Analysis

The BIM Toolkit is user-friendly, but who will the users be?

11 May 2015 | By John Sands and Dr Sarah Birchall

Preliminary thoughts – and surprises – on the NBS BIM Toolkit, from BSRIA’s principal consultant John Sands and senior consultant Dr Sarah Birchall.

BSRIA’s BIM Network focuses on bringing particular issues around BIM to its members in an informal environment. As part of this mission, it has held a series of events specifically looking at the missing Level 2 BIM components – the digital plan of work (DPoW) and the classification system, all wrapped up in a user-friendly online tool.

The latest event, held on 21 April 2015, followed hot on the heels of the “soft” launch by RIBA Enterprises. The contract calls for RIBA Enterprises to “maintain” the product (known as the BIM Toolkit – but more about the title later) for five years so development is expected to continue. 

Almost 30 people attended the half-day event, and represented a cross section of the built environment industry, including designers, constructors, manufacturers and utilities suppliers.

The aim was to give as much time for debate as possible. Rob Manning from the BIM Task Group gave a presentation describing the background to the UK government’s Level 2 BIM requirement, and to the Innovate UK competition.

The presentation ran through eight key themes, all seen as vital to enabling effective Level 2 BIM:

  • The Level 2 BIM journey
  • Consistent work stages
  • The Employer’s role
  • Innovate UK project – A digital tool for building information modelling
  • Digital Plan of Work
  • Classification
  • Validation tool
  • Multi mode access

The first three items demonstrated the need for BIM Toolkit, and the remaining topics explained the requirement contained within the Innovate UK competition.

Sarah Delany of RIBA Enterprises then gave a presentation on the Toolkit, giving some background to the project from RIBA Enterprises’ perspective, and demonstrating its main features. The presentation looked at the various features of the Toolkit, against the backdrop of the project phases identified in PAS 1192-3:2013:

  • Assessment and need
  • Procurement
  • Post-contract award and mobilisation
  • Production
  • Following hand-over then “in-use”

The BIM Toolkit is a project-based tool. As well as the usual project information, the tool lets the user input data and assign roles at each stage of the project (the RIBA 2013 Plan of Work is used). Certain key themes – roles, tasks and deliverables – can be completed for each stage.

The Toolkit also incorporates a classification structure (Uniclass 2015), and a data validation facility, although this was not included in the soft launch.

There was a lot of information to take on board and the coffee break gave the audience a chance to collect their thoughts and frame some telling questions.

These were wide-ranging, from how the tool affected what information manufacturers were expected to produce, to how the tool was intended to be used. This enquiry highlighted a key aspect of the tool, which had previously been misunderstood – at least by us. One of the MEP constructors asked if the tool was meant to be hosted in the project environment, where all members of the team would be able to see it.

Rob Manning’s response was that the tool was meant to be used by the client, who would then export it into another environment for use by the project team if required. The same person then asked if it was in fact a tool for the client and Manning said that was indeed the case. We must admit that at that point we were struggling to see the collaborative element of the Toolkit. 

The name of the tool also raised some questions. Given that it was for the use of the client, someone asked if the name of Toolkit was perhaps not as helpful as it could be. Manning said in response that perhaps the name may need to be reconsidered. Someone in the audience suggested that EIR Writing Tool or Briefing Tool may be more appropriate.

BSRIA is considering holding a similar event in early June to give the industry another opportunity to ask questions once they have had a chance to look at the Toolkit in more detail, and consider how it relates to their working environment. This will also act as useful feedback to RIBA Enterprises at the end of the beta testing period and help to shape the new release, currently due some time in June. In the meantime, BSRIA agreed to take any comments attendees may have between now and June and feed them back to RIBA Enterprises.

It was good to see the BIM Toolkit and to hear the government client’s aspirations. Also, it is worth bearing in mind how much has been achieved in such a short space of time. However, we think that there is a lot of work still to be done to get the beta version to what was intended in the original competition brief. It will be interesting to see how the June release has progressed.

BSRIA provides one-day training courses to introduce BIM and how to implement a BIM plan. Visit https://www.bsria.co.uk/information-membership/events/ for more information.