What Are BIM Levels, And Why Do They Matter To Architects?


Here at Munday + Cramer, our team of architects and CIAT-qualified technicians are proud to boast CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software which meets BIM Level 3. Though this may sound impressive, we’d wager that most people won’t actually understand what this means. So, with that in mind, the following blog is to provide a brief overview of the various BIM Levels and their place within wider UK Government strategy.

CAD SoftwareA sketch, composed by our CIAT-qualified technicians, made using CAD software

This is software that architects, architectural technicians and engineers utilise to compose highly accurate technical plans and 3D models. With the help of CAD software, architects can design everything from initial plans and elevations, all the way through to a complete 3D model of the project, showing what it will look like upon completion. The scope of 3D CAD software is incredibly extensive, and using it, architects can build up a fully detailed, visual picture of a project, including both its exterior and interior. In an industry where accuracy is already a key prerequisite, CAD software helps provide architects that precision in even greater levels.

The History OF BIM

Back in 2011, the UK Government’s proposed construction strategy set out 4 different levels of BIM. But what is it? BIM stands for ‘Building Information Modelling’ and in recent times it has become increasingly important. Since its first inception, BIM has been an integral part of that, now decade-old, construction strategy; the strategy has centred around digitising the construction and operations of the built assets which serve the British public – across all sectors.

It’s a programme aiming firstly to optimise the efficiency with which built assets are provided, and secondly to ensure a much greater accuracy of delivery, making certain that assets are built right the first time around. Having established the purpose of BIM, what, then, does it look like in tangible terms?

BIM In Practice

Speaking generally, BIM utilises complex computer software to create 3D models and subsequently hold data and information about a project’s design and operation. BIM-compliant software enables greater collaboration across a project in its entirety, from planning and design to on-site construction and even through to operations and facilities management (this comes in terms of maintaining the condition of the asset). Patrick MacLeamy, Chairman of buildingSMART International, even goes so far as to refer to BIM as “the first truly global construction technology” – praise indeed!

At our practice, we tend to use our BIM-Level 3 compliant CAD software most often in the planning and architectural design stage, helping our clients visualise how exactly their project will pan out, and flagging up potential issues before they become such. This alone can lead to drastic savings on a project, as well as mitigating the added time and stress that mistakes on a project invariably introduce.

Level 0

This level can be seen as the, now-archaic, method of going about a construction project that was prevalent prior to 2011 and the UK Government’s construction strategy. Level 0 projects were only using 2D CAD software and there was little to no collaboration between parties; any data that was exchanged was done so in print form. Where we are today, as you’ll see, is a far cry from the relative stone age of those previous Level 0 projects. Level 0 was typified by the absence of Business Information Modelling, rather than its presence.

Level 1

This level was set out in the UK’s construction strategy in 2011, and ran through to 2015. It saw the introduction of 3D CAD software into architectural design processes, which greatly improved a project’s visualisation, however there was still relatively little collaboration between separate stakeholders. To achieve Level 1, stipulations included: setting up information hierarchies to support data exchange, implementing and maintaining project-specific codes as well as outlining clear roles for all stakeholders involved within a project.

Level 2

The UK Government set this level out to run between 2016 and 2020. In 2011, the Government mandated that by 2016 all public-sector projects must adhere to BIM Level 2 as an absolute minimum. Achieving BIM Level 2 required a collaborative element, sharing data between parties through a CDE (Common Data Environment). Data-rich objects being run through a managed 3D environment, such as that which our CAD software provides, was also a key component in achieving BIM Level 2.

The more cynical amongst you may, by now, be questioning the usefulness of such programmes. After all, people have grown increasingly tired of Government acronyms in recent years and all the bureaucracy they have tended to bring with them. BIM isn’t just a wishy-washy idea for the sake of good government optics, however, it has already had demonstrable impacts which more than justify its place within government strategy. Between 2011 and 2015 (still in Level 1), the implementation of BIM capabilities into firms led to 20% savings in UK government construction costs. Looking at a more specific example, BIM-compliant software has saved The Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institution somewhere in the region of £800,000 in development costs. In an era where public spending is as stretched as it is, these kinds of savings present nothing short of a lifeline for the public sector.

Level 3

At the time of writing, the UK Government finds itself coming towards the end of BIM Level 2, and at the very beginnings of BIM Level 3. This new level, first outlined by Vince Cable back in 2015, has been coined Digital Built Britain. Level 3 centres around the concept of a singular data source and maximum collaboration. This is different from a situation where the separate stakeholders each have their own federated BIM model. Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong about having these separate models, what they can do is introduce a risk of conflicting or inaccurate information which can seriously hinder a project’s progress.

Level 3, itself, comprises four separate stages: A, B, C and D. These delivery phases focus on convergence (enabling improvements in the Level 2 model), the enabling of new technologies, the development of new business models and finally becoming a global leader in BIM Level 3 working.

It’s thought that Level 3 will not be rolled out in full until some point in the mid-2020s. The fact, then, that Munday + Cramer are already well-ahead of the game, with regards to our CAD software, is a mark of our commitment. Our commitment both to the construction and operations industries, as well as the public sector, moving forward.

The prospect of more digitally-optimised public built assets in the near future is an exciting one. Great strides have already been made and continue to be so in the world of Business Information Modelling. So, if you’d like to find out any more about how our CIAT-qualified technicians utilise BIM-compliant software, get in touch! Contact Munday + Cramer today on 01245 326 200.