Opinion

Why we need the new BIM mandate

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There’s a lot to consider following the launch of the Infrastructure & Projects Authority’s (IPA) 2030 Roadmap, in particular the announcement of an updated information management mandate. John Ford offers his feedback on the news.

The IPA has just published on behalf of the government its roadmap to transforming infrastructure performance by 2030. Its purpose is to improve the services and outputs from the built environment so that it benefits society and project needs as well as the natural environment.

As part of this roadmap, and in collaboration with the UK BIM Alliance and Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB), information management and modelling (BIM) has been mandated.

Why another mandate?

It’s been 10 years since the original mandate and lots of debate over its success (including my views).

“If the IPA implements and administers this mandate as proposed, it can only benefit projects, our industry and society.”

John Ford, Galliford Try Construction

Since that original UK BIM Mandate in 2011, which led to BIM (as defined most notably by PAS 1192-2:2013) being implemented by 2016 for all centralised government projects, there have been some hurdles standing in the way of its success, some that I’ve previously explained.

However, this new IPA mandate may offer some solutions that were not present before today, most notably that IPA is taking some accountability that may reduce the disingenuous requirement resulting from improper application of PAS 1192-2/ISO19650-2 that is present on many of its projects.

What’s the scope of the mandate?

The IPA does not oversee all public-funded expenditure in the UK and is mostly responsible for approving and supporting the government’s Major Project Portfolio (GMPP). With this in mind, many other public-funded projects and their clients may not receive the push and support needed to resolve the legacy issues where the original BIM mandate is not being implemented correctly (or at all) as first reported in the NBS 2017 National BIM Survey.

However, for those projects where the IPA has direct authority and accountability, several commitments have been imposed upon the clients that procure services from the built environment. In summary, IPA has mandated that the UK BIM Framework be implemented: this includes ensuring information requirements are sufficiently and competently defined at the right time; and that there is a process for receiving, checking, storing, using and maintaining information.

What is the main change?

Accountability and implementation of the UK BIM Framework!

Up to now, there has been no accountability for the success, or lack of, in regards to the original 2011 BIM mandate. Supporting organisations like the UK BIM Framework, BSI and CDBB have helped to steer the ship, but there has been no captain. And although BIM Level 2 and its defining standards were withdrawn in 2018, this is the first time in three years we have seen something substantial come from the government driving us towards ISO standards instead of those that cannot even be accessed anymore. 

What are its potential impacts?

If the IPA implements and administers this mandate as proposed, it can only benefit projects, our industry and society. Clear information requirements that lead to planned outcomes during and after construction can have significant benefits. But we, and the IPA, must be mindful of the challenge of convincing clients that information can and is an asset for them but it requires an upfront investment that the UK BIM Framework can help support.

However, a challenge that we must be prepared for – as we endeavoured to do in 2016 – is to ready ourselves for greater demands of digital services and outputs. We have to avoid complacency and put efforts into the outputs even if sometimes the requirements placed on us are insufficient.

What more is needed?

More investment, guidance and direction from the IPA and groups that represent our industry is imperative if the clients they represent and support are expected to implement this mandate effectively. A common mistake by many clients in 2016 was that if they simply paid for a cheap and nasty, off-the-shelf solution rather than investing in the tailored needs of the clients, stakeholders and the project as a whole, they would be compliant with the mandate. This has been the case for many public-funded projects where five-years-old information requirement templates still plague our projects today, producing more waste than value.

There is also a need to resolve the way certain information management services are procured and appointed by clients and their supply chain that delegate or novate duties.

Conclusion

The Roadmap has some great points, so don’t just limit your views to the BIM mandate as that is a small, but important part. So a shout out to William Varah and Nick Smallwood at the IPA and their teams for the hard work they have put into the whole roadmap.

As for the BIM mandate specifically. I think it could have done with more smart objectives or improved detail around when, how and who, but I am hoping this will come soon as asking for something doesn’t mean it will happen or be as you expect.

But I am grateful for any move in the right direction and glad the IPA is taking some responsibility for resolving improper application of information management that has plagued our projects for more than five years now.

John Ford is group BIM & digital delivery lead at Galliford Try Construction.

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Comments

  1. Well said John
    I do wonder what happened to the target of BIM Level 2 being business as usual by 2020. The term Level 2 BIM has been rescinded but its process and purpose lives on in the UK Framework and ISO standards and its far from business as usual.

    I personally don’t think this new mandate will change anything until the procurement processes improve. We still have clients that are under the IPA giving us 6 week periods to bid and no BIM requirements until contract award is being finalised. But in other parts of the UK, for the same type of projects and different clients we get reasonable times and requirements. So it comes down to the client picking and choosing regardless of the impact it has on the industry or them as an organisation. And the requirements we do get are still dated 2017 or something silly like that. UK mandates for BIM have been a failure in my opinion when it comes down the original goal to save lots of public cash. improve and modernise the industry and get everyone to treat information like it was gold.

  2. I have to agree with the other comment. I dont think IPA will take any direct accountability just like the BIM alliance didn’t take accountability for their strategy to make Level 2 BAU which didnt happen. It just got sweped under the rug with the excuse it doesnt exist anymore, but it does. As noted in the other post, Level 2 and the new framework is the same thing, the process is the same, just terminology and finer details have been amended.
    My question is, will the IPA be directly supporting clients to help THEM develop their EIRs. I dont mean pay some consultant like the job done on the justice projects that told them they could use that template for all types of project, that was bad advice and we refuse to review those requirements on our bids.
    So yeah, I will believe in change when I see it happens because it hasn’t in the last 30 years I have been in construction, we just have fancy new words and 3D visualisation tools.

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