Discovery into the use of 3D data to join up the planning system with build standards and post occupancy services

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

Information gathered through the planning system operates as the gateway to development for residents, objectors and builders as well as a go to place for post occupancy information.  The quality and amount of the information currently prepared is often found lacking.

Higher quality / more detailed information is prepared than submitted.  Often in the format of BIM models, similar to 3D models but holding lots of technical information about services and materials.  Many of these models have information extracted from them to submit them to planning authorities, building regulation authorities as well as producing post occupation safety manuals, often taking 2D images from them to submit PDFs.

Some of the challenges include:

  • Technological issues
  • Lack of connectivity between planning and building standards
  • The need for more information about buildings post occupation (following the Hackett review) for fire safety
  • The need to reduce the environmental impact of buildings (and improved carbon efficiency)

There are number of causes that the At present Local Authorities on the whole have no way to receive or analyse BIM models, and as such lose out on the ability to benefit from having BIM Models.

This project has a relationship to the work that the GLA has joined up with Ordnance Survey and UCL to deliver the 3D London project.


  • The industry wants to join up and centralise the information
  • Centralised and accessible information about buildings is a good thing (however there will be occasions that there are potential security issues)
  • BIM models contain the information sought
  • There are numerous different file types.

Existing Tools in the Market

At present there are no tools in the market that open up the information to users to analyse without significant specialists knowledge. There is also no centralised national or local repository for the data or plan to facilitate it.

In the market there are a number of specialist tools that enable the construction of BIM models in different formats and file types, some of which contain more granular information than others.  Work is being undertaken in other countries to address some similar outputs under the banner of GeoBIM, however the differing regulatory environments and purpose of the work means that specific research needs to be undertaken in the british regulatory environment.

Similarly there are a number of market led, building visualisation tools for London which enable LPAs and residents to understand to some extent the visual impacts of developments. At present these have not sought to consider anything more than visual impact.

Research Techniques

There are a number of different discovery techniques that would be used.  These would include:

  • Interviews with users to scope out the nature of the interest, opportunities and understanding in this sector
  • User research events, to understand:
    • The challenges experienced by users
    • How they are currently addressed
    • Nature of the opportunity in this sector
    • Quantify the nature and value of the opportunity and business case

The research will take place broadly across three sectors:

  • Local Authorities – exploring the needs, functions and abilities of planning authorities both at a local and strategic level, including partners and other authorities.This includes Planners, Building Standards, Environment Officers
  • Private Sector – exploring how architects and engineers work on BIM models together with technological capabilities and standards used. The people involved would include architects, engineers, planners as well as facility managers
  • Other regulatory environments – understanding how other regulatory environments have addressed the similar challenges

The planning system nationally receives c.450,000 planning applications each year, of which c.360,000 are granted planning permission.

There is limited data on how many of these consents are implemented, however for all parties in the development industry there are potential costs (both financial and time) incurred that could addressed through the development of this area of work.  These would need to be quantified through this discovery work.

The lack of analysable information and centralised way of working is a national issue, and results in costs and failure demand across the sector.

Examples of costs include:

For the planning system:

  • Costs relating to validation (potentially a model would overcome the need for any checking of plans in the process together with time preparing detailed submission reports and forms
  • Resubmissions and reprocessing of planning applications when developers discover that the scheme approved is not capable of being lawfully constructed due to building standards or inaccurate drawings
  • Multiple versions of plans results in unapproved buildings being built
  • Costs are incurred in monitoring developments at present which could be reduced, and a more useful data set provided.

For the construction sector:

  • The lack of a single version of the truth results in lack of consistency and errors
  • Clarity at the outset of material requirement
  • Delays in the planning and regulatory processes from errors and misunderstanding

For Post Occupation

  • Ability of Emergency services to interrogate building information in case of emergency at present is challenging (Re. Hackett)
  • Purchasers and occupiers find it difficult to access and interrogate information about buildings that they live in, and consequently have limited understanding about the lifecycle or safety of their own homes
  • Significant costs are incurred nationally in undertaking and managing stock condition surveys which should be managed through simpler planned maintenance programs.

There is limited evidence as to the scope and cost of rework and waste in the process however all professionals in the built environmental recognise that this unquantified cost is significant.

We would like to explore and learn whether there is a better way to receive, curate and manage the data to address some of these costs and pain points.

Partners to this project are very varied, and cross both multiple tiers of the public sector.

The discovery will be managed using AGILE as a model and in accordance with the Local Digital Service Standard.

External consultants will be appointed to run the discovery with the assistance of and under the direction of the partners.

Formal Partner Involvement

Governance – Managing and steering the project will be done collaboratively between partners through a formal project board meeting at the beginning and end of every sprint.

In addition to representation from the formal partners membership of the board will be expanded to include informal partners as representatives from the private sector users of information are indentified.

Day to Day – All partners will be involved in the day to day discovery and through weekly catchups to ensure the discovery remains on track

Consultants – External consultants will be appointed to undertake the discovery work.  They will engage with users to understand point points, user cases and personas.   The partners to the project will be engaged with this process and identify the correct direction of travel for the consultants.

Agile Training

 We are keen to upskill and embed Agile as the core strategy across planning and built environment services in all of the boroughs involved.

Whilst planners traditionally work in an agile way, this is not accessed as well as it might be, and upskilling all members of the team can only improve understanding.


Given the nature of this project, additional skills around how and tools for engagement across technology and industry will be core to the success of the work.


Appointment of the correct professionals across the sector to drive this discovery will be core to its success.  Given the ground breaking potential impacts it is important that the correct forms of procurement are used.  Support will be needed for this.