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Working together with extra BIM

Architects know all about collaboration on projects, and BIM can only help that

Collaboration has been essential to all the buildings my practice has delivered. The project team for one of our recent projects, Great Marlborough Street in Manchester, for example, a 37 storey student residential tower adjacent to Oxford Road Station, was delivered on time in 100 weeks, before the academic year began. This could only  have happened with no ‘them and us’ attitude, but a design team considering buildability issues, a contractor understanding the rationale behind the design concept, project risks clearly articulated, and the harnessing of design skills of specialist subcontractors.

Collaboration is central to architects’ work. I recently addressed the CIBSE Building Performance Conference on ‘Delivering future construction through collaboration and BIM’: speaking to the industry beyond architecture made me reflect on how we as a profession, and the RIBA itself, are invested in this way of working.

Driving reform in the construction industry has been a priority for our largest client, the government, with a major programme of work aimed at achieving greater efficiencies, cutting carbon, and creating a more integrated, collaborative sector. 

If they are to be met, a co-ordinated and collaborative approach from the professions is essential. At present, the construction ­industry continues to serve clients through building and then dismantling project teams. Two decades ago, the Latham Report advocated keeping the teams together so as to benefit from learning made on each project. 

If government plans to reform the industry are to be met, a co-ordinated and collaborative approach from the professions is essential

Through effective team working and collaboration, we understand how both individuals and practices work, their strengths and weaknesses; skills and experiences. Teams adapt to play to these strengths to improve the output for the client. When things go wrong, the effective team pulls together to resolve the issue and minimise the damage.

Clients expect teams to work together to deliver a design that achieves their operational and financial objectives. Effective collaboration improves delivery time, cost and certainty, as well as the experience and profit for those delivering the project.

The RIBA’s activity to support this way of working includes backing the adoption of BIM and collaborative processes in the UK industry. Effective BIM implementation can help design quality evaluation, resource management, team integration and innovation in off-site manufacture. The RIBA is investing heavily in BIM tools. For example, the NBS national BIM report provides an annual snapshot of industry progress on the pathway to level 3 BIM, the national BIM ­library is facilitating delivery of BIM product data, and the NBS BIM object standard is essential to inter-operability and collaboration. 

One of the most recent projects is NBS’ development of the national BIM tool in partnership with the Department for Business ­Innovation & Skills, with private sector stakeholders including BDP, Laing O’Rourke and Microsoft, and input from seven major professional institutes. It will tackle some remaining barriers to BIM progression, including classification systems and levels of definition.

And of course the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 is BIM ready.  It facilitates collaboration between the whole project team.  

Significant challenges remain if we are to see the full benefit of the digital economy. In a long recession, with tight margins, it is a financial challenge for architects, given that 75% of our chartered practices employ 10 ­architects or fewer. We have a shortage of architects with BIM skills. We need more work to unify cross-disciplinary standards. And we need to see greater investment, not just internally, but from client organisations too. 



The RIBA submitted its views to the government last month on introducing a new single space standard in England – something it has only considered because of the determined campaigning of the RIBA and many partners across the industry. Thank you to all those who contributed to the HomeWise campaign.