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Level 2 standards: Creating consistency or causing complexity?

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An essential premise of BIM is that it drives increased collaboration and creates a different set of behaviours within projects. In that sense, BIM is the inheritor of the Latham and Egan agendas – a view that is clearly endorsed by respondents to our online survey.

But on top of this behavioural change, the BIM Task Group has laid out a suite of standards documents designed to create a commonality of approach across the industry and ensure that everyone speaks roughly the same language on BIM.

But does the fairly prescriptive nature of the PAS suite and the rest of the “eight pillars of BIM” support the industry in its efforts to collaborate, or is it just too off-puttingly complicated?

The reality for many clients interviewed by BIM+ is that they have struggled to interpret the various documents and protocols. And others appear to be experiencing “Level 2 anxiety”, or the fear that they are not properly implementing Level 2.

Alastair Gourlay, director of asset management at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, feels that Level 2 BIM has been presented as more technically challenging than it need be.

“People like me are invited on seminars and conferences and sent papers on BIM, but the information isn’t easy to navigate,” he says. “It is made to sound more complicated than it really is and I’m having difficulty understanding what it is I have to do that I am not already doing.

“The problem is, who has the time to sit and read all the government standards and documents and make sure they have ticked every box? Because it is massively complicated. At present I’m confident we are achieving all the principles of Level 2, but I can’t be sure we are compliant with every last detail written in the government documents.”

Terry Gough, BIM champion at Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust, is a believer in the standards-driven approach, but agrees they could be better coordinated and easier to grasp: “The various PAS and BS 1192 documents are great, but we are still missing a piece of work – a roadmap of how all of these documents link together through all the RIBA stages. It’s been left to project teams to work that out for themselves.

“What we need is a guide to how they all link together, which is something I have been working on over the last year or so. There are five key documents from BS 1192 to PAS 1192:5, but each refers to other BS standards, or they refer to other pieces of information you need to gather.”

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And Trina Ratcliffe-Pacheco, building design manager at the University of the West England estates department, fears that the standards have not had the desired effect of unifying suppliers’ approach to BIM:

“One of the stipulations of government is that BIM will standardise procedures and the way that information is provided to the client, but what stands in the way of that is the fact that each design practice and contractor currently has a different setup.

“Basically everyone is at a different level of understanding and working differently. Until that is resolved, BIM Level 2 is not going to happen.

“This affects us at handover: we receive different models from different designers and contractors, with different levels of graphical detail and levels of component information. It’s not standardised and requires us to digest that information and carry out post-handover editing to achieve standardisation.”

Richard Draper, BIM process manager at Birmingham City University, feels that much of its success in BIM has been achieved in spite of the standards, not because of them:

“We have found we can work with teams, not necessarily to follow the PAS 1192 documents, but sitting down with them and deciding practically what it is we are going to do, what worked and didn’t work in the past, and how we can do it right.

“People understanding practically what they have to do to run a BIM project is something that PAS docs just can’t do.

“We’ve tried that on a couple of projects, we had some successes and some issues, but we have learnt from it so that all our projects moving forwards will bene t from that. I suspect a lot of people are getting too confused by the documentation.”

And David Benson, director of estates and facilities at Cardiff Metropolitan University, gives what could be described as the “counter-BIM” argument based on the view that other pro-collaboration initiatives are tuned to the university’s requirements:

“The benefits of BIM are quite minimal when you bear in mind that most key design processes are already in place for us – we already require consultants to collaborate, and our contracts are set up to create that environment, they already provide 3D models and run clash detection, and we already have a CAFM system populated with asset data. BIM just pulls all that together into one system. Most consultants are experiencing benefits but, from a client’s view, there aren’t a lot of benefits.

“Improved collaboration is a key aim of BIM, but we don’t need a piece of software to help us do that. Why are we bringing teams together if they aren’t already working together on solutions?”

One of the stipulations of government is that BIM will standardise procedures and the way that information is provided to the client, but what stands in the way of that is the fact that each design practice and contractor currently has a different setup.– Trina Ratcliffe-Pacheco, University of the West England estates department