08 November 2012

BIM for Owners: the BIM Project Brief

I have been critical in past posts about assumptions BIM evangelists make about owners and their role in the construction process. In a general way in A REVIEW: BIM IN PRACTICE -BIM Management Plans and specifically in the O1 - Educating Clients section of  A REVIEW: BIM IN PRACTICE - BIM Outreach.
But my criticisms relate to specific circumstances. Current BIM guides are all based on the premise the owner has expertise in construction and is willing to direct the construction process. This type of owner does exist; for example large government or statutory bodies like health facilities, educational providers and the military. Bodies that operate and manage their properties as well as have them constructed. And there will be more owners going down this path, but they will still be organisations that build and operate.
I don't believe BIM is only suited to these types of projects and clients. BIM has value for all projects, no matter how small, or how little direct use BIM might be to an owner. How can we manage BIM on these projects when owners have no or little interest in BIM? We need a way where an owner can put in as much or as little BIM requirements they feel comfortable with.


In my last post I described how a single BIM Execution Plan could be divided into separate BIM plans matching the stage and participants current involved in a project. The first BIM plan is the BIM Project Brief (BPB). The intention of this document is to set out the requirements of the owner or client, and set the parameters for subsequent BIM plans.

The reasons this is made a separate document is that it:
- can be done early in a project before everyone is engaged and at the table;
- can address the client organisation's specific requirements in a language they understand;
- can avoid unnecessarily interfering with how the construction professionals will deliver the project.


A BPB should only be about specific deliverables. Deliverables relevant to the owner. These may include the way information is provided to the owner (e.g. 3D walk throughs); demonstrations that criteria have been met (e.g. thermal performance); information required for operating the completed project (e.g. FM data).
The owner should never specifically specify what BIM processes are to be used, only the results of BIM processes. The software to be used should not be specified, but the software format of deliverables can be. Construction 4D should not be specified, but 3D visual representation of staging can be.
Timing of deliverables should be related to when it is required. If FM data is not required at design why specify its delivery? It is an unnecessary cost and delay to the project.
Delivery of BIM plans and/or files in acceptable format could have monetary implications. Some USA contracts link a percentage of the fee with satisfactory delivery of specific items.


Although it is inappropriate for an owner to direct how construction professionals go about their work, it is acceptable for them to ask for evidence that they have processes, and that they are being followed. A BPB should set BIM plans as deliverables. It should also set out the minimum topics those plans cover. And I mean minimum, not every possible conceivable item that pad out current BIM guides. If it is not important don't include it or over elaborate it, leave room for the authors to put some effort in. Consider a must have list and optional or suggested list.

 A BPB should also establish what evidence is acceptable to show compliance, and when that evidence is required. Things like BIM plans should be submitted for 'acceptance' rather than 'approval'. As owner you don't want to become responsible for the contents and consequences of other's BIM plans.


The overriding premise of a BPB is to provide a framework for construction professionals to show they are competently performing their work.
Once the owner starts telling professionals how they are to do their job not only will they have their hands out for extra money, liability can flow back to the owner. For example, if specific software the design team is not familiar with is forced on to them it reduces their individual efficiencies and opens the owner to be blamed for any deficiencies of that particular software.
Construction professionals are engaged because they are experts. Let them work out the best way to achieve owner deliverables.  For example forcing the whole team to carry FM data throughout the entire design and construction process will lead to inefficiencies in other processes that the owner is unaware of. Often the most efficient way for the project as a whole is to create that information out of the design intent and/or construction models at the end of the project.

So what might a BIM Project Brief look like? I can't show you a real one due to confidentiality (and they don't quite exactly follow my current thinking). But I can go through how I think a BPB should be constructed.

The owner or owner's agent. Owner's agent could be either of:
- Project Manager;
- BIM Consultant (possibly with FM expertise);
- Lead Consultant (e.g. Architect).

At a minimum it needs to be done before BIM software starts to be used on the project. If the intention is to use BIM for area calculations it needs to be before concept design. There is no reason it could not be done before any design professionals are engaged. Then it can form part of bid documents for consultancy engagements, so scope can be costed and if necessary negotiated during bid process.

Overall explanation of BIM Management Plan (BMP) structure:
- overall purpose;
- list each separate BIM plan and its purpose.
Who is author / responsible for this BPB.
Contact information for these people.
Process for revising this BPB.
Contractual Implications of this BPB, including sign off by relevant parties.

Owner only specific BIM objectives.
Owner only specific BIM uses.
Minimum modelling requirements, either:
- general description;
- specific description;
- table (e.g. like an LOD or USACE M3).
Method to validate that minimum modelling requirements met.
Party responsible for validating, which may be:
- owner (or agent);
- lead consultant;
- author / responsible party.

BIM plan requirements:
- list of BIM plans and authors / responsible parties;
- timetable (relative to other events);
- minimum requirements for process of revising BIM plans;
- minimum contents (headings) for each BIM plan.
Evidence BIM plan requirements met.
- draft to be provided of each;
- all revisions to be provided;
- submissions to include description of how compliance with BPB achieved;
- time frame for submissions;

Acceptable software formats for owner deliverables.
Other specific requirements for owner deliverables.

It looks like quite a long list, but my intention is that each may be as short or long as necessary. By judicious use of reference documents I'm sure it could be a one page document.
For example an owner may have no BIM objectives or BIM uses themselves, then the minimum modelling requirements could be a general description something like "Adequate to achieve the BIM uses listed in other BIM plans of the BIM Management Plan". Then a very short list of BIM plan requirements, perhaps offering one or more of the many BIM guides around for guidance (but not compliance). Like the NatSPEC National BIM GuideAEC (UK) BIM Protocol for Autodesk RevitUSACE BIM PxP Template to name a few.
Or an owner may have very specific FM requirements and a massive minimum modelling requirement table like the the NatSPEC National BIM Guide BIM Object/Element Matrix Manual, with very specific IFC deliverables, and very specific BIM plan requirements.

After writing this post I see an example BPB would be instructive (a picture is worth a thousand words). But I'll leave that for another post. Next post I'll explore what sort of document Participant BIM Plans (PBP) should be.


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