July 13, 2015

‘Virtual’ hospital leads way on BIM

A local authority has won a prestigious Building Information Modelling (BIM) award for its work on a pioneering procurement tool.

Sandwell Council was named winner of the BIM Initiative of the Year category in the Construction News Awards, presented at a London ceremony on 30 June.

The council received the award for the West Midlands Virtual Hospital (WMVH), a 3D digital representation of a hospital, which showcases the region’s supply chain to professionals involved in commissioning, specifying, engineering, building and running healthcare facilities. By taking a virtual “walk” through the WMVH, visitors can click on any area or component – from building materials to medical equipment – to view comprehensive information on potential local suppliers who have signed up to the initiative.

The project, which is free to use, is supporting the procurement process for the £353 million, 670-bed Midland Metropolitan Hospital, which is due to open in 2018-19 to serve people living in Smethwick and west Birmingham. The preferred bidder awarded the project will be given the WMVH to provide comprehensive, easy access to the local supply chain.

Construction News said judges had described the council’s work as “miles ahead of other organisations” and “an astonishing take on BIM”. The council has also been running BIM workshops attended by dozens of local companies.

Councillor Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Council, said: “Our innovative work on the West Midlands Virtual Hospital demonstrates the council’s dynamic and pioneering approach in engaging with businesses in the region and providing them with the knowledge, skills and capabilities to be leading BIM players both here in the UK and abroad.

“It’s also really humbling for us to have received recognition from leading BIM experts and construction peers from the private sector.”

The Sandwell Council project highlights how BIM offers benefits at all stages of the procurement and supply process for construction projects, with the potential to improve efficiency and co-ordination and reduce waste and disputes.

However, the contractual implications of BIM projects must be addressed from the outset or the risk of disputes arising from this new way of working could actually be enhanced.

As BIM continues to evolve and becomes increasingly embedded in the construction sector, Palmers’ construction specialists can advise and assist with related issues, including structuring contracts and other commercial agreements to incorporate BIM. For more information, please contact Adam Davis.