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Why Level 3 Building Information Modeling is about to change everything

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is increasingly being adopted as the foundation for new projects within the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector. More governments are mandating its use for public contracts and private clients are beginning to follow suite. Yet, the real power of BIM lies in the end-to-end lifecycle management of a building. Progress in this area has been slow. Will Level 3 BIM change all that?

For a long time, the industry has known that buildings cost too much to design, build and maintain while taking too long to deliver. A major reason for this is the lack of effective collaboration between all the different parties – architects, designers, contractors, engineers, facilities managers, owners – involved in the process. The National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST) estimated that this lack of interoperability cost building owners $15.8 billion annually – equivalent to a loss of 23 cents per square foot of US property every year.

BIM has developed as the primary solution to this problem. The US’s National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee defines BIM as: “a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its lifecycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition. A basic premise of BIM is collaboration by different stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle of a facility to insert, extract, update or modify information in the BIM.”

There are three levels of BIM:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
A managed 3D and 2D CAD environment A collaborative 3D environment with data attached, but created in separate discipline models A single, collaborative, online, 3D project model including all building information such as construction sequencing, cost and lifecycle management information

BIM brings impressive benefits

Today, most BIM projects are Level 2 BIM. The UK government mandated Level 2 BIM for its public projects in April 2016 and it suggests that this has resulted in construction savings of 20%. In its SmartMarket Brief on BIM, Dodge Data and Analytics found that half of those surveyed had reduced project costs by at least 5% while accelerating project completion by over 5%. Other research has shown that 52% of BIM project teams deliver higher quality projects with 61% reducing project errors.

This has added up to impressive return on investment (ROI) from BIM implementation: contractors have reported ROI of over 25% while some design firms suggest their ROI was over 300%.

This is just the tip of the BIM iceberg. While still evolving into its final definition, Level 3 BIM – which we could call integrated BIM – has the potential to deliver far greater benefits to a wider range of stakeholders in any building project.


Partrick MacLeamy, Chairman of HOC, memorably introduced the idea of BIM, BAM, BOOM in his 2014 keynote to BIMForum. It stands for Building Information Model, Building Assembly Model and Building Operation Optimization Model – and can be mapped to the three levels of BIM. For MacLeamy, Level 3 BIM can deliver 60 times the cost benefit of Level 1 BIM.

It achieves this by moving BIM from primarily a cost and quality tool for the AEC industries to an end-to-end building information platform that underpins the full lifecycle management of a building.In the recently released NBS National BIM Report 2018, survey respondents said that they knew of the different levels but few had implemented the level of interoperability that is the heart of BIM. Less than 50% had used one model for a complete project and under one in five had passed on the model to ‘those who are responsible for the continued management of the building’.

Yet, much of the data created in the design and construction stages of a building is vital when it passes to the owner operator. There are vast amounts of data being passed from the contractors to the owners – in many different formats – which the operators often don’t know what to do with. This hand-off to the owner operator can involve a loss of collective knowledge as there are very rarely any working data interfaces between owner and contractor.

Work undertaken by the University of Cambridge demonstrates how the benefits grow exponentially over the lifecycle of a building asset as it is developed and used.

Currently the disconnect between BIM implementation in the AEC sector and that information passing to the owner operator to underpin effective building and facilities management means a great deal of the benefits are going unrealized. It’s the ability of Level 3 BIM to bring all design, construction and management information together in a comprehensive, unified model that will remove the information silos for the process and enable end-to-end lifecycle management.

Why building owners need to think about Level 3 BIM

In addition to improving design coordination and reducing construction costs and waste, Level 3 BIM allows owner operators to become involved at every stage of the process and not simply when the building is handed over. It means that organizations can go beyond 3D models with connected data to a single platform for all building data that drive cost and efficiency while improving performance across the building’s lifecycle.

Owners can now realize benefits in the area of operations, maintenance and safety while building users benefits from improvements in build quality, environment and sustainability.

An integrated approach to BIM will allow all stakeholders to draw value from the many sources of data that are related to what NBS terms the ‘digital build environment’ – something that would be extremely difficult to achieve with Level 2 BIM.

In its National BIM Report 2018, NBS notes: ‘the growing potential of data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine-learning, Internet of Things (IoT)…means that a narrow focus on BIM Level 2 is no longer good enough for the increasingly diverse 21st century digital built environment where infrastructure, buildings, digital media and systems must all converge if we are going to create smarter cities and communities’.

While Level 2 BIM has been driven by government and the AEC industries, Level 3 BIM is where owner operators can really gain benefit from the approach. With the UK government already committed to mandating Level 3 BIM when it’s finalized, I think we’re on the verge of a technology that will be every bit as disruptive in the building industries as the Internet of Things (IoT) has been in manufacturing.

Join us at this year’s OpenText™ Enterprise World 2019 to learn about the new range of solutions that OpenText is developing to address level 3 BIM.

Martin Richards

Martin Richards is a Senior Director for Industry Solutions at OpenText. For over twenty years, he has worked with ECM technology, running professional services and driving solutions across multiple industries.

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