Welcome to the Robert Woodhead Ltd series of short articles about BIM.
As BIM is a scalable concept it can apply to the smallest of construction businesses up to the largest construction multinationals and all in between. It can also apply to supply chain providers, architects, engineers, designers and anyone who is part of the construction process. Its application toward the collation and dissemination of information can be applied as far and as wide as is required.
Who decides on a BIM project?
Although a construction company may wish to be involved in a BIM project, the driving force behind could possibly be an enlightened client, or an architectural practice that persuades their client that this is a good investment. After all it should not be too difficult to show a client how beneficial and valuable the BIM approach could be for their asset, although there are costs involved and clients aim to keep costs down where possible. Government procured contracts are a different kettle of fish as they have already committed to BIM Level 2 from 2016 onwards and indeed some contracts have already been completed under a BIM framework. The extent of the BIM’s application on any particular project will be based on the client’s wishes and will be a team decision made by a small group of people in the first instance.
The client may well have appointed their BIM Director, who will need to have construction knowledge, business acumen and software/technical knowledge. The BIM Director will probably have overall responsibility for delivering the BIM and there will be design consultants, architects and even at this early stage there may be representation from the construction company. Let’s call this group of people The Hub. They will produce a BIM Execution Plan. At the outset The Hub will still need to approach the project in the traditional manner and may well use the 2013 RIBA plan of work stages as a starting point, this latest version of the RIBA plan is more BIM friendly.
So what you may say, this sounds just like the beginning of any project, it is, but what makes it different from the normal is that into this mix come the decisions on how to control and collate the flow of information into and out of this project and how and when this information will be introduced. The protocols or rules if you prefer will be decided upon at this juncture and will form the information base that everyone involved can work to. This is the starting point for the information management of the design, construction, handover, use and operation of the asset throughout its whole working life.
Who else gets involved?
After The Hub is satisfied they have prepared their BEP they will need to decide who else is to join the extended hub. This is an important time as these new members of The Hub will also be involved in the decisions made on their particular roles on the project. They will need to contribute their own information delivery plans and be fully engaged with the goals and rules of this project. If not previously involved this will be when the contractor comes on board. This extended hub is likely to include supply chain providers, specialist contractors, surveyors, local authority, planners, LABC. The level the government would like everyone one to work to eventually would be level 3 BIM, that will be a way off in the future.
For now by 2016 they would like a target of level 2 readiness. If you look at the lifecycle of most projects now, clients and design teams naturally tend to concentrate on the construction, design and delivery phases of a project, neglecting feasibility studies, strategic decisions, post handover and occupation. Think of all the information generated from the beginning of any project, during its construction and post construction that is not readily accessible, and therefore it cannot be used efficiently as good examples in the future, in business strategy and streamlining of management processes, and facilities management. BIM is ideally and best applied at the beginning of a project, although it is a useful tool at any stage of a project. Using the BIM approach for some stages of the construction process is likely to be how companies will dip their toe into the BIM water initially.
What is paramount is the BIM approach will need to be structured well and quality control of all the inputs will have to be rigorously applied. So how about the framework on which to base the BIM, how do we know everyone is working to or toward the same goal?
There are publically available specifications (PAS) that are consultative documents that have been published usually in response to a market need, they are unlike a full British Standard that has reached a full consensus of opinion, but they allow one to standardise methods and best practice on a subject but they also invite discussion/comments. PAS 1192 2013 is the document that will be the bedtime reading of anyone interested in how to go about achieving level 2 readiness. Go ahead and download it, it is free but you may find it as dry as dust unless you are intent on becoming a BIM Expert. It sets out the processes and standards to provide a good framework for more cooperative working. There is also a BIM Protocol that has been issued by the Construction Industry Council which identifies limitations, obligations and liabilities on the use of the models. So BIM is a new way of thinking that allows us to input, handle, collate and access vast amounts of information in a controlled and coordinated way. It is asking us to work in a more understanding way with mutual trust at its heart. In the next article we will go about describing the format of the BIM and the way the information is stored.
In preparing this article we have made reference to and used information from several publications and websites. They are listed below. We recommend you use them for further reference.
BIM DEMYSTIFIED 2ND EDITION. STEVE RACE. RIBA PUBLISHING.
MODERN CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT 7TH EDITION. FRANK HARRIS, RONALD McCAFFER AND FRANCIS EDUM-FOTWE.
The BIM Task Group