Is BIM the hook on which to secure the golden thread of information that Hackitt says should run through every project?

Sheena sood 2017 bw

Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report on her independent review of building regulations and fire safety made a number of recommendations for building a new regulatory framework to drive “real culture change and the right behaviours” in the construction industry.

A particularly interesting aspect of the report is the emphasis on culture and practice as being key to driving change.

One principal focus of the report is the creation of a “golden thread of building information”.

Hackitt’s interim report in December 2017 introduced this concept as a way of ensuring that “the original design intent is preserved and recorded, and any changes go through a formal review process involving people who are competent and who understand the key features of the design”.

To create this “golden thread”, the final report recommends the creation of a digital record for any higher-risk residential buildings (HRRBs) from design intent through to construction and occupation.

One reason for this is that the report finds that safety information often cannot be accessed or found by those who need it. 

The final report recommends the creation of a digital record for any higher-risk residential buildings from design intent through to construction and occupation

This recommendation for a clear, easily accessible digital record aims to ensure that information associated with a building’s safety is recorded and can be easily accessed and used throughout the building’s lifecycle.

A clear approach to accessing health and safety information is particularly important when a building is later transferred to a third party. It is easy for the information to fall through the gaps – or for boxes of operation and maintenance manuals to be lost in the basement. 

Building information modelling (BIM) can play a key role in the creation of this “golden thread”. The UK government has required the use of BIM on all centrally procured projects since 2016.

The report therefore suggests that BIM should be used for all new HRRBs to ensure high-quality records are kept, exchanged and used. The report also suggests that the use of BIM encourages improved transparency and integrity of information throughout a building’s lifecycle.

The use of BIM can help with the management of change, as there is increased collaboration in the production of information.  

The findings of the Hackitt report have been welcomed by the UK BIM Alliance, the umbrella body representing BIM Regions, BIM4 sector groups and special interest groups, which came together to help industry manage the transition to the government’s 2016 mandate for BIM.

BIM4Housing, a cross-sector group that supports organisations to adopt BIM to build better homes through digitalisation, has also suggested that the Hackitt report will encourage greater alignment between project information and the information used by facilities management teams.

The use of BIM can help with the management of change, as there is increased collaboration in the production of information

This provides a further boost to the uptake of BIM in the UK. Significant progress has been made by the industry following the UK government’s mandate. However, as highlighted in the Winfield-Rock report published earlier this year, there is still work to be done for this progress to be reflected contractually.

Contracts are often not specific and clear enough in respect of the project team’s obligations regarding BIM, and it is common for the contractual position to be inconsistent with the project team’s intended approach. 

This was underlined by the findings of the NBS National BIM Report 2018, in which only 30% of respondents said that they had seen reference to specific BIM outputs being included in their contracts. 

It is hoped that the second edition of the Construction Industry Council’s BIM Protocol, published in April, will bring greater clarity to the contractual approach to BIM. Notable changes in the second edition of the protocol include obligations in relation to the sharing of all information as part of a common data environment process.

This will assist in a complete and high-quality record being produced for the project as required by the recommendations of the Hackitt report.

In addition, while the CIC BIM Protocol is primarily focused on information produced during a project, it now includes a “hook” on which to hang the “golden thread” referred to by Hackitt.

The project team can be required to assist with the employer’s “asset information model”, which is used in the operation of the asset following completion of the project. This can enable a smooth handover so that records (including health and safety records) can be easily accessed and used during operation. 

It will be important for all involved in a project to consider how this handover process will operate at the outset of any project to enable the operator to make best use of the information provided, with a process also established for how that information will be reviewed, updated and passed on if ownership changes hand.

Nevertheless, the Hackitt report and other recent developments provide a clear pathway to create a step change in culture and the approach to project record information, leaving behind the days of operation manuals lost in the basement.