Employer's decision point for BIM projects
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a broad term that describes the process of creating and managing digital information about a built asset. In the UK, the Government Construction Strategy published in May 2011, stated that the '...Government will require fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum by 2016'. This represents a minimum requirement for Level 2 BIM on centrally-procured public projects.
PAS 1192-2:2013 Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using building information modelling, (now replaced by BS EN ISO 19650) specifies the requirements for achieving building information modelling (BIM) Level 2.
Building information modelling (BIM), as described in PAS 1192-2, is structured around a series of employer decision points. Generally these decision points are aligned to project stages and are analogous to 'gateways' on conventional projects. Projects should not be permitted to proceed to the next stage until the employer has made a decision to proceed.
At each decision point, the employer will ask a series of questions about the developing project to determine whether it should progress, whether changes are required, or if the project should be abandoned. In order to answer their questions (sometimes described as plain language questions), specific information is needed by the employer. This information is a contractual requirement, and is defined in the Employer's Information Requirements (EIR).
Some information may be provided in a conventional report format, however, It may be possible to generate some of the required information from the building information model, and in some cases it may be possible to interrogate this information automatically, for example, the question 'do the proposals provide the required amount of accommodation?' might be assessed automatically by comparing the requirements in the project brief with a schedule of accommodation generated from the model. These might be refferred to as 'actual digital questions'.
The exchange of information with the employer may be described as a 'data drop', or 'information exchange'. PAS 1192-2 suggests that information may be required in the form of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) models, native project information models, COBie files, schedules and PDF reports. However, it should be noted that PDF files are not always as useful as native files which can be easier to interrogate and re-use.
Not all decisions will be made by the same person, or even by the same part of the employer organisation. In addition, some decisions may involve expert assessment or advice from client representatives, independent client advisers, project managers, or even external bodies (such as external design reviews). It is important therefore that time is allowed within the project programme for the decision makers to be provided with relevant information, to assess it, discuss it, perhaps refer it to others and make a decision. This might involve meetings amongst senior members of the client team which may only be possible at specific dates.
In addition, some information will require that other information is prepared first. These interrelationships should be scheduled so that the correct sequence is followed, at the right time, to meet the decision point. The decision making process should be carefully planned and aligned with the project programme. It should not appear on a programme as a simple milestone with no sensible time allocation.
NB Employer's may have to make decisions at times that are not naturally aligned to standard project stages, particularly in the early part of a project when there are a great number of crucial employer decisions to be made about the direction the project should take and how it should be structured.
For example, typically before an employer has decided on the brief, it is likely that they will have to:
- Justify the project.
- Appoint advisers.
- Assess the feasibility of the project.
- Carry out options studies and select the preferred option.
These stages involve sequential high-level decisions. However, typically they are not listed as project stages in standard industry project plans, which tend not to recognise the importance of early employer processes.