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BIM for landscape – who’s ready?

“A metaphor for innovative change”

BIM for landscape who's ready?

– Mick Phelps on defining BIM, speaking at BIM Today: 2016 and Beyond

As an evangelist of BIM for landscape, collaborative data exchange and the road to compliance for landscape professionals, I attended the BIM Today conference in London last month. Whilst the industry readies itself to reach its’ BIM targets – sharing and exchanging landscape project data in the most effective way before 2016 – the speakers and focus of the conference sought to highlight the key factors the construction supply chain faces today and the opportunities that lie ahead for the future.

What do we already know about BIM?

The three levels of BIM are already defined – from Level 1 where project data is shared but not in common formats, to Level 2 where information is shared in common formats as federated models, to Level 3 where data sharing is fully collaborative, unified and robust.

We know why we are striving for BIM for landscape projects:

  • Save time: Standardised information and processes can reduce time by 80%
  • Reduce project costs: By 10% of the contract value
  • Increase efficiency: Reduced errors, reduced need for duplication
  • Improve data quality: More consistent accurate information
  • Collaborate! Closer working and compatibility across all project disciplines
  • Detect clashes: Identify clashes pre-contract, not on-site
  • Gain traceability: Track and trace plants and materials
  • Simplify management: Ease of handover to other disciplines
  • Reduce carbon footprint:  Reduce CO2 emissions through project efficiencies
  • Create Asset Information Model:  Inform and direct in-use asset management for facilities managers

Great opportunities for BIM for landscape

At the conference, the speakers reminded us that BIM isnot about transformation from 2D to 3D – it’s about getting all project partners excited about data, using it and exchanging it in its simplest format for the ultimate benefit of the project/asset itself.  In fact, BIM should mean the “Benefits of an Information Mindset”, rather than just Building Information Modelling.

There are great opportunities within the Landscape industry to explore the considerable benefits that BIM brings.  Think of the aeronautics industry – we no longer talk about “selling engines” but “selling hours of thrust”.  This is because their industry has embraced BIM and created systems and processes to record and analyse information – imagine this in landscape!

For BIM to drive forward in landscape, we also need INTELLIGENT CLIENTS – clients who know what information they actually want! Do your clients know?

What are the latest developments in BIM?

BIM Level 2 provides the framework to record structured information throughout the construction phases (where there has been considerable inefficiency historically). Beyond Level  2, this ‘Data Store’ will be put to fuller use and new applications (apps) will take advantage of this repository (e.g. smart bus timetables responding dynamically to live data). Level 3 has been announced recently with the launch of DIGITAL BUILT BRITAIN by Vince Cable.  Its focus shifts to the whole-life management of the project using structured project information recorded and measured throughout the build phases.

The overriding sentiment  when talking to the construction and BIM fraternity was that BIM NEEDS TO BE MUCH SIMPLER.  Simplicity could come from embracing social media and adopting new apps built for mobile devices, accessing asset information in new, yet to be discovered, interactive ways. In essence:

BIM means

BIM needs to be much simpler

Agreed. Whether it’s using apps on mobile phones to access asset information, simplifying the BIM jargon or sharing the knowledge between sectors within the built environment, for all 2 million individuals involved in construction in the UK industry, we need to get a grip with collaboration and sharing of project data.

Let’s think of BIM levels the same way as we do levels of Innovation:

  • Level 1 – do nothing new but do it properly
  • Level 2 – do the same as we’ve always done but do it differently
  • Level 3 – do things differently.

I’m for Level 3 – who’s with me?!

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The new home of the NPS:

Home of the NPS National Plant Specification

nps national plant specification

CS Design Software, the providers of design solutions for landscape, have launched their new website at – a fresh, new interface with easy navigation and full product features for the suite of programmes available from CSD. is the new home of the National Plant Specification (NPS) (previously GoHelios) and the integrated CS Artisan suite of software solutions for landscape professionals.


  • NO MORE GUESSWORK: An industry-recognised standard for plants by size, height and form – no more guesswork
  • LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: Compare like-for-like when budgeting and choosing plant suppliers – level playing field
  • SEARCH AND SOURCE: Fully searchable plant lists with specifications by species and variety – search and source




Landscape Institute delivers first successful BIM for Landscape Masterclass

The first Landscape Institute BIM Masterclass was held in Birmingham on 17 November 2014 and received overwhelmingly positive feedback, – such as:

“Better than any other BIM training I’ve ever done”

“Presenters were superb.”

“A very informative and interesting day that squeezes a lot in”

“I came away feeling at last I understood what it was all about”

Event Details

The LI BIM Masterclass aims to demonstrate how BIM can be applied to a Landscape Architecture workflow showing examples of the process, how information is produced, managed and interrogated and touching on some of the benefits and opportunities which this process presents for Landscape Architects. 

Since the LI ran a series of introduction to BIM seminars throughout 2012-13, members have been asking for more detailed information on how to apply BIM to their projects. Therefore the LI BIM Working Group have prepared a series of regional ‘Masterclass’ events throughout the UK that offer members the chance to attend and gain a better understanding of how the whole BIM process works. CSD is actively involved with the LI BIM Working Group and delivering the Masterclasses.

The Masterclass events are aimed at those who would like to see practical examples of BIM processes for landscape, those who wish to enhance their existing knowledge of the subject and anyone wishing to learn about BIM for the first time. The ultimate aim is that all of our members will feel confident in applying BIM to their projects and discussing it with their clients and other consultants.

The next BIM for Landscape Masterclass will be in Manchester on 29 January 2015. Follow the link below for details…

BIM for Landscape – Software or Data Exchange?


Revit is becoming synonymous with BIM in the same way that AutoCAD has been to CAD. Unfortunately at the moment, this is a great solution for architects which is extendable into landscape hardworks but the provisions for softworks and planting are sadly lacking.

The question therefore is whether it is preferable to use landscape tools in a product developed primarily for another construction discipline (with all the associated process, structure and content) or to opt for a product focussed specifically on the discipline of landscape architecture with information exchange allowing data to be input/output into BIM readers (Solibri, Navisworks etc) which (will) provide all the collaboration tools, clash detection, audit, visualisation and interrogation to truly deliver BIM. From my perspective the answer will probably be a combination of both of the above…

Fundamentally BIM is about doing data exchange better and not about a single piece of application software: Revit, Vectorworks, Microstation, ArchiCAD etc.. CS Artisan delivers landscape-specific content (with associated structure/tools) and it ‘should’ not matter which platform this sits on! This is all a bit philosophical though and doesn’t satisfy those demanding “how do we do it now?”!

BIM for Landscape

How are landscape professionals confronting BIM? I would be interested in hearing from anyone involved in a project where the contractor/client is demanding delivery in BIM and what are the specific requirements are that are being stipulated?

Clearly there are cases where all disciplines are encouraged to operate the same big name ‘platforms’ but what are the ultimate expectations from the client or his agent for landscape areas, objects, systems that are, as yet, undefined? Is anyone being asked to deliver landscape project information by the client, contractor or client’s agent that goes above and beyond the requirements of traditional contract documentation: carbon sequestration, general maintenance requirements, effective planting life/replacements, plant traceability etc?

The dialogue with clients, contractors and clients’ agents is essential in terms of properly formulating the data structure for landscape schemes if we are to fully realise the benefits of BIM.


Passionately focused landscape architect, interested in technology, CAD and BIM.