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Last edited 12 Jan 2016

BIM - it’s about the Planet - Part 2

Author: Keith Snook (with funding from BRE Trust)

This is part 2 of a 5 part paper. Click below to read the other parts:


[edit] Industry reviews - Lutyens to Egan – a selection

  • Not technically a review but a good line-in-the-sand starting point; renowned and respected architect Edwin Lutyens (1869 – 1944) in a frustrated response to a richly artistic but information poor trend in architectural drawings of the time said

“ a working drawing is a letter to builder telling precisely what to build not a picture to charm….”

  • “The Bossom Report” – formally titled: Reaching for the Skies 1934 identified fragmentation, inefficiency and adversarialism as the critical problems
  • “The Simon Report” – formally titled: The placing and management of contracts for building and civil engineering works 1944 in addressing the plans for post war rebuilding clearly equated lowest tender methods with lower standards and identified insufficient pre contract preparation and problems of indefinite and inequitable sub contracts.
  • “The Banwell Report” – (also) formally titled: The placing and management of contracts for building and civil engineering works 1964 recommended what we would now refer to as more collaborative processes using less adversarial relationships.
  • “The Tavistock Report” - formally titled: Interdependence and Uncertainty: A study of the building industry, 1966 noted the crippling effect of fragmentation (and actually rather summed it all up in its imaginative title).
  • “The PIG Report” - formally titled: Project Information - its content and arrangement A report and proposals on the way forward 1978 By the Project Information Group (PIG) of the Department of the Environment NCC Standing Committee on Computing & Data Co-ordination. This also called on research such as that reported in BRE Current Paper 18/73 “Working drawings in use” and BRE Current Paper 60/76 “Coordinating working drawings and went on to recommend (and fund) the creation of the CPI documents mentioned above and to set up the interdisciplinary body that maintains their contemporary versions and other publications and services to this day - CPIc[8] (fig 3)
  • Latham 1994 [9] and Egan 1998 [10] again recognised the issues and, among other observations, both authors effectively said to the industry “why have you not adopted these (CPI) protocols?”. On neither occasion did the industry provide a reasoned response to the question.

These are a selection of the better known reports and, in the light of what has transpired, one might only say ‘influential’ with some qualification.

[edit] Avanti” and “Building Down Barriers”

In a programme funded by the then Department of Trade and Industry (DTI 2002) the CPI protocols were used in a mandated way on a series of projects. Otherwise they were all ‘ordinary’ building projects with a spread of technologies across what we would now call level 0 and 1 with a hint of level 2 on some as defined in fig 4 – the Bew - Richards BIM maturity graph. The projects were all fairly conventional, and used normal professional appointments, contractual arrangements, insurances, penalties etc. The programme was called AvantiICT enabled collaborative working, and the only difference compared to other projects of the time was that they were each facilitated by individual mentors who knew the ins and outs of the relevant protocols including some that were in draft at that time such as documentation that was to evolve into BS1192 – 2007.

Fig 4 BIM Maturity copyright obtained Bew Richards.gif

Fig 4 BIM Maturity Graph in an early published form – Copyright obtained Bew Richards

Avanti reported in 2007 and on average showed savings in line with those expected in the current BIM programme of around 20 – 25%. Individual savings recorded for particular activities were even more startling:

  • Early commitment offering up to 80% saving on implementation cost on medium size project
  • 50-85% saving on effort spent receiving information and formatting for reuse
  • 60-80% saving on effort spent finding information and documents
  • 75-80% saving in effort to achieve design co-ordination
  • 50% saving on time spent to assess tenders and award sub-contracts
  • 50% saving on effort in sub-contractor design approval

A further initiative with a promising title "Buidling down Barriers" [11] analysed the reasons for ‘initiative failures’ of the past and ironically also predicted its own failure in an early passage where it stated:

“The reason why the numerous reports between 1929 and 1994 have failed to have any impact on the performance of the construction industry is because the industry continues to be blind to its failings. It is also unwilling to measure its performance, particularly the impact of fragmentation and adversarial attitudes.”

Building Down Barriers also had good patronage from the UK military as a very experienced client for a substantial built portfolio but even with its backing through demonstration projects and rather like Avanti, Building Down Barriers was seen by the rest of the industry primarily as a research experiment – exciting, fulfilling and a glimpse of a possible future for those involved but with the majority of them subsequently moving on to new projects procured and operated in a conventional way. Exposure to these projects slightly swelled the ranks of those individuals convinced by the methods and committed to improvements but they were still very much in the minority and mostly then with very little influence in the face of the complacency identified in that passage from the report. However with the emergence of the current government stimulated “BIM agenda” a gratifying number of those involved in or having knowledge of both Avanti and Building down Barriers and other research have emerged and, several years on, are operating in positions of influence.

[edit] Value and Quality

Value and quality come and go out of fashion as valid subjects and there was much interest from government in the ‘Value, price mechanism’ post Latham and shortly after that the Design Quality Indicators (DQIs) were developed by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and operate to this day albeit with limited take-up. They are implicit if not prominent in the current ‘BIM agenda’ and it is worth briefly considering them further as they are poorly understood terms. Most of the industry reports previously noted concentrated on issues either directly measurable in financial terms or resolvable to financial terms with very little manipulation. The current BIM initiative quite often uses the term ‘value’ rather than ‘cost’ which is an important, though it seems often not realised, distinction that also relates to ‘quality’ and other subjective concepts. Value and quality can be difficult to measure particularly in terms that are comparable. Richard Saxon in the 2005 report BE Valuable defined a simple relationship for value:

Value = What you get / What you give

albeit that he notes that subjective and personal assessments for measuring the quantities of “what you get” and “what you give” must be used. Clearly, a result greater than unity is a positive (good) value outcome and less than unity is negative (bad).

Value can be broken down to various types as identified by Dr Sebastian Macmillan in The value handbook [12]. Exchange value is easy to quantify monetarily for example (it is often referred to as ‘book value’ and will appear on asset registers) and there are systems such as BREEAM that address environmental value in quantifiable terms. Image value can generally be assessed in context by those to whom it is important and for some endeavours use value might conform to a fairly precise algorithm, eg factory efficiency, but social value and cultural value may be difficult to reduce to simple monetary terms.

Quality is technically fairly easy to define (there is a British Standard / ISO definition) and measure but the difficulty comes more from misuse as the term is often used loosely for example to describe gratuitous opulence rather than effectiveness or fitness for purpose or even beauty. Government funded research at BRE contemporary with that for the CPI codes focused on a long term objective and observational study of the achievement of quality on UK construction sites and produced interesting results that did not support common perception. The emphasis on objective research is important in this. Research based on typical survey or structured interview techniques as would be more likely now would have probably produced different results for the same reasons as the failure to adopt better working practices noted in the Building Down Barriers. The construction industry has not embraced attempts at self-contemplation or measurement and has taken precious little notice of any applied to it by third parties, including BRE even when it was a government funded research laboratory. Therefore the industry self-perception, which is what inquisitorial rather than observational techniques tend to expose, is likely to provide a biased picture. The BRE research [13] contradicted commonly cited industry rhetoric which often displayed almost feudal attitudes in placing responsibility for failures with trades people or other operatives as a default. The research, which was not distracted by industry opinions or prejudices, showed that management and professional failures to do with information are responsible for far more compromises of the quality of the product than those directly caused by site works or operatives. On the issue of skill for example it found that there was abundant skill in those properly trained for the job albeit at times there were simply not enough skilled people to match workloads. By far the single largest culprit for failures of quality however was missing or inadequate project information [14]. Which again directs us to consider BIM and particularly the UK government led initiative which emanates from the Government Construction Strategy.

Click here to continue reading: BIM - it’s about the Planet - Part 3.

[edit] Find out more

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External references

  • [8] CPIc is the Construction Project Information Committee, responsible for providing best practice guidance on the content, form and preparation of construction production information (CPI), and making sure this best practice is disseminated throughout the UK construction industry. It comprises representation from: RIBA, RICS, CC, ICE, CIAT, CIBSE, CIOB
  • [9] Latham, M. (1994), Constructing the Team, London: HMSO. [Special:BookSources/9780117529946 [Special:BookSources/9780117529946 [Special:BookSources/9780117529946 [Special:BookSources/9780117529946 ISBN 978-0-11-752994-6]]]]
  • [10] Egan, J. (1998) Rethinking Construction: Report of the Construction Task Force, London: HMSO
  • [11] Building Down Barriers: a guide to Construction Best Practice (2003) Clive Cain; Routledge [Special:BookSources/0415289635 [Special:BookSources/0415289635 [Special:BookSources/0415289635 [Special:BookSources/0415289635 ISBN 0415289635]]]]
  • [12] Types of value are taken from The Value handbook (2006) published by CABE and written by Dr Sebastian Macmillan of Eclipse Research Consultants [Special:BookSources/1846330122 [Special:BookSources/1846330122 [Special:BookSources/1846330122 [Special:BookSources/1846330122 ISBN 1 84633 0122]]]] 2
  • [13] Achieving Quality on Building Sites NEDO (1987) [Special:BookSources/0729208397 [Special:BookSources/0729208397 [Special:BookSources/0729208397 [Special:BookSources/0729208397 ISBN 0729208397]]]]. Also BRE current paper 7/81 Quality control on building Sites.
  • [14] Project information is defined as the information from designers necessary to tell the constructors what to build.

--BRE Group