Toggle menu

BIM – Getting to Level 2

By Mike Shilton
With the deadline for Level 2 BIM fast approaching, the Landscape Institute’s BIM Working Group can offer timely advice.

Over the past year, the Landscape Institute’s BIM Working Group has successfully run a series of masterclass events that have guided LI members through the requirements of BIM at each stage of a project. Discussions at these events showed that there is still some concern about what impact BIM will have on the landscape sector and some uncertainty over what it will mean in practice for landscape professionals.

With just a few months to go until the January 2016 deadline for the Government’s mandate that Level 2 BIM must be used on all centrally procured projects, including landscape, it is appropriate that we build on the masterclass events by offering some practical advice on achieving BIM compliance. The first step in making BIM a much simpler process is to change the way that we think about it. Much of the uncertainty and confusion about BIM is caused by thinking of it as a generic software model that applies in the same way to all businesses and all projects.

Level 2 BIM requires a minimum of 2D CAD with, where appropriate, managed 3D data that can be held in separate BIM applications with data attached. Information can be exchanged with supporting documentation for collaborative working. Therefore, people often think that this means the solution to achieving BIM lies in buying new, expensive software and hardware. Don’t make this mistake; BIM is a process not a software solution.

At a recent presentation, Richard Lane from the UK BIM Task Group used a great sporting analogy to define BIM and I think this is a really useful starting point for anyone embarking on the BIM process. Trying to engage with BIM is like trying to get fit through sport. We all know we should be doing it and that it is good for us. However, every person’s level of engagement will differ as will their preferred means of getting and keeping fit. Some know that they should do it but don’t. Some treat it is an activity that they do regularly and others train to be gold medallists. For some of us sport can be walking, running, canoeing and for others it can be badminton, football or shot put. In some cases you do this alone and in others as part of a team. You may also take part in different sports with different people. In a similar way, BIM will be different for everyone and will change depending on whether you are working as part of a team and who your partners will be. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet or one size fits all approach.

What this means for landscape designers, architects and contractors, is that BIM requirements will differ on each project and it is only by sitting down and talking with your clients and design partners that you will find out what you need to be BIM Level 2 compliant.

The following checklist may help you to consider your approach to achieving BIM compliance:

1. Your BIM implementation plan.
Rather than assuming you need to be BIM Level 2 compliant, work out if and why you want to be and what benefit it will bring to you as a business. Like any other business decision, it is recommended that you develop your own BIM Implementation Plan (BIP). This is your company’s blueprint for introducing BIM over a period of time. It should align to your three-to-five- year business plan. With each project, try to look for new ‘BIM wins’, i.e. a new process, system, procedure, software purchase, training, etc. that can be introduced to move you along your BIM timeline.

2. Talk to your clients and design partners.
Find out whether you need to be BIM Level 2 compliant to work with them from January 2016 or in the future and how they will be assessing compliance. Every project is different so ask each client what they mean by BIM and find out what information you will need to deliver. Once you understand the outputs you need to provide, review what changes are required to deliver them.

3. Review the Employers Information Requirements (EIR).
The EIR forms part of the appointment and tender documents on a BIM project. This will define the management processes to be used, and what information needs to be produced at each project stage, including the models and the level of detail and definition required.

4. Resource planning is key.
You need to identify project leads, teams and stakeholders at the outset and be clear about their roles and responsibilities at each stage of the project.

5. The BIM Execution Plan.
For each project there should be a BIM Execution Plan (BEP). This should be agreed at the outset and defines what BIM means for the project. This will define the standards being adopted, outputs required, when these should be supplied and in what format, plus any supporting documentation. It may stipulate the software to be used but in most cases this can be accommodated by imports and exports from existing software.

6. Can you deliver these requirements?
Starting with the BIM Execution Plan, work back and review whether you can deliver your clients’ requirements through your existing software, processes and people or whether change or investment is required. Try to work with what you know and do already.

7. Is it worth the investment?
If change is required, for example training, outsourcing, new software or data security systems, this has less to do with BIM and becomes an important business/ financial decision, i.e. is the project or client so important that you are willing to change your current practices and software? The level of investment is then up to you to decide, based on possible returns and future opportunities.

8. Use the pillars of BIM to signpost you in the right direction.
The Government has outlined seven main elements of BIM, often referred to as the pillars of BIM. These provide the standards, processes and protocols that should be considered when working on a BIM Level 2 project and will point you in the right direction. The pillars are: PAS1192-2, PAS1192-3, PAS1192-4, Building Information Modelling Protocol, Government Soft Landings, Digital Plan of Work (NBS BIM Toolkit) and Classification (in preparation). (PAS1192-5 should be approved at the time of this publication and will offer guidance for security-minded BIM projects.)

9. Make the most of free tools.
The free-to-use NBS BIM toolkit has been developed to make it easy to define who is doing what on a BIM project. It provides step-by-step help to define, manage and validate responsibility for information development and delivery at each stage of the asset lifecycle. It provides a digital plan of works that sets out the levels of detail and information required at all stages – see

10. Embrace change.
Building a case for BIM is getting easier as more and more organisations assess the impact that BIM has had on project delivery. Testimonials from organisations that have embraced BIM reflect the positive long-term benefits and lessons learned. Use these to support the case for BIM within your organisation, participate in networking and events to learn from others and don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek out those who are practiced in BIM.

Design and construction BIM checklist

The above is a guide to the main activities that should be considered when implementing a ‘BIM project’ at the design construction (Capex) phase only. It is not a timeline that must be adhered to nor does it provide a definitive list of activities that are appropriate to all projects.

For more information, guidance and support with BIM compliance, visit

The Landscape Institute is running two masterclasses on BIM, on Wednesday 23 September in Bristol and on Thursday 29 October at a Scottish venue. Find details and book here

For your free BIM guide, checklist and jargon buster, visit

Do I have to be BIM Level 2 compliant?
Yes, if you want to work on landscape projects that are funded by central government. For other projects it will vary according to the client, type of project and the type and nature of work your business is targeting. It essentially becomes a business decision, i.e. is the value of the anticipated work you could win worth the investment you will need to make? It is anticipated that many local authorities will start to require BIM as prequalification criteria for tenders and it is already a prerequisite for many large design-and-build projects in the construction sector. Not being BIM-compliant may restrict the type of projects you can target in future.

Do I need to buy software?
Not necessarily; it depends on the project and client requirements. People mistakenly believe the solution to achieving BIM lies in buying new expensive software and hardware. You can’t buy ‘BIM in a Box’ as it is a process. Once the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) is agreed, assess your own software and hardware and work with the project team to assess whether what you need to deliver can be achieved with the software and processes you already use. For example, if you are already using Keysoft solutions or similar landscape design software, it is already proprietary BIM Level 2 compliant.

What about security? How do I ensure data remains both available and secure?
You need to discuss data security requirements with your client at the initial stages as part of the project and build these into you BEP. There are cloud storage services which are free, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, but these only offer a low level of security. If data security is a critical aspect of the project, you will need to invest in more secure systems. The cost of this depends on the project, client and the sensitivity of the data.

What are Product Data Templates?
Product Data Templates (PDTs) will define a standard format for exchanging and comparing product information and allows suppliers and manufacturers to engage with BIM. The LI BIM Working Group has currently created 17 of the 65 planned landscape-based PDTs with the rest planned for the end of the year. The issued PDTs are available to download and use from the LI website and more information on PDTs can be found on the BIMTalk website.

What is COBie and do I need to use it?
The Government has identified the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) as the leading method of data exchange for BIM. It is essentially a data set which can be edited in a spreadsheet. A good way to think of it is, if you have all the BIM information for your landscape project and want to put it in a suitcase and take it somewhere else, then COBie is the suitcase that allows you to transfer the data from one place to another. COBie is basically an exchange format to help share information upstream with facilities managers and the rest of the project team. Clients may have their own operations management processes and software so COBie may not be required as a deliverable on all BIM projects.

Leave a comment

We use cookies to improve the browsing experience for you and others. If you would like to learn more about cookies please view our cookie policy. To accept cookies continue browsing as normal. Continue