BIM for building surveyors: background to new guidance note

Modelling is the norm

1 September 2016

Phil Southgate explains the background to the new RICS guidance note BIM for building surveyors

Building surveying is a diverse profession that demands a wide skill set. A building surveyor can be involved in many different construction projects, with roles varying from technical assurance to designing and managing works.

Level 2 building information modelling (BIM) was mandated in April for construction projects procured by central government departments. But if Level 2 BIM does offer the promised benefits, the relative narrowness of this mandate is irrelevant.

Building surveyors should be aware that it is worth embracing Level 2 BIM. The breadth of your service offering and capabilities means you have the most to gain. The new RICS guidance note BIM for building surveyors will help you on your way.

Various definitions

Perhaps the 1st distinction to grasp is the one between Level 2 BIM and a model – unfortunately, we tend to talk about them as though they are one and the same, which is confusing.

In fact, the BSI and Construction Industry Council guidance documents refer variously to a model, an information model, a project information model and building information modelling. From the various definitions, though, we can conclude that:

  • building information modelling is the process of designing, constructing, operating a building or infrastructure asset using electronic object-oriented information
  • a model is a digital, object-oriented representation of a built asset (in part or in full)
  • a project information model is all the documentation, models and data needed to design and construct an asset.

So when we talk about Level 2 BIM, what we mean is defined, managed processes covering the creation, use and application of models and their data, plus the extra information needed to create an accurate, reliable project information model.

The processes themselves can be simple or complex, but the point is to ensure that design and construction data is:

  • produced at the right time to support decision-making
  • produced in an appropriate format, shared and accessible to those people who need to access it
  • can be used efficiently.

The processes are based on the principle of collaboration and managed data and information sharing.

If Level 2 BIM requirements are clearly defined by the client and the processes are implemented effectively, then the result should be a predictable, achievable construction project supported by a structured record of the data needed to maintain and operate the completed asset.

It sounds simple. Of course, the starting point is the defined criteria for Level 2 BIM set out in a document called the employer’s information requirements (EIRs). In your role you might find that your client needs help drafting this, so you must be aware of content requirements, how these will be expressed in the contract document, what parties the document is relevant to and what you might expect to see in response to it.

The BIM for building surveyors guidance note will take you through this. It will likewise tell you about the required response to the EIRs, which is the BIM execution plan (BEP). Take note of this too – you may need to submit, contribute to or even coordinate a project BEP. So the EIRs cover what the client wants from project data and information, and the BEP covers how you as the surveyor will provide the client with this. A further aspect of Level 2 BIM is the protocol, the document that captures the EIRs as an appointment or contract requirement.

There are three other pieces to Level 2 BIM to think about:

  1. having a means of storing and retrieving project data and files so that they are available to those who need to access them, which is referred to as the “common data environment”
  2. the extent of modelling to be undertaken
  3. the scope and content of the asset data to be collected.

The EIRs should to an extent give direction on each of these, but whatever your particular role it is possible that you will be:

  • saving to and/or accessing files and data from the common data environment
  • producing, receiving and/or working with models and the data in them
  • contributing to the asset data to be provided.

This is a swift run though Level 2, and the note will fill the gaps.


You could say, on one hand, Level 2 BIM is little more than defined common sense. On the other, you can see the way in which it is heading: quietly but firmly towards a data-oriented industry where modelling is the norm, collaboration and transparency are vital and software and systems are embraced. After the initial pain, these things will make our lives easier.

Phil Southgate is managing director at Gleeds Building Surveying Limited and co-author of the RICS BIM for building surveyors guidance note

Further information