3D views: 2016 BIM mandate – New target, old issues

A month ago, the BIM Task Group’s Terry Stocks announced a few more details on the April 2016 BIM mandate, including an additional or “stretch” target for BIM suppliers, which will require a validation process on BIM data from October 2016.

To find out how consultants and contractors have reacted, we asked Terry Gough, managing director at project manager Swiftbuild, Rob Jackson, associate director at architect Bond Bryan, and Mark Taylor, digital construction manager at BAM Construction.            

What did you think of Terry Stocks’ announcement last month?

Terry Gough: There was no real substance and nothing new, other than a new website and a place to find and locate documents associated with BIM. I feel that industry has started to drive this change, especially the BIM4 and Regions groups, and this is where the strength now lies. Lots of good tools are being produced by these groups with very little input, either financially or with resources, from the Task Group.

Rob Jackson: The first part of the announcement – that EIRs would be required – was nothing new, except it’s now from the 4th of April rather than the 1st. The real piece of news was the validation target for October, which will present industry with a new target to focus on. In general, the announcement is reinforcement that the 2016 targets aren’t going to disappear and is a positive sign for those who have invested in their businesses to be able to deliver government projects.

For those who have buried their heads in the sand with regards to BIM, sadly I doubt they will have even seen or taken note of the announcement.

Mark Taylor: This announcement was needed to reaffirm the government’s commitment to BIM Level 2, as there has been a lot of misinformation and no doubt some people were hoping they would put off implementation indefinitely. It has helped refocus people’s minds on the challenge ahead.

But there could be more support for clients on putting together EIRs. The problem is defining all the requirements, which can only be achieved by working with the regional technical teams and operators, which are further down the chain and less familiar with BIM.

How do you think that the data validation target will work in practice?

TG: Government departments are flailing around in the dark when it comes to BIM and its implementation, that’s why I believe the stretch target has been put in place. They say it is to allow the gathering of good quality data but “smoke and mirrors” just doesn’t cut it anymore: the industry needs real clear guidance and funding if BIM is to work and be delivered.

RJ: Validation requires robust standards and consistent implementation. At the moment there is no published information on the detail of this validation process. It raises a lot of detailed questions that need to be answered this side of Christmas for industry to stand a chance of delivering next October.

For example: is it just COBie data being checked? If it’s more, what data will be checked and when? Where does our data need to be in the model to pass the tests? Is it just checking data, or geometry as well? 

It is assumed the NBS BIM Toolkit will provide the validation, but can other developed solutions be utilised? When will the Toolkit be available for validation on live projects? (Given I guarantee it won’t work perfectly first time round).

MT: A lot of this is supposed to be covered by the Digital Plan of Work and the NBS BIM Toolkit, which has only recently come out of beta testing. As a result people are a bit nervous about how to move forward, I haven’t written a procedure about the Digital Plan of Work because the software isn’t ready, although BAM, as a large contracting organisation, has developed its own workflows designed to meet the government’s requirements and its own.

As a result, there will be a gap in compliance between large contractors like BAM and smaller firms, when the validation process starts.

Will public sector clients have the knowledge and resources to implement this “stretch” target? 

TG: Public clients themselves do not have the knowledge or resource in place to deliver any of this, but they do have an army of consultants who can deliver.

Terry Stocks talked about all departments issuing Employers’ Information Requirements by April 2016, but as no real guidance is in place for EIRs I fail to see how all departments will meet.

Do government departments know what they want when it comes to writing and supplying Organisational Information Requirements (OIRs), Asset Information Requirements (AIRs) and EIRs? When it comes to OIRs and AIRs, the guidance is even less than that for the EIRs, so not sure what these will look like come April 2016. 

RJ: Personally I doubt it, given I know how much work and time is required to change organisations, even of a modest size. I suspect we will initially see lots of templates deployed and these may or may not be fit for purpose for each specific project. Time will tell how this works in practice, but clients have to start somewhere and the fact we will see EIRs is a positive step forward.

MT: When BAM has engaged with government departments in the past, they have been very late in coming to this. I’m sure there will still be a lot of work required. 

Do you think that the industry will be able to meet the October stretch target?

TG: Industry is currently beavering away with BIM and lots of headway is being made, but it is by the few. The industry could reach the date for the stretch target, if only the Task Group would give clear guidance, but again it is left open to interpretation which is a huge problem with BIM.

A website will be available by April which will be a permanent document point, but a permanent document point for what? What type of information will this repository have? What industry requires is a clear roadmap that actually details where and how to start their BIM journey and gives clear guidance all the way through in plain English.

RJ: Personally I know how hard this will be for us [at Bond Bryan] and we have already introduced data standards and validation processes. In this particular area we are certainly at the front end of knowledge in the industry and I know we will have a lot of work to do to align with and integrate the requirements. Will others be as well prepared? From what I have seen in the industry I doubt it. But as before, I welcome the need for validation and believe it is critical for the BIM agenda moving forward.

MT: I expect we will have to provide a lot of support to enable delivery teams to provide the info, although a year is a decent amount of time to work on it. It gives us some time to implement incremental change and ensure we have the foundations in place to deliver validated information.

Will this announcement drive the adoption of the NBS BIM Toolkit?

TG: Personally I don’t think it will – as I have mentioned previously, what the industry needs is a clear steer or roadmap. I still think the Toolkit has a long way to go to be something useful. It is now out of beta, but what percentage of industry has actually utilised this tool on a live BIM- enabled project? 

RJ: I suspect it will drive adoption from UK government, but for us, large parts of the Toolkit are still not where they need to be. For example, the lack of a final published classification (many tables are still in beta) is of real concern as we need this to integrate it into our authoring templates in advance of its use. Without this we will be manually adding data. This will add time and potentially increase fees, which is not how we have aimed to integrate BIM successfully to date.

MT: As above – it should do, but many people are still hesitant about using it.

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