Digital bathrooms

Tom Farrant of Lecico Bathrooms looks at how the ongoing pandemic has accelerated changes in the industry’s working patterns, including the move to a greater acceptance of 3D BIM, and how this has improved bathroom specification

Digital transformation continues to change working practices across the construction industry. The pandemic has seen an acceleration in cloud computing, virtual reality and other technologies that are being adopted by construction professionals. Through applications such as Microsoft teams and Zoom, project stakeholders have been coming together through digital means – to a point where it is now the norm. A key aspect to note as a result of this is the ease in which these digital technologies have been adopted.

The pandemic has demonstrated how collaboration can still be achieved remotely, with reduced overheads, and in a more sustainable manner. Like many, specifiers in the construction industry have proved that working remotely has had a limited impact on their role and output. It is highly likely that specifiers will continue to blend remote working with working in the office.

Being able to access product data at any time, and importantly in a clear structured and digital manner is now paramount. For manufacturers who have adopted BIM (Building Information Modelling) processes to a good standard, the journey to access data in a structured way for specifiers has already begun. It is easy to get side-tracked by the visual 3D aspect of BIM, but undeniably the greatest benefit comes through the power of how BIM utilises digital product data. The UK BIM mandate in 2016 was driven by the need for better asset management of government buildings through improved data delivered by BIM.

Since the mandate, BIM has effectively become the norm in our industry. Survey responses in the 2020 Annual BIM Report produced by NBS suggest that over 70 per cent of our industry has now adopted BIM and these trends are expected to continue. This is a clear requirement to transform the industry and the way we all work when focusing on improved safety and sustainability. The report shows that the same benefits of using BIM are consistently being recognised by specifiers, it offers improved coordination of information, better productivity, reduced risk, and importantly increased profitability.

Unsurprisingly, BIM adoption has grown substantially over the last decade. In 2011, 43 per cent of survey respondents had not heard of BIM. Today, awareness is almost universal, with 73 per cent using BIM. The BIM standards are becoming embedded, and fewer people see BIM as simply ‘3D modelling’. BIM is used across all sectors including commercial and residential. Though initial adoption resulted from public sector projects and the need for BIM Level 2 in 2016, the wide use and benefits are applicable to any project.

Specifiers are using BIM to meet numerous industry standards, and many are familiar with, and using standard documents such as BS EN ISO 19650 and tasks outlined within those standards. New standards such as ISO 23386 and 23387 focus on delivery of product data in a machine readable (digital) format. NBS Source provides a uniform solution for all manufacturers to do this. With the forthcoming Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI) from the Construction Products Association, more and more focus on how data can be accessed digitally will become increasingly important.

In a broader context, BIM offers a simple solution for specifiers to adhere to best practices and to meet industry standards, and most importantly to understand and improve sustainability in construction.

BIM provides a high level of data, not just on products, and allows for consideration of operational aspects of the build process including water use, materials use, and operational energy, which all go towards whole life carbon calculations. Water usage is a less publicised sustainable factor than carbon but is a fundamentally important sustainability issue.

Statistically the specification of bathrooms (sanitaryware), doors, windows, and furniture products are ahead of the curve in BIM usage. Data on flow rates, materials, recycled content, usage and duration (embodied carbon), is available for bathroom products in BIM and is proving to support the drive to improve sustainability in construction.

Other reasons for increased use of BIM for the specification of bathrooms are due to increased complexity in modelling bathrooms products, and because of the benefits of being able to create visualisations of areas of aesthetic importance. BIM brings visualisation and planning benefits as well as data.

Tom Farrant is business development director at Lecico Bathrooms