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A former Merchant Navy officer, Stefan has 20 years of senior management experience, most recently in the building services engineering, built environments, and fire and security industries, mainly in trade association, representative body, and professional support services environments. He is a highly capable, confident, and resilient senior director with diverse experience of strategic, operational, and change management primarily in the PR, commercial, membership/customer development, and human resource areas. He is well organized, with a positive approach to problem solving, and a highly motivated leader of people. He has an analytical eye for detail and the ability to communicate and network at all levels within any organizational structure, coupled with a caring attitude towards people and a proven record of accomplishment in building effective relationships with sector employers, client specifier groups, and key supply chain stakeholders. Stefan is an articulate, multilingual, confident, and frequently engaged public speaker and media spokesman on marketing and business development, vocational skills, community safety, fire, security, and electrical building services related topics in the UK and Europe. He has also written more than 300 published articles for the UK fire, security, policing, electrical, building services, construction, and facilities trade press. He is an expert panel member with three online trade journals and has contributed to a number of features in national newspapers such as the Guardian, Financial Times, and Daily Telegraph.
February 19, 2014


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Building Information Modelling: Merits and Limitations for Installers


In recent years top-tier construction firms have increasingly used Building Information Modelling (BIM) to design projects.

Statistics from National Building Specification show that around 39% of construction professionals are now using BIM – defined as the “digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility” by the National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee – and 91% expect to use it by 2015.

And although security installers may be some way down the supply chain, they’re a fundamental player in the delivery of finished buildings so will need to take notice.

Increasingly popular and likely to become integral to installers’  businesses, BIM brings a raft of commercial benefits.

In the first instance, BIM is about communication. It allows the ‘virtual’, 3-D construction of a building on a computer, so on-site operatives can work to a finalised design that has been rigorously tested, simulated and checked before they’ve even put on their boots.

Everyone operates to the same, centralised plan so there is no need to update multiple trades on site.

If the virtual building needs to reach ‘project completion’ through BIM before work begins, fire and security installers must become involved in the earlier design stage, rather than simply being hired to fit-out at the end.

It’s vital then to build closer relationships with main contractors, because if we’re not there at the start, we won’t be able to do our job as effectively.

Regulatory necessity

But it’s not just the main contractors that favour BIM. From 2016 onwards, all government building projects worth more than £5m must be designed through BIM.

Put this in the context of recently announced government plans to spend £100bn on infrastructure construction projects between now and 2020 and we start to see the bigger picture: it’s not just about being there and being more effective; BIM is a regulatory necessity for contractors seeking public sector contracts – and we’d be very surprised if the private sector didn’t follow suit.

Cutting costs

BIM offers more than just another skill to boost your appeal to prospective customers. It also offers installers throughout the supply chain a way to save money and cut costs for customers.

This is because BIM gives us the opportunity to test variable factors – where a light or camera is most effectively positioned, for example – before we spend even a penny on labour or materials.

BIM also means we can optimise designs to use the minimum amount of cabling, cameras and alarms, reducing waste and the risk of over-ordering equipment. The fact that BIM encourages communication between trades can also lead to a reduction in the installation time.

The model could highlight when it would be most advantageous to schedule works so there is no need for any subcontractor to disrupt others on site. All this allows for an installer to bid for work at a lower cost, while still increasing their profit margins.

However, BIM will not be appropriate for all projects. While it can easily be applied to new build properties, it may be less relevant for smaller retrofitting jobs.

This is because the model requires layout data – something that is done on the fly for new property, but working on an older Victorian building, say, would potentially require a full survey to translate the physical building into a virtual one. That obviously comes with a cost, which may be prohibitive to clients.

There is also little need for BIM on small projects, such as installing security systems in a standard house as the project will hopefully be simple enough to specify and plan through traditional methods.

Additional, up-front cost

Despite the clear benefits from using BIM, some installers may be put off from expanding to include it, as it could create an additional, up-front cost – both from acquiring the software and training people to use it. That investment could also be something of a leap in the dark as there’s still no standardised BIM platform, meaning an installer could risk investing in a system that has a limited ability to inter-operate with other BIM systems.

So selecting the right package won’t be a straightforward decision. A good place to start would be talking to contractors you work with regularly to see what they are using.

Still, as the technology becomes embedded in the industry, there is no doubt that BIM will make systems more effective and save installers money in the long run – and that in itself should incentivise you to consider what it could do for your business.

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