United House leads the way with pioneering use of BIM

Specialist London housing contractor and developer United House has become an early adopter of Building Information Modelling (BIM) – well ahead of the Government’s Construction Strategy which mandates use of Level 2 BIM on all public sector projects by 2016.

United House has been quick to take on the 3D digital construction technique, which designs-out building problems ahead of construction. By investing in BIM early on, and embracing the cultural shift involved in its take-up, United House has ensured it is well positioned to guide both its private and public sector clients through the new technology.

Ray Duffus, Technical Manager at United House’s Wharf Road construction site where BIM is being used to build 327 new homes in Hackney, explains:

“We are keen to ensure we are one step ahead of our competitors. As firm advocates of BIM, we know how much time and money it can save in the long run. It allows all of the supply chain to share the same plans so architects, contractors, M&E providers and landscape gardeners can co-ordinate designs with ease.”

Anne Shepherd, Interior Designer at the company’s private residential arm, United House Developments, has also found that BIM can transform the way she plans for a new project:

“BIM creates incredibly exact 3D drawings which means that I can visualise each room I am designing very clearly and ensure that I achieve best use of the space, whilst being aware of how positioning a bathroom or kitchen affects service runs through that part of the building. Another advantage is that you can see the impact of any changes immediately and the information is available to all parties; streamlining the build process and eliminating the need for costly last-minute changes.”

Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith recently named BIM as the “key stone in construction’s push for reform”, describing the technology as a “great leveller and opportunity for growth” and urging construction firms across the country to take up the software in order to stay ahead and compete with the UK’s largest contractors.

Jeffrey Adams, Group Chief Executive of United House, said:

“We have a reputation for pushing the boundaries in new construction techniques and delivering excellent returns on investment for our clients. Through our current £57milion construction project at Wharf Road in Hackney, we have discovered first-hand that BIM has been well worth the up-front investment. By punching above our weight in a highly competitive arena, we are paving the way for others – particularly in the public sector – to take up this new and highly beneficial software.”

The BIM concept envisages virtual construction of a building prior to its actual physical construction, in order to reduce uncertainty, improve safety, work out problems, and simulate and analyse potential impacts. It prevents errors by enabling conflict or ‘clash detection’ whereby the computer model visually highlights to the team where parts of the building (e.g. structural frame and building services pipes or ducts) may wrongly intersect. This allows important decisions about the project’s life cycle to be made reliably ahead of time and maximises productivity on site during the build programme, often shortening construction time and decreasing costly deliveries and site waste.