BIM bytes: the EU and Electronic procurement

The draft of the new Public Procurement Directive was approved in January. It pushes for electronic procurement as a way of opening up competition but, in approving the Directive, the European Parliament has spoken about the care that must be taken to ensure that the tender process is fair. There are clear warnings for anyone tendering a project using BIM.

It is a general rule that the award of public contracts must comply with the principles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union: in particular, the free movement of goods, freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services. The principles that derive from that are equal treatment, non-discrimination, proportionality, and transparency.

The European Parliament believes that electronic means of information and communication “can greatly simplify the publication of contracts and increase the efficiency and transparency of procurement processes”. Standardisation of the electronic means of communicating tender requirements should enhance the possibilities of companies to participate in procurement procedures across the European market. 

The key is that such communication of requirements must be non-discriminatory. There is a question as to whether differing technical formats or processes and standards could potentially create obstacles to interoperability and therefore restrict competition. For example, to participate in a procurement procedure in the absence of open formatting of a BIM model, accessible to all, would competition be unnecessarily restricted?

The UK government’s push for BIM may well be an advantage in this respect because the industry has an opportunity to influence the standardisation of technical formats that will be accepted as open and competitive.

The European Parliament has specifically directed the European Commission that when it is considering whether there is a need to enhance interoperability between differing technical formats or impose specific standards (if necessary), it must “take the utmost account of the opinions of the stakeholders concerned… [and] consider the extent to which a given standard has already been used in practice by economic operators and contracting authorities and how well it has worked”.

The government has up to two years to implement the Directive in the UK and this fits with the timelines for implementation of BIM. The industry has a real opportunity to embed tender practices for BIM projects that comply with the principles of the Directive and become EU standards.

There is a question as to whether differing technical formats or processes and standards could potentially create obstacles to interoperability and therefore restrict competition.– Assad Maqbool

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  1. Risk adverse?
    All our industry takes risk, alot of it…too much of it!
    Only when it comes to H&S precaution would I ever only say risk isnt taken, not at an organisational level anyway.

    And it has too on the small margins to create some form of profit.
    Read the farmer report or any industry report. It will bring you upto speed on what actually happens on projects.

  2. I agree with all that is said in relation to the UK approach. The challenges resulting from how we have taken a square peg and tried to apply to a round hole with no answers on how to resolve as part of COBie2012 or the later BS1192-4 has resulted in CDBB now trying to resolve these issues nearly 10 years later….to which we have still yet to find a solution.
    We cant expect to leave it to projects to try and find solutions to these very complex problems in an industry that’s still can’t get naming and coordinate systems implemented as business as usual.

  3. Why is hard for the UK to implement testable standards and processes for handover information quality control. QC tools are available for COBie verification. Should not the specialist in this matter in the UK come together and create a testable standard that covers COBie validation? Having both COBie verification and validation enforced could be a starting point.

    The “concrete” reference mentioned by Bill in the second part of the interview quite sums it up.

  4. Alan, thanks for noticing the spell check error! Corrected. BIM+ editor

  5. It’s BSRIA not BRISA!

  6. I am very pleased to note John Ford will be leading the Contractor and Subcontractor Squad of the buildingSMART International project he mentioned. John’s participation will ensure that integrating related construction administration, QC, and commissioning workflows based using BIM data are front and center.

  7. Thanks Bill East

  8. Thank you for your writings i am currently working on a dissertation about parametric designing being used in renovations construction. how it can help in design optimizations hence ensuring that the existing structure is stable nonmatter the design we put and also foreseeing possible construction variations that can affect the structure ,cost and time. in my country its never been studied but im excited to do it if you have any recommendations in terms of books id be open for that.

  9. On the subject of interoperability is it suggested that a main ‘COBie’ database should be created so that all and any type of FM/AM/Janitorial/Domestic/Health Administration etc etc can access the IFC formats/schema’s in the COBie database. Is that where the interoperability occurs and not between the different software solutions?

  10. I have had this exact turnstile on my site since early May, so not sure how you can claim this to be the first site to have received this??

  11. Absolutely agree. We all know the problems and although there is guidance to help resolve the issues, there is no hard action by those in leadership positions trying to resolve the issues that we all have to face day in day out. On our projects, we often have to pay a consultant to deliver the COBie element and can be £20-60k for a <£50m project and that doesn't include the O&M costs we still have to pay for. Thats a big chunk of our margin because our employers certainly don't pay for any of this and as yet, I have not seen them put any of it to use.

  12. You state we need to support our clients more but we already do. As an information manager working for a major public client, I support EIRs but its left to the client rep/advisor at project level to customise for the project but they never do.
    We draft all this UKBIMFramework guidance for them and contribute to working groups. But in the end, they must want to change. And although their lower managers see the benefit and shout about it, the decision makers at the top are restricted by monetary barriers and red tape.

  13. I am a handover manager at a small M&E contractor and all of this is wiping out our margins. Extracting all this O&M data from analogue manufacturer literature. I have to employ an army of administrators. And then when I do hear that our COBie files don’t go anywhere it infuriates me. And I am aware of 3 projects at least where that has happened. Last week, I was told last minute we need to provide a hard copy even though that wasn’t in the appointment because the client wants a hard copy. We don’t get paid and if I try to push to get paid using the contractual tools, I am at risk of not getting the next job.

  14. In the US, we have started to see clients try to adopt ISO19650 and we are seeing the same thing. Consultants making some big dollar by giving clients EIR templates and saying they are compliant if they just amend the project name on the front.
    So now we have to deliver against the Consultant`s BIM requirements that are as complex as they get when all the client wants is a set of traditional handover deliverables because their FM person is old-school!
    Very good article!
    Sharing amongst my US colleagues.

  15. This is what you get when you implement a “hit the ground running approach”.
    COBie was beyond our capability. And what did we do? We made an english form that was more difficult and untested outside of a lab when it should have been easier or simplified.
    I always remember Alex Lubbock’s declaration that even the 1st UK project to test COBie 2012 failed and didn’t even give it to their FM it was so bad. We should have acted then and tried to fix the problem, but we ignored it.

  16. I think this is a very positive step for Modulous. The concept is excellent, and it deserves to succeed. It could add tremendous value and momentum to solving the UK´s critical shortage of affordable housing.

  17. Clear, concise – with a sense that we can’t prove objectively that things improved, and can sense we still have serious challenges.

    Some observations:
    1. I am equally suspicious that little of the mandated information is being used. We created this industry survey to find out => please complete it and we are sharing the details. https://www.aecrealitycheck.com/

    2. We made the client the vector for change, through contracting data (using ISO19650 to do so). Have we done enough to change the construction industry? Seems that the supply chain made it a client problem (blame the other), then reverted to “the good old ways” (no change please).

    3. We agreed in 2011 that the Construction Ecosystem is “Systemically locked”; in economist terms, it means that it does not respond to capitalistic economic pressure; (contractors are under pressure to have great contracts – but are they under pressure to get great at building?) We did not change that, so why expect change?

    4. CDBB commissioned a report to show the impact of BL2 on the industry (see https://www.cdbb.cam.ac.uk/files/cdbb_econ_value_of_im_report.pdf). The wording of the answer is key: ” the use of IM could potentially secure…productivity gains” which in accounting speak means: it is NOT securing gains; only that it COULD –

    So we must assume that BIM journey is going to be a long one… 10 years and we remain in the world of hypothesis!

  18. Breath of fresh air reading this. In more organisation we are constantly told it a journey and that the journey is saving millions for clients and us.
    But I am still wasting my time attending 4-hour COBie workshops with 10 other people every 2 weeks for something we know the client hasn’t got a clue on and so does not want it.
    I hate to calculate the collective cost and waste, but it would have to be six figures at least.
    Lets just be honest, we are stuck in a loop and we dont want to admit it. I am all for digitisation, but with our industry leaders ignoring the problem, thinking a bit of guidance and a new standard will fix it doesn’t help me who is less productive and more overworked than before.

  19. I totally agree.
    What is worse i can only think of a few individuals that speak plainly and sont hide behind acronyms and jargon.
    The CDE concept always confused me because its one big jargon. But the CDE guidance on the UK BIM website was the clearest guide I have ever read and remove all jargon proving it can be done.
    I think the first challenge of interopability is the comunication piece. Explain the problem and then the solution using pictures if you have too and leave the jargon to the computer or process scientists

  20. It is a welcome development. The toolkit will enhance housing operations from the conception through to delivery and feedbacks.

  21. I agree with your to-do list, being at the receiving end at Tier 2, the poor information requirements are defo No 1. Also agree that the information standards are being produced faster than the industry adoption, it does not help when the guidance itself adds to fragmentation, like the most recent NA. The common denominator of the new 2021 National Annex is flexibility, aimed to allow for wider scope in infrastructure. The approach is somewhat contradictory to the goal of standardization which is to impose a level of consistency or uniformity to specific procedures or operations within the selected environment.

  22. Thanks all for your comments.
    Some good additional back ground sources Alain.

    There will be some guidance on the NA Jarek released soon. Il check for the release date with the new author. For me, the NA (new and old) is a very minor problem when compared to the wider issues as its just about naming and conditioning files and everyone has their own approach to this anyway which exceeds the parameters of the old standard at least.

  23. Good post and agree with previous comment.
    I too have read the CDE guidance, IDP and the EIR one and both were simple to understand and helped with the first interoperability challenge, the communication of knowledge.
    But there are certainly challenges remaining with comunication between CAD/BIM tools of different brands.

  24. I do find the old way for many processes alot more efficient than many BIM ones.
    We have 3x more paperwork, bureaucracy and digital focussed outputs no one seems to want. And dont get me started on the LOIN, the thing I am not supposed to acronomise like its some kind of attack on western society but MIDP CDE BEP EIR PIR AIM PIM is A-OK and all the rage.
    Im not saying all BIM is inefficient, but the 1192 and the newer standards definition certainly is for our industry because we are doing all this for clients who dont really want the “efficient ouputs” because they are still working as if its the 1980s

  25. John was a great character and a great BIM champion. This is a considerable loss.

  26. How is the question being put to these subcontractors? Is there a definition provided at all?

    I don’t know whether asking “are you doing BIM” is that helpful in a world where we have ISO 19650 standards and UK BIM Framework guidance that has shifted the mindset from “level 2” BIM (whatever that was all about) and instead to information management more broadly.

    If the question of BIM is binary I don’t think that reflects the gamut of ways in which a subcontractor could be engaging with information management. Maybe as an industry the first acronym we should seek to dispatch of is BIM itself?

    We must have reached peak levels of acronym now. I note that BS 8644-1 appears to have introduced some new acronyms to the BIMosphere.

  27. The following says it all:
    “First, make it simple; if you can’t make it simple, automate it as much as possible; one size may not fit all, so you need to enable flexibility across all processes.”

  28. I like to think I am with it when it comes to BIM, but it seems to me that that whilst the UK BIM Alliance has many good intentions, 19650 and the Alliance’s guidance information has turned BIM into a leviathan we will all find too complicated and onerous to implement at any level across the construction supply chain. When I downloaded all the guidance docs (Parts 1-3 and Parts A-F, plus a few others AND a protocol!) from the UK BIM Alliance’s web site (freely available) and ploughed my way through them, I got the distinct impression that someone has done a lot of work for a PHD or Doctorate that will get them a gong from the Queen, but will do nothing for the construction industry and its clientele. Nigel Davies wrote a piece on this site a short while ago expounding a ‘back to basics’ mantra for BIM. Having only begun to try and figure how to implement 19650 across our SME I think it is going to be very difficult to sell it to our staff let alone our contractor or end user clients. The writers of the standard have been messing about with the UK National Annex terms for the file naming convention in the 2021 release! as well! 19650 really does need to be simplified if it is to gain any traction beyond 1192. If you thought 1192 was hard work, good luck with 19650!

  29. John was a really nice guy and anyone who met him would have instantly taken to him. My thoughts and prayers also go out to John’s family and friends at this sad time .
    His input , knowledge and experience to the industry will be sadly missed by all of us . Thanks ,John for being you , you will never be forgotten

  30. This article says “with a few simple steps”… So what are they?
    19650-5 doesnt resolve the issues of cyber security anymore than the DIO and MOD protocols do as they simply say ” Consider a security approach” and put plans in place.
    Those steps are not simple and alone dont solve the real world challenges that us on the ground and not in ivory towers see daily.

    No other industry operates in mini project silos like us where for single clients like DIO there are thousands of mini silo projects or risky cyber bubbles, all using different tools and CDEs developed and configured differently limited by different forms of contract arrangements.

    19650-5 leaves it to organisations to find their own way with very little practical guidance like that provided for 19650-2 in the uk guidance documents.

  31. There certainly is alot of moaning.

    There needs to be more contribution to the BIM alliance and UK framework. But you need to remember there is a difference between those who regularly fight and raise concerns about the problems and then voluntarily contribute to the UK BIM resources and BIM4 groups like me and those who complain only to help “their” clients in the hope for more work.

    Remaining silent is the worse thing for our industry right now so I like to read the complaints as it helps us all understand the wider issues that all our organisations suffer with

  32. Not a single client has mandated the provision of COBie data in the last ten years and the hundreds of projects we have been involved with – enough said really!

    19650 seems to me to be an academic’s dissertation for a PHD or Doctorate and a gong from the Queen, rather than a practical living, breathing beast that saves everyone time and money, whilst improving sustainability, carbon issues and quality. The trailblazers have long ago forgotten about the trailing edge of the industry as they all queue up for their knighthoods. Time to get real I think.

    Messing about with the NA won’t help build confidence either. We’ve only just got used to the 1192 version, and many clients are still a long way off that. Removing the limits on the number of characters per field for example is going to get messy and file naming will get out of control and become chaotic again. What idiot thought this was a good idea? Strip them of their gongs immediately!

    Everything has to be simplified and made more practical and less theoretical, less red tape, less complicated, less questionable, less bother, less effort, less tiresome, less work, less onerous, less stressful on our staff, less costly, less impact on our profit margins and time and a lot less painful. Less is more, as the saying goes!

  33. Although your not really active Graham on twitter, you are at seminars and I recall several instances of your raising issues with no solutions :-)
    Regardless, what is the solution?
    Saying we will support our clients isn’t a solution for sure as we all know and face the struggle of clients struggling to implement 19650 either because they are unaware or because time and pressure divert attention away and they don’t wish to invest.

    I support a major public client but you can only support as so far as they allow. They say they are on board but when it gets to the start of the project, they don’t splash out on the resources necessary for them to do it correctly because it does require resources and therefore investment/capital….and there lies the problem. False economy is a human mindset. How many of your successful clients have you supported for free from start to finish by developing project personised EIRs for each of their suppliers? IF they are unwilling to pay and prioritise information management, you cant support it.

  34. It’s not good enough to trust the industry or its clients to get security minded, although that should be a given for any business worth its salt. The lowest common denominator is the software developers. We all trust the applications and operating systems implicitly, but it’s obvious they aren’t doing enough to combat cyber criminals and Government doesn’t help either. 19650 won’t help, nor will 27001 and Cyber Essentials and it doesn’t matter how much you spend on security apps the criminals will always find a way through. Email being one of the biggest culprits here. Are the software developers doing enough? I think not!

    Security starts at the bottom, with the operating systems and network infrastructures. As we are all running headlong onto the cloud, with the huge dissipation of data and information across multiple solutions that comes with that, security becomes much more critical to business and client survival and reputations. This is before we consider data and information getting locked into solutions that change rapidly over time and all to soon become inaccessible due to obsolete IT infrastructures and software. I’m fed up having to spend time upgrading systems. Does anyone realise how much it costs industry to stay one step ahead of the criminals? Or perhaps this is a cleaver ruse by the software developers to drip feed obsolescence to enable them to realise their huge profits. Conspiracy Theorists might say the software developers are in league with the cyber criminals and deliberately create solutions with holes for the criminals to get through. It certainly seems like that sometimes.

    But it’s not going to stop, and if anything it’s going to get worse. No decent person wants their Cloud or on-premise solution to get hit by a Cyber attack, but one should remember, that if a software developer can develop a security solution a determined hacker (especially a government funded one) will be able to crack it and cause havoc. We can only do what we can and hope we don’t get targeted, but this is simply not good enough!

    Perhaps we should go back to paper and chuck IT altogether? Life seemed so much simpler then…

  35. Great Article!

    I can tell you what the problem is. Our journey is being led by generals with very little ground experience.
    And the fact we have too many generals and not enough ground troops in the war against antimodernism.

    I still remember being told by a prominent legal figure in 2017 that BIM Level 2 had reached Business as Usual and then as I looked at the laughing crowd with coal face experience who were still just trying to get people to move from CAD and using naming conventions which were seen as Level 1 back then it was obvious why we were not moving forward. Our so our clients were being told by people like that, that their BIM journey ends once they have a set of templates. And we haven’t really recovered.

  36. I have read several articles today and I do notice a common theme.

    1. Clients are the issue and yet it’s our industry who is at fault for not resolving?
    2. Your not allowed to raise issues otherwise your seen as complaining even though the problem largely with clients and BIM leaders providing the wrong message that we were already at BAU several years ago.
    3. We seem to want to promote ourselves and our organisation rather than solve these major issues we are not allowed to talk about.

    Sorry if this seems negative. But the footy and another client dropping a 6-year-old EIR templates on my desk this morning has made me rather grouchy.

  37. Is aquila based on telematics then?
    Will be interesting when complete.

    P.s. got a call from a Mr Roosevelt, he is displeased you don’t have a solution for your ghastly email problem 8-D

  38. The principles of the Golden Thread are already in law / legislation??
    Standard contract or patent retentions already provide enough ammunition for legal basis if broken. That should be made clear here really as the message should not be “its ok to ignor information management and retention as its legal to do so currently” which is wrong.

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