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For the greater good

This year’s BSRIA briefing focused on the pertinent subject of integrated solutions and the need for designers, builders and installers to engage in new technologies and processes, says Julian Milnes

Building Integration Modelling (BIM) isn’t just a buzzword – it brings a cohesive strategy to building and running a building for the greater gains of performance and efficiency, and is more relevant than ever.

This was the issue explored in depth by high-profile speakers at this year’s BSRIA briefing.

BSRIA chairman Julia Evans opened the event, stressing that the issues of energy and energy supply will be key concerns for the industry in the coming years, together with the flow of information and how to use it.

Mrs Evans said: “Stronger links with clients will also become necessary in order to enable a more cohesive project. This will allow all parties to pull in the same direction for the greater good. We will also see further understanding of human behaviour in the context of building usage and how this can further influence the design and the operation of the building.”

Mrs Evans said that there had previously been a lack of consideration when pooling together different elements: “Sometimes we have committed resources in the past, but without really knowing why.”

Next to speak was Munish Datta, head of Plan A and facilities management at Marks and Spencer, who explained that with 1,300 buildings on the books, the company’s approach was geared round whole lifecycle to ensure it operates efficiently.

Mr Datta added that the subject of carbon reduction shouldn’t be the sole focus. “It isn’t just about carbon in buildings – there should be a holistic approach to the whole issue of building efficiency if you want to make real gains across the board.

Since the launch of Plan A 2020, we have improved energy efficiency by 34 per cent and reduced carbon emissions in the refrigeration by more than 70 per cent, plus we aim to take this further with doors on fridges, which we are currently trialling.”

Mr Datta also warned that the process of improving buildings and their efficiency will only work if everyone is brought on board, no matter how small their size or role. “We assess contractors and ethically audit all suppliers to ensure they fit in with our philosophy. We have to be reassured they buy into our vision.”

He added that while capital expenditure plays a major part in influencing decisions, “you have to see past that”.

Supply chain collaboration

Mr Datta said: “The industry does not tend to completely link all boxes – design, construction, operation, measure and monitor – but all parties need to work together to make sure a building performs. The key is supply chain collaboration.”

Terry Stocks, director for Level 2 BIM HM Government BIM task group and head of project delivery at the Ministry of Justice, highlighted that the government and the industry has been through a tough period since 2008 and that while we are starting to emerge from the recession, finances are still under pressure and therefore an industry strategy is very much needed.

“Central government is taking the lead in this construction strategy, with the demand to drive down project costs by 20 per cent being only one part of the story. Central government is also promoting early contractor involvement, emphasising that this expertise is needed at the earliest stage,” said Mr Stocks.

Mr Stocks added that the client needs to start pulling the industry into the next stage, enabling the industry to push the rest of the way. He concluded: “For BIM to be successful across the whole industry then we need to see better working relationships – tenderers and supply chain need to work together to create a common data environment they can both learn from.”

Professor Rosalind Searle from Coventry University said: “The key for any relationship, including that of brand perception, is trust. Trust is about trustworthiness, which itself has different dimensions. Firstly, capability – whether we trust a task to be done. Secondly, benevolence – trust is based on whether we feel respected and cared for.”

Closing the event was Ian Orme, head of BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group, who took a different approach to the other speakers. He looked at the evaluation of buildings, trying to understand why buildings do what they do. As Mr Orme highlighted, there is a wealth of new technologies going into buildings such as solar thermal, biomass boilers and smart meters.

“With these new technologies we should be developing new processes but we’re using old processes and in some cases seeing old problems. As an industry we have ongoing issues with defects, but how do we get away from this? How do we make our buildings better?” said Mr Orme.

Mr Orme explained these old defects exist for a number of reasons, such as the restrictions of planning requirements, carbon reduction targets and limitations on budgets. To close the gap completely, he said, clear leadership is needed, as well as integrating processes and teams.

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