Methodologies for #AEC practitioners to transfer & maintain digital information #BIM

The question of this blog asks; what methodologies can be established or maintained by Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) practitioners to ensure effective management and eventual transfer of digital information through design, construct, operations and maintenance phases?

It is argued here that it is incumbent on the client to ensure that the consultant team fully understands what is needed and therefore allows the design and contractor team to supply this information.  This relies in the principles of Lean Construction (Quinn, Kerfoot and Collard, 2006) and ‘pulling’ the information required so that Building Information Modelling (BIM) offers clients opportunities to gain value from their projects. This is achieved by using the data held within construction information produced across the asset lifecycle.  A client needs to be clear on what they are requesting and this needs to be “in the right formats at the right time” (Rawlinson, 2015).  Without this it has been argued that clients will continue to work with existing, fragmented project information which will lead to waste in time and expense (Rawlinson, 2015).  Clients in the future will need to be smarter and an investment in asset management systems is very likely to be required to use the data created in an effective manner.  It is argued here that there are two keys areas that clients need to understand and utilise for their benefit; the Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR) and a tool such as the National Building Specification Digital Plan of Works (DPoW) (Rawlinson, 2015).

Testimonials from clients have expressed the importance of the EIR, including comments such as; “The information requirements, aligned to the project stages should be all aligned to your client strategic objectives”, “Employer’s Information Requirements is (sic) an absolutely vital document” and “it is vital that they (clients) understand and can articulate their information needs in a clear and unambiguous way” (Pringle, 2015). The importance of the EIR document has gained credence as a defining element of BIM, however more is required to ensure that the requirements relate directly to the projects and that clients gains the most from this.  Furthermore, to define the information exchanges throughout the Workstages the NBS DPoW now supports this process and defines the information requirements in a model, linked to Workstages, allowing clients to ask for specific data at certain projects stages (information exchanges) which will be outlined in the EIR and responded to in the BIM Execution Plan, and to an agreed Level of Graphical and Non Graphical detail.  All of this information will ensure that consultant teams are ready and able to understand what they should be producing and building this into their workflows.

Clients in the construction industry will be required to be more intelligent in the future and Loosemore and Richard (2014) identified that a government (as a major client body) plays a part in reform.  This approach can be linked in the United Kingdom to the Construction Strategy (Cabinet Office, 2011) which has supported the adoption of BIM processes as a way to increase innovation and benefit to the government as a client. Loosemore and Richard explain that a focus on client’s skill and ability is required to be developed and believe that this will be more effective at driving innovation on projects.

One area that is being progressed further is the concept of Lean Construction (Quinn, Kerfoot and Collard, 2006) which requires clients to “pull” information and ensure that information is created when it is required, thereby eliminating waste. This aligns with the need for clear project information requirements with which the design team and contractor will respond.  Rawlinson (2015) argues that in the UK, new standards and processes have been invested in heavily, however this may have been at the detriment of the development of client understanding (Rawlinson, 2015). The article goes on to argue that four areas are key to progressing a client procurement plan:

  1. Identifying and prioritising a client’s key uses of BIM
  2. Defining and identifying the processed that support each BIM use
  3. Defining the information exchanges for each process
  4. Implementing BIM systems and processes.

(Rawlinson, 2015)

The Construction Industry Council (CIC) EIR template document was an initial step for the industry to see how clients may be requiring information in the future on BIM Level 2 projects.  This document is from 2013 and it is clear that the lack of development of this during the intervening period illustrates what Rawlinson is arguing for regarding client support. However, within this document Section 1.1.2, Data Exchange Format, contains the information exchange format for information, for example Construction Operation Building information exchange (COBie) or native file formats (Employer’s Information Requirements Core Contents, 2016, p.4).  In addition to this section 1.1.4 requests Level of Detail (LoD) to be defined, and this is where the DPoW will input now as the software was not developed at the time of the CIC EIR production and issue.  The DPoW will have a set of Plain Language Questions for a client to link to certain Workstages which allows the design team to understand what should be produced for each stage sign off, as well as ensuring that the client has confidence to move to the next stage (Pringle, 2015).

An additional area that is crucial to the EIR success for clients is section 1.2.10 Delivery Strategy for Asset Information, which “defines the information exchange standard for asset information and enables the employer to obtain proposals with regards to asset information delivery into the employer’s Facilities Management (FM) environment” (Employer’s Information Requirements Core Contents, 2016, p. 12).  This section is linking to PAS 1192:3 (BSI, 2014) which confirms the Asset Information Model (AIR) requirements and delivery strategy for the client.  Design teams will have to understand these in detail and embed the requirements within their own workflows; i.e. producing checked, validated and approved information and data that can be exchanged in a COBie format.

The HM Government Industrial Strategy: government and industry partnership (HM Government, 2012) report on BIM confirms that for clients the benefits for them is reduced asset costs and operation efficiency which should increase, and facilitate greater effectiveness of supply chains and the creation of a forward thinking sector (HM Government, 2012). For this to be successful it is vital that the client is well informed and understands their project information requirements. It is understood that AEC consultants and design teams will need work new practices to ensure that the “BIM Repository” does not occur, whereby information produced is not effectively transferred at project completion, however a client will have to define the requirements and understand what they can or cannot use to achieve this.

This blog posits that information produced by the design and construction team is left embedded within consultant’s models currently due to the limitations of the deliverables specified in the EIR and this why it is not transferred for client use , it is not asked for and cannot be processed. It is argued here in order to limit this situation, the EIR and client requirements must be explicitly confirmed to ensure that a project team can deliver these, whether it is COBie data or model information for an asset management system.  It is also argued that greater emphasis should be placed on client’s development and becoming an informed client in the future to ensure that they gain the most from the BIM process over the lifecycle of the asset.

References

Cabinet Office, (2011). Government Construction Strategy. London: Cabinet Office.

Department for Business Innovation and Skills, (2013). UK CONSTRUCTION – An Economic analysis of the sector. London: BIS.

Employer’s Information Requirements Core Contents. (2016). 1st ed. [ebook] London: CIC. Available at: http://www.bimtaskgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Employers-Information-Requirements-Core-Content-and-Guidance.pdf [Accessed 17 Feb. 2016].

HM Government, (2012). Industrial strategy: government and industry in partnership. London: HM Government.

Lean Construction a Contractor’s Perspective. (2016). 1st ed. [ebook] London: Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. Available at: https://www.cips.org/Documents/Membership/BLLLEAN_CONSTRUCTION_-_final-1.pdf [Accessed 17 Feb. 2016].

Loosemore, M. and Richard, J. (2015). Valuing innovation in construction and infrastructure. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 22(1), pp.38-53.

Monswhite, D. (2015). BIM – client holds the key to true collaboration. 1st ed. [ebook] London: Turner and Townsend. Available at: http://www.turnerandtownsend.com/BIM-owning-information-st/BIM_-_Client_holds_the_key_Cey-7.pdf.file [Accessed 17 Feb. 2016].

Pringle, T. (2015). Employers information requirements – Technical Support – NBS BIM Toolkit. [online] Toolkit.thenbs.com. Available at: https://toolkit.thenbs.com/articles/employers-information-requirements/ [Accessed 17 Feb. 2016].

Quinn, C., Kerfoot, N. and Collard, P. (2006). Lean Construction – Constructing Excellence. [online] Constructing Excellence. Available at: http://constructingexcellence.org.uk/resources/lean-construction/ [Accessed 17 Feb. 2016].

Rawlinson, S. (2015). Procurement update: BIM. [online] Building. Available at: http://www.building.co.uk/procurement-update-bim/5077116.article [Accessed 17 Feb. 2016].

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