BIGBIM is an initiative promoted and demonstrated by _space group

BIG BIM takes Building Information Modelling further, moving beyond design and build, creating a single integrated data model that can be used for any project and works through four interlinked stages. BIG BIM challenges established procurement norms, pushing the industry to deliver at less cost, with less risk, less carbon and in less time. BIG BIM challenges us to think differently.

Image: Define and Validate Image: Prototype and Design Image: Manufature and Assembly Image: Operate and Maintain



Building Information Modelling brings together electronic construction information into a single integrated database. It encourages a more integrated approach to design and construction and is providing an answer to the many interface issues we currently have across our industry. The term was initially used in 2002 in North America, but is now gaining momentum across the globe with the development of software from organisations such as Bentley and Autodesk.


BIG BIM utilises and develops this data from validation of the project through to operation of the facility, optimising performance at every stage. The approach challenges established roles and procurement approaches adopted across the construction industry, instead relying on integration of processes and lean thinking. BIG BIM is not only a technological advancement, it is also a cultural one.


Fragmentation of the construction industry

When Sir Christopher Wren designed St Paul's Cathedral terms such as architect and main contractor didn't exist. The most accurate term to give Wren's profession would be Master Builder. He was responsible for the design, costs and construction of his projects, overseeing each key stage of the design and build process, and making sure it achieved the operational standards of the day. Wren's approach has been split into an industry comprising many professions: architects, structural engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, CDM coordinators, the list goes on. We also have a disconnect between the overall design and construction process driven by procurement methods. As buildings have become increasingly complex in recent years, it is the fight for integration between these elements, and the push for change, which causes the problems:

An acceptance of inconsistent performance

The construction industry has not traditionally invested in innovation or research. We are still using the construction methods we used many years ago. Ours is the only industry where, over the last 50 years, productivity has declined, but yet costs have risen.

Increasing energy costs

In recent years, energy costs have soared. Legislation is forcing facilities to be increasingly efficient. Our current construction methods will make hitting these targets difficult without fundamental change.

Health and Safety

Construction has the highest number of fatalities of any industry per 100,000 employees. In 1994, the industry introduced legislation to improve health and safety in construction. There have been improvements since then, but there are still too many fatalities on construction sites. Without fundamental change as to how we approach health and safety, industry improvement will be slow, expensive and cost many more lives.


Learning from other industries

Many other industries considerably improved their products and processes during the last half of the 20th Century. We should be pushed by the example these industries have set, and use some of their theories to challenge how we do things in construction.

Image: Aerospace


In the aerospace industry Boeing design, construct and operate their "buildings". Their "buildings" are huge. They can even fly. A typical 747 will cost around $350 million dollars. They have rfined their product over 40 years, producing something of exceptional quality and reliability. Boeing has a limited range of products which they invest in, allowing only minor internal adjustments or additions. We could learn from this as an industry by considering standard components and limiting our offer, focusing more on products than services.

Image: Automotive


The automotive industry was a trail blazer for standardisation. This approach has allowed them to continually improve their product whilst reducing costs to the consumer. For example, the Mini was designed in the 1960s, and although today's product is still a Mini, it is a totally different product compared to 50 years ago, and, in real terms, costs have been reduced.

At the same time, we still construct the same terraced house with bricks and mortar that we did 50 years ago, with little change or improvement in product. There is much to learn from the automotive industry about how we could change our ways efficiently, particularly when we look at the Toyota way, which considers continual improvement, lean design and manufacture.

Image: Ikea


IKEA revolutionised the furniture market on a global scale. They looked at a self assembly model, hugely reducing the cost of their products. By developing their supply chain and standardising components so they could benefit from volume purchasing they could drive cost down to levels never seen previously. When furniture is designed by IKEA they think about the manufacturing, the components, storage and assembly as one seamless flow.

Image:Total Architecture

Total Architecture

At _space group we believe everyone involved in the art of producing buildings is an architect. This includes engineers, builders and surveyors alike. At _space group, architecture is not a profession but a process. We call it Total Architecture. The RIBA, RICS and ICE are stand alone institutions, unlikely to promote merging together an industry such as the BIMI (Building Information Modelling Institute), however we ultimately strive for working practices that would be promoted by such an organisation.

Image: Virtual Building Site

Virtual Building Site (VBS)

At _space we have invested in a Virtual Building Site. We use a sophisticated Media:scape table, provided by ergonomic furniture designers, Steelcase Solutions, which allows everyone involved in the process of Total Architecture to be around a single table l sharing electronic data instantly via interconnected laptops. This allows construction to be tested cheaply and safely. This means our time on site is limited and predictable.


Rob Charlton

Rob Charlton is the CEO of _space group and is a passionate evangelist of BIM and how it can be part of the improvement of building performance. Along with the board of _space group, Rob has shaped the company into a business which can disrupt the construction sector by challenging some of the accepted norms.

Rob trained as an architect and has spent the past 20 years delivering buildings. This has driven him to find tools and processes to improve how we do things.


_spacegroup started life in 1957 as a traditional architectural practice. The organisation has now evolved into a "Total Architecture" business which is involved in the planning, design, construction and operation of buildings. The group practices what it preaches and looks to deliver real value through true integration of a building's lifecycle and the use of a supply chain.

For this reason we have invested in the tools and skills to enable us to optimise and validate a client's requirements at the outset. We have the full range of professions required for us to provide this service, from architects to engineers, making sure we can accurately and efficiently design and test a building.

We can also design and manufacture components and assemble them on site. Finally, we have operational and maintenance teams who can ensure facilities run at their optimum efficiency for their entire life cycle.


BIG BIM is intended to be provocative and does not claim to be the answer, but may be a part of the way towards the answer. Only people can make the improvements we really need, not software, and we would be delighted if you would join the BIG BIM debate.

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BIGBIM is a registered trademark © Space Group 2014