is used for concept production.
  • CAD standards are required to meet British Standards 1192:2007.
  • Electronic sharing commences, generally via Common Data Environment (CDE).
  • CDE is an electronic storage system.
  • Guidelines to achieve Level 1 BIM
    • Roles and responsibilities of project stakeholders assigned and outlined.
    • Adopting standardised naming protocol
    • Creation and implementation of project-specific code and spatial coordination
    • Adoption of an electronic document management system
    • Establish and implement information hierarchy aligned with CDE

Level 2 BIM – Superseded by UK BIM Framework in 2018

  • Collaborative working is promoted – improving project coordination between various systems and project participants.
  • It is required for public sector projects by UK Government.
  • Each stakeholder has their own 3D CAD model.
  • A project-specific data storage.
  • Data and information exchange system is required, coordinated and managed between the system of those working on and inputting to the project: streamlining information exchange and access.
  • CAD software being used must allow for information to be exported to common files.
  • A federated BIM model combines information from the different stakeholders and design teams.
  • Standard systems like IFC (Industry Foundation Class) or COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange).
  • Guidelines to achieve Level 2 BIM
    • Achieve all guidelines for Level 1 BIM
    • Install CAD software that supports the common file formats

Level 3 BIM

  • High levels of collaboration.
  • Works can be carried out on a single primary model, simultaneously, online.
  • Information includes design,
  • project sequencing,
  • Project costs.
  • Life-cycle management, cost and carbon footprint (CO2).
  • Minimising the risk for abortive works or clashes in design etc., from multiple models not aligning.
  • Level 3 helps support accelerated delivery of smart cities, services and grids.
  • Guidelines to achieve Level 3 BIM
    • Enable information sharing
    • Framework to enable collaboration
    • As defined in the UK Government Level 3 Strategic Plan – public sector client training.

Level 3 has been further divided into several key development stages:

  • Level 3A: Enabling improvements in the Level 2 model.
  • Level 3B: Enabling new technologies and systems.
  • Level 3C: Enabling the development of new business models.
  • Level 3D: Capitalising on world leadership.

Should I Care

Absolutely. BIM will aid the efficiency of a project and reduce costs and delivery times. It is the future with the UK government putting a significant emphasis on integrating BIM in future public sector works and within the construction industry as a whole.

By promoting and enabling the stakeholders of a project, particularly its design team, to work more closely together on a single model ensures that the result is a more comprehensive design, avoiding design clashes and errors.

By centralising and managing the project information, those stakeholders can access the most up to date project data in one place, omitting the chances or working off superseded and outdated information. This, in turn, reduces the risk of abortive works and costs.

BIM allows for better future management and for new technologies to be more easily incorporated at the design stage or late in the assets life-cycle.

This approach enables more cohesive project planning and construction programming.

A comprehensive pack of information can be provided at the handover stage through BIM.

Photo by Eran Menashri on Unsplash

About Matthew Griffiths

Matthew takes great pleasure in combining his two professions. One has seen him give two decades of service to the construction industry, from roles as an Estimator through to sitting on Boards. The second is his passion for the written word. He now has the best of both worlds, building homes and constructing written content.

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