Public sector procurement authority Scape has launched an enhanced building information management offering across its national construction frameworks.
Public sector organisations using Scape’s direct award frameworks will benefit from a “simplified and consistent approach to BIM”. It should allow the latest digital standards to be easily embedded during and after the delivery of their projects.
The new BIM approach is the result of a 12-month collaboration between Scape’s in-house digital team and sector leaders drawn from its construction partners. Among the latter are Morgan Sindall Construction, Willmott Dixon, Kier, Mace, Sisk, McLaughlin & Harvey, and Graham.
As well as reducing project risks and improving programme and cost predictability, this simpler approach can unlock unrealised benefits for clients and will support compliance with the Building Safety Act, according to Scape. It will also provide the regulatory data required for planning the safe use of a building over its lifetime.
The new BIM approach aims to make it straightforward for clients to comply with the ISO 19650 BIM standard. Scape has created a ‘Method of Specifying’ document to guide clients and project delivery teams through the process of accessing BIM.
The Scape frameworks support several project delivery strategies, including both contractor- and consultant-led design. The Method of Specifying document allows for different BIM pathways, whether architecture- or construction-led.
BIMplus grabbed 10 minutes with Chris Clarke, director of performance and improvement at Scape, to find out more.
“A lot of the benefit of what we’ve developed is in the early stages of projects. We’re trying to add value very early.”
BIMplus: Can you give us the background to this development?
CC: Framework procurement sometimes feels glacial in its timescales. We do the procurement and then the framework lasts for at least four years. Four years is a long time to be sat with a problem.
When we went to tender on the national construction framework, the new ISO standard had only just been published, and the Building Safety Bill hadn’t been brought to life. The framework was written with the idea that BIM needed to become more commonplace in the public sector, but we couldn’t take control of that because so much was up in the air at the time. We created a structure to allow suppliers to price for flexibility [around BIM].
Now we’ve worked with the contractors to focus on executing BIM, responding to the ISO and making sure that what we’ve got is fit for purpose.
A lot of the benefit of what we’ve developed is in the early stages of projects. We’re trying to add value very early.
My personal frustration is that while BIM has become an enabler for gains in productivity, accuracy and design coordination, the fundamental benefits for the client aren’t being unlocked, except by the insightful few clients who ask for BIM.
Effectively we’re saying that it shouldn’t be up to the client to understand that: the client-side benefits should be served up on a plate.
How much guidance is there for clients and can they opt out of BIM?
At the heart of this is the Method of Specifying document that gives clients a step-by-step approach. The document features a decision diagram that asks a series of questions about the scope of the project, and whether BIM is necessary because of the Building Safety Act, whether BIM is mandated at an organisational level, and whether it is best practice for the project. If the answer is ‘no’ to all of those, the client could opt out.
Generally, opting out would be a daft decision, but we’re deliberately introducing that BIM conversation early so they don’t get anywhere near a decision to opt out. We’re trying to make opting out a last resort.
Our guide says if it’s a new build or substantial retrofit or refurbishment, or if you are significantly altering M&E systems or the building fabric, then BIM is the right thing to do.
“Engaging really early means the conversation about BIM is at a point where it can tangibly add value.”
We have 450 active clients – and we’re dealing with everything from the Ministry of Justice to parish councils.
And at the parish council end, they’re unlikely to have the intellectual capacity as an organisation to appreciate what we’re talking about. I think we can agree that the language of BIM, the terminology, does not make it easy. So we’re trying to create an environment where the client’s approach and the benefits of taking that approach are discussed very early in a project.
Tell us more about the early engagement
Part of Scape’s USP is ultra-early contractor engagement. In theory, clients can and should be talking to contractors at RIBA Stages 1 and 2, not 3 and 4 as in most other procurement routes. This means they can have really rich conversations about information requirements and asset information needs.
Engaging really early means the conversation about BIM is at a point where it can tangibly add value.
There’s also a specific mechanism in the framework that allows the contractor to work client-side and to spend an extended period of time with the client on their asset needs. And we’re encouraging that to be a knowledge transfer process. Furthermore, we’ve got a standard database of asset information that we make available through that process.
“The model is secondary to most clients: what’s most valuable is maintainable asset data.”
Maintainable assets tend to be something that clients don’t consider information deliverables for. But they are fundamental opportunities. If you get those assets properly documented during your projects, you’ve effectively got a specification for procuring your servicing and maintenance contracts.
The model is secondary to most clients: what’s most valuable is maintainable asset data.
Was it tough getting all those contractors around the table to work together and agree a level of standardisation?
It wasn’t without its challenges. You can’t expect businesses to collaborate on things they’ve invested heavily in. What we’ve arrived at is standardisation in feasibility and standardisation in specification client-side, but accepting deviation and parallel thinking in the actual execution [by the contractors]. And I think that’s fair.
We’re looking at the other end of the project and exploring the potential for a stage two focused on the consistency of the deliverables. But do we know best? Are we the best party to do that? I think that if we take it another step, it will be based on need.
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