Insight

How can BIM help heritage projects?

10 January 2018 | By James Kenny

Lendlease is currently providing BIM services to the Imperial War Museum in London

James Kenny talks to Edonis Jesus, BIM leader at Lendlease, about her role as chair of industry group BIM4Heritage.

Edonis Jesus

What exactly is BIM4Heritage, when was it set up and who is involved?

BIM4Heritage is a special interest group, established in June 2016 within the BIM4Communities organisation to champion BIM within the historic built environment. BIM4Heritage is made up of various specialists, from within the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry, conservation, heritage bodies, academic departments and end-users.

Heritage organisations currently involved include the British Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, Houses of Parliament, National Trust, Ministry of Justice and English Heritage. Construction companies involved include Lendlease, Alan Baxter, Purcell, Ramboll and Arup. BIM4Heritage is also backed by the CIOB, RIBA and, from the higher education sector, UCL and the University of Reading.

Has BIM been used much in heritage projects?

BIM is often associated with the construction of new buildings, but is starting to be more used for refurbishment. At Lendlease, the consulting business is currently providing BIM services to the Imperial War Museum London and has in the past for the Royal Academy of Arts. We have also been working with the Houses of Parliament.

Other projects where BIM is being implemented include Edinburgh Castle, the Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art, Stratford House and the Natural History Museum. The Museum of London has also run a procurement competition lately in respect of identifying a BIM supplier.

What are the main barriers and difficulties for using BIM in heritage, and how can they be overcome?

The main barriers for BIM implementation in heritage are technology, a lack of standards for implementing BIM in the heritage sector, and a lack of classifications for heritage assets.

With technology, the main issue is not being able to represent existing assets accurately. For example, when you model a structure like a wall using BIM technologies, it’s all straight lines, but with historic buildings there is no such thing as a straight-line wall.

In terms of standards, PAS 1192 makes it easy to set up BIM Level 2 in a new build, but it lacks detail when it comes to dealing with existing assets. The standards don’t define the approach that should be taken for data capture and processing, what and how much information should to be collected.

When modelling in 3D, new-build projects have access to the NBS National BIM Library, but there is no equivalent for heritage, which often means modelling objects from scratch. When it comes to information requirements for conservation purposes, there is no guidance on what key information can inform conservation decision-making.

The BIM4Heritage group will meet software developers to discuss these issues and ask them to help us come up with solutions. The group is also developing standard LOD/LOI for heritage metric survey specifications and model production, and standard deliverable information requirements for heritage conservation, repair and maintenance processes, to overcome these barriers.

What is the potential of BIM when it comes to heritage and what is being done to increase its uptake?

BIM has huge potential. Not only does BIM enable collaboration, improve efficiency and drive up quality, but it can reduce the costs of complex build projects and ongoing repair and maintenance programmes. This is vitally important in the heritage sector, as so many of the clients are public sector organisations or charities for whom budgets are tighter than ever.

Easy access to information and data will allow us to better understand and preserve our heritage assets for future generations, enabling us to tell the unique stories of our past.

What plans does BIM4Heritage have for 2018 and promoting its use across the industry?

We are looking at branching outside the UK and getting input from other heritage professionals to share our work. We have contacted the EU BIM Task Group to discuss expanding the initiative across Europe.

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