Comment: John Sharp - Clients need to be educated on BIM

25 June 2015 | By John Sharp

Engage more with clients to help them get the most from BIM, argues John Sharp, director at architectural practice Pick Everard.

The benefits of BIM are often sold to with an emphasis on the design and construction phase, followed up with an all-capturing promise of “and it will provide huge savings during the operational stage”. But do clients actually know what to ask for at the start of the project to ensure that data they have at handover is of any worth?

To drive the best value of the entire BIM process, clients need to understand the fundamental principles of BIM so that they are able to request and issue the right information, at the right time and to the right level of quality. Without the client preparing detailed Asset Information Requirements (AIR), project delivery teams are unable to provide asset data the client will actually need – creating too much data; wasting time and fees.

The Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR) inform the project delivery teams how the client requires the information to be delivered. EIR templates are readily available on-line, but are clients adapting these to their actual needs? In my experience, most project teams are seeing very little changes to these proformas.

With 2016 fast approaching, there is a concern that many clients are not equipped to deliver information required by the project teams to deliver BIM. Most clients have a few team members who have an elementary understanding of the process and deliverables but have been BIM-washed by overwhelming process maps and jargon, while other client team members do not know how and when to start the process.

I believe it’s important to ensure that clients are in the position to ask the right questions and provide the right data, so that they can get the most from BIM after completion. 

We have been working with our clients to ensure they are asking the right BIM questions and at the right time. As the current chair of the consultant and contractor framework BIM group for East Sussex County Council, we are trying to educate staff and team members on BIM processes and methods.

By meeting with key members and spending time to explain BIM standards, guidance and training, the council has become one of the lead local authorities in BIM level 2 implementation. We are continuing to work closely with the council to ensure that the entire team is able to deliver the Level 2 information and manage the BIM process in the future.

On the wider scale we have been working with the London Construction Programme, a pan-London local authority construction framework, to assist them in the implementation of BIM. Though this they are now working with the National Association of Construction Frameworks (NACF) BIM group, which directly feeds back to the construction framework.

For Level 2 to be successful, clients need to be brought further into the BIM conversation. By educating them, not only will the individual clients get more from the buildings they are commissioning in the build process, and in the long term, but perhaps more importantly they will become advocates for BIM and help its wider adoption.