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BIM With a Bang

24th March 2015

Phil Downes, director of infrastructure at Capita’s property and infrastructure business, discusses the role of Building Information Modelling (BIM) on HS2, and how it is producing a transformational approach to occupational health management…

The push for the use of Building Information Management (BIM) processes and technology for all Government infrastructure projects by 2016 is going to have far-reaching impacts across the entire construction industry – and nowhere is that more clear than High Speed 2 (HS2).

As we all know, BIM requires the creation of a single, central digital design model for a construction project that is shared by all consultants on a project. BIM Level 2 moves a step beyond this requirement and produces a lifelong data model – captured from the design process – that provides the base data for all decisions through both construction and operation. HS2 will be the first major public infrastructure project in the UK to use BIM Level 2 from the outset of design.


The technology is obviously transforming projects worldwide – centralising and opening up reams of data that previously sat separately and were difficult to integrate. This means that design conflicts can be identified at an early stage, logistical and procurement processes become more accurate, and potential health and safety issues can be removed or mitigated.

For the team working on HS2, the challenge in using BIM Level 2 from the outset of the project has been one of scale. The proposed scheme is huge – 140 miles of railway in the first phase alone – and as a result there are a huge number of different consultants working on the project. This means that it will take a tremendous amount of collaborative effort to ensure that BIM processes are built into ‘business as usual’ practice across the entire supply chain.

The widespread use of BIM on the project has opened up new avenues for experimentation and exploration in specific areas of design and management best practice. Following years of dedicated work from stakeholders across the construction industry, workplace accidents are at an all-time low. The introduction of BIM has already had a notable impact, capturing key safety risks early on in the design process. However, the industry loses many more working days due to ill health than to workplace injury (in 2014, 1.7 million due to ill health and 592,000 due to injury). To date, the work done on implementing occupational health processes into BIM models has been limited.

"Capita and Ineco have been working on a pioneering research and development project in our delivery of the 'Country North' section of HS2, developing a strategy to incorporate occupational health best practice from the very start of the project."

The basic concept is that any potential occupational health matters are flagged during the BIM process. This could include issues such as a requirement to use heavily vibrating construction equipment. We want to build a data model showing where any health risks might emerge during both construction and operation of the project – allowing for the prevention of those risks through the project lifecycle.

For example, registering the operation of drilling concrete the system will alert the designer to all the attendant health issues, such as dust and vibration. The system will provide advice and direction on how to avoid these issues using alternate design approaches or implementing mitigations. By capturing these actions and issues these are delivered to the health design expert so they can provide early intervention and further advice to the specific situation, allowing mitigation and early closeout of the risk.

This is a new approach to occupational health, as it removes the risk in the first place, rather than mitigating it during construction and operation. We are aiming to develop an intelligent solution that can help to bring best practice through from the design stage.

The first stage of this project involved working with stakeholders, such as HS2 and the Constructing Better Health scheme, to establish how to best capture and flag health risks in BIM processes. We are now working on the second stage, incorporating this data into a streamlined process. This will ensure that this information will be at the fingertips of any people that require it during the entire lifecycle of the project: from designers, construction staff or those operating the rail system in ten years’ time.

The sheer scale of HS2 means that the project brings a unique opportunity to drive forward best practice for the construction and rail industries. Our research work will make a real difference to workplace health – and has the potential to transform occupational health management across the construction and rail sectors if introduced on a wide-enough scale.


Phil Downes is director of infrastructure at Capita’s property and infrastructure business.


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