Can’t execute a BEP? Maybe you should be exec…

Collaboration is key to the creation of a successful BIM Execution Plan says Nigel Davies, director of Evolve Consultancy.

I was reading a blog post recently that described the relationships between BIM Level 2 documents. It’s a noble thought and can be very helpful, but there comes a point when relationship diagrams look like they’ve been drawn by a drunk spider on ice, especially when you try to relate the plethora of UK BIM documents together.

Sing with me: the OIR’s connected to the AIR, the AIR’s connected to the EIR, the BASIR also informs the AIR, no, wait, the EIR’s connected to the BEP, and so is the MIDP… Not very catchy is it? Many of these documents are “background” work and, if you listen to the dissenters, are the client’s responsibility to prepare before BIM is even a glint in the facilities manager’s eye, without which, there can be no BIM Level 2.

Sometimes I think we (the UK) have made this so complex and complicated on purpose, so that anyone on the outside has no option but to look on in awe and wonderment, dreaming only of how they too might become an expert in this unobtainable nirvana.

The one document that should be the hub of all the relationships, which is used as the basis for defining the plan for how BIM is to be executed on any given project, is the aptly titled BIM Execution Plan. It is a collaborative response to the client’s requirements, ideally transparent, highlighting the capabilities and abilities of the teams, model delivery schedules and responsibilities.

Even in the absence of an Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR), the BEP can be used to define what the client will be receiving, when, and how the extended design and construction teams will deliver the key models, data and documents.

The BEP is one of the documents that benefits from a relatively clear definition in PAS1192-2, even down to a complete “contents list” in section 7.2. Provided the main headings and considerations have been outlined, preparing a BEP should be a fairly straightforward matter of filling in the blanks.

However, it seems that “collaboration” is a word that compels lip service only in the construction industry. For all the world-leading progress we’ve made preaching “the greater good”, the theoretical practice and implementation of BIM, the UK on the whole still operates as a blame culture of hierarchies and power-plays.

Collaboration seems not to mean “working together to produce the best project outcome for the client” but “do what I say because I’m in charge/I know more than you do/we’re bigger than you (delete as applicable) and we’ll sue your butt off when it comes down to it”. That culture is still very obviously prevalent in the BIM Execution Plans I’ve seen issued as a specification of compliance rather than an objective, collaborative, operational plan.

The BEP is not the client’s/lead designer’s/contractor’s BIM standard to which everyone else must conform. It should not dictate what people must do; the BEP should be a statement of what each party is able to do. It should be an honest definition of how the project will actually be executed, explaining where any shortfalls will be addressed, how the end result will be delivered and also highlighting areas where the EIR is unreasonable or less likely to be achieved within the given timeframe and budget.

As PAS 1192-2 states, it is there to help negotiations, adjusting capabilities where necessary. I have heard too many times, when asking where the BEP is for a project, that “the contractor hasn’t issued it to us yet” or “there is no BEP, but we have this BIM standards document”.

Even worse are the occasions when a BEP has been issued by one party and, when reviewed against the EIR, introduces unnecessary regulations and restrictions on data structures, formats and procedures which no-one had thought to question.

A large part of the state we find ourselves in is due to a lack of understanding and education of BIM, but an equally large part could be attributed to lack of confidence or even an outright fear of the consequences of disagreement with the “powers that be”. Success cannot be maintained with this antiquated mentality. We need to work together to enable collaboration, improving knowledge and confidence to a point where it is possible to intelligently articulate your company’s BIM capabilities and the necessary cooperative processes to realise success without fear of repercussion.

Go back to PAS 1192 and revisit the intentions of its clauses. We can no longer afford to allow an “aristocracy of BIM” where the peasants are literally (but subtly) bullied into compliance with standards they do not need to, and are in fact contrary to the principles of BIM Level 2 they are being told to comply with.

In the 18th century, when the ruling classes overstepped the mark and enforced their will on the common people, they were guillotined. Perhaps, with a few more guillotines, we can change this 21st century prescriptive approach to the BEP before it becomes irreversibly entrenched and start executing things properly.

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  1. Excellent article I hope more than one person reads it through to the end. I like the last paragraph. Well what does it take to get people to change?

    A large part of the state we find ourselves in is due to a lack of understanding and education of BIM, but an equally large part could be attributed to lack of confidence or even an outright fear of the consequences of disagreement with the “powers that be” I think you can also add fear of transparency.

  2. Shouldn’t CAD software providers also be required to support and enable collaborate. It seems to me ‘some’ have commercial imperatives that stymie real collaboration. They actively want a situation where everyone has to use their software.

    Perhaps the industry needs to demand support for an ’open’ standard that allows true interoperability across different CAD packages. Or should we just mandate that the same CAD software from the same supplier is used by everyone. This would guarantee interoperability which in turn will help collaboration.

    But is the industry prepared to cede such huge power to a single company, and tolerate the inevitable ’lock-in’ now and into the future.

    (Note: these are personal opinions, not those of my employer)

  3. Hi Nigel,
    Agree with your sentiments.

    The biggest challenge for the industry is collaboration with, not against and it is the vested interests that always get in the way of idealist approaches not the approaches themselves.

    Until the industry breaks through the adversarial relationship’s BIM won’t reach the panacea it is intended to reach. Project Bank Accounts and IPD are leading the way here.

    However, for BIM to really impact the industry it is very much down to employer clients to lead not the contractors or consultant supply chains.

    Employer’s EIRs are key to this and more employers need to make the effort to create these. It isn’t very difficult, time consuming or costly for them as they should have a business case and a vision of what they want in the first place. Hence RIBA Stage 0 or 1192-2 Strategy stage.

    If employer’s have good EIRs the supply chain can respond with a BEP per organisation. Again, this is not difficult, time consuming or costly either.

    Who collates the BEPs is another issue. Should it be the Main Contractor, Lead Consultant or PM? Of course it should be one of these. It’s their job to coordinate, collaborate and do the logistics after all. It all depends on procurement route and form of contract who is allocated to do this.

    The implementations of agreed BEPs is done at shop floor level within each organisation through the technologies they use. That’s easy.

    Level 2 BIM is nothing new. We have all been doing lonely BIM for thousands of years. All the standards are saying is ‘look everyone, why don’t we all do things this tried and tested way and save clients money’. Perhaps those who are against BIM should ask themselves how much money, time and waste do they generate by doing things their way or by ‘that’s the way they’ve always done things’. There are many reports that show how much waste, over costs and time over runs the industry suffers from, regardless of the high salaries some earn to get things wrong.

    But it’s back to the vested interests again and what’s in it for them. For many, efficiency gains means less money, you can’t fight greed, so it’ll take a long time yet before BIM is BAU.

  4. The BEP should consist of two parts: firstly, an honest definition of what the project comprises and how it is expected to be executed; and secondly, developed from that, a statement of what tasks need to be done and – provisionally, at least – by whom.

    The first part – essentially a concept summary, and based on the EIR (if it exists) – should be in the nature of a very concise performance specification, so that all involved can get a grasp of “the big picture”. It should also allow space for parties to the project who deem the EIR to be unreasonable in some respect, or less likely to be achieved within the given timeframe and budget, to share their views.

    It is at this stage that project constraints and possible alternate methods of construction should be discussed, in order to create a firm basis for the development of the second part.

    That second part should itself be subdivided into two sections: a planning schedule, developed concurrently with concept summary, which will form the core of the detailed schedule to be used for construction; and a linked database listing for each task the expected documentation – required permits and codes/standards etc., BIM input, technical knowledge, equipment/technology, HR (I’m being PC here!) and, not least by any means, finances. It must also set out clearly any known deficiencies, together with an initial statement as to how they are proposed to be addressed and to what schedule.

    It is important to note that, although for convenience the above indicates BIM as just 3D design linked to component information useful for O&M after handover (and which, now “in the cloud”, is far less likely to grow legs and walk), it should in fact be all-encompassing.

    And it cannot be reiterated often enough that achievement of the full benefits of this comprehensive BIM depends on one “magic” ingredient: mutual trust between and among all parties – something which is unobtainable in the traditional contractual environment.

    At the risk of offending the fair sex, just as it is impossible to be a little bit pregnant, it is impossible to be a little bit BIM. You have to go the whole hog: in for a penny, in for a pound (though that’s a bit of a dodgy metaphor in Brexitland!). That means everyone has to come out of their comfort zone, jump in at the deep end and sink or (hopefully) swim together.

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