BIM levels explained

Breaking down BIM levels

The age of digitalisation has made Building Information Modelling (BIM) an essential collaborative process for major construction and infrastructure projects. The BIM process is used to collect data in all of its forms in a central space allowing for data aggregation, collaborative work, and a single source of the truth. While BIM has become increasingly popular over the past twenty years, it has been adopted to different degrees.

The concept of ‘BIM Levels’ was designed to outline a criteria for compliance for publicly funded construction projects and create an industry standard definitions for the different levels of BIM adoption. While there’s still some debate when it comes to the exact parameters of each level, the 0 to 3 BIM Level structure outlines recognisable milestones throughout the BIM process that are essential for efficient collaboration.

Navigating the BIM process

The aim of the BIM process is to facilitate collaborative work that drives overall project efficiency. The decision of whether or not to use BIM is usually decided in the pre-design phase, however, it has become the industry standard and is currently used to some degree in most construction projects. Depending on the project scope and location, such as the UK, a particular level of BIM may be required for funding compliance so it’s important to be aware of this when deciding what level of BIM is appropriate for a project.

In the design phase of a construction project, information-rich BIM features such as 4D and 5D are important for scheduling and estimating. These tasks are very time-consuming and error-prone when done with 2D models alone.

Utilising BIM can help construction projects avoid two of the industry’s biggest pain points — going over time and over budget. When used appropriately, these BIM features can save valuable time and money by helping projects stay on track during the construction phase. Strong collaboration between stakeholders in the design and construction phases can also help proactively avoid any potential errors or clashes that could cause problems down the road.

The BIM process bridges information silos and helps stakeholders work together more efficiently throughout the project lifecycle. A crucial component in complex projects, the different levels of the BIM process have been outlined and classified in order to ensure consistency throughout the industry.

What are the different levels for BIM?

Level 0

Simply put, Level 0 BIM is a lack of BIM and collaboration. As the digitalisation of the construction industry has made collaboration easier, it’s rare for projects to still fall into the Level 0 BIM category. At this level, most data is in the form of 2D computer-aided design (CAD) drawings and all information is documented and exchanged on paper. Operating at this level of BIM will make scheduling and estimating very difficult.

Level 1

Level 1 BIM is a step further when it comes to collaborative working but there’s still some distance. A basic common data environment (CDE) as well as 2D and 3D CADs are commonly used. Additionally, adopting naming conventions, outlining roles and responsibilities, creating and maintaining project codes and spatial coordination, and following an informational hierarchy are all necessary to reach Level 1 BIM classification. While this level may be sufficient for smaller projects, it lacks the common data structure and processes required to reach full-cooperation compliance.

Level 2

As of April 2016, Level 2 BIM is required for all public sector construction projects in the UK and compliance must be demonstrated in order to receive funding from the Treasury. This level of BIM includes a high level of collaboration and processes. Any CAD software used must be capable of exporting in common file formats and all data is shared in common data structure.

Level 3

Defining Level 3 BIM is still a work in progress. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘open BIM’ and revolves around the idea of open data sharing. The vision for Level 3 BIM is full collaboration throughout the planning, construction, and operation phases of a built asset as well as a single source of truth for all data.

Defining BIM

leading to a successful BIM process

Standardising the BIM Levels not only provides governments with a way to mandate compliance for public sector funding, but it also offers a framework of demonstrable progression for the industry. Full digitalisation doesn’t happen overnight. It requires many factors such as finding the right software partner, establishing processes, training, and more.

Having a standard set of progressive milestones to hit can help construction businesses and stakeholders clearly see what steps need to be taken to reach the next level and give them a better understanding of where they stand in the industry. This awareness of the different levels of BIM adoption can drive improvements in the BIM process and help construction companies stay competitive.

BIM levels isn’t the only internationally recognised framework used to standardise BIM and CDEs. ISO 19650, which is derived from British BIM standard BS 1192 which outlined the BIM levels, is quickly becoming the new global industry standard.  DIN EN ISO 29481 and DIN SPEC 91391 are also commonly used international frameworks.

Learn about Thinkproject’s BIM solutions and how they can take your construction projects to the next level here.

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