Procurement Update: BIM


August 18, 2015 | Simon Rawlinson

01 / Introduction

The adoption of BIM promises many benefits to farsighted clients and their supply chains. 3D visualisation promotes better-informed decision making; better co-ordination helps to de-risk construction and - most important of all - BIM creates the potential to make use of comprehensive, valuable data throughout the lifetime of an asset.

All of these benefits rely on the ability of project teams to create, share and re-purpose valuable digital data. For this process to be successful, project teams need to be directed to adopt common standards and model formats.

However, not all clients are securing these benefits - BIM will only deliver them if the right data is acquired in the right formats at the right time on a project. Asking for “BIM Level 2” clearly does not provide enough of a brief for this to happen. Regrettably, BIM projects are still being procured on this basis. This situation, explained in part by a lack of experience and expertise, which when combined with tight project programmes can mean that neither clients nor their advisers have the vision, time or capability to procure BIM properly. Furthermore, as capability develops within the supply chain, the risk is that client-side skills will become a big limiting factor on the impact of BIM.

Used out of the box, BIM software provides outputs that are a significant improvement on previous electronic versions of paper-based information exchange systems (such as CAD) - providing better visualisation and co-ordination of the design. Even these improvements provide big benefits, and project teams experimenting with uncoordinated, self-contained models do not need to make big early investment in information exchange processes. However, the co-ordinated application of BIM on projects and programmes based on Level 2 standards has the potential to betransformational.

It enables clients and their teams to break long-established, disjointed habits associated with design information production, which include:

  • Fragmented, uncoordinated information production by temporary project teams based on large numbers of separate drawing files
  • Separation of the geometry of the design from the technical data associated with the asset
  • Inconsistent adoption of standards associated with file naming, drawing styles, and so on.

While designers and contractors are increasingly able to exploit the benefits of model-based design through better co-ordination and automated scheduling, current practice still includes a lot of duplicate activities. Production of drawings from a model for contract purposes is a good example of how commercial practice has not yet caught-up with the potential for enhanced information management provided by BIM. Clients that do not adopt improved practice face the prospect of managing their assets using fragmented, inconsistent project records - wasting their time and money in the process.

A client’s BIM transformation is a challenge. Adoption can require a lot of change involving technology, business process and, above all, culture and ways of working. Identifying the right BIM applications for an employer at a point in time is a key aspect of effective implementation.

It may be necessary for a client organisation to invest in its asset management systems and standards in advance of a BIM implementation – in which case a phased plan of BIM adoption – starting with visualisation and progressing towards data capture and utilisation - is likely to be the best solution.

The definition of Level 2 BIM in the UK has made the client’s journey much easier – putting in place a set of tools and standards that are steadily encouraging the adoption of consistent BIM practice. With the completion of the Digital Plan of Work and a standard data classification by the NBS, all of the building blocks are in place to enable clients to define their requirements and for project teams to respond consistently to them. 

02 / Key elements of BIM procurement process

Part of the visulaisation used in the Laing O’Rourke-led remodelling of Manchester Central Library

There are four key stages in the implementation of a plan for the procurement of BIM for an organisation. These stages progress from identifying the uses of the models to putting in place the infrastructure to deliver them – such as modelling standards and contracts.

Paradoxically, because investment has been made in the UK in developing processes and standards, client understanding of BIM uses and related information requirements are less well developed.

The key stages are:

  • Identifying and prioritising a client’s key uses of BIM
  • Defining and developing the processes that support each BIM use
  • Defining the information exchanges for each process
  • Implementing BIM systems and processes.

Ultimately, all of the elements of the procurement plan will be communicated to the project team using the Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR) and a BIM Execution Plan (BEP).

1. Prioritising key uses of BIM

A key success factor in BIM is that planning of BIM uses should always be undertaken with the end uses in mind. Early planning means that all members of the project team will be clear about how the model is going to be used, which enables information to be created at the best time, avoiding unnecessary re-processing or re-keying of information. A good example of this is the early adoption of a data classification that aligns with the employer’s asset management system – so that even though none of the model objects are populated with operational data until later, the objects can be readily linked up to existing data structures. Other examples of uses for BIM on a project include project sequencing, health and safety, and visualisation.

The ability to deliver planned uses on a project depends on the capability of the team and the maturity of the client’s systems. The use of models as the basis for cost estimation relies, for example, on the project team to be able to provide a comprehensive design to an agreed level of detail as well as having a cost consultant with the software tools and systems needed to generate NRM-compliant outputs. By assessing the effort required to deliver a model output, as well as the benefit gained, clients can make an informed decision as to what the best uses of the model are.

Factors that get in the way of effective planning of the uses of a model include:

  • Fragmented operations within the client body ± particularly the split between asset creation, asset management and facilities management;
  • Short-term planning on projects – such as the appointment of project teams on a stage-by-stage basis
  • Inability to define the end-user – often experienced in commercial and leisure projects where the tenant/operator is not involved at the outset of the project.

Having clarity over constraints that will affect the ability of a client to make full use of BIM is a valuable part of the BIM planning process.

2. Developing the processes that deliver the BIM uses

BIM uses require processes and exchanges of information between different members of the project team. The processes used to produce information for visualisation of the design are quite different to those used to prepare models for use in a tender, but the models, objects and standards used are fundamentally the same. In effect, each use needs a recipe which sets out the required outputs, the steps in the process and the data that needs to be provided and processed by different parties. The key components of a BIM recipe are:

  • The output Often defined in the UK by a ™plain language question∫ such as: ™Will the design meet the brief?∫ Outputs typically support decisions at the end of project stages such as before a client instruction is given to proceed to construction.
  • The processes The combination of design, analysis and model development activities that are needed to deliver the answer. The complexity comes from the sequence of team activities and how these affect the flow of information. Some of the processes will be developed by the client, but most will be undertaken by the project team and will become increasingly standardised as BIM adoption increases.
  • Data inputs and outputs The actual data that is needed to complete the task. The importance of defining the data requirement is to ensure that only the information needed to complete each use is included in the model. This tackles the risk of “infobecity” – where too much information is included in models, while also making sure that the data foundations are in place for other priority uses.

Sufficient detail of the outline of these processes is needed in the EIR so that consultants and contractors can develop an outline response in their initial BEP. Lack of clarity at this stage could result in an incomplete BIM submission.

Employers with a large enough project portfolio could benefit from developing standard recipes focused on supporting their business process. However, detailed aspects of the processes will have to be developed by the project team – which encourages early appointment of delivery teams, programme-based procurement and effective collaborative working.

3. Documenting the information exchanges

Documenting the information exchanges involves a process of defining the content of the “data drops” required at different project stages. Some data drops will be internal ± such as the substitution of detailed design elements provided by a subcontractor. Others, such as the issue of design or as-constructed information at the end of a project stage, will be a formal contract deliverable.

With the publication of the Digital Plan of Work and accompanying Design Responsibility Matrices, it is now much easier to define these information requirements for objects in the model:

  • The Digital Plan of Work uses well-defined project stages so that all parties are working to deliver information on a consistent basis
  • The amount of geometric detail and asset information is clearly defined – enabling standard objects to be pre-populated with the right amount of information
  • Common classifications assure that similar items of work are given the same names – enabling consistent management of data from the model
  • Models can be validated for completeness in accordance with the client’s requirements

Defining information requirements is the most difficult aspect of the BIM process as it requires employers and project teams to really understand their processes and how data is used and re-used. For clients with a large portfolio of work, the benefits of investing in streamlined, automated information exchanges could be significant. However, even for occasional clients, the ability to define information requirements for a limited number of uses using the Digital Plan of Work is an opportunity to improve project performance.

4. Developing BIM processes

BIM processes are the infrastructure on which a successful implementation is based. They include planning tools, contracts, data exchange processes and quality control. In the UK, the development of BIM processes has been concerned with ensuring that all of the building blocks of Level 2 BIM are put in place. These cover process and many aspects of project culture ± giving clients the opportunity to build on an increasingly consistent way of working which will become even more effective as project teams become more experienced. The key components of the Level 2 suite are as follows:
PAS 1192:3, which defines the information management requirements associated with the operation of assets. It is an essential document as it enables employers to define their lifetime 
asset information and operational information requirements. It embodies the principle of planning BIM with the final outcome in mind.

  • PAS 1192:2 defines information management for capital delivery. In common with PAS 1192:3 it defines the work stages to be adopted on a project, the use of the Common Data Environment and the format of project outputs ± including structured data. PAS 1192:2 also defines the content of the EIR and the BEP ± the key tools for defining the client’s BIM uses and standards and for describing the project team’s detailed response.
  • BS 1192:4 is the standard for digital information exchange using the standard excel-base format COBie. Employers only need COBie because it is the best standard to use to enable information to be transferred from one software platform to another. For example, COBie will be a key solution in getting asset data out of BIM into a Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) system.
  • The Digital Plan of Work, produced by NBS, defines tasks, information requirements and allocates responsibility for both. The standards built into it enables project teams to collaborate effectively as all parts of the team know what information will be produced and who is responsible. The Digital Plan of Work is currently in a beta issue ahead of formal launch in the autumn. It makes the planning of information exchanges much easier by defining the basic building blocks of information.
  • Standard classification, based on Uniclass, a common language of classification, makes it much easier for project teams to readily exchange and aggregate information. If a designer and a specialist contractor are using the same names to describe their objects it is much easier to substitute one for the other ± reducing rework and enabling wider use of the model.

Other important building blocks of Level 2 include the BIM Protocol – a contract addendum which creates useful additional obligations and rights associated with the production and use of models, PAS 1192:5, the standard for security-minded digital information exchange, and Government Soft Landings ± the management approach to the specification and measurement of building performance. 

03 / Why BIM implementation can fail to deliver on its promise

It is well known that BIM involves processes and ways of working as well as a set of technology tools. Accordingly, the transition for a client to a position where they can consistently buy data from the supply chain requires planning and investment. As the uses of BIM required by the employer become more complex and the information exchanges more sophisticated, then the need to invest in planning grows.

Lack of planning is probably the main cause for BIM underdelivery – either through lack of clarity as to what the models are for, or lack of detailed planning to enable the implementation of a more ambitious information requirement and project process.

A further cause of underdelivery on BIM is that expectations with respect to the use and impact of BIM on a project can outstrip the effort put in by the team to develop the processes. Key causes of a shortfall in preparation include:

  • The ability of the client to take advantage of BIM capability – for example, does the client have well-defined asset and facilities management process and systems?
  • The willingness of the client to invest in BIM – many clients continue to limit their investment in BIM implementation on projects to visualisation and design co-ordination
  • Limitations of the procurement process, such as the appointment of teams on a stage-by-stage basis ± potentially putting off the BIM implementation decision and also limiting the extent to which “end in mind” uses are considered
  • Lack of input from an end user – common for commercial development where tenants and operators will not be signed-up at the start of a project.

Other factors that lead to underdelivery include:

  • Model management Lack of basic team discipline with respect to the structure and content of models which make information exchange more difficult
  • Quality control Production of incomplete models with poor quality data which undermines a team’s confidence in their use. This is especially important if models are being used for contractor procurement
  • Inefficient processes Inconsistent modelling practice that results in duplication of work in the project team or loss of attribute data during information exchange
  • Infobesity Capture of data for the sake of it, resulting in models that are too large to be used efficiently.

Ultimately, clients have a central role in determining a successful BIM implementation, but in the interim, they will continue to rely on advisers and project teams using increasingly well-defined project recipes designed to deliver specific project outcomes.

04 / BIM uses

BIM uses are specific purposes for BIM which should be identified at the earliest stage of a project. Technology and processes are currently available for all of these uses to be applied on projects.

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