Why aren’t clients using the Digital Plan of Work?

The results of our survey reveal that the Digital Plan of Work (DPoW) is little used by clients and “stretch” target is insufficiently described.

The toolkit is described by NBS as an “indispensable” means of delivering projects to meet the requirements of Level 2 BIM, but BIM+’s interviews with clients and client advisers revealed limited take-up, while only 13% of the online respondents had used it on a live project. In addition, 163 survey respondents skipped this question entirely.

At bid stage, clients can use it to define their Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR), and potential consultants and contractors can use it to respond with details of their teams and services. When the project moves into design and construction, teams can continue to grow the DPoW, providing information regarding tasks or deliverables to meet the client’s requirements.

Brian Churchyard, senior manager for construction design standards at Asda, suggested that it might have arrived slightly too late:

“We’re not using it. Our EIR was developed at the same time as the NBS BIM Toolkit ‘Beta’… One difficulty we experienced last year was the pace [at which] software becomes usable. It feels like that area is still developing, along with the consultant base around it. As much as we want to start adopting these types of tools that can become useful as we go into Level 2, my instinct is that some have a way to go before they become practical.”

But Alastair Gourlay, director of asset management at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, was supportive, saying:

“I’ve had a look at the Digital Plan of Work, which has limitations but as a first start it’s great. The structure is good, but it hasn’t been tested in court yet with wider-timescale, bigger projects, bigger experience – it’s early days. We’re trying to learn what is good and bad, but not take those as negatives but development opportunities. It’s a solution that has been created as a baseline with a big ambition to sit alongside the RIBA Plan of Work.”

In addition, the plan is designed to function as a data verification tool, offering the ability to check that a supplier’s project data, provided in open standards such as COBie spreadsheets or IFC files, meets the project’s requirements and the appropriate level of information or detail.

Data verification and validation will become a key concern for many clients from this October, when a BIM mandate stretch target is introduced, requiring all government departments to “electronically” validate BIM data from suppliers. BIM+ interviews revealed that most public sector clients were aware of this stretch target. Although speaking from a private sector point of view, Andy Smith at Waitrose was typical in recognising its value:

“The data assurance piece is very important and if you give a clear structure you should get a decent set of data back. Making sure data is correct is a huge task and what you don’t want is the first time you find out the data is wrong is when you try to maintain an asset.”

But few were convinced they had yet addressed it adequately. Karen Alford, BIM and GSL programme manager at the Environment Agency, commented:

“This is quite new to us, we are working with software specialist Asite to build a validation tool ready for the end of April, using COBie that includes must-have information we will be validating against.

“This is a very important aspect, we are trying to make it uncomplicated. At the moment we exchange documents so our validation will be integrated into documents.”

Clients that do not receive central government funding – and are not subject to the “stretch” target – were also aware of the need for robust data. Trina Ratcliffe-Pacheco, building design manager at University of the West of England Estates, said:

“It is very difficult as a client to include validation to check that information provided is correct – we usually relay the legal responsibility to quality assure information on to our designers and contractors. I’m not yet fully confident we have that in place; until we have all information linked to our CAFM tool we are unable to say it is 100% correct.”

Birmingham City University said it will aim to ensure that processes to validate the model become part of its EIRs. Richard Draper, the university’s BIM process manager, commented:

“The key is to make sure verification and validation processes actually happen onsite and that managers buy into carrying them out so we received completed validated models at practical completion, not six months later.”

Terry Gough, BIM champion for Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust, however, felt that the target was insufficiently described – chiming with the majority of the online survey respondents:

“I think the target is a bit smoke and mirrors. Why introduce the April mandate then introduce another deadline saying when good quality electronic data is required? The reality is we will still be chugging along beyond October trying to ensure good quality data.

“I’ve been tweeting a lot about how do we validate and what is the validation process, what should it look like and what is it we are validating? But no one had a satisfactory answer, there is nothing there yet to define what we need to validate. We need to draw a line in the sand to define a level everyone should be achieving as a base.”

This extract was taken from BIM+’s recently published white paper “BIM: What do clients think”. Download the complete white paper here.

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  1. Strangled by red tape.

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