Osborne’s housebuilding plans need BIM
Pete Baxter says BIM needs to be embraced to offer an element of standardisation in housing provision.
This week’s Budget announcement from chancellor George Osborne was underpinned by the notion of building a resilient Britain. In light of the announcement that the Office for Budget Responsibility has revised growth figures to reflect predicted growth in the UK economy of 2.7% in 2014, it’s looking as if this year will be an opportunity to drive growth and innovation in the construction sector.
To further boost the news that house building is up by 23%, it’s great to hear that the government is planning an additional 200,000 homes in the UK to help ease the housing crisis, including extending the Help to Buy scheme to 2020, £200m to support the delivery of a 15,000-home “Garden City” at Ebbsfleet, and a £500m Builder’s Finance Fund for small housing projects. This poses a real opportunity for UK businesses to take advantage of our industry-leading standards and processes to secure more business for UK building and construction organisations and drive growth in this sector.
The positive shift in recent months in the housing market also presents further opportunities. News that funding is to be allocated to support urban regeneration – with a £150m loan fund to improve social housing estates – also offers an opportunity to approach these types of projects with innovative and sustainable designs to better support communities.
However, more still needs to be done to meet the housing deficit we face. Successive governments have struggled with ensuring a good supply of affordable, quality housing to satisfy the pent up demand in the market, without creating another housing bubble and the market challenges that creates.
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The government now needs to put more emphasis not just on the number of houses, but also the types of homes being built. While no one wants to see soulless monotonous prefabricated houses, we need to look at how an element of standardisation can be introduced to ensure consistency, quality and cost-effectiveness. However, this can only be achieved with a more widespread use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the construction industry. This is where the government should be playing a bigger role to encourage the industry’s widespread use of BIM.
The use of single model-based workflow can make it much easier for the different stakeholders in a project to collaborate, vital for getting quality houses built quickly and on a budget. Equally, for public sector projects, it means a standardised model for a range of buildings can be created as a BIM workflow, rather than having to go through an expensive consultation and design process each time.
With the announcement of the EU BIM mandate earlier this year, it’s also an opportunity for the UK building industry and its world-leading expertise in BIM to open up new export market opportunities for UK design and construction businesses – another key focus in Wednesday’s budget.
As part of the announcements, we also applaud the chancellor’s announcement of the £140m fund to support flood defence building and repairs desperately needed from the recent destruction caused by our extreme weather. It’s down to a cross section of organisations from the Environment Agency, local government, construction and engineering teams to work together to find efficient ways to protect ourselves for the future and help those still affected by this year’s problems to get back on track as quickly as possible.
Here, too, technology has a role to play in helping prepare for the future. We’re now in a position where advanced simulation technology can accurately predict which areas will flood, allowing us to see how flooding patterns can change based on the defences we put in place and development decisions we make. Simulation also means that we can better choose sites for new housing developments, picking locations where we know any flooding will be minimal, or where its impact can be reduced through flood management.
Pete Baxter is vice president and head of Autodesk UK