Interview - The B1M’s Fred Mills

The B1M produce great video content aimed at inspiring wider uptake of BIM. We've been following them with interest and have recently shared some of their videos on this very website. We wanted to find out more about them - what motivates them, what The B1M is all about and what plans they have on the horizon. In this interview, co-founder and director Fred Mills reveals all this and more.

Could you start by telling us a bit about your background and interests?

I have always wanted to work in construction. When I finished school I did an Architectural Engineering and Design Management (BSc) degree at Loughborough University before joining Willmott Dixon in 2008 and working up to become a fully-fledged Design Manager.

I joined Osborne as a Pre-Construction Manager in 2012 and started The B1M in my spare time with my business partner Tom Payne. The success we’ve had has enabled us to monetise and led both Osborne and Tom’s employer Spirit Digital to take shareholdings in The B1M. I now work on the channel full time.

I was born and raised in Surrey and still live there with my wife and our six-month old son. We met back at school and have been together for over 12 years now. Aside from going to the gym my time is pretty much reserved for either my family or The B1M!

How would you sum up The B1M, who is your target audience, what was/is your mission?

We’re a free YouTube channel for BIM and digital construction that is inspiring wider uptake of these approaches around the world. We want to move beyond the confines of just experts and help to upskill the vast majority of our industry in an engaging and accessible way.

We release original new video content every Wednesday at 12 noon GMT and that content is watched by people in 144 countries across six continents. Our videos appear top in the global YouTube search results for BIM-related terms and are the go-to resource for the connected-generation; over 60% of our audience are under 35 years of age.

We do not believe in the old construction industry. We do not believe in siloed learning, hoarding of knowledge or the charging of fees in order to benefit from expertise. We do not believe in boring people with dry documentation.

We believe in inspiring people. We believe in freely sharing knowledge in an open-source format that allows anyone to benefit, at anytime, anywhere in the world. We believe in connecting with people and compelling them in a very genuine way. 

How did The B1M first come to be, what was your inspiration/motivation?

I had great fun working as a Design Manager but I also encountered some very testing situations that perhaps showed construction at its worst. I’ve never said it publically but I remember being depressed and considering leaving the industry altogether. Suddenly I saw how good people could end up becoming disillusioned and taking their skills elsewhere. 

At the same time (2010) I started looking into BIM as a way of improving the whole experience of project delivery but struggled to find information on it. What I did find was boring and difficult to digest. It struck me that we were expecting millions of people around the world to learn and adopt BIM, but that we were making it hard for them.

I contacted my friend from school, video producer Tom Payne, and we set up The B1M.

I never again want to feel like I did in those days and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way either. We need to make construction fun and enjoyable. We need to showcase it at its best to attract and retain the top talent. That’s what we’re trying to do every day with The B1M. I believe in leading by actions, not words.

What is the future for The B1M, any exciting plans?

We’ve recently secured direct support from YouTube to help grow The B1M. They’re keen to diversify their UK content and particularly within construction. We are holding a joint event with them at Google’s London headquarters on 28 January 2016 and have some really exciting details coming out on that soon.

Things are going incredibly well for us at the moment. To see the current success having stuck with it and put in so much hard work and sacrifice is really rewarding. But our vision is to go much further.

We want to evolve our channel from its focus on BIM and digital construction to the built environment in its broadest sense. We are planning to do that gradually as digitisation becomes more widespread and a part of business-as-usual.

We want to be THE video channel for the built environment; a place where you can learn and witness the best of what mankind can achieve in architecture, engineering and construction. We want that to benefit millions of people around the world, breakdown the barriers to learning that exist between disciplines, organisations and geographical markets, and help to attract and retain the very best graduate talent into construction as a first choice rather than their Plan B. We want our work to improve construction, promote its achievements and earn it the respect that it so badly deserves. You’ll have to interview me again in a few years’ time to see how it’s going!

Well, thank you for your time Fred! We certainly look forward to seeing your next videos, and can't wait to hear more about that event with Google.

Why not check out The B1M's 'Must-watch' playlist below:


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