Building Information Modelling (BIM) promises to reduce risk, deliver efficiencies and add value in the way that we design, construct and operate our built assets. However this holy grail is often not realised due to ambiguous requirements, which result in inconsistencies and misaligned expectations. To mitigate these risks and realise the true value of BIM, we need to start with the end goal in mind.
Realising the value of BIM: starting with the end in mind
Developing a comprehensive BIM brief before the beginning of any project that requires Building Information Modelling deliverables is the best practice approach, as this will help reduce risk, ensure efficiencies are delivered and value is gained throughout the duration of the project.
Whilst this article focuses primarily on the information requirements, there are many other key inputs that need to go into the BIM briefing and broader RFP (Request for Proposal) process to increase the chances of success.
Consideration should also be given to the following factors: the way model objects are classified, as-built model requirements, integration with existing systems, technology and software requirements, common data environment requirements, data security requirements, procurement requirements, additional contract clauses and much more!
Where can BIM go wrong? Poor informational inputs
BIM has gained currency this past decade within the New Zealand construction industry, although its processes have not always been implemented with consistency, which brings us to the topic of where things can go wrong.
As previously discussed, developing a comprehensive BIM brief before a project begins is the key to successfully harnessing its power to transform the way we build and maintain assets. When things go wrong, it’s generally due to BIM being overlooked as part of the RFP (Request for Proposal) process, which is often due to a lack of understanding surrounding the goals for an asset’s lifecycle.
As a consultant who regularly responds to RFP’s, I rarely see a “what, why and how” approach. In some instances, BIM requirements for a project are detailed in little more than a paragraph of text or even just simple statements, as shown in the real world examples below:
- “Provide a description of your approach to BIM integration”
- “Please confirm that you model in BIM”
- “Provide BIM to LOD 500”
The ambiguity of these approaches to defining requirements for something as complex as BIM, whilst often not intentional, does cause several problems that impact the design and construction teams and overall success of a project. If you’re trying to establish BIM requirements on a project or programme of work, you’re undeniably doing the right thing. The problem is you often “don’t know what you don’t know”. This is why once again, involving trusted advisors throughout the supply chain and procurement process is essential to help you clearly define project requirements and not lose sight of the end user.
What are the information requirements for a BIM project?
Good BIM outcomes are based on accurate, relevant information. To meet your objectives for a project during the design and construction phases, as well as into the ongoing operation of the built assets, it’s important to keep the following three components in mind:
- Organisational information requirements (WHY): This refers to why you want the information. For example – perhaps you’d like to access a building’s data for maintenance purposes or to deal with asset failure recall notices.
- Asset information requirements (WHAT): This refers to what information you want. For example – perhaps your building contains an extensive air conditioning system and for each unit, you’d like to know the manufacturer, product type, serial number and warranty expiry date.
- Project information requirements (HOW): This refers to how you’d like the information to be delivered. For example – you require 2D or 3D models to support wayfinding for a particular building complex. In this case, 2D or 3D graphics would be the medium of delivering the requested information.
Whatever the specific requirements for your project brief, quality information is a fundamental aspect of using BIM effectively. This briefing process should not be underestimated or undervalued, as unclear requirements can result in unwanted consequences. So how can you develop your BIM requirements to achieve the desired outcomes?
The three ways to harness the power of BIM
- Understand your organisation’s informational requirements
Data is fast becoming the most powerful asset of the 21st century, with the wealth and power of companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google evidence of this. Scaled back to an operational and maintenance viewpoint, the ability to leverage BIM data to inform scheduled maintenance, predict asset failure and inform renewals and replacement forecasting stands to add significant value to your operations.
In a world of “big data”, it’s also worthwhile erring on the side of caution when it comes to the amount of data you collect. Data is an asset and should be treated that way. I’m of the view that once data becomes inaccurate, the whole process that’s underpinned by it becomes compromised, making any related activities inefficient and costly. As a result, we encourage our clients to focus on proportionate data that has real value and purpose.
Organisational information requirements provide justification for collecting data to ensure it has value. This could include financial requirements – such as asset valuation and planning, strategic requirements – such as business performance or asset information requirements – such as asset classification. Whatever the organisation, it’s important these requirements are clearly defined and understood before defining the asset information requirements.
- Define your asset information requirements
The requirements for asset information deliverables are often not articulated at a granular level. Hence the delivery of this information is generally an afterthought and at times is expected of parties who are not always best placed to create and deliver it. This results in information either being delivered late, not being delivered at all, or not being compatible with existing systems.
Quality assurance and verification of the incoming data is problematic, because the operations team responsible for receiving and using the data are not sure what was originally requested at the start of the project and weren’t involved in helping define requirements. So how can you define your asset information requirements?
How can you define your asset information requirements?
- Project information requirements
How information is delivered is just as important as what information is required and who is responsible for delivering it. As part of defining the BIM requirements for any project, consideration should be given to whether the information deliverable is a drawing, an electrical schematic, a graphical model, or data to be fed into an asset management system.
These requirements should be further broken down to specify specific file formats. A P&ID diagram might be required as a static PDF file to record a point in time, but also in its native file format so it can be maintained over the life of the built asset. A graphical model file might be required as a 3D PDF file to record a point in time, but also several other file formats such as IFC, a lightweight viewer file such as Autodesk Navisworks and the native model file format for future modification and maintenance. Asset data will most likely be required in a tabular format such as Excel, but the requirements could also be that the data is populated using proprietary integration software.
Not specifying the how will leave this open to interpretation by the supply chain. This could result in additional project risk and inefficiencies due to reworking information to suit requirements, which in turn results in lost value.
Often, I find that clients I work with only have access to the static data – such as PDF files. This provides no means of keeping the data up to date, which in turn renders it inaccurate over time and results in inefficiencies in the management of built assets and/or future capital projects.
Keen to make BIM work for you?
Our Beca BIM team is supporting organisations just like yours to define their information requirements and manage the delivery process across a broad range of sectors including: Aviation, Commercial, Education, Industrial, Local Government, Power, Water and Wastewater.
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