BIM time for Scottish timber trade

By Jason Ruddle, Elecosoft

AFTER a turbulent economic period, the construction sector is welcoming the greater energy that is finally emerging. There is significant opportunity emerging south of the border for housebuilders – with Scottish timber specialists in prime position to take advantage.

With the launch of the Accelerated Construction Scheme last autumn, along with new funding for housebuilding in England and its housing White Paper, Westminster has committed to supporting rapid delivery of hundreds of thousands of new homes, as well as many garden villages and towns. It has made modern methods of construction central, such as offsite manufacturing and timber frame.

According to the NHBC, 98% of housebuilders are at least considering new methods – and it is inevitable that timber will be part of that, thanks to its twin sustainability and speed benefits. Having been at the forefront of modern timber framing technology for years, Scottish manufacturers are well positioned to gain advantage – but they must get to grips with BIM.

The public funding of many upcoming schemes will mean these will fall under the BIM mandate. Principal contractors will need sub-contractors and suppliers who can seamlessly and immediately support BIM. They will want products which come as ‘BIM objects’ of bundled data – plus teams which are ready to work collaboratively. Technical solutions are part of the answer; those using our timber frame design software, Framing, can already generate detailed 3D component model information which outputs into a common data format to integrate into a federated IFC model. However, housebuilders and suppliers must also learn how to interact with BIM-based project workflows and plans.

Glasgow-based Mactaggart & Mickel Timber Systems is aware of this. A statement from the firm read: “BIM is still largely an unknown in the timber frame industry. We are actively working on a BIM model for domestic housing, in collaboration with another housebuilder, funded by the CITB and with Elecosoft’s support. However, we are already ready in some respects: as a timber system business, we are now BIM compliant and fully certified. We have the capability to output our timber designs into IFC models today.”

Scottish construction is already at the forefront of timber engineering – after all, Scotland’s tallest timber apartment building, with 10 storeys, is already under construction. It is only right that its timber manufacturers play a strong role. The only thing that may hold them back is BIM – and that can be addressed through the right tools, commitment, and willingness to change.