What does the NBS BIM Toolkit have to offer?

The NBS Toolkit is a software tool through which users can draft the contents of the Employer’s Information Requirements and the various documents – BIM Execution Plan (BEP) and Master Information Delivery Plan (MIDP) – that map the stages of production of BIM for a project.

It is one of the last pieces in the jigsaw of products envisaged in the government BIM strategy to assist the industry in achieving a level of standardisation of, and definition of, the process that we now refer to as BIM Level 2.

Included in the toolkit are digital plans of work that can be linked to the seven (RIBA) stages of a project and definitions of level of detail and level of information that can be used to specify the content of the BIM information (deliverables) required at each stage. The intention is to provide a standard “who does what when” plan that applies to all potential BIM participants.

The toolkit has just completed its beta evaluation stage. Its output is a set of documents in electronic or hard copy form that define the tasks to be performed and the information and/or deliverables required at each stage. The digital plans of work are based on industry standards such as the RIBA Digital Plan of Work and the CIC Roles.

New schedules of services for “linear” and geographical infrastructure have also been developed with the Environment Agency and Highways England.

Users can add (or delete) tasks to the standard menus and allocate responsibility to a participant at each stage. Participants are defined at each stage. Deliverables are the model/information deliverables and can be searched for against the Uniclass database. For each deliverable the “level of detail”, which specifies geometry, and “level of information”, which specifies other information, must be selected. The Uniclass system is used as the library of descriptions of objects from which deliverables can be selected.

Potential users of the toolkit are anyone who has responsibility for defining or providing what is required in terms of BIM. That means the whole supply chain, from the client defining its requirements to the supply chain participants responding in detail with what they will provide, in turn stepping that down to their supply chain to define what it must provide to them. 

It is an ambitious aim. One of the main concerns is that the multiple users make for a more complex solution than might be needed – and one in which participants may struggle to understand how the toolkit applies specifically to them.

The toolkit is part of the larger suite of online solutions that RIBA Enterprises and NBS have developed and it is anticipated that users will refer to the NBS BIM library for BIM objects and possibly drag and drop an object of the required level of detail and level of information into their model.

But there is potentially a lack of clarity as to how the BIM documents that develop through the seven stages will be linked to the contractual “gateways”, for instance when a decision is made on whether a project will be delivered via design and build, or fully designed by the consultant team. 

Each stage allows deliverables and tasks to be set but, as we know from the RIBA Plan of Work, depending upon the nature of the procurement, contractual responsibility for design or supply of information may be set at different points of the process depending on when participants are engaged in the project and the role they undertake.

Under the Toolkit, the obligations set out in the tasks are made part of a contractual obligation, but it includes little guidance on tailoring the obligations to different contractual routes.

The software at present does not allow these contractual "freeze points’ to be identified, for instance the switch to design and build. If someone is exporting outputs for inclusion in the contract documentation, such as the roles and responsibilities for contractors and consultants, the lack of linkage with the contract could mean the outputs are not as well-defined as they should be.  

By using the standard plans of work for the participant roles (including design) it is clear that what is being dealt with is not simply tasks that relate to the provision or management of BIM or deliverables but also the core roles of the participants. Design delivery and information delivery are both addressed and it will be for the user to separate those roles if desired.

The toolkit is not just producing BIM-related tasks but documenting the roles and responsibilities of the project’s participants. It also refers to stage completion dates and contract price and other contract information. Crucially, it does not define the contractual status or liabilities that flow from the information it is creating.

Lawyers and other professionals will still need to carry out that task. They will have to work closely alongside those using the toolkit or will have to review its output. The toolkit does allow additional participants to be added and adding your lawyer may be a sensible decision. 

Tim Willis is a consultant in Trowers & Hamlins’ dispute resolution and litigation department

One of the main concerns is that the multiple users make for a more complex solution than might be needed – and one in which participants may struggle to understand how the toolkit applies specifically to them.
– Tim Willis, Trowers & Hamlins

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