Is Retail Leading The Way With BIM?

April 2017 marked the first anniversary of The UK Government’s BIM Level 2 mandate that set out to change how the UK’s construction industry embraced the digitisation of Building Information Management, ensuring that a certain level of compliancy was followed across the whole public sector.

This mandate was formulated during tumultuous times in the UK. Facing a post-financial collapse economy, the construction industry had no option but to modernise methods of information management, with some sectors showing a damaging reluctance to follow contemporary methods of digitisation. Collaboration, accuracy and security are areas that are specifically targeted by the BIM Level 2 mandate, to ensure the industry adopts best-practice in terms of sharing and communicating crucial construction data.

The spotlight has been on the construction industry since the BIM mandate was put in place, but the retail sector in particular has been working well ahead of its time in terms of BIM compliancy thanks to revolutionary property information software like Elecosoft’s IconSystem. The IconSystem is a web-based building information management system which is used from concept design stage, through construction, fit-out and then for on-going property management. It enables users to save time and money by storing all specifications, design standards, surveys, registers and portfolios in one easy-to-use, easy-to-access and easy-to-share platform. The system is intelligently designed to ensure only the most accurate data is available to be viewed, shared and communicated with the correct people, in one secure environment. It doesn’t just help its users achieve BIM Level 2 - it goes above and beyond to provide a completely streamlined, efficient and pioneering solution at every level.

Where the BIM mandate only calls for a 3D model of a property, retailers are benefiting from the IconSystem’s ability to deliver 6D information where they can incorporate Time Management (4D) by linking the IconSystem with Elecosoft Powerproject) Cost Management (5D) by linking the IconSystem with Elecosoft Bidcon, and end-to-end Product Lifecycle Information Management, including ‘as built’ component information (6D) via the IconSystem.

The IconSystem has been used by top retailers for the past 20 years, with 7 of the top 10 retailers in the UK now relying on the system. Sainsbury’s, one of Elecosoft’s valued clients, first started using the IconSystem in 2004, well before any BIM mandate was put in place - but the key guiding principles that the IconSystem was originally built upon, remain integral to their service and delivery to this day. With the IconSystem Specs & Standards Solution, Sainsbury’s have successfully managed their new store specifications for over 12 years, with the system now holding over 10,000 live and 13,500 historical specifications. Speaking of the system’s benefits, Clive Proctor, Specifications Manager at Sainsbury’s commented “Before the introduction of the Specs & Standards application our information was spread around various contractors and internal databases with no clear ownership. Without the system, it would be impossible to accurately track changes and the associated costs which these can incur.

With retail far ahead of other sectors in the construction industry, pressure has been placed on the public sector to catch up. Studies such as ‘The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model’ (Farmer, 2016) show that currently there is a significant reality gap when it comes to the industry’s adoption strategies for BIM. The report states that: “...investment in and adoption of BIM is being stymied, with some notable exceptions, by all of the issues highlighted already around lack of willingness to invest, collaborate and the inability to see the bigger picture business case.” There is significant evidence that the potential of BIM is often underestimated, and misunderstood. However, Elecosoft’s IconSystem has already been leading the way to help sectors other than retail revolutionise how their data is managed and shared. 

As an example, leading retirement property builder, McCarthy & Stone recently became the first house builder in the UK to fully realise the potential of BIM following their partnership with Elecosoft. The IconSystem introduced both process and technical innovation to increase the consistency of information from product development through to management services. The system’s implementation has set McCarthy & Stone as a forerunner in its sector, further proving the potential of BIM for other house builders. McCarthy & Stone are already seeing a strong ROI from their partnership with Elecosoft and are looking forward to the system delivering further efficiencies within their business.

One year on from the BIM mandate, figures look promising, with more and more professionals applying best practice to improve data management. Commenting on the anniversary for Building.co.uk (2017), PCSG Chairman Mark Bew said “The mandated use of BIM Level 2 was central to starting this ball rolling, we are now the envy of the world and the UK has the biggest cohort of skilled data-aware engineers, designers and suppliers which places us at the front of the queue to capitalise on the next stage.

The IconSystem is specifically designed to increase efficiency across a number of different sectors, including education, healthcare, transport, leisure, hospitality and foodservice, not just for retail. Elecosoft are looking for more innovative companies to realise the full potential of BIM, and to continue the success of this turning point in the industry. With retail so technologically far ahead, there is much for others to learn about property and building information management, and Elecosoft are leading the way in making this possible for sectors across the construction industry.