Building Information Manager at Transport for London
What is a BIM Manager?
BIM stands for Building Information Modelling and it’s very important to work carried out by Transport for London. BIM means producing and using information about the physical nature, properties and functions of an asset (which could be anything from a London Underground tunnel to a passenger lift or ticket hall, to name just a few examples). For example, it could involve creating a virtual model of a building project before it’s built.
BIM is collaborative, which means it’s a skill that relies heavily on teamwork and different skills and disciplines coming together. It’s a process that combines 3D design, simulation, analysis (study of information), quantity surveying and lots of other tools and disciplines.
As a BIM manager, you’ll most likely have built up your career from an engineering, architecture, quantity surveying, project management or construction-related background having gained hands on technical skills in or detailed understanding of computer aided design. You’ll be able to lead a team, build partnerships with suppliers and report into the head of engineering information to make sure any Transport for London assets are built accurately and safely.
Want an example of BIM and TfL assets? Read on...
DID YOU KNOW? Victoria Station is one of the busiest stations on the London Underground, used by around 80 million passengers every year. Building Information Modelling has been extremely important in a £700m project to safely increase the number of passengers using the station with new lifts, tunnels and ticketing halls. The Victoria Station Upgrade has pushed the use of BIM way beyond anything ever attempted in the UK before and set international standards! As an example of the level of detail involved, 3D printing technology was used to create physical scale models of the virtual BIM model. This visual tool then helped the project team to share their design goals with the public and stakeholders and help them understand the benefits of the upgrade. As a BIM manager, you could be involved in landmark projects like this too!
What does a BIM Manager do?
As a Building Information Modelling (BIM) manager for Transport for London you’ll have influence over how money is spent on projects managed by project management colleagues and supplied by Infrastructure companies and other suppliers. The finances involved can be up to £10 million in value. That’s a lot of responsibility, so you’ll know your stuff.
You may be managing project teams or virtual teams where information models are being made, used or worked on. As part of your job you’ll be working closely with engineers, sponsors, contractors and other managers. Your leadership, negotiation and people skills will be matched by your technical knowledge (which could include 3D design, quantity surveying, engineering principles and a range of skills that go into Building Information Modelling).
Here are some of the key responsibilities you’d take on:
- Making sure that any collaboration on a project is performed smoothly and consistently. You’ll step up to spot risks and influence actions if any part of the project doesn’t match rules and regulations
- Making sure that suppliers and their supply chain have everything they need to deliver their side of the project, and are able to do their job safely on time and in budget
- Making sure everyone has the technology they need to work with
- Capturing the needed information each time a big decision needs to be made, and sharing that with suppliers and whoever else might need to know.
Making decisions is a big part of your role. Decision making as a BIM manager can involve:
- Helping to choose suppliers based on how well they can deliver the information a project or programme needs
- Assessing the skills and suitability of people chosen to produce and modify components in an information model
- Using your initiative and good judgement when responding to emerging situations – this could include deciding when it’s needed to contact senior managers and engineers about urgent or serious issues.
Is a career in BIM management right for me?
Have you got an education or training background in architecture, engineering or construction? Are you excited about the idea of working on projects featuring constantly evolving technology like 3D design and 3D printing? Think you could handle the variety of a job where you’ll look at tiny details (like components and measurements) as well as the big picture (like a huge upgrade project for a London Underground station)?
If you can combine your foundation of technical knowledge with the ability to make big decisions and lead a team, you could explore the career world of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and become a BIM manager.
How to become a BIM Manager?
To get started with a career in Building Information Modelling (BIM) you will need a strong interest in engineering, architecture or construction and computer modelling.
At school you will find it useful to study subjects related to maths, science, engineering ICT and Design…Engineer….Construct. BIM processes involve measurements and a wide range of software used for design and analysis of information – BIM can even involve 3D printing! As a result, you have to know your way around a calculator and be comfortable with picking up new technology. Though a role as a BIM Manager may focus on the business side rather than creating models yourself, you will be expected to have a solid knowledge of what goes into the creation process.
At any point from school onwards, you can aim to boost your skills and knowledge through volunteering and work experience. This can help you build skills like communication, leadership and negotiation which will be useful later on in a BIM management career. These skills can also be demonstrated to employers through all kinds of recreational activities like sport and can help you get your foot in the door with a first job or training opportunity.
You can also aim to build your practical and technical skills from school onwards, through network and research. You can research STEM networks and opportunities for young people via social media. You can aim to practise your skills on trial versions of relevant CAD (computer-aided design) software, too. Also, you can take part in STEM Clubs like the Design Engineer Construct (DEC) Challenges.
After school you can take on a degree course. University degrees related to engineering (e.g. civil engineering), architecture or construction will be especially relevant. Transport for London offer a range of graduate schemes where you can build on your degree knowledge with hands-on experience:
Alternatively, you can opt for earn-while-you-learn schemes like apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships – then you can increase your employability with experience and further training as required. An example route in might be to achieve an HNC/HND (or higher) in an area of construction like civil engineering, and then build on that with experience in an architectural, engineering or construction-based role such as:
- TfL Quantity Surveying Level 3 and 6 (degree apprenticeship)
- TfL Project Management apprenticeship Level 4
- TfL Project Planner apprenticeship Level 3
- TfL Civil Engineering apprenticeship Level 3
The TfL project planning apprenticeship will help you build your project planning and management skills, which will lead to a level 3 diploma and apprenticeship in management, as well associated membership of the Chartered Management Institute.
Early careers that can lead to a BIM management position include careers where you’ll have hands-on experience of CAD (computer-aided design), including civil engineering careers.