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BIM: The first teetering steps


BIM: The first teetering steps

 [Published in Civil Engineering Surveyor (CES) on March 2014]


So, you have read some articles on BIM, spoken to a few people, perhaps attended a conference. Now it is time to dip the toe in the water, it is time for BIM for Infrastructure.

The assumption is that you are working for an informed Client, with a significant amount of infrastructure work each year, and have the backing of a local senior manager, a decision maker who can make a difference in the local context.

You have been banging on about BIM for the last six months at various levels and forums, such that there is a general awareness, and possibly a few isolated pockets of enthusiasm.

The first thing you need is a BIM strategist, champion, or evangelist. Not somebody to create a new department and an ongoing resource requirement. More a transient resource to help the team get to grip with BIM and to attain the outcomes it wants to achieve, even if the team does not yet know what those outcomes are. The goal must be that BIM is part of the day job, embraced by the team wholeheartedly.

Keep the stabilisers on the bike for the moment.

Choose your pilot project wisely

Pick your pilot project carefully. A great deal will be riding on the overall success of the project. It will be very difficult to sing the praises of BIM on the back of a failed project. Talk can be of how much worse it would have been without BIM, but that is a much more difficult message to sell.

The project needs to be stable and in a healthy, well defined condition.

  • It should have passed its last stage gate with flying colours.
  • The budget for the project should have been relatively consistent throughout its previous stages of development.
  • The business case for the project should be robust and compelling.
  • The required outcomes for the project need to have been clearly defined at an early stage, and have remained static throughout the development.
  • The project requirements and scope, which will deliver the outcomes, need to be appropriately developed and clearly stated for the current stage of the project.
  • It should be a predominantly infrastructure project, which sets it aside from some of the other BIM projects underway, within the Client organisation.

All of the above are indicators of a well thought through project which will not be subject to erratic and unpredictable change. Project scope creep should be avoided! Remember, it is a pilot project that you want to be exemplar. Later, more difficult projects can also benefit from BIM, possibly with even greater impact, but let’s keep the stabilisers on the bike for the moment.

The project should also be large enough to be able to absorb, what is effectively research and development costs, or learning curve costs, without significantly impacting upon the business case for the project. It should also be complex enough not to provide ammunition to the detractors of BIM. An indicative project AFC (Anticipated Final Cost) above £50m would suit.

Equally important, nay, more so, is the project team. After all is said and done, it must be the team that embraces BIM and wants to make it a success. The whole team need to be accepting of change, want innovation, have a desire to excel, be pioneers, and have an inherent desire to be the best. The team includes, in no particular order, the Project Manager, commercial, planning, engineering, construction, health & safety, environment and sustainability. The wider team, not just the core full time staff! Can there be any room for naysayers? Probably not, not for the pilot project.

Can there be any room for naysayers?

Budget for BIM

Having chosen your target project, based on the project health and the team that will run it, it is necessary to ensure that the project estimate, and therefore the project authority and budget, have sufficient allowance to fund the BIM activities. It is difficult to advise how much to include. However, it is always difficult to get approval to spend money, on a coordination room for instance, if there is insufficient budget. It is normal to experience difficulty in persuading management to spend money, to potentially, either save money, or to make more profit. It is an easier passage where budget already exists.

  • However, do not be tempted into running a full benefit analysis for BIM. When BIM is working properly, the majority of the cost will be impossible to extract from normal operations, because it will be normal operations. There will be specific costs such as IT hardware and software, which can be captured separately. There are also two specialist resources, an Information Manager and a Federated Model Co-ordinator, which can also be cost allocated to BIM. On the benefit side, you could spend time estimating the savings of clashes avoided, or changes that are identified early. However, the bigger savings of collaboration, the parties working together, construction right first time are hard to demonstrate definitively. The best demonstrable benefit is the comparison of the Actual Outturn Cost against the AFC. The soft comparison is how the stakeholders feel about the project. Smiles all round.

Client led

The Client, as an informed client, should lead the process of change and should own and operate the federated BIM model. There has been a lot of discussion on this element of BIM. The Client is in the best position to influence the adoption of BIM and to take on the associated risks. The Client may not be the best informed in respect to BIM within the supply chain, but as the head of the supply chain, the Client, with broad shoulders, needs to initiate and drive forward.

A quick recap

We have a healthy Infrastructure Project, with a change receptive project team, supported by a BIM strategist. The project has a budget allocation for BIM, authority for BIM, and senior management support. Ideal!

The seed has been planted. The next challenge is to get it to germinate.

The BIM challenge

The BIM challenge is frequently seen as what software to adopt. It is however so much more.

  • What information do we have?
  • What information do we need to pass on, and how?
  • Who is going to use ‘the stuff’?
  • What is collaboration?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • How do we do whatever it is?
  • What Tech do we need?

Missing from the list is the most significant element of the challenge, people! Their behaviours, resistance to change, etc.

The pie is just a visualisation, but gives an idea of the scale of the challenge. Information flow and codification is the second biggest slice. The biggest slice is the change in practices, workflow, and behaviours, all people issues

Looking briefly at each of the four heads separately

There is a vast choice of technology surrounding BIM.

  • Our BIM strategy states that the design software should be the choice of the designer of the particular discipline or element. (best for task)
  • We will own and operate the data via a Client Information Manager and we will control the federated collaboration 5D model
  • The 5D model requires a data repository to handle the non-visual elements
  • Our base EDMS will be selected by the Client and be a requirement within the tender(s) and subsequent contract(s)
  • The hardware requirements for a mission control room, cloud connected. Interfaces with requirements and deliverables / workflow management

Information flow is crucial.

  • Survey data and Asset information into the model
  • Manage the information flow throughout the intervention
  • Manage the collaboration and data exchange
  • Create codification that supports industry standards, including Uniclass 2, SIC 2007, Asset Information, Asset Register database, appropriate method of measurements, all allowing efficient benchmarking, comparison, collation, and transfer of information.
  • Transfer of the whole information on to Maintenance, Operations, Asset Information and Archive in a meaningful, useful way

Who understands what BIM is and the opportunities that it provides? We need to inform and educate at different levels.

  • Ensure that end users such as Maintenance, Asset Information, and Operations understand the benefits/how it is useful to them
  • Communicate to the intervention (Project) client and sponsor, and wider stakeholder community
  • Educate the Project Team and associated engineering, procurement, risk and value management, safety, and sustainability (not forgetting Legacy) support
  • Retain senior management support with briefings and newsletters, and generally spread the word in an evangelical way

The biggest challenge is the behaviours change required in the whole of the Project Team, associated support, Supply Chain, Client, Sponsor, Maintenance, Asset Information, Operations and other key stakeholders.

  • Collaboration is key
  • How do we achieve cultural change?
  • What support can we draw on?
  • It will not happen on its own!

This represents a significant challenge, almost a project in its own right.

A significant challenge, almost a project in its own right.

BIM strategy

The BIM strategist will write a BIM strategy for the project as a precursor to a BIM Execution Plan. The strategy will state the desired outcomes, level of detail, levels of development, stakeholder responsibilities. Importantly, the strategy will list what is required of the federated model, including information for the contractor(s) such as dividing a concrete slab into pours with construction joints and formwork. The federated model should not be just the domain of the designer. It should provide something for all the stakeholders using it. The strategy will also state that the 3D BIM model, formed of intelligent elements, shall include 4D, time, 5D, cost, and carbon. The codification shall include universal standards such as Uniclass 2 and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC 2007) together with Asset based structure to enhance Asset Maintenance and Operations.

The strategy shall treat the project as an intervention upon an asset where the asset has a whole life and the intervention is one of many predicted within the whole life of the asset, and where each intervention has a lifecycle of its own. Each intervention will add information to the model and thereby provide enhanced information with which to manage the asset. At this point it is worth remembering that BIM is all about information. Not only graphical information, but includes non-graphical information and documentation as well.

The strategy will be circulated for agreement within the Client. It is understood that further details will be provided in the BIM Execution Plan.

Cultural Change Management Concept

Part of the BIM strategy incorporates the concept that cultural change management shall be progressive, predominantly by the ripple effect.

  • Start with a small pebble into the pond. Engage the project team.
  • A larger stone, wider involvement within the Client.
  • A half brick, include the Outline Designer
  • A full brick, include the Supply Chain
  • And onward until the ripples reach the furthest edges of the pond.

This will help both understanding and change.

BIM is not suitable for Big Bang or flick a switch type implementations.


Include the concept of the project being a BIM project within the Procurement Strategy.

The Procurement Strategy should make best use of the forthcoming BIM driven changes to EU Procurement Rules. The selection of potential tenderers should include an element of BIM capability. The Procurement Strategy should also state that the tender evaluation will include, as a minimum, 15% collaboration, and 5% BIM.

The tenderers should also be advised of the intent to provide the tenderers with a complete federated 3D BIM model with take-off capability, in addition to the conventional contractual drawings. The probability of resolving all of the arguments, and discussions surrounding liabilities and responsibilities during the pilot project procurement round are so remote as to be, not only, not worth attempting, but would in all probability be distracting and detracting.

Federated BIM model for tendering

Form a club

The next step is to form a club. Above we have identified that part of the measure of success is that BIM will be for all parties. It is therefore a logical progression that those same parties configure the BIM requirements. Ideally the club should be formed of Client, Surveyor, Designer, Contractor(s) Maintenance, Operations, and Asset Information. The club should also include particular Client individuals, including the Project Manager, the BIM strategist, the Information Manager, and the Federated Model Coordinator.

The club can then lead the charge on BIM, inform and educate, create the structure and codification, develop the BIM requirements and generally set the scene, all in accordance with the strategy and best practice.

It is essential that all the members of the club are informed and enthusiastic about BIM. Without the enthusiasm the pilot project will not find its way to the exemplary target.

The club will have to be funded by the client and have very few responsibilities and therefore few liabilities. All of the various members of the club should therefore be able to learn from each other, and be able to contribute to the common goal without fear or favour. The non-client based members of the club would be contributing on a consultant basis, probably time based, without acquiring any additional liabilities by virtue of contributions to the club. The club is there to develop the BIM configuration to suit as many of the parties requirements as possible. There are some problems with the implementation of this, such as the Contractor is not yet selected, therefore you should avoid using one of the potential tenderers. A contractor competent in the particular field and recognised for BIM adoption could provide Early Contractor Involvement and BIM advice without falling foul of EU Procurement rules. All of the members of the club would be working together for the common benefit of the Project and the Asset Manager.

Is this collaboration?

Good luck to the club.



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