BIM Collaboration - Periodic Table of BIM

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This is about developing better and more efficient ways of working.

In order to benefit from the coordinated information that lies at the heart of BIM, you’ll need to consider the digital tools that will allow you to collaborate effectively as well as people’s attitudes which may require cultural and behavioural changes.

Culture and Behaviour (Cu)

BIM implementation is, above all, about change and change management. Understanding existing culture and behaviour is, therefore, crucial to delivering successful outcomes.

Changing an entrenched culture is likely to be hard work – you’ll need to win the hearts and minds of the people you’re working with and that is likely to require a canny mix of cunning and persuasion. 

Starting with some of the people who have key influence is probably sensible. So too is showing why change is necessary – perhaps by way of demonstrating some of the harsh realities that intransigence brings. The aim being to motivate and enthuse staff rather than scare them into submission!

Any process of change will likely incur some pain as resources are shifted away from existing areas towards others – focussing first on areas where small changes can bring big results is likely to be worthwhile. 

Overall, you need to be realistic about both the resulting benefits and the likely pain you’re likely to encounter along the way. Consider how to design out frustrations as you solidify processes but also how best to engage with staff at all levels to start changing existing behaviours.

Process (Po)

BIM isn’t just 3D CAD – it’s a process where a range of ingredients come together to deliver much more than a model that exists as a one-time output.

The BIM process is best thought about as a living, breathing thing that can be expected to grow and develop across the project timeline and be interrogated, adapted, split and combined many times over.

Understanding the process that you undertake on existing projects will help you understand how a BIM process might impact. It will also help you determine whether to integrate BIM into these existing workflows or take the opportunity to develop an entirely new process for project delivery with collaboration, coordination and trust at its heart. 
Forms of procurement (Fo)

Determining an approach to collaboration as early as possible in a project is strongly advised, even if a range of details are left unresolved until later stages. Such direction is likely to come from the client (and their advisers) initially and will inform the selection of procurement route (Pr), form of contract and the preparation of tender documentation.

During the project start-up phase all parties will need to be upfront about the implementation of collaborative practices – in terms of both what is required and how this will be practically embedded across the life of the project.

The UK Government Construction Strategy recommends one of three forms of procurement. These are:

Design and build – A procurement route where the main contractor designs and constructs the works (as contrasted with a more traditional arrangement where a client appoints design consultants and then a contractor for construction).

Prime-type contracting – In this arrangement the client enters into a relationship with a contractor who acts as a single point of contact for a wider supply chain to deliver on a project.

Private finance initiative – PFI projects typically involve complex contractual arrangements. Within the integrated supply team there may be separate agreements for funding, design and construction and facilities management – each agreement may have multiple sub-contracts.

Another form of collaborative procurement worth mentioning is partnering (or alliancing) – an approach where openness and trust is encouraged between contractual parties, establishing interdependencies that become essential for successful outcomes. This kind of collaborative arrangement is typically used on large, long-term or high-risk contracts.

Digital tools (Di)

‘Doing BIM’ is not just a case of buying one of the major modelling tools - there’s much more to it than that. You could easily produce a 3D building in your tool but choose to attach nothing but geometric information. To actually build what you design you need to reference a whole range of other kinds of information – from environmental performance calculations to building product manufacturer vendors’ data. A building information model is, therefore, just part of BIM. There’s not yet one tool that integrates a while range of information into one perfect tool so you need to determine which tools you’ll use for which tasks and how data might flow between them.

NBS, for example, produce a range of tools to support your BIM workflow, including the NBS BIM Toolkit, a free-to-use project management tool that allows you to define who is doing what and when on your digital project. The toolkit is a key part of the suite of tools and standards that underpin the delivery of Level 2 BIM.

Find out more about the NBS BIM workflow.

Standardisation and interoperability (St)

Good standards provide clear requirements that set minimum conformity specifications and strike the right balance between too many and too few varieties – in the best interests of both the product supplier and the consumer. Such standards exist at various levels; international, national, regional, company and professional. 

When it comes to BIM the UK’s BIM Task Group has published a variety of standards – notably BS 1192-4, PAS 1192-2 and PAS 1192-3 to encourage standardisation by focussing on the production, exchange and use of information as a means of delivering improved performance across the whole life of a building. 

Understanding the standards being used across your network of collaborative participants on any given project is vital to safeguarding against information loss to start managing and analysing information digitally.

Interoperability is important too – ensuring you can use the outputs someone else in the project team has produced, because you’re all using standard formats.

While most systems and software should be able to format and export data to relevant standards, understanding which kinds of proprietary file formats are being generated (and worked upon) and by who will likely throw up a list of files that can easily be read by a multitude of systems and others that may require some element of translation. Being aware of these intermediary requirements to translate the data will help guard against data loss at each stage.

Unlike more traditional construction processes, BIM isn’t a one-time exchange of data – and should be thought of instead as many data exchanges over the life of a project. Many inputs will occur during the design and construction phases and many outputs during the handover, use and maintenance phases and, these exchanges have the potential to be ongoing for many years to come.

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