BIM & Digital

How the interiors sector is planning a digital revolution

A new BIM toolbox developed by the fit-out trade body should accelerate the sector’s digital progress

Mark Norton, head of BIM, ISG (Credit: Jon Challicom)

As arguably the most time-poor part of the construction process with staggeringly short notice of new work, how can the fit-out sector keep up with the push for BIM and digital adoption?

This summer fit-out trade body the Finishes and Interiors Sector (FIS) updated its 2016 BIM toolbox, not only in response to ISO 19650, but also because BIM and digital construction has moved on so much since the toolbox was first published.

Mark Norton, head of BIM for fit out at ISG in the UK, and chair of the FIS digital construction working group that rewrote the toolbox, is keen to point out that while the sector is time-poor, it has made plenty of digital strides: “I wouldn’t say fit out is the poor relation by any means. BIM is on the up in the fit-out sector.”

Prior to the pandemic-enforced lockdown, FIS members’ demand for BIM training was strong, Norton says, and in the two months since its launch, the toolbox has been downloaded more than 100 times.

The 62-page toolbox should be required reading for all 500-plus FIS members. Section A provides an introduction to BIM and considers the business case for its adoption. Section B looks at the development of BIM capability, implementation of a BIM deployment plan and delivering on a BIM project. The toolbox also includes a glossary of the acronyms that dominate the BIM landscape.

Norton says: “I think people look at BIM and immediately they get worried; they’re thinking about hardware and software costs – it’s like an iceberg.

“It’s the training and cultural change, the deployment of it, is where you should be investing your time and money – and sometimes that’s the last thing to be considered, but it should be your primary driver.”

Norton is keen to remind and reassure FIS members that adopting BIM is not a ‘one size fits all’ exercise: “I have this conversation with a lot of people: ‘How do I start a BIM journey?’ It’s really what fits for your organisation, for what you deliver.”

He cites an example: “We work with a lot of contractors of various disciplines: we had someone tiling the floors on a job and they asked ‘What do we do about BIM?’ We answered: ‘We know you can lay that floor tile – we just need the data on the floor tile. So fill out a spec sheet of what it is and how to get it in the future, and we’ll pass that on to the client.’ So a data sheet was sufficient for that contractor.”

His advice to FIS members is: “You need to be agile. You need to be reviewing things again and again. Developing the deployment plan and driving the adoption are crucial.”

Even at a business the size of ISG, BIM and digital construction is in a constant state of evolution. Norton founded ISG’s BIM and digital construction team seven years ago; the team now comprises 20 staff in London and a further 10 in the rest of the UK and Europe.

“It’s been an educational process: we’re still learning from our clients and vice versa,” he says, noting that there’s almost a competitive edge among clients now, challenging each other and their supply chains to adhere ever closer to BIM best practice and to achieve ever-greater results.

“They want their next project to be the best BIM project. We’ve just finished a project in the City and we had just one variation on site: one! Everything went as smooth as you like, which is testament to all the hard work that the team put in at the beginning. 

“And success goes viral.”

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