Interview: Henry Riley’s Andrew Turner – Virtual project road tests Level 2 BIM

There are lot of BIM standards and tools for Level 2 BIM out there but a missing link is how teams should actually use them on projects and how one component should talk to another. We’re trying to get to the crux of what you actually have to do to run a Level 2 project.– Andrew Turner, Henry Riley

The Super-Knowledge Transfer Partnership is a six-month research project, led by BIM4SME, that aims to map out exactly what project teams need to do to achieve Level 2 compliance. Andrew Turner, head of BIM services at surveyor and project manager Henry Riley, spoke to Stephen Cousins.

What is Super-KTP?

The Super-KTP is a research project involving a multi-disciplinary construction team and several Knowledge Transfer Partnerships [between industry and universities] that have a BIM focus. It was set up to road test the government’s Level 2 BIM standards, tools and documentation on a "virtual" project.

The project itself is a small tower block of commercial offices with ground floor retail, plus a couple of low energy houses. It was selected to exploit the expertise of the design consultants and contractors involved: architect Frank Whittle, structural engineer Billinghurst George & Partners, quantity surveyor Henry Riley, HVAC contractor Hargreaves, cladding contractor Sotech Optima, and fit-out contractor Links.

During the first two and a half months, we will work through Stage 0 and 1 of the RIBA Plan of Work (PoW) and the various BIM Level 2 standards, then progress through stages 2 to 4 of the PoW over the following three and a half months, creating a technical design and delivering outputs to test BIM Level 2 standards, procedures, tools, process and requirements. As a virtual project it will not move to stage 5 – construction.

Why was the Super-KTP formed?

As a firm, Henry Riley was running a KTP with the University of Reading, focused on the quantity surveyor’s responsibilities under Level 2 BIM, but we didn’t have the capability to generate design data so we decided to link up with several other KTPs, involving the firms mentioned and the universities: of Central Lancashire, Wolverhampton, Salford, and Teesside. We wanted to create a multidisciplinary team able to tackle the full document suite together and “crack the nut” of Level 2 BIM.

Each KTP is generating design-led documentation, and a team of five from BIM4SME and the University of Westminster is generating the client-led documentation.

Why is this research important?

There are lot of BIM standards and tools for Level 2 BIM out there but a missing link is how teams should actually use them on projects, and how one component should talk to another. We’re trying to get to the crux of what you actually have to do to run a Level 2 project, identifying what makes sense and the gaps that exist.

A key goal is to communicate our findings to a wider audience. Each month a newsletter will review the work undertaken, with both a 10-minute video and a PDF, including updates from the client team and delivery team. The reporting will also include links to the works as they progress, showing the information we created to get to a final deliverable.

Isn’t Level 2 BIM already happening on real-life construction projects?

I would question whether any project is actually achieving Level 2 BIM, because many of the standards have only recently been finalised and there is no reliable way to demonstrate what Level 2 is. For example, when developing an Asset Information Model, many projects will not have utilised a Government Soft Landings champion to ensure a smooth handover to an FM team. Perhaps they would also have issues with the security of their Common Data Environment (CDE).

The government says that BIM Level 2 should cover seven components, PAS 1192-2 and -3, BS 1192-4, the BIM Protocol, Government Soft Landings, the Digital Plan of Work and classification, but it doesn’t state whether each component should be used all of the time, some of the time, or how different standards should feed into one another.

Our intention is to road test all the documents and tools and work out how they should be implemented. This is a more all-encompassing approach compared to most “Level 2 BIM” projects where the focus tends to be on PAS 1192-2 and Capex delivery, but not the rest.

Why aren’t you doing your research using a real construction project?

Mainly because we wanted to get away from pressure from the client and a deadline, which can cause design teams to take shortcuts with documentation. By moving at our own pace we can review everything and avoid cutting corners.

You are five weeks into the project, what lessons have been learnt? 

We have prepared a set of Employer’s Information Requirements and Asset Information Requirements. No government template currently exists for the latter, so we had to approach another firm for that.

Using stage 0 of the NBS Toolkit, we looked at the standard list of actions generated and whether or not they are relevant to that stage of the project and who is being identified to take responsibility for completing those actions.

In one anomaly we discovered, the design team was actioned when it had not yet been appointed on the project, in which case it should have been the client’s responsibility.

One question that needs to be answered is what to do with the list of actions: should the information manager receive a weekly chart of who has, or has not, completed their tasks?

Another is whether the Toolkit kept the project moving effectively or not? We’re trying to work out how you actually use it: if it just ends up as a post-action reporting tool it probably wouldn’t be that useful.

In addition, we have been working out how to comply with BS 1192:2007, covering the CDE and naming protocols, which has not been straightforward and it took a while for our information manager to get our house in order.

Files saved on the CDE must be named in a certain way, using a certain code, but what happens when you have a file undergoing revisions? How do you move it around the CDE and convert it from shared to public? Does this mean deleting previous iterations? Simply managing things in accordance with that standard on a day-to-day basis is quite complex.

In what key areas do you expect the most lessons will be learnt?

There’s a lot of talk about Level 2 output documents, such as COBie and PAS 1192-3, but no one can actually show you how to deliver against them. The Super-KTP has developed a Level 2 success matrix, which goes through each standard, lists everything that must be done to comply with it and includes a checklist confirming whether or not each aspect has been achieved. If it hasn’t been achieved, we will always ask, why? This is all about creating an open and honest dialogue about the process.

The ultimate lesson will be getting to the bottom of the precise procedures required to deliver a Level 2 BIM project and what order they should be carried out in.

How will your learning feed back into the industry?

The aim it to engage with different government bodies to influence future BIM policy and guidance. We are already speaking to the BIM Task Group, NBS and Arup, which developed the BIM maturity matrix we are testing. T

he RICS is also talking to us about showcasing the project at its next BIM conference. However, it is important to point out that this project is a vehicle for learning and not an attempt to dictate to industry that we know best.

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