ISO 19650-4: the final piece of the BIM standards jigsaw

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What is often labelled the ‘final piece of the jigsaw’ in the suite of international standards to facilitate collaborative BIM was officially launched in October: ISO 19650-4. Denise Chevin caught up with Nick Nisbet, project lead of the group that developed the standard, to learn about the important differences it will make.

Nisbet has helped develop standards for more than 20 years, facilitating the transition of some British Standards to become ISOs. His latest endeavour has been to head up the transition of British Standard PAS 1192, part 4 into the ISO equivalent.

As Nisbet explains, the ISO 19650 series “aims to make collaborative information management and BIM best practice for both projects and asset management – and at its heart is taking advantage of the technology that we have.

“We need to have proper processes in place. They are there to set up trust among the project participants. Part 4 complements that process with a focus on the quality of the information that is being exchanged.”

Collaborative processes

ISO 19650 Parts 1-3 require the sharing of project and asset information as part of collaborative processes. In essence, they set the governance and strategy around the execution of both the delivery phase and operational phase of information management.

ISO 19650-4 complements Parts 1-3 and 5 by providing the explicit process and criteria for an individual information exchange. The intention is to secure the benefits arising from collaborative and interoperable BIM and choosing ‘open’ schemas and data formats and conventions.

ISO 19650 Part 4 was published as an ISO in the summer. The UK National Annex – clarifying how it will be implemented in the UK – was published in September.

Work has started to transition PAS 1192 Part 6, covering health and safety in BIM up to ISO. But that won’t be published for a few years. It treats one specific application area within information management of projects and assets and is a detail within BIM.

What’s the difference with Part 4 in PAS 1192?

“The standard puts in place the rules and criteria for checking information exchanges, so as to end up with a trustworthy information model.”

Nick Nisbet

1192 Part 4 was about the UK use of COBie. But when the question came up about taking that up in ISO, it was obvious that it wouldn’t be welcomed, because COBie is not an ISO standard. It’s very specific to the US and UK market. So we took the opportunity to stand back and develop a more broadly based standard.

COBie is mentioned as one format and schema among several possibilities.

The standard puts in place the rules and criteria for checking information exchanges, so as to end up with a trustworthy information model. Six major criteria groups are set out that can be used to check the information exchanges. It doesn’t talk about checking whether a bridge is a good bridge or whether a house is a good house, or any of those other things. The focus is really on the quality of the information being transferred.

It also emphasises that the information should be usable not only immediately, but for the next stage of the lifecycle and long into the future. It’s quite a green standard: it encourages information sustainability. One of the outcomes from the standard is meeting immediate information needs without compromising the long-term ability to use the information for economic, social or environmental sustainability.

One of the problems currently is that information can be hidden in documents or drawings, or be contained in proprietary formats, which depend on having specific software, so that it’s hard to reuse.

Any other new developments?

The other big difference is that the new standard is applicable throughout the asset’s lifecycle, not just at handover. It provides guidance for exchanging formation at all stages, be it design, construction, through to operation and maintenance.

What difference will Part 4 make?

By providing trustworthy information, it will help get the value out of collaborative BIM.

In the past, asset information has not conformed to information standards. It has lacked continuity from one version to the next and has been uneven in its consistency. So, some areas were provided with a lot of detail and there would be some areas where details were missing. And the big issue is, of course, completeness. One of the opportunities Part 4 gives is to encourage the shift towards models and information as being more checkable.

It is the last piece of the jigsaw for collaborative BIM. Part 6 is a specific aspect of using collaborative BIM so the ISO 19650 parts 1 to 5 is now complete.

The whole series is important to the client, or owner, and all the teams that work on built assets. As we get better information exchanges, it will become of more and more interest higher up in organisations. With completely trustworthy building information, board directors would become very interested in using it.

Generally speaking, clients haven’t always been aware that they can have information. And they haven’t always set up their organisations to take it on board, but that probably goes for all companies. Architects have not always been aware that they can have mapping requirements information. And that therefore they could be using it when they’re making their designs.

Contractors haven’t always been aware that they could have information that could inform how they go about constructing things. And people have tended to fall back on documents and drawings and not obtain the benefits of information and BIM.

Will it be straightforward to implement?

It’s like the earlier parts, which were a challenge to the way people were organising projects. This is a challenge to the way people think about information. Like all standards, it’s not trying to make things easy: it’s trying to make things right.

The UK BIM Framework will be publishing guidance in the coming months.

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