BIM certification is a recipe for confusion

With three different BIM certification providers in the market, and the possibility of others in the future, it’s time for a single, national BIM award where everyone knows what’s being assessed, says Terry Gough, managing director at Swiftbuild.

Personally I do not feel that the current BIM accreditation solutions being offered [by BRE Global, Lloyd’s Register and Ocean Certification] actually deliver anything other than a nice piece of paper with the words “certificate” written on it.

I think the current accreditations on offer are utter nonsense, as in each case they’re only assessing one company.– Terry Gough

I think the current accreditations on offer are utter nonsense, as in each case they’re only assessing one company. One company acting on its own, does not make level 2. The criteria that they are being assessed against – simply BS1192 or PAS1192-2 – is ludicrous. What about all of the other PAS or BS documents that make up the full lifecycle of BIM?

How do the assessors determine the structure of information or indeed what information is required at each information exchange/data drop, or is this something that is viewed as being within the other PAS documents therefore is not assessed nor accredited?

Companies are being accredited against systems and procedures: if that’s all it takes to deliver BIM then we should all be accredited to BIM Level 2 standards. But what about the supply chain and what about all the stakeholders?

Maybe we just need to sign up to ISO 9001? [in Quality Management] Where companies have ISO 9001 systems and procedures already in place, why do we need this additional BIM accreditation at all? Does it prove anything different to the current ISO accreditation or should BIM be incorporated into the quality system?

My view is that we should be incorporating BIM processes within existing company processes and not re-inventing the wheel which the construction industry is really good at.

Three companies now provide BIM certification, but who has or is ensuring that they are delivering consistency? [Editors note: BRE Global, Lloyd’s Register and Ocean are themselves all accredited by the UK Accreditation Service, UKAS, but the BIM certification products they offer will not be consistent with each other, and are not mapped to a UKAS standard]. If not nipped in the bud now this trend could become a huge issue as more and more accreditation companies spring up and claim to be certifying companies that they are capable of delivering level 2 BIM.

We may see lots of BIM accreditors flogging their wares to unwary customers who think they are actually getting something that means they meet the government mandate of Level 2 by 2016, but actually it gives them very little.      

Can trust be maintained with any such unregulated solution? I am sure this debate will rage for a number of years or until the BIM community is sucked in by accredited companies who say “we can deliver what’s on the BIM tin” but actually only deliver one of the ingredients.

A certification accredited by UKAS or some other governing body should be offered so that we can ensure that the certification actually means something and is not just lip service.

I fear that at this point in time the accreditation offered is nothing more than a slip of paper that you can hang on your wall to say that you “just might” have gained Level 2 understanding in BIM.

Let’s all raise the bar here, good people of the BIM community, and let’s get some form of recognised approval for companies to ensure that we lead the way when it comes to all things BIM.

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  1. Excellent Terry. Bang on the head and well done you for naming names. Let me extend upon this a little bit. Quotes like “Interserve….the first company to get L2”. Well done Interserve, pat on the back. Great ad, but what nonsense. How do you measure performance – you don’t? Expensive piece of paper. The certification providers are indeed muddying the waters in sending out such messages. Firstly, level 2 is about due process. Due process in embedded into the core of a business and not simple gift wrapped with a piece of paper that says certificate. Secondly, level 2 is the sector achieving maturity, not one or two companies. This certification is poisonous, as it is that same old adage covering up the inefficiencies with a piece of paper. So, here is the gauntlet for the certification providers. Defend yourselves.

  2. Whoa there chaps! I think this article could actually even add more to the confusion!

    I think we need to put this in a much broader context.
    Let’s face it bearing in mind that probably at least 75% of the industry (2.25 million people?) have barely heard of BIM let alone understand what UK Level 2 is. So certification for them probably really isn’t an issue yet.

    Secondly, even a cursory examination of the UKAS website reveals that BRE, Lloyds and Ocean already have UKAS accredited marks. I suspect the BIM marks won’t be far behind. Remember we’re all working to the same standards anyway. The Level 2 documents are now set, and won’t change much now apart from a bit of tidying up.

    Most importantly, we are living in a nascent and fertile time. The picture is evolving, and the messages are mixed. Beacons of excellence sit alongside the naysayers and gloom and doommongers, and blockers.

    At the moment, to disagree with the article, I think we do need registration and certification. If only because you can then know that a business or an organisation has a basic understanding of Level 2. Clients and other team members need to know who they’re dealing with, and their competency is rather like a licence to collaborate.

    Something like BS9001 probably will be the eventual home for all of this. Although in practice we know on the ground 9001 registration doesn’t actually mean a great deal. I’ve worked with a lot of people who are supposedly 9001 audited and accredited with surprising outcomes!

    And most major contractors are already embedding BIM processes in their mainstream management procedures, so progress is being made.

    Accrediting the process performance is one thing, but what we really need is to learn to work together and collaborate properly in teams, across the industry, breaking the barriers and silos. There won’t be a badge for this but this change of mindset is now one of the key factors in progress on BIM adoption.

    This isn’t perfect but for the moment accreditation, and some training to go with it, is no bad thing. In a few years when we’re all BIM experts and we don’t need BIM consultants anymore, and actually we won’t even talk about BIM (!) it will be different. But for now we need the training wheels to learn to ride the bike.

    Sensational headlines probably make “good news” but actually don’t help the conversation. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!

    PS – Note to the Editor – If you delete this one as well, I’ll know there’s something going on! :o)

  3. Agree – the big issue is that it is the PROJECT that achieves Level 2, as there are a whole host of different people with different standards and inputs brought together under a standard process.

    Individuals may be capable of working in a Level 2 environment, and the extent of what they each do will vary hugely depending on what they do.

    The Information Manager (IM) will do a huge amount from working with the Client to develop the EIR, BEP etc and managing the process, but a supplier may only need to provide a model to data standards.

    How can you give Level 2 certification? To make it worse the standards/pillars of Level 2 are still moving and being completed.

    There needs to be a standard Level 2 checklist that pulls together all the Standards, who should do what, to what extent of each standard etc. Only then can you define a Project Level 2 certification. It should be a bit like BREEAM, but considered from outset and integrated and not an add-on..

  4. Integrity of PAS1192-x compliance may find a recognised home within ISO55001 accreditation.

  5. Interesting discussion indeed. This reinforces why the BIM report did not endorse or accredit any certification process or body. It was inevitable that some bodies would see an opportunity to provide a “badge” in any event. The truth is those that do satisfy the process standards on their projects will stand scrutiny, and those that don’t will be found out – by informed clients. Sadly not all our clients are yet suitably skilled to know the difference. There is an on going capacity-building process underway in a number of frameworks and client groups which will fix this, and it is calibrated to the experience of the companies in delivering projects to the DPW and CIC protocol.

  6. I tend to agree with John Eynon’s comments. There is still a lot of educating to be done and any negativity is only going to make the task of BIM Implementation even harder than it currently is. We in Australia are some way behind the UK yet its frightening to hear the negativity here. Whether accreditation or certification is good thing or a bad thing is irrelevant. Something is better than nothing therefore those who do get certified (whether it is endorsed or not) will be better off and have more knowledge than those who don’t. I agree achieving Level 2 doesn’t fit the bill for everyone. Maybe consideration should be given to those companies that fit in to different levels of the LOD? Keep the comments on BIM positive and talk up the benefits. Lets face it, there is no better workflow solution than BIM.

  7. Do we believe that there a place for certification?

    I believe a certification approach has benefits as part of a process of change but not as an absolute statement of capability.

    Assessing structure and process is not the same as stating that you are capable.

    Capability is dynamic and will evolve therefore a certificate for a firm based largely on process seems insufficient on its own.

    I think there will be other tools which could supplement these.

    I take Terry’s point that “One company acting on its own, does not make level 2”.

    Assessing a firm rather than a project team across firms seems to be more restrictive in terms of impact.

    The BS11000 looks at project teams which would seem a more suitable approach given the aims of collaboration across firms.

    I think the negativity of these comments are that certification doesn’t go far enough and the commentators have an appetite for more…is that true to say?

    It seems what we want from a certification scheme seems to be the question here.

    Which needs are not addressed by this? How else can they be addressed?

  8. Surely the best place to start would be BIM L2 certification for a programme of works or for a Project Management Office. Big infrastructure programmes would benefit from this approach but unfortunately it goes in the ‘too hard box’ for many.

  9. In response to the email blanketbomb this morning I think the only thing that’s confused here is CM’s reporting! :o)

  10. I agree with this article entirely! As someone who has worked as a BIM coordinator for nearly 10 years on many very large scale projects across the midwest I put very little, if any stock in a certification! My college degree is my certification and my resume is the proof behind it! None of my previous jobs and none of my future jobs will be won because of a piece of paper stating that I’m certified in this industry. Word of mouth will more likely get you a job than a certification will. I have worked for several companies that were smaller and did not have a very strong system in place for procedure and those companies suffered because of it. I have also worked for companies who were ISO certified and had very rigorous policies and procedures and those companies tend to do a much better job at maintaining a stable work load. It all comes down to practice. This field is relatively new and constantly evolving. I learn new techniques and methods on every project and almost every day I’m at work! The challenge is to take what you have learned and apply it to the next job. There is no way that a certification course can keep up with that level of change. Not to mention, 10 years of experience is worth far more in the job market than a $5,000 piece of paper. My advise, forget the certification, start at the bottom, learn as much as you can from the best in the industry and work your way up!

  11. What I don’t understand is where recipes come into it? I understand BIM, unlike many others, but when people talk about a ‘BIM recipe’ all it does it make people confused and unclear on the ingredients. Please in future choose your words before you print them.

  12. For years I have heard concerns about the additional costs that will be imposed by BIM. I think many people now believe that BIM doesn’t have to cost a great deal, as most of the work is already done – it just needs an organised, consistent approach. However, certification could end up being the hidden cost here, which is worrying and may hinder adoption.

    I have worked for many years in discrete manufacturing – where PLM has been adopted without the need for certification. As companies see the benefits of working in a controlled manner, they start to question how they managed without such systems – and I am sure it will be the same for BIM.

    There are some great comments here on certifying the whole project – and this is where some of these discrete manufacturers need to be involved – but to date they are just confused by the simple demand to be ‘BIM L2 compliant’ – nobody seems to explain to manufacturers of equipment what this actually means! As the customers of these discrete manufacturers, what do the people in this group expect from a manufacturing company in order to support BIM compliance/certification?

  13. I agree with most of your posts here, regards to the certification context; the certification should be given only for the company with correct configuration or set up of BIM readiness. This readiness comes as a form of “hydrid” function of BIM experiences (in terms of delivered projects), BIM expertise (practising member team) and other continuation of BIM capabilities. The company should only be allowed to qualify appropriately.

    Terry mentioned about Level 2 achievement but also questions about the supply chain, ability to deliver. A BIM Level 2 qualified organisation’s duty to train and support the supply chain to make the collaboration works. This means if the supplier does not have BIM facility to deliver then they have to listen the main contractor (who deliver Level 2 based process) and follow them with contractual tie.

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