On Friday 11 December, MP for West Bromwich East and deputy leader for the Labour Party, Tom Watson officially opened a special training suite to help West Midlands businesses get to grips with an emerging technology.
The BIM (Building Information Modelling) training suite is located at the Sandwell Business Solutions Centre, CAP Centre in Windmill Lane, Smethwick (adjacent to the new £430m Midland Metropolitan Hospital Development).
BIM is a universal means for sharing digital-engineered designs and data between clients and suppliers. From April 2016 all public-sector capital-build projects must comply with BIM Level 2, so it is vital that SMEs are confident in using it.
To help SMEs adopt BIM and remain competitive in the construction and engineering sectors, Sandwell Council has opened the 12-workstation facility with sponsorship support from local businesses including West Midlands headquartered construction giant Carillion; Metsec, one of the region’s most successful cold roll-forming firms; ICI AkzoNobel Paints, a global powder coatings manufacturer and; Ascom Wireless Solutions, the UK’s leading wireless communications provider.
The facility features BIM viewing software, online and social learning platforms, consultancy and affordable vocational training in CAD skills, 3D modelling, engineering design services, product design and BIM object creation. It is a first for a UK local authority.
Operating through its delivery partner, BIMability, the new suite feeds into a wider, highly innovative project also being pioneered by Sandwell Council: the West Midlands Virtual Hospital (WMVH). WMVH is an online 3D simulation of a modern hospital, embedded with a BIM platform. The digital-engineered online hospital portrays the real-life £430m Midland Metropolitan hospital (MMH) that is currently being constructed by principle contractor, Carillion.
WMVH will act as a procurement tool for the MMH’s main contractor and their top-tier suppliers. It is essentially a comprehensive directory of local suppliers, with a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate 3D design demonstrator.
Carillion can select the suppliers it would like to work with for different areas of the build. Architects and engineers working for Carillion’s design teams can also download BIM objects linked to product data, and product specifications from suppliers who interest them. It makes it easier for Carillion to source products and components responsibly and locally.
Councillor Paul Moore, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Investment, said: “Our aim is to put the West Midlands at the forefront of BIM adoption, not just locally, but globally. We want to raise the significant opportunities that BIM presents and local firms have helped us to achieve this by sponsoring our BIM training suite.
“We’re delighted to have MP Tom Watson’s support in opening the facility – not least for his well-known interest in our digital economy.”
Richard Allen, Marketing and Business Development Director at Metsec, said: “At Metsec we’ve been using BIM for over 20 years and have seen the advantages of fully integrating it into our approach when working with every aspect of the construction process. By sponsoring the suite, Metsec is supporting Sandwell Council’s vision for adopting BIM. The West Midlands Virtual Hospital is a great showcase for BIM and the more we can support and raise awareness of BIM amongst the local area, the better. The BIM Suite is made up of twelve workstations and will provide support for all levels, including for apprenticeships, to suit different roles and vocations.”
Sandwell Council’s unique approach in creating both the WMVH and launching the BIM Suite has been recognised on a regional and national level, winning several prestigious awards including the 2015 National Construction News Awards for BIM Initiative of the Year and procurement award for small business friendliness in 2014 & 2015 from the Federation of Small Businesses. Sandwell Council were also Winners and National Finalists in two categories (Innovation and Client of the Year) at the prestigious Celebrating Construction Excellence 2015 Awards.
To date, over 2,000 users (including clients, architects, buyers, suppliers and health support service providers) have registered to use WMVH, uploading details of thousands of products and components available locally.
Sandwell Council has also arranged nine BIM workshops, resulting in over 140 regional companies learning about how to equip themselves with vital BIM skills.
For more information on the initiative please contact Sandwell Council’s Steve Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org. For help and advice in adopting BIM and to find out more about the range of BIM services available please contact the BIMability team on 0121 667 2111 or email@example.com.