Darya Bahram, secretary general of the Association of Consultant Architects, says adding a protocol as a bolt-on document may not create the direct working bond between team members that BIM is meant to foster.
It has been well over two years since the mandatory adoption of BIM Level 2 on UK government projects. The maturity of BIM “specified requirements” continues to develop through the PAS 1192 suite, most recently in the 2018 specification for “collaborative sharing and use of structured H&S information”.
BIM as a process is all about collaboration and it is a wasted opportunity to rewire working relationships if BIM is only a bolt-on to existing working practices.
The benefits of BIM rely on its use across the whole “information delivery cycle” in an environment where traditional barriers associated with silo functioning are overturned.
Yet construction is a prototype style manufacturing process, relying on different procurement routes with different expectations, from different contributors with different priorities This begs the question of how BIM procurement and contracting can be aligned to successful delivery of projects through BIM.
The King’s College London Centre of Construction Law’s 2016 BIM research report analysed feedback from architects and other professionals offering insights as to the successful delivery of BIM-enabled projects. The report demonstrated that integrated BIM data and processes are linked closely to choices made in the procurement models and contract terms.
The King’s report provided a commentary on the CIC BIM Protocol first edition, a bolt-on document which requires to be “appended to” each project team member’s “agreement” – be it a professional services agreement or a construction contract. It is good to see that many of the report’s recommendations have been reflected in the new 2018 edition.
Yet one key issue remains a concern: the CIC BIM Protocol still operates as an addendum to a series of two-party agreements between the employer and each project team member independently.
Adding a protocol in this way does not create the direct working bond between team members, which is essential if they and their project are to take full advantage of what BIM processes can offer. Only a direct working bond can create a natural alliance among the team, encouraging collective decision-making and alleviating concerns as to abuse of intellectual property rights and mis-use of shared data.
Recent research and reports suggest that the uptake of BIM has been somewhat slow and so there is still an opportunity to re-examine the approach at grass roots level. This requires us to move away from the quick fix mindset and to start using BIM to support the proven success of partnering and alliancing through “multi-party contracts to discourage legal disputes and costly litigations”.
Multi-party partnering contracts published by the ACA have already demonstrated their significance in delivering reduced risks, agreed cost savings and improved designs on BIM level 2 projects, for example on the reported Ministry of Justice pilot schemes. However, in the short term it will be difficult to ask the industry to move away from bilateral contracts overnight.
Another solution suggested in the King’s report would be to create an overarching “umbrella” that brings the project team members under one collaborative roof while leaving their separate appointments intact.
An umbrella contract can use BIM to underpin collaborative links between team members. It can set out who works with whom and at what level of responsibility; what are the agreed objectives, success measures, targets and incentives; what can collectively be done to create value, with timescales and actions required to de-risk obstacles.
In these ways the contributions to BIM under bilateral contracts can be drawn together to provide unanimity as the hallmark of a collaborative working ethos. In fact, an informative and authoritative umbrella contract already exists and has been successfully applied in a number of major projects.
The “FAC-1” framework alliance contract is published by the Association of Consultant Architects and is designed to create mechanisms that ensure stronger commitment to shared objectives and collectively self-regulation as well as improved transparency and efficiency through an ability to share BIM data.
Early adopters have reported success, and maybe the time is right to present FAC-1 as an alternative BIM protocol.