BIM Earthing Demystified… Cutting through the endless jargon

BIM Earthing Demystified… Cutting through the endless jargon

BIM earthing?

If like me, you’re a little confused about what BIM REALLY means. This article is for you. It covers some of the misconceptions and demystifies a few uncertainties – without the Governmental jargon!

Let’s start with the basics…

BIM Earthing Demystified…

BIM earthing
mathew hayman source: team sky

What is BIM?

BIM can be likened to the dogged pursuit by the successful Sky Team ( shown above) for “marginal gains” in Sky’s effort to dominate the competitive cycling scene.  But instead of cycling, BIM’s marginal gains are applied in context of the entire UK plc construction programme.  Through the use of digital technology.

BIM stands for Building Information Modelling. And applies to all UK public sector construction/built works and UK infrastructure schemes alike.  The standard PAS1192:2 came into effect during 2013, with a very clear target of having every public sector asset BIM level II compliant by 2016!

Cutting through some of the jargon. – I see BIM earthing as a repackaging or updating of received best practice to manage a construction project from Design, Construction through to Handover and beyond. Using digital technology to help drive the ‘marginal gains’ across the project’s entire life cycle.


Sadly, the UK government types have peppered BIM with more incomprehensible acronyms, abbreviations and buzz-words to make a practical way of working into something unnecessarily confusing.

So, let’s cut through the proverbial and discover what BIM earthing is about. And how it will effect Earthing System Designs to BS EN 50522 or BS7430, for the future.

What is BIM Level II?

Software, such as, ACAD, Revit, Bentley that can design in the 2D & 3D is used to comply to level II.  But BIM earthing doesn’t stop there…

To enable simultaneous design changes – Spatial CAD layout packages integrate with backoffice collaborative software like BaseCamp, TeamWork, DaPulse, G-Suite, Office 365, etc. This technology helps to make remote-collaboration a reality.  GreyMatter’s BIM Earthing and Lightning designers work out of both the UK and the southern hemisphere.  This means that design changes and computations are worked-on when most of us are asleep.  A new version of a rise of earth potential study can be reviewed by the client team the very next day in most cases.  This is an example of a ‘marginal gain’ intended under BIM.

Now, level II accepts that these packages can work independently but their output must be in a common format.  Ultimately, each discipline (Electrical, Mechanical, Structural, etc) will have its own model of the project.  The distinct disciplines are integrated into one ‘federated’ model to allow a coordinated review and resolve ‘clashes’.

What is BIM 4D, 5D, 6D?

2D and 3D is widely accepted in computer based modelling, e.g. designing in 2 or 3 dimensions.  4D, 5D and 6D are extensions to this thinking.  However, in BIM terms they relate to:

4D = time.  This might involve a video to capture the construction process, or the programme schedule (Gantt chart).

5D = cost budgeting.  Savings, value engineering, and costs are overlayed into the project.

6D = asset modelling.

Asset Modelling

‘Asset modelling’ addresses the end user experience.  For example, the owner’s facility manager may have a dashboard on his/her workstation showing relevant model of the building or asset, and the user can drill-down into this virtual model to answer ANY question he/she might have, e.g., what’s the temperature of ‘x’ room, which fans are on load, what lights are on… and for Earthing Systems – what is the condition of my Earthing System?

What is COBie?

Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie), this is yet another mind-numbingly complicated way of saying ‘Spreadsheet’!  Yes, you heard me right … an excel spreadsheet!

Excel and Google Sheets both have sharing and updating features, as do other database formats like SQL, etc.  The intent behind BIM is to make these repositories of data shareable in real time during the construction and design phases so to speed up the information sharing within the project.

What is CDE?

BIM earthing
Source: Sony. Oops the UK government have done it again.

In the words of Britney “Oops, I (they) did it again!“…

CDE is yet another jargon acronym for Common Data Exchange, or a common format across the project team where drawings, programmes schedules, specifications, etc. can all be shared.

It’s not difficult to imagine the vast quantity of data that will be whizzing around from country to country, workstation to workstation as we edit, review, share and develop our way through project delivery.  So, where is all this data going to sit?

BIG Data

Much of the value in the data is lost almost as quickly as it is created.  Nevertheless, regardless of value … all the data will sit on giant server farms – Every single attribute of the project, from the specification, supply source, MTBF (mean time before failure), live equipment feeds, re-order details, configuration – EVERYTHING!

For the majority of this data, its flow is seamless as part of the Internet of Things.  However, when the data ceases to move or be used, it sits dormant in most cases like huge Data Lakes, accessible by a few who will fish the lake for their questions to improve the reliability and operability of all our projects and structures.  Every minute detail available to the authorised user (and non-authorised?) for perpetuity.

So, does this sound a bit of a Utopian view?  Possibly, but like it or not… it’s here and coming to a town near you!  Make sure YOUR design team are BIM aware / compliant.  Or, get in touch and discover how BIM earthing can make a difference in your scheme.

[wptab name=’About’]

Ian Griffiths SelfieIan Griffiths

Ian is a Principal Consultant at GreyMatters, with 26 years experience solving HV earthing, EMC, and lightning problems for clients worldwide.  When he’s not busy studying problems and designing solutions, you can find him mountain biking, sailing and racing motorbikes in the summer.  In the winter he tends to head off to the mountains chasing the snow with friends and family.  Ian holds a Master’s Degree, and Degrees in both Mechanical and Electrical disciplines, and is one of the top 1% accredited CDEGS consultants and advisor to international utility companies, data-centre and infrastructure developers globally.

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