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Centre for Digital Built Britain completed its five-year mission and closed its doors at the end of September 2022

This website remains as a legacy of the achievements of our five-year foundational journey towards a digital built Britain
Blog: Thayla Zomer discusses the University of Cambridge BIM Journey

The University of Cambridge is creating a digital estate and delivering fully integrated BIM across design, construction and facilities management. Thayla Zomer, a PhD student at the Centre for Digital Built Britain investigating practices that influence the successful execution and completion of BIM projects, sets out the University’s digital journey.

The University of Cambridge Estate – the buildings used for teaching, research and administrative activities – encompasses 600,000 square metres across 350 operational facilities. The complex nature of the University Estate presents many challenges; for example, some buildings are 800 years old and protected by English Heritage, and a wide range of information is required to manage this portfolio. To enhance decision-making and ensure better outcomes, the future of Estate Management is digital.

The digital estate

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an essential component of creating a fully digital estate and the University has invested in developing and implementing BIM across the capital programme. Estate Management has developed a comprehensive information management strategy, including processes and documentation, to support the delivery of BIM Level 2 in line with the Government Construction Strategy. The goal of a digitally-enabled estate is ‘to provide easy, reliable and timely access to accurate and consistent information across the full asset lifecycle from master planning to maintenance and disposal or renewal’ as highlighted by Chris Hinton, Technology and Innovation Lead and responsible for the transition towards a digital estate at the University of Cambridge Estate Management. The main initiatives implemented by the Estate Management team as part of the digitalisation strategy are summarised below in Figure 1.

Bim Journey Image x 600

Figure 1: The University’s BIM journey: Key initiatives 

The Benefits of BIM

Many project delivery and asset operation tasks benefit from the incorporation of BIM and digital technologies. As part of the University of Cambridge Employer Information Requirements (EIR), various BIM applications have improved the efficiency of the construction process and added value to the projects in diverse ways. Some of the new projects that have already benefited from BIM implementation include the new Civil Engineering Department (on the West Cambridge site) the Capella building (a six-storey building containing state-of-the-art laboratories, located on the Cambridge biomedical campus), the Cavendish III and Facilities Hub buildings (a major new project to replace existing facilities for the Department of Physics at West Cambridge) and the Chemistry of Health building (a new facility connected to the existing Chemistry building).

BIM RIba Stages 

Figure 2: BIM applications and benefits across the RIBA stages.

In the early stages of the RIBA plan of work (the UK model for the building design and construction process), BIM technologies have been used to create the visual simulation and to explore and assess the preliminary design. The BIM model has also been used to perform energy assessments and to identify ways to optimise the proposed design and reduce the structure’s lifecycle costs, ultimately contributing to long-term savings. BIM has facilitated cost estimation throughout the project’s stages as well as site planning. The use of a 4D model (that is, a 3D model with the added dimension of time) has facilitated phase planning and provided a clear understanding of the project’s milestones. In the development and technical design stages, BIM tools have been used for design authoring, design review, coordination and engineering analysis. The use of BIM models for design review has improved the quality of the buildings and, ultimately, enhanced user satisfaction. Additionally, extensive coordination (using clash detection software to compare 3D models and identify field conflicts) has resulted in improved outcomes in comparison to the traditional way of working.

Asset maintenance and management

As well as delivering benefits at the design and build stage, a significant component of BIM’s value is its application after the building has been completed. The link of BIM models to the university’s facilities management system will contribute to reducing operational costs over the lifecycle of the buildings. As the building’s digital twin, BIM not only contains all the design information about the building, it also archives the building’s history of construction, use and maintenance, which will be invaluable for the maintenance team in developing maintenance strategies. To enhance the benefits during the buildings’ operation, those involved in the operational phase are engaging in the design process, allowing critical operational issues to be highlighted earlier on in the projects. All the knowledge that the Estate Management team has captured via BIM implementation in the projects has been applied to feedback the Asset Information Requirements (AIR), which feeds the Employer Information Requirements (EIR) for future projects.

The University of Cambridge is building on the transformation to digital and will continue on its BIM journey to support the delivery of exceptional educational facilities and enable more informed asset management decision-making. 


For more information about BIM implementation at the University of Cambridge projects please contact Thayla Zomer at