Category Archives: BIM

John Staves Chair IStructE BIM Conference 2017

John Staves

Members of the Institution of Structural Engineers gathered in London last week for the Institution of Structural Engineers 2017 BIM Conference, “Moving towards BIM 2020 – Business as usual”.

BIM conference

Institution of Structural Engineers Headquarters, Bastwick Street, London

Delegates were welcomed by John Staves, Managing Director at Michael Aubrey Partnership. John talked about his passion for BIM and how as an industry we need to embrace these changes if we are going to continue to grow and meet the needs of our clients.

Our first speaker of the day was Dr Anne Kemp, chair of the UK BIM Alliance and Atkins Director responsible for BIM Strategy and Implementation across the UK.

Dr Anne Kemp

Anne talked about the UK BIM Alliance and the 3 “C’s”

  • Co-ordination
  • Co-operation
  • Collaboration

and how BIM supports what we already do – it’s about the management of the data. Together with other industries we need to mix up our ideas. At the moment we are struggling to truly collaborate.

Next up was Sarah Rock, Associate at Gowling. Sarah has written extensively on BIM for various publications including the Construction Manager BIM Handbook and is a well regarded speaker on the legal aspects of BIM.

BIM conference

There is very little case law around BIM, but Sarah highlighted a recent case Trant V Mott Macdonald Ltd (MML) where the question of who should host the common data environment was brought into sharp focus.

A considerable amount of reliance is placed upon the party hosting the data, the BIM Operator.  The BIM Operator should have a continuing obligation to ensure that the data is available to others, to allow them to progress the project.  This obligation should survive suspension and termination of their employment.

To read more about this case and judgement, click here

Sarah Rock

Sarah stressed the need for BIM practitioners to “talk” to the legal profession and to get in touch via the UK BIM Alliance.

Next up was Nigel Stroud, Geometry Information Manager at Heathrow Airport.

BIM conference

Nigel is currently part of a company wide Asset Information team leading Heathrow’s asset information strategy

Nigel talked about the enormous task of collating all the information at Heathrow and attaching this information to each asset.

At Heathrow they have a “Gateway Delivery Process” where Employer requirements won’t allow you to proceed until the next stage until it has been signed off. This ensures that everyone is clear what is required at each stage.

Graeme Forbes from Clearbox was next on stage. Graeme asked the question; are we doing BIM for the right reasons? Simplicity must dominate. As a business what is motivating you to change – is it compliance or are you trying to save time and money or both? Leadership is key and the right  technology to deliver your project is critical.

bim conference

After a quick break for tea and coffee, up next was Martin Simpson, Professor at the University of Liverpool. Martin is passionate about the digital transformation of the built environment and at Liverpool University he has set up a group to support the construction industry in its digital transformation journey “The Centre for the Digital Built Environment”

BIM conference

Martin referred us to a brilliant blog by Marzia Bolpagni

Marzia provides a comprehensive review of the ‘LOD’ term and its many nuances from across the world.

Last up was Emma Hooper, Independent Digital Information Specialistl.

Emma Hooper

Emma talked about her inspiration reading the Latham and Egan reports and how so little has moved forward since then.

A fear of liability has taken over, it’s become a game of blame.

Emma talked about how the procurement models we use are out of date for the new digital age. BIM promotes collaborative and efficient working, yet the way we procure our projects promotes siloed working and individual agenda plagued by inefficiency and a culture of blame.

Integrated project insurance (IPI)

Integrated project insurance (IPI) was one of the new methods of procurement put forward in the 2011 Construction Strategy. Described as an industry disruptor it will change the way we all work from client to subcontractor. One project bank account, one insurance, one team, removing the issues associated with liability and blame which suffocates the industry.

The fact is BIM cannot change the industry alone. IPI complements BIM methodology, and is an example of what is needed to change the industry – Dudley College Advance2, the world’s first IPI project, demonstrates how this can work.


John finished the day by thanking all the presenters and summing up the presentations.

John said “Now that the industry is getting to grips with model authoring, this day has provided a great overview of the commercial concerns and pointed to a range of possible solutions for us all to take away and update our approach to construction projects in a collaborative BIM environment”.

How are you dealing with these BIM challenges in your business?  We’d love to collaborate with you!  Give us a call on 0118 962 9666.

John Staves


BIM Conference 2017 – The Institution of Structural Engineers

BIM conference

We are thrilled to announce that our Managing Director, John Staves will be chairing The Institution of Structural Engineers 2017 BIM Conference.

The conference will focus on the need for practising engineers to adopt BIM more widely and how to collaborate more effectively with architects and builders.

Moving Towards BIM 2020: ‘Business As Usual’

Expert speakers will explore various aspects of BIM including security, safety, legal issues, Level of Detail (LoD) and Level of Information (LoI). The event will also include exciting presentations and case studies delivered from both a client and consultant perspective.

The conference is a fantastic opportunity to network with other engineering professionals, learn more about BIM and extend your CPD. Don’t miss this opportunity to get involved in the 2020 agenda of the UK BIM Alliance.

Date          26 September 2017

Time          09:30 – 17:00

Location    The Institution of Structural Engineers, 47-58 Bastwick Street, London, EC1V 3PS, UK

For more information and details of how to purchase tickets please click here.

John Staves Talking “BIM” in the The RICS Journal


“From Concept to Curtains”

In the July/ August edition of the RICS Journal, John Staves, our Managing Director describes his first-hand experience of working with BIM (Building Information Modelling) in a small practice

RICS BIM Article

Here is a transcript of the article;-

Our building information modelling (BIM) journey started in 2007 when we came across the modelling software Revit. We knew then it would fit our forward vision for the way we wanted to design, and we went on to acquire the compatible structural software so we could adopt it in the future.

When we eventually started using BIM in 2009 it felt like a leap of faith – it was an unproven technology but a good fit for the way we worked. We could see competitive advantage and the potential for improved productivity, long before the government’s 2011 construction strategy pushed the industry into at least considering BIM.

Cost-Saving Case Study

On a large project we persuaded the client, a design and build contractor, that a laser scan would allow accurate modelling of the existing building. The cost was £5,000 more than a standard measured survey.

The site was a complicated mix of buildings knocked together to form a department store and was being restructured to suit a new tenant.

The first time I visited, excavation was being carried out on the ground floor for an escalator pit. The location looked to be a potential issue, so I went into the site office with a laptop.

From the scanned model, it was instantly obvious that the primary structure at second floor would need restructuring to fit the escalator – at a cost of around £20,000. Nobody had noticed. If we moved the escalator 1m, however, that cost would be avoided. The occupant was happy with the adjusted layout, and our client was more than happy with the net saving of £15,000.

Predictable Outcome

Using BIM across the design team allows comparison of discipline-specific models. The workflow is straightforward, as each discipline produces its own model. If the whole team is not using BIM, then the total fee is split to reflect who is doing the work, without increasing the amount paid by the client. The models are brought together and conflicts resolved in the design phase, when costs are lower than they would be if we waited until the construction phase.

The construction drawings are issued from the federated model so there are no unnecessary queries from the site, designers’ margins are retained and there is no need for the builders to make contingencies for sorting out problems. Tender prices are also lower because the builder can rely on the design information, and construction becomes more predictable (see images, [position]). Clients also have fewer surprises – apart from nice ones, such as having the builder finish on time or even early, without snags and within the agreed contract sum.

Content Communication

The key to construction projects is communication. As the model develops, more content is added. The data loss that typically occurs as a project moves from phase to phase is more readily recorded and communicated, and the technical content is more intrinsically visual. The model can therefore be used to communicate the design to technical and non-technical stakeholders alike.

The client also sees its project before it is built. Technical drawings can be supplemented with 3D visuals of details for clarity, and health and safety information added. Now that projects for private homeowners are covered by Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 – meaning even the smallest works need a simple way to communicate safety information – BIM can help.

We have developed a tool that integrates Revit data into a virtual reality experience, which is aimed primarily at non-technical clients – the mainstay of smaller practices. Clients can step into the model via a smartphone and goggles, and look around each room, understanding the design and providing feedback very easily. This is a great communication tool, and the only problems are stopping clients walking into real objects while in the virtual building and getting them to remove the goggles.

Improved client outcomes encourage repeat business and referrals – and services can expand in breadth. We began life as structural engineers, but have expanded along the project timeline to take in architectural design and, more recently, construction. With the right approach and the appropriate use of BIM, the whole process from concept to curtains can be completed on time, on budget and with minimal snags.

Get In Touch

We enjoy talking to like-minded individuals and organisations – projects run smoother.

Do you use BIM? What’s your experience?

Please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you

What Is BIM? – A Homeowners Guide


I’m talking today to Jamie Redman, BIM Manager at Michael Aubrey Partnership about BIM adoption and answering some of your frequently asked questions.

So we’ll start with the obvious question;

What Is BIM (Building Information Modelling)?

BIM is not to be confused with software.


BIM is actually a process of collating information so that it helps us describe the building in such a way that we can ensure that the design is buildable and check everything works in a virtual world before it gets really expensive checking it on site.

BIM Elevation image


What Is The Difference Between 2D CAD (Computer Aided Design) And BIM?

it is not as simple as one is 2D and one is 3D. It is not about software, it is all about process and intelligent use of information.

What Is CAD?

CAD – ‘individually drawn 2D lines’ –  for each view created, every line has to be drawn individually and there are no restrictions or checks to where these lines are drawn. Each view is, therefore, unintelligent and susceptible to errors.

More importantly, each view is drawn separately, one by one, and are completely unconnected from every other view. As such, discrepancies between views often occur and may not be realised until a project is under construction. These errors have the potential to cause expensive issues when they are eventually discovered.


BIM – ‘intelligent 3D objects’ – each view is not created individually, instead views are generated from a single 3-dimensional model. This means that the information shown on every view is entirely accurate and concurrent to one another.

In BIM a model is built using objects, a wall is a wall and not just a set of lines, and each object can be assigned data parameters. BIM is a tool that provides real time design checking using these data parameters. The 3D model can be checked to see how every object interacts with one another; junctions can be scrutinised for practicality of construction. As a result, designs cannot be ‘fudged’ just to look right without intention. This all means that designs produced in BIM are coordinated and thought out before they reach project construction.BIM Cut Roof

The use of the information collected within a BIM model is limited only to the level of data inserted. The potential of BIM, as a tool, goes far beyond that of CAD and can be used to intelligently collect, coordinate, process, analyse and produce design information that ultimately reduces risk and waste on site.

Why Do We Use BIM?

We insist on the use of BIM and recognise that it provides better quality and clarity, which, ultimately, saves you money. Drawings are clear, accurate and concise for your builder to price and build from and ensures that you are entirely aware of the extent of work involved. 

How Does The Process Work?

Following a feasibility visit, we provide you a quotation for obtaining Planning and Building Regulations approval. If you instruct us, we charge these as two separate fees.

Our process consists of creating a single BIM model that is used to produce both the Planning and Building Control information, which is developed further at each stage. This ensures that the design is coordinated and consistent throughout so that you can have confidence in your scheme. 

I Already Have My Planning Drawings In CAD. Can You Use These For My Building Regulations Submission?

We can use your CAD drawings as a template to start to build the model from, however we do not produce our information in CAD anymore because it does not allow us the benefits of BIM. We prefer to produce for you a higher quality of design to ensure it is entirely buildable and that you have the predictability during its construction.

Why Does It Cost More For Building Regulations Alone?

We endeavour to ensure that the design we produce in the planning stage is buildable and compliant with Building Regulations. Unless checked, someone could obtain planning permission for something that you cannot build or get building regulations approval for.

As our process of design starts at the earliest point, part of the building regulations work has already been completed within the planning stage. We use the same model for Planning to commence  Building Regulations process. If we are instructed to do the Building Regulations alone, we do not have a model to start from, whereas we would cost for doing that work in the planning phase.

What Does This Mean For You?

Clarity of Information

We provide full detailed information on our plans, so it’s absolutely crystal clear what your builder has to build – they will then price for what you need.

In our experience, if drawings do not have clear, concise details and information you will end up paying far more for your extension in builders fees than if you had paid for a properly thought out design at the beginning of your project.

Built In A Virtual World

Effectively we are building in a virtual world, checking staircases will fit, walls and roofs will align etc, all before your builder starts working on site.

Loft conversion BIM image

Testimonial From A Local Builder

Builders like our designs as they are clear and accurate and they can price your project accurately.

What does this mean for you? You can be confident that the price your builder quotes you includes everything that is on the drawings and detailed specification. No hidden “extras” at a later date, keeping you within your budget.

Here is a testimonial from a local builder;

“The more information we can get on the drawings, the more accurate we can be with our quotation, which means that the customer will only pay for what was on the original quotation.”  Click here to read more.

Want to learn more? This excellent video from our friend Fred Mills at B1M describes what a BIM model is in less than 3 minutes.

Are you planning a project? Please give us a ring on 0118 962 9666 to see how we could help you.

Interview With BIM Crunch

Listen to John Staves talking to BIM Crunch Editor, Jack White on their popular “Company Spotlight” feature.

Find out how an SME adopted BIM in the middle of a recession and the risks that presented and how an SME utilises BIM on ALL projects and more.  Click here to listen to the four-part interview, or read extracts from the interview below!

Welcome to a very special audio edition of Company Spotlight, the popular feature that enables you listeners to learn about the past, present and future of a BIM-related business. Today, I am going to be chatting to the Managing Director of Michael Aubrey Partnership Ltd., a structural engineering SME who have been utilising BIM on ALL of their projects since 2009. Please welcome John Staves, hi John!

Hi Jack, thank you for inviting me to talk to you.

It is a pleasure to have you hear and I know that it would be a pleasure for me to hear you give a brief summary of Michael Aubrey for the listeners. Can you discuss the origins of the business and maybe reflect on some big moments for the firm in its history?

Michael Aubrey was formed back in 1994 to deliver the right structural design information to the right people at the right time for the project.  I’d had a good blend of consultancy, contractor and client experience.  Sometimes as the Client we bought in structural consultancy to supplement the small in-house team capability.  My experience of the industry from the Client perspective was not good – suppliers wanted to deliver the job how they always did, rather than listening to our requirements, which were not for calculations and drawings – we needed the building completed for the business to operate from.  There was a lack of willingness to engage, to collaborate.  So Michael Aubrey came about to change this, to work in a better way.  So by 1999 we’d got to the point where the only staff were the Directors, but we were outsourcing a huge volume of the work we were winning.  We were becoming administrators.  After some discussion, we made the decision to employ, and our first employee started on 1 January 2000.  We grew quickly on the back of some niche work in telecommunications base station roll out projects.  Then in 2002 there was a bit of a slump in that sector as the licensed operators adjusted their plans.  Fortunately we had a broad spread of consultancy work by then – in building structures as well as the telecommunications work. In 2009, we faced the same challenge as many other practices with recession, but managed to avoid the compulsory redundancies and pay cuts that many suffered, but the business reserves were depleted.

I touched upon how long that Michael Aubrey have utilised BIM for in the introduction there and whilst you began implementing it in 2009, you first identified the positives that are born as a result of BIM in 2007. How did you discover BIM and was the process hard to implement within the company? Was it very costly and time-consuming?

Back in 2007, when everything was going well, confidence was high and project scale was increasing, we were looking for some improvement to our structural analysis and design tools.  One of my team came to me and said he had seen a tool called Revit which merited a look.  At that time, Revit was the product of a standalone US company.  We did some research and although it didn’t do what we wanted immediately, we could see the potential for it to help with our basic philosophy of getting the right design information to the right people at the right time to make the project go well.  So what came about was that we purchased Structural software that linked to Revit.  By the time we moved to look at adopting Revit in 2009, Autodesk had acquired the company and started to develop it.  The process to adopt BIM was very easy for us because it facilitated our collaborative style and desire to make the project work.  The direct costs of the tools and training were painful as the recession ate into reserves, but in reality were down to a core team, we had real time available to develop the skills.  I really think that not taking what was a bit of a leap of faith back then would have probably cost the business.  So yes, there was a short term financial pain, but the value, the return on the investment has been exceptional with last year being one of, if not the most, successful years in the business.

To strengthen your BIM offering for clients, Michael Aubrey believe that change management is a crucial part of facilitate the BIM process and helping your clients get up to speed with BIM quicker. Can you explain that methodology?

It’s all about attitude.  If people don’t genuinely want to collaborate for the good of the project, BIM alone can’t solve that.  It’s like when you interview for staff; you need the right basic skills, but probably most important is the attitude.  So the first part of a successful adoption of BIM is doing it for the right reasons.  If you adopt BIM because your Client says I want you to do BIM, or under sufferance because you have to do BIM to win work, your projects won’t be anywhere near as successful as those with parties who genuinely want to collaborate.  Like any successful construction project, it all comes down to the relationships between the individuals and their attitude to collaboration.  So it follows that you need to get peoples attitude and relationship right before starting.  This can be achieved by good alignment of rewards.  Just telling people to collaborate won’t help!

Your team at Michael Aubrey utilise BIM on every single project that they do. Whilst many people may think that some projects are just too small to bother using BIM for, do you see those smaller projects as opportunities for your team to gain BIM experience?

They clearly are good experience for new members of the team, but that isn’t why we do it.  We do it because efficiency and design quality are improved.  Because there is a level of automation to production of the design drawings (and yes, Clients and builders still expect to have drawings!) more of our fee time is spent refining the design to make it simpler or easier to build, which saves the Client money and delivers what they want.  And of course that leads to good referrals and helps deliver growth.

What are some of the BIM projects that you are most proud of?

You’ll find more details of these on our website.

Headmaster’s House – This project was a house with tricky foundations as it was partly built over an old outdoor swimming pool.  We worked for the design and build contractor, but none of the supply chain had any experience of BIM authoring tools.  So we worked with each party to develop their model for them, using an innovative process behind the scenes.  We then brought all the separate models together for coordination and published the construction information from the federated model.  The result was an early finish, on budget and with zero snags at handover.

Nine Mile Ride School was a small extension project.  Having taken the scheme through planning and Building Regulations, rather than tender and administer the contract, the school asked us to bid for the build.  We won the contract, delivered on budget on time and with zero snags.  The school had assumed we would be late and booked their carpets and furnishings for the following week, so they had a week of float, but all was ready for the new term as planned!  We have now been asked to help with planning another area of their buildings and working out a phased implementation plan to run alongside available devolved capital budgets.

We are just a few months away from the UK Government’s 2016 mandate. Do you think Michael Aubrey Partnership is ready for March 2016?

We have been ready for some time, but finding fully collaborative teams capable of working to level 2 is virtually impossible.  But that is why we worked like we did on the Headmaster’s House project – to facilitate the benefits of BIM without the perceived problems.  We can offer a similar service to others.

Do you think that people are taking the mandate, and BIM in itself seriously enough? Do you think a lot of people still need to wake up and understand the power of BIM?

I think there is a still a lot of misunderstanding out there.  People are still looking for short term what’s in it for me answers.  BIM facilitates collaborative working.  It is not some magic wand which makes construction more efficient, designs better and operational costs lower.  But if you genuinely want to work collaboratively, it is a great tool.  I actually think that the main benefits come from the collaboration and traditionally, that is not how the construction industry works.  The real problem is not BIM, it is the need for change in the way the industry works.  Like with any change, there is the issue that if attitudes are wrong, the benefits won’t be realised and the people who resisted change will say told you so!  The self-fulfilling prophecy conundrum.  But do you know what?  Businesses can’t stand still.  They either change, adapt and develop, or resist change and fall back.  The same goes for our construction industry.  We have historically exported construction skills around the world, but going forward the new world competition will overtake us because they are better at changing, better at adopting new technology and methods and don’t have the baggage that the UK has.  So yes, a lot of people still need to wake up and understand the implications of not changing how they work.

What would your advice be for businesses that are maybe similar to you, or those who involved in different stages of a project lifecycle, who are yet to reap the benefits of BIM?

Just get on with it.  If you genuinely want to deliver better projects through the capital phase and provide better handover information to the operational phase, what are you waiting for.  Your Clients will value the outcomes.  Imagine if you consistently delivered on time, on budget, to quality just as we have on the projects mentioned earlier?  Would your Client’s not order more work from you or tell everyone they know about you.  How would that affect your career and your business?  Wouldn’t it be more fun to be part of projects where everyone collaborates and delivers what the Client needs for their business, without all the adversarial squabbling that construction is well known for?

Elsewhere in the industry, you were recently recognised at the RICSBIM4SME Awards, and were nominated in the Best SME Innovation category. How did it feel to receive recognition for your efforts?

Brilliant.  The team work hard to deliver high quality designs to our Clients, but more than that, this recognised our contribution to finding better ways of working .

The nomination was related to your Headmaster’s House project, quite brilliant in that neither the client nor his supply chain used BIM yet the project was done successfully to Level 2. What do you think this project demonstrates that others can be influenced by?

Simply, that it is all about working together, not about adopting some new piece of technology.  One of the sticking points seems to be that there is an assumption that all parties in the supply chain from Client to specialist sub-contractor have to be using BIM authoring tools.  That is not the case.  By working with a supplier like us, Clients and Contractors can gain the benefits of BIM without imposing BIM authoring on all parties involved.

What is next for Michael Aubrey as the 2016 mandate looms ever closer?

We are actively developing our ways of working to get more use out of the data.  From simple three dimensional coordination and scheduling from the models to cost planning and programme management including test builds and FM data output, the next shift in value will be using the model data as fully as possible.

We are also talking to specialist sub-contractors about developing parametric objects of their components.

A key area of development is to help Clients to unlock the potential that they can see is there with BIM.  At the moment, it seems to be Contractors who are recognising the potential and gaining the rewards.  We want to help Clients engage with BIM so that they can gain the benefits.  We are increasingly hearing ‘we want to do BIM‘, but with little understanding of what that means.  As devotees of collaborative working and experienced BIM users, we are well placed to bridge this knowledge gap and deliver tangible benefits.

Are you ready for 2016? If not, what is the main reason that you haven’t introduced BIM into your organisation?

BIM4SME Awards

Congratulations to the RICS and the team at BIM4SME for organising such an enjoyable night!

The delightful setting for the evening was the Westminster Boating Place and our enthusiastic host for the evening was Stefan Mordue from the NBS.

Stefan welcomed everyone to this, the RICS BIM4SME’s inaugural Awards event, unique in the industry because they recognise the hard work & achievements of small and medium sized enterprises.

Stefan talked about the strong sense of community that had built up around BIM and the positive role that social media had played facilitating the exchange of ideas and working as a tool for collaboration.

The BIM4SME Awards showcase excellence, promote best practice and highlight the tremendous opportunities BIM presents to small and medium sized businesses.

We are thrilled to have been part of these Awards as finalists in the “BIM SME Innovation” category. RICS_BIM4SME_Shortlisted_Banner

Matt DcDermott, from the RICS opened the evenings speeches followed by Tim Platts, Chair of the BIM4SME working Group.  “Being able to respond quickly, showing flexibility in working patterns and seeing BIM as an opportunity for growth for SME’s”  were key themes of the evening.

Other high profile speakers addressed us, including Chris Chivers, Vice Chair of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and Richard Saxon CBE, Chair of the Judges (and former Chair of BDP)

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners.

The Winners of the Awards
Best BIM Project, Medium enterprise (51-250) – Bond Bryan Architects
Best BIM Project, Small enterprise (1-50) – Howard Russell Construction
Best SME BIM Blog – Bond Bryan Architects
Best BIM SME Website – Atom Publishing
Best SME Newcomer – Baxall Construction
Best SME Innovation – Specified By
Best SME Training Strategy – Coombs Ltd
Best SME Engagement and Support Programme – Imarati Engineering

Here are a few images from the evening.

“Live blogging” from the event was by Su Butcher, to find out why these awards matter to the industry, take a look at her blog The First BIM4SME Awards

Are you an SME in the construction industry, are you using BIM? Leave me one word that describes your experience.

Photographs MAPL, BIM4SME, RICS

Venue for the Evening

Our Host, Stefan Mordue

Michael Aubrey & RICS

Drinks Before The Awards

Fantastic View

Oliver, Jamie & John

Ali and Ana RICS

View from

Fish & Chips

Specified By

Howard Russell

Bond Bryan

Coombs Ltd

Atom Publishing

View Across the Thames


The RICS BIM4SME Awards finalists have been announced and we are thrilled to have been shortlisted in the “BIM Innovation” category.

The RICS BIM4SME Awards 2015 recognises and promotes SME’s role and achievements in the UK’s adoption of BIM. The Awards aim to spread awareness, promote best practice and highlight the tremendous opportunities BIM presents to small and medium businesses.

In the category of “BIM Innovation” we entered our case study, The Headmaster’s House, Oratory school. In this project we were able to help our Client and his existing supply chain, deliver a BIM level 2 project on time, on budget with zero defects.

Neither our Client, nor his supply chain used BIM.

This was made possible by the innovative way in which we “modelled” the existing supply chains’ 2D drawings and brought them together in one federated model.

The innovative process we developed will compete against other finalists at an Awards ceremony on 18 June at Westminster Boating Base, London.

Are you attending the event? Please come and find us.

BIM: What Are You Waiting For?

In this second part of our series, I’m talking to John Staves, Chartered Structural Engineer and Managing Director at Michael Aubrey Partnership, about the benefits of working with BIM.

What Would You Say To An Architect or Contractor Who Currently Doesn’t Use BIM At All?

What are you waiting for?

BIM has given us such a better product. If I look back to before we started using BIM, and to where we have taken our product to now, which is effectively a quality design, the quality of information we are producing is far, far better with less cost.

Where we have worked with Design and Build Contractors, they are getting the benefit of delivering on time or early. They are delivering within their cost plan i.e making their margin on the job, in fact they are probably gaining, as they are handing over with zero defects which means that they have no comeback which improves their margin because they are not putting their time into call backs on jobs, mending defects.

Architects – BIM allows a better quality design to hit site, one that is better thought out, so everything works. Where an architect’s traditional role would be to coordinate the design, so that all the design team members and the design as a whole that gets built, it’s now fully coordinated so we don’t get services clashing with walls, beams and structure.

BIM definitely facilitates better coordination. That’s just scratching the surface for what BIM can do for a project.

What Do You Think Is The Biggest Myth About Structural Engineers?

That they are too precise, don’t produce practical designs, everything is belt and braces and costs the Client money. Clients often seem to think that rather than adding value, we cost them money.

I’m biased I know, but in reality, good structural engineering design will actually save you money. A well thought out design will save you money on site because things are well thought through, buildable and practical.

Not necessarily smaller member sizes, it’s a myth that the cheapest overall building is one where you have designed everything down to the absolute minimum; in actual fact it can be cheaper if you standardise and used the same component throughout. The simplicity that members are all the same, keep things simple, this will keep your costs down.

What’s Your Favourite Building Structure?

I tend to like structures which use materials to their best advantage, all the normal materials, whether its timber, concrete, steel, masonry, they’ve all got advantages in different situations.

So steel is good in tension, for example, “Embankment Place”, where the building is over a railway station (Charing Cross) in London. That building was built where the columns, the vertical steel members, were adequate to carry the loads during construction as the building was built upwards, but they are then used as hangers in the permanent solution, where they hang the load from the major structure at the top of the building, so they are actually working in tension, rather than columns which are inefficient pieces of steel.

Another favourite type of structure is the “grid shell roofs”; for example Saville Gardens.

Grid shell


A great example of fairly sophisticated engineering being applied to a very traditional material, gives a great aesthetic as well as the structure being efficient.

If You Weren’t A Structural Engineer What Would You Be Doing?

I think by now I’d be in a commercial role, I didn’t enjoy corporate life when I worked for larger businesses because of all the politics, I just like to get the job done.

What’s The Best Thing A Client Has Ever Said To You?

thank you

When a Client gets what they want. When their project is there and they are getting to use it how they want to. It’s rewarding for me when a Client says “thank you” and really means it.

So, BIM: What Are You Waiting For? What’s the one reason that’s stopping you from adopting BIM on your next project?

NBS BIM Tool Kit

Please come along to the next Thames Valley BIM Hub event. It’s a great opportunity to meet other construction organisations in the Thames Valley to share BIM knowledge and best practice.

Date: Thursday 30th April 2015     Time: from 16:30 – 19:00

Hosted by: Steljes Limited, Bagshot Manor, Green Lane, Bagshot, Surrey, GU19 5NL

Come along if you want to:

• stay up-to-date with what’s happening on the strategic front
• hear about a current BIM project and how the process works ‘practically’
• learn about the new NBS BIM Tool Kit

Feedback from previous events shows there is a definite appetite to learn about the practical aspects of delivering projects using BIM. Earlier in the year we sent out a request to Hub members prepared to share experiences and Kier have kindly agreed to share the details of how they are managing a current BIM project.

The NBS BIM Toolkit
The BIM Toolkit will be accessible online, offering users a Digital Plan of Work tool and a new unified classification system, creating much-needed synergy in building projects. This Toolkit will provide step-by-step support to define, manage and validate responsibility for information development and delivery at each stage of the asset lifecycle. The Toolkit is being developed as a free-to-use tool for our industry, with the first roll-out planned for April 2015. For more information click here

4.30– 5.00pm Registration and networking
5.00 – 5.15pm Welcome, Introduction & BIM Task Group Update
5.15 – 5:45 Project Case Study from Kier
5:45 – 6:30 Overview of the BIM toolkit (Speaker tbc)

This event is delivered as part of the FutureFit programme. To book your free place, email [email protected]

Why BIM Adoption Is Good For SME’s; Interview With John Staves

This month I’m talking to John Staves, Chartered Structural Engineer and Managing Director at Michael Aubrey Partnership about running an SME and how BIM adoption can benefit construction businesses, no matter how small.

So John, Why Did You Decide To Become A Structural Engineer?

Because I wanted to apply Maths and I wanted to make it do something for real, rather than just be an academic subject, I could see you could apply it and I wanted to be able to create things with it, make use of it.

What Prompted You To Start Your Own Business?

After a few years in industry I could see that things were done as they had always been done. I could see that workflows could be better to improve delivery, so that projects were realised in a better way – there is always room for improvement.

What’s Your Favourite Part Of Your Job?

Actually succeeding in getting somebody into their project. Typically, our projects are building structures. It’s great when a Client gets to use their new facility. To see our Clients realise their vision – I like seeing someone from when they have that initial idea, to getting their vision realised.

What’s The Most Surprising Thing You Have Learnt During Your Time Running Your Own Business?

Structural Engineering isn’t what people actually want.   They want their building – technical excellence isn’t the key thing.

Getting the right solution to peoples issues / problems. For example, Clients don’t want a beam designed, they want a large open plan space. So although structural engineering facilitates what they want … structural engineering is seen as a “distressed purchase

It is seen as something that you have to have, rather than something that can add value, helping you achieve want you want to achieve with your building.

What Was The Main Reason For Your BIM Adoption In 2009?

Fundamentally it fitted so well with the way we liked to work. Because we are trying to deliver somebody’s project, its allows for better communication, it allows us to make sure our designs are much more buildable than perhaps they would have been traditionally if we hadn’t thought them through in a modelling environment.

It fitted so well with our collaborative approach to working, the way we wanted to work. We saw Revit in 2007 when we were looking for some structural analysis software .. it was an American stand alone business, now of course owned by Autodesk. It seemed to fit with the way we wanted to work.

How Has BIM Changed Your Business?

It has made us more efficient, it’s allowing us to spend more time designing because there is a level of automation within producing the construction information. Some of the laborious steps that have been in the process traditionally, are now much more automated.

BIM allows us to spend the time improving the designs, refining the design, making sure things work better before they ever get to site. Rather spending time on internal communication. eg engineer to draftsman, we now spend more time making sure that design is as good as it can be, and less time producing the actual information because it’s much more automated, the link between engineering and production information is now much closer.

To my mind, it means that the emphasis has now gone back to the engineering and the design quality, not where it had got to … we were spending a lot of time checking and re-checking that internal communication, making sure that the product going out of the door was right.

Inevitable what was happening was, it was taking so much time within the fee, that it meant that the first solution that worked was what was published, whereas now we get chance to refine that design, a much more efficient process. Designs that go out to site are much better and much better thought out.

Are you an SME? Do you use BIM? What’s the biggest benefit you’ve derived from using BIM?

In the second and final part of our interview next week … find out what John would say to convince an Architect or a Contractor to use BIM.  

“BIM Made Simple” Event – What A Success!

Construction professionals gathered at Bearwood Lakes Golf Club this morning to attend the launch of our “BIM Made Simple” series of seminars.

John staves shared his passion for BIM, together with Gillian Wright, MD at Traico sharing her passion for collaborative working.

Feedback from the event was fantastic, here are just a few snippets;

  • “It was great to know and see the BIM processes working on a real project”
  • “Really useful information, thank you”
  • “Great case study”

Speaking after the event, John Staves said “it has been a real pleasure to share our knowledge and passion for BIM with delegates this morning. Good discussions and feedback from different disciplines across the construction sector make events like this really enjoyable”. BIM is delivering for us, could it help your business?

“BIM Made Simple” Breakfast Event

Join John Staves and Gillian Wright, Managing Director of Traico for our first “BIM Made Simple” Breakfast Meeting. Click here to register.

They will be unpacking how you can achieve a BIM Level 2 compliant project, not just what you need to do to achieve it and how it can benefit your business.

In this seminar John and Gillian will cover topics such as:

  • Why using BIM doesn’t have to be complicated
  • How you can profit from using BIM
  • Why you don’t need to invest in the technology to benefit from BIM
  • How to get your team ready for BIM
  • What is needed for your BIM journey and how to start it
  • BIM from a Client’s perspective