Opinion

ISO 19650 guide takes jargon to new depths

27 October 2020

ISO 19650, the world standard for using BIM, is a great UK achievement... except for one area where it leaves me gasping, taking jargon to new depths of obscurity. Richard Saxon CBE, chairman of JCT Ltd

Richard Saxon is concerned about the ambiguities created by ISO 19650 and calls for language closer matched to the reality of roles in construction contracting.

ISO 19650, the world standard for using BIM, is a great UK achievement. The guidance produced by the UK BIM Alliance on how to use the standard is also excellent, except for one area where it leaves me gasping, taking jargon to new depths of obscurity.

The ISO defines those using the standard as 'Appointing or Appointed Parties' (APs). APs are clearly clients. Those directly appointed by clients are called 'Lead Appointed Parties' (LAPs). Those appointed by the LAPs are called APs. This suits the traditional model of contracting, where the main contractor will be a LAP and their subcontractors will be APs.

However, for consultants it falls apart. Each profession directly appointed by the client is a LAP and if they have subconsultants, those are APs. However, each LAP is also an AP, responsible for the professional service they themselves provide. That service is called a Task and provides a Task Information Delivery Plan for what it will do and by when. Far from a LAP consultant being the team leader, they are probably one of many such. There is no role as 'Lead Lead' in the standard.

If a contract is delivered by construction management, the same anarchy reigns. Every team member is directly contracted to the client, so all are LAPs. Of course, they are also APs for the task they fulfil. The construction manager is Lead Lead, although that role is not on the chart. As Gilbert and Sullivan explain: "When everybody’s somebody, then no-one’s anybody."

To cap all the confusion, the initials that people will use to convey these roles are ambiguous. AP can mean both the client and a task player. LAP means directly appointed, not a leader, other than of themselves, unless they have other players as subcontractors or subconsultants. At the very least we should call APs 'Task Appointed Parties' or TAPs.

I have complained about this linguistic farrago to the UK BIM Alliance. They see the point, but say that the standard is written now, so that’s it. I hope the UK guidance will mature and use terms that relate better to common parlance. Leaders should be in the lead. Directly Appointed Parties could be DAPs. Task players could be TAPs. Until then, I remain a disappointed party.

Richard Saxon CBE is a client adviser on BIM at Deploi and chair of JCT Ltd.

UK BIM Alliance's response: "We appreciate this feedback and will consider it in detail in our next review of guidance. However, we would like to direct all readers to ISO 19650 Guidance Part 2 and Part A that cover the issues being raised here about different contracting arrangements. These guides also provide examples to clarify the arrangements for consultants as well as for contractors."