Analysis

BIM Certification: Expensive ‘tick in the box’ or valuable audit process?

3 August 2016 | By Andy Boutle

Approached with the right attitude, BIM verification can provide some clear outcomes says former certification cynic, Andy Boutle, senior BIM manager at Kier.

From viewing posts and articles on social media and discussing with fellow industry professionals, I think it’s fair to say there is still somewhat of a split opinion regarding the value of company BIM certification schemes available.

Six to twelve months ago, I was very cynical regarding these schemes and believed it was purely a money making opportunity for the certifiers, with the outcome… an ‘expensive piece of paper’ to shout about not meaning a great deal.

I had predominantly formed this opinion as I did not fully understand what the schemes are auditing against. Like others I assumed that once certified, a company could say they are fully compliant to deliver BIM Level 2 to their clients.

Of course, this would be a bold and slightly ridiculous claim as a BIM enabled project is only as strong as the weakest link within the supply chain, and there is still a huge knowledge and capability variance across the industry (including clients) working to the standards and specifications forming what the UK Government call BIM Level 2.

The BSI verification scheme primarily audits against PAS 1192-2:2013, but also includes alignment to BS 1192:2007 and BS 1192-4:2014. Evidence is required to demonstrate that processes and documentation are clearly defined, compliant and are held on the company’s assurance system, ready and in place to implement across the business.

In addition, we were expected to demonstrate how information should be managed within a Common Data Environment, observing approval gates, the use of suitability codes and compliant file naming etc. Supply chain assessment and defining the internal implementation of information management roles and responsibilities were also key areas of the audit.

When we first reviewed the 85 assessment criteria that BSI provided pre audit (for tier 1 contractors), we knew that this would be an extensive task, but BSI focused on the key areas that need to be scrutinised in order to provide the very best foundation for us to achieve BIM Level 2 as a business.

We have an experienced BIM team at Kier, and prior to us undertaking the initial BSI gap analysis we were confident with our knowledge of the 1192 specifications/standards, and that our existing documentation was comprehensive and robust. However, we soon realised the work required for the audit was something we probably should have considered sooner.

This raised the importance of defining requirements and guidance in plain language within our assurance system, to get the maximum benefit from the verification process.

We took this opportunity to map out processes for all phases of project delivery; from the initial acceptance of a BIM project through our gateway process, supply chain assessment, production of the pre/post contract BEP, information management and finally handover.

Louise Dawes – group BIM integration manager, Kier, explains: “To scrutinise or challenge your own standards is a task not for the faint hearted. It’s an essential task that you must approach with an open mind, not clouded by others opinions but guided by the aforementioned standards and analysing what is best for; your business, how this can make improvements with your supply chain and ultimately delivering exactly what your clients require.

“We reviewed existing processes and documentation and soon released how much information was either in our heads or presented in ad-hoc ways rather than mapped out or documented.

“Our key objective, to ensure all information was captured and embedded in our assurance system providing others with the opportunity to engage with the process. Our plan is to now focus on these new process maps and gain traction internally so we can drive delivery forwards.

"Yes, we could have undertaken this task without assessment from BSI but their criteria for verification made us focus on the essentials.”

We wanted this certification to be recognised as a milestone across our entire business, to leave no doubt that the output from the verification is to be built on as we transition deeper into digital construction.

If approached with the right attitude, BIM verification can provide some clear outcomes to an organisation. Our learning outcomes are:

  • Assurance system improved with clear process maps identifying repeatable processes for information management delivery;
  • Roles and responsibilities defined clearly for staff fulfilling the Information Management roles;
  • Fully compliant BEP templates;
  • Profile of BIM raised within the company, gaining traction internally;
  • Business accountability for maintaining compliance on projects to maintain verification certificate;
  • Opportunity to progress to BSI KitemarkTM certification;
  • PQQ scoring maximised for BIM sections.

Certainly if more of the supply chain could fully understand and implement some of the information management fundamental requirements, the industry as a whole would progress far quicker towards ‘business as usual’ for BIM Level 2.