BIM News

BIM for Clients


October 2014 By Benedict Wallbank

Many people think that Building Information Modelling (BIM) affects only design and construction teams and is not something about which the construction industry client need be concerned. BIM might be used to increase efficiency, reduce waste and carbon consumption, enhance collaboration and promote truly integrated design and delivery solutions during the building, design and construction phase of a project, with the UK Government taking measures to promote the adoption of the BIM process throughout the construction industry, but they could argue that the private sector client should just sit back and reap the benefits of more competitive tender returns from the supply chain. However, only 20% of the cost of a facility relates to its design and construction. The remaining 80% of a buildings cost resides in its operation.

Achieving savings after a facility has been completed, therefore, has a disproportionate affect on its lifetime cost (a 5% saving in operation equating to a 20% saving on the cost of construction).

To be able to drill into operational costs requires the delivery of consistent and structured digital asset information, available to the owner-operator for post-occupancy decision-making. It needs to be clearly defined by the client in requests for proposals (RFP's) and appointment contracts.

Clients with a long-term interest in their facilities understand this, with the UK government taking a leading role in ensuring the provision of consistent asset information on publicly procured projects, specifying the information set to the supply chain using an established international model - COBie. COBie was, of course, created to provide a means of communicating information about facilities, enabling clients to take full and responsible ownership immediately on building handover.

Whilst government procured projects are mandated to adopt the new strategy, astute players within private client groups realise that as the wider industry adopts these new technologies, they too will benefit from reduced cost and risk, and those who retain responsibility for their assets (those investing in PFI/PPP type projects for example) are actively redefining their deliverables to include asset information. Such information sets can only be produced efficiently by generating most of the data from a Building Information Model.

Of course, not all construction clients have long-term interests in their assets; developer clients commission many projects with the sole object of selling or letting their new developments. Why do they need BIM deliverables? Just as potential tenants have recently understood that better sustainability ratings have a beneficial effect upon running costs and factor this into their decisions, it seems likely that good quality structured data for the management of assets will do likewise. Clients who can deliver such structured data will, therefore, have a sales advantage over those who cannot.

Other advantages are also available to the client using the BIM process and its consistent project data. Models can be analysed from the feasibility stage and tested more accurately than under a 2D process to approve the outline business case. BIM can also provide increased programme (4D) and cost (5D) certainty at an earlier stage than under a traditional process providing a degree of comfort to the developer, not previously available.

Importantly, consistent digital data across portfolios enables clients to compare data from project to project in a more detailed and accurate way, with BIM, in the longer term, enabling a wider variety of project procurement models to be considered facilitating "open book" information, and providing greater trust and certainty to Construction Management contracts.

How does a client become a "good" BIM client, once it is decided that BIM may be of benefit, and what needs to be done to ensure that the design and construction team deliver good quality usable data?

Examine current business workflows, establish key problem areas and identify the key potential benefits of BIM to your business. Map BIM solutions to the problem areas and to the "quick wins" (in order to maximise return on investment). Audit existing skill levels within your business and produce a subsequent gap analysis.

BIM for BIM's sake is pointless and may even add to project overheads. The temptation to add a vague "catch all" clause to appointments, such as "The consultant will supply a BIM", should be avoided. A consultant, for example, might argue that a bit of modelling and visualisation work can constitute BIM. A client, however, cannot reasonably expect the issue of usable BIM information without first clearly defining what is required. In all likelihood, different contractors and consultants will be employed on different projects for the same client.

 To take full advantage of BIM deliverables across their portfolio, clients need the BIM information provided from all projects to be consistent. The astute client will, therefore, give careful consideration to defining clear and unambiguous BIM deliverable requirements for all their design and construction teams to execute.

Detail the key activities and a road map defining the process of rolling out BIM for the business, selecting and sourcing best in class, fit for purpose, technology and developing the required skills. The BIM Deployment Plan should map the adoption of BIM practice over a defined timescale, normally starting with trial projects, which can be used to validate new processes as they are adopted. The plan should also identify BIM training needs focused on the business, the department, the user, and the technology.

Prior to embarking upon projects with BIM Deliverables, particularly if certain members of a clients existing supply chain are regarded as key, an audit of their BIM capability may be carried out. An audit can highlight client expectations to supply chain members and identify areas where they may require additional skills, hardware or software.

Once deliverables have been determined and deployment planned, the Client must ensure that the supply chain will provide what is required of them. There are three key documents that need to be drawn up by the client to ensure that their supply chain can be held to account:

1. BIM appointment clauses for Framework Agreements.
2. A high level Employers Information Requirement (EIR) protocol.
3. A pro-forma for project based BIM Execution Plans (BEP).

Additional clauses should to be added to appointments dealing with BIM roles and responsibilities, the appointment and identity of the Collaborative BIM Manager (probably the Lead Consultant for design development and the Contractor for design execution) and BIM Managers (one from within each contributing organisation), developing a project BIM programme and adherence to the requirements set out in the EIR and BEP.

The EIR is a high-level protocol document that sets out the BIM standards and deliverables required by the client from the supply chain on all their projects. There is now an emerging set of industry-wide UK standards relating to BIM, and as far as possible it makes sense for a client to adopt these. In particular the use of IFC's as the format for the delivery of model information; a classification system (possibly Uniclass2) for the identification of building elements; BS 1192:2 for the organisation and sharing of BIM information; BS EN ISO 4157:1:2:3 for the labelling of spaces, floors etc; AEC CAD Standards for the organisation of BIM software, CIC BIM level of detail and industry-wide work stages should be considered.

For FM & O&M information it would also be worth considering defining your own COBie requirements, since much effort has been put into these by the UK government client, by BIM authoring tools for output of COBie information and by FM tools for the input of COBie information.

This is a project-based protocol document drawn up by the design team as a subsidiary to the EIR and will include such matters as:

• Model Assembly Diagram
• BIM Management Structure
• File Structure
• Data Back-Up
• Software Matrix
• Key Common Data for Co-ordination and Orientation
• Model File Sharing arrangements
• Level of Detail
• Change Control

The client might choose to supply a pro-forma BEP for completion by the Collaborative BIM Manager and the design and construction team on each project.

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