May 16, 2020

How is BIM continually transforming construction?

Catherine Sturman
5 min
Building information modelling
Building Information Modelling (BIM) has hit the UK construction industry with full force since the government implemented the BIM Level 2 mandate as a...

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has hit the UK construction industry with full force since the government implemented the BIM Level 2 mandate as a minimum requirement within construction and design companies back in April 2016.

This approach and transformation has since been felt worldwide, altering the way in which designers, architects and construction workers collaborate and utilise data, increasing performance and enabling sufficient cost savings through the reduction in unnecessary waste. Originating from traditional CAD software, BIM 3D modelling has since enabled the development of tools and processes which have influenced industry standards and required training, with the aim to also improve the quality of information provided throughout various operations. 

Responsible for delivering a large number of 3D projects within a number of architectural practices, such as Lovett Fields in Milton Keynes, is Director of BIM at the Building Research Establishment (BRE), Paul Oakley. Also encompassing a background in consultancy, Oakley is behind the implementation of the entire BIM agenda and UK Construction Project Information Committee (CPIC), which has enabled the creation of standards and development of current BIM processes. He has also been spearheading the development of new software which will ensure sufficient cost savings within new and upcoming projects. He says: “I’ve worked not only with designers and architects, but for contractors and manufacturers, all with different points of view.”

BIM Level 2 has now been in operation for over a year, where BRE has been continually working to resolve a number of challenges within standardising methods and procedures. Oakley discusses the current issues of delivering efficient BIM data, placing increased emphasis on the regulation and performance of current BIM tools. He says: “Traditionally, you create a model to specific requirements and put information in, but this doesn’t work in practice because the data standards are completely inconsistent with the people producing it.” BIM Level 2, therefore, is supporting the implementation of new methods to ensure the delivery of tasks through sufficient information management, embedding new roles, responsibility and an element of ownership into upcoming projects. Oakley adds: “You need the process of how you are going to go about doing the modelling, but on top of that you have the whole information management process.”


In order to deliver efficient information flows and standardised processes, alongside efficient training and application development, BRE is working in collaboration with the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and the Construction Products Association (CPA) to improve data standards and develop essential tools, such as a new template tool. Whilst BRE initially aimed for a basic data tool in rectifying data standards, the extent of the issue became larger than originally expected. Consequently, the templated tool will now work to support and enable the hosting and management of new and improved data standards.

Oakley explains that this process also feeds into the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie), where traditional designers are now asked to produce data related to life cycle management, an area that needs to be embedded into COBie. “Traditional designers have been doing BIM, and the problem they have is that they’re not used to structuring data to be delivered through the design process, which then filters through to construction, operations and maintenance,” he says. Whilst designers are solely used to producing standard deliverables for paper or electronic paper which highlight a basic time frame or windows of delivery, they are not used to implementing standards and undertaking significant construction data that now needs to feed into the life cycle management of projects. “They can produce a COBie file because the software will put this out, but the quality of the information means that that data is unusable by those people who need it and there are no controls in place for this,” concludes Oakley.

Although British Standards are firmly embedded within construction and building practices, Oakley is only too aware that such requirements lack precision and specific detail with regards to the role and responsibilities for individuals, an area in which the BRE are keen to establish with this new template. Such developments will help provide ownership and sufficient data structures, enabling individuals to input information into new BIM tools which will then be exported into COBie, allowing for higher quality information.

Moving forward

Such developments are paving the way to further transformations within an ever-changing industry. “The whole way we are going to work is going to completely change,” adds Oakley. “When we start talking about things like production and waste, carbon, life cycle, asset management, facilities management - these are all sorts of tools which can be developed in the future.” Whilst very few people make bad decisions based on good information within the construction industry, it is imperative that higher quality information will support the decision-making process within construction operations. Consequently, such changes will allow for new tools, technologies and business models to emerge. Oakley uses Tesco’s club card as an example, stating that this has allowed Tesco to gain vital data on products and services which should be bought into store, exceptional results and further opportunities for the retail company.

In April, BRE will be presenting further solutions within BIM prospects, which will reflect on how the industry has progressed since the implementation of BIM Level 2. Whilst there have been a multitude of challenges to overcome, Oakley admits to thriving off solving these various problems, noting that it is essential for workers within construction to continually reinvent themselves and put time and effort into learning new skills and acquiring appropriate skillsets to meet upcoming needs within the industry. In order to make the process efficient for all individuals who work within building, construction and design, Oakley concludes by stating that collaboration is absolutely key to changing the way in which entire the industry works, to deliver high quality results and move forward for the future.

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Jul 29, 2021

Environment Agency clamps down on plastic films and wraps

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Environment Agency aware of plastic film and wrap from the construction and demolition sector being illegally exported

Businesses in the waste and construction industries must ensure they deal with waste plastic properly to stop illegal exports, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned. 

The warning comes as the Agency is increasingly aware of plastic film and wrap from the construction and demolition sector being illegally exported. 

Exports are frequently being classified as ‘green list’ waste of low risk to the environment, but are often contaminated with materials such as mud, sand, bricks and woodposing a risk to the environment and human health overseas, and undermining legitimate businesses in the UK seeking to recover such waste properly.

During the last year, the EA has intercepted shipments to prevent the illegal export of this material on numerous occasions. The Agency inspected 1,889 containers at English ports and stopped 463 being illegally exported. This, combined with regulatory intervention upstream at sites, prevented the illegal export of nearly 23,000 tonnes of waste.

Those convicted of illegally exporting waste face an unlimited fine and a two-year jail sentence. But construction firms could also face enforcement action if contaminated construction and demolition waste plastic is illegally exported.

Malcolm Lythgo, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency, said it is seeing a marked increase in the number of highly contaminated plastic film and wrap shipments from the construction and demolition industry being stopped by officers.

“I would strongly urge businesses to observe their legal responsibility to ensure waste is processed appropriately, so we can protect human health and the environment now and for future generations. It’s not enough just to give your waste to someone else - even a registered carrier. You need to know where your waste will ultimately end up to know it’s been handled properly. We want to work constructively with those in the construction and waste sectors so they can operate compliantly, but we will not hesitate to clamp down on those who show disregard for the environment and the law.”

There are a number of simple, practical steps that businesses can take to ensure that C&D site waste is handled legally.

Construction businesses should check what’s in their waste

  • Different waste types need different treatments and so must be correctly categorised to ensure it goes to a site that is authorised to handle it safely. Businesses can also check if their waste is hazardous as different rules might apply.
  • If you are removing the waste yourself, you must be a registered waste carrier- registration can be carried out here. When a waste collector is transporting your site waste, you must check they have a waste carrier’s licence from the EA.
  • You must also check that the end destination site any waste is taken to is permitted to accept it and has the right authorisations in place. Keep a record of any waste that leaves your site by completing a waste transfer note or a consignment note for hazardous waste which record what and how much waste you have handed over and where it is going.

Waste management industry must adhere to export controls

  • Contaminated C&D waste plastic - including low-density polyethylene (LDPE) wrap and film - must be exported with prior consent from the EA as well as competent authorities in transit and destination countries.
  • Those involved in the export of such waste must ensure that it meets the requirements set under the relevant export controls, such as being almost free-from contamination; the destination sites are appropriately licensed to receive and treat the waste; and waste is correctly managed once received.

The EA will continue to actively target those who export contaminated C&D plastic waste illegally, including any accredited packaging exporters who issue Packaging Waste Export Recovery Notes (PERNs) against such material in breach of their Conditions of Accreditation.

Businesses involved in the shipment of waste are required to take all necessary steps to ensure the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling.

Anyone with information regarding the illegal export of waste including C&D waste plastics can contact the EA’s Illegal Waste Exports team at: [email protected] or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website 

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