The new BIM protocol and standard should finally put an end to the industry’s ad-hoc approach to managing information, says Simon Rawlinson

Simon Rawlinson

The UK BIM Strategy took a major step forward at the end of February, with the publication of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) suite of Building Information Modelling documentation and the PAS 1192-2 standard. The team also launched the Task Group Labs Portal, where new approaches to working in BIM and managing data can be tested by the industry. We expect that the UK BIM community will adopt these resources quickly. However, our main aim in the Task Group is to accelerate use of BIM across the wider industry, and we expect that publication of standard documents by CIC will increase the speed of take-up.

Launching the PAS, the CIC BIM protocol and other documents including the Scope of Services for Information Management should mark a step change in how projects are managed in the UK. I know that this is a pretty grand statement, but I strongly believe that it has substance. PAS 1192-2 focuses on information management as an added-value activity with its own processes and disciplines. There is plenty of project-derived evidence demonstrating that the completeness, quality and consistency of information has an impact on project outcomes. However, along with freshly minted delivery teams, and one-off design solutions, ad-hoc approaches to project information management are widely thought to be acceptable, even though proven and better ways of doing things are readily available.

For an industry that takes so much pride in its effective project and programme management, it continues to surprise me how little attention has been focused on developing common approaches to sharing information - enabling teams to work more efficiently and with greater confidence.

Ad-hoc approaches to project information management are widely thought to be acceptable, even though proven and better ways of doing things are readily available

The issue is, however, easy to over-simplify. Plenty of organisations have their own standards and technical BIM protocols, which are no doubt very well drafted and deliver high levels of efficiency. The problem comes when different organisations bring their standards together. How are they co-ordinated? How is the information organised? Will it be completed to a consistent level of detail and is the status of the information clearly communicated? Critically, the team needs to be sure that the systems used are robust and can keep up with the pace of the project.

For me, the root of the problem is that information management is too often assumed to be a core skill that all team members possess that is not recognised as a value driver. If needs aren’t explicitly addressed in project requirements, then clients may not secure a benefit from deliberate management action.

At an early stage in the development of the BIM Strategy, the team realised that consistent, better quality information underpins the effective use of BIM. If you think about it, BIM should mean both management and models, so the role of the Strategy Team is to persuade the industry to focus on the method as well as the modelling. As clients rely more and more on the data and insight derived from models, the more they will need to be confident of the status, provenance and completeness of the models they are using. Information quality and information assurance will become a differentiator for contractors and consultants.

The outcome of our work is a suite of documents that work together to promote effective information management. PAS 1192-2 provides for consistent standards. It also promotes the common data environment - a structured approach to sharing of information within teams that gives greater confidence around status, compliance, completeness and so on. The PAS also requires the adoption of a BIM execution plan. The digital plan of work, currently under development, will provide greater clarity with regards to the information that is required at different project stages. The CIC BIM protocol encourages the adoption of the PAS and also requires appointment to the role of information management.

When we set out to define a role of information management, we recognised that there was a risk that the role will be seen as an extra profession and extra fee. Our view is that we are describing an existing requirement - fleshing out core information management capabilities and establishing a benchmark so that existing team members can take on this role themselves.

Looking forward, I expect to see plenty of evidence of seamless information management - but no stand-alone information managers. That really will demonstrate that the industry has embraced the information age.

Simon Rawlinson is a partner in EC Harris and a member of the BIM Task Group