02 November 2012

Single project BIM Execution Plan: a good idea?

Construction projects always evolve over time. As it evolves the deliverables and personnel change. Not everything that needs to be done is known, nor the people who will do it. Yet BIM Execution Plans are structured as if all information is knowable at the beginning of a project.


For example the NatSPEC National BIM Guide (p2) says:
"After the requirements for using BIM on the project have been defined and before the project formally commences . . .".
When have all of the requirements (whether BIM or not) of a project ever been defined before it starts?

Most BIM Guides make lip service to this reality by stressing the BIM Execution Plan requires continual updating.

The Pennsylvania State University "Building Information Modelling Execution Planning Guide", (Chapter 1, section 2):
"The BIM Plan should be developed in the early stages of a project; continually developed as additional participants are added to the project; and monitored, updated and revised as needed throughout the implementation phase of the project."

The new draft AIA Document E203™ – 2012, Building Information Modelling and Digital Data Exhibit also makes this assumption, one of the many clauses this is mentioned:
"3.2.3 The Parties, together with the other Project Participants, shall review and, if necessary, revise the Digital Data protocols at appropriate intervals as required by the conditions of the Project."

Which creates a legal problem (p19, draft clause 102):
". . . enforcement of the protocols may ultimately turn on the ability of a Project Participant being able to prove that the other Project participants agreed to the protocols. Accordingly the Project participants should develop an acceptable process through which each project Participant can manifest their receipt and/or agreement to each version of the protocols. Such a process would then ensure against a Project Participant ultimately alleging that it never saw or agreed to the latest version of the relevant protocols and is therefore not bound by them."

Remember they are talking about a single plan covering everyone in the project. Any change requires the participation and agreement of everyone - even if the change doesn't materially effect them.

The RAIA/CA BIM in Practice document P3: How should you prepare & apply a BIM Management Plan? discusses this at length on page 4. In fact it states:
"You can no more formulate a detailed, definitive BIM Management Plan in the first week of the project than produce a set of working drawings before doing a sketch plan."
Which I wholeheartedly agree with. It then goes on to say:
"All of this suggests that the most sensible approach is to plan for a series of BIM Management Plans which represent progressive iterations of the initial plan."
A  "series of BIM Management Plans" is an interesting idea. But what they actually mean is the same plan revised multiple times. Like most other BIM guides they still treat the BIM Execution Plan as one document.

The NatSPEC National BIM Guide nearly gets there. It divides the BIM Execution Plan into two documents, the "Project BIM Brief" and the "BIM Management Plan". The Project BIM Brief is a short document (6 pages) that purports to only define client requirements. Yet it reference things in the BIM Management Plan, so can only be done if a BIM Management Plan has also been done.

The NatSPEC National BIM Guide also talks about a "Design BMP" and a "Construction BMP". Once again very sensible. Unlike many other BIM guides it recognises that during design, before a contractor is appointed, it is pointless to include BIM matters concerning construction in a BIM Execution Plan. The NatSPEC National BIM Guide has a good general description of what Design and Construction BIM Management Plans should have in them (p4-5). But then the rest of the guide ignores the specific requirements of these two different documents and reads as if it is talking about a single BIM Execution Plan that covers everything.


What's wrong with a single document that has all things BIM in it as the project BIM Execution Plan?

Because current BIM Execution Plans include everything, right up to FM, nobody takes them seriously at the start of a project. As an Architect I would like a usable  BIM Execution Plan when concept design starts. And before that I would like to know what BIM deliverables the client wants. Yet on most projects you are lucky if you are allowed to do one at the start of Design Development. Usually it is not until the client is considering the contractor's appointment that all hell breaks loose and and a BIM Execution Plan is demanded. Which is way too late.

The other side of the coin is the client who demands a BIM Execution Plan (usually based on some one else's BIM Execution Plan) be done that includes a whole lot of things unknowable at concept design. This is aggravated by the fact the client doesn't understand the BIM Execution Plan they demand we mimic because it is so complex and technical. We end up getting caught between a rock and a hard place. Either we leave it out and not get the BIM Execution Plan approved, or make something up that may or may not happen, and end up being held responsible when it doesn't.

And then there is the issue of who authors a BIM Execution Plan.
By having a single massive BIM Execution Plan it requires some one with a lot of expertise. From knowledge about every software used on the project to contract law. But those responsible for enforcing a  BIM Execution Plan rarely have even a small part of that expertise. So we end up with a situation where the  BIM Execution Plan is left in the drawer, either too hard to do, or done by an underling with no authority. Or even worse, a BIM Execution Plan done by an outside "BIM consultant" with no responsibility for its effects on the project (you know, the thing we are actually building), and ends up being a millstone around everyone's neck.


Wouldn't it be better to divide up the traditional single BIM Execution Plan into separate BIM plans that cover only the participants and material relevant to a stage of a project? That only talks about things relevant at that stage, in a language that the players at that stage understand?
A series of plans that get progressively more intricate and complex as the project progresses. A series where each plan sets up the parameters and requirements for following plans.

What might this series of plans look like? What would be the individual plans that make up the overall project BIM Management Plan (BMP).
As a start my suggestion is for the following BIM plans:

BIM Project Brief (BPB)
  • by client, or lead consultant (as a return brief). 
  • short, high level document. 
  • created before project starts (ideally included in consultancy bid documents)
  • sets out BIM deliverables only, avoids describing how. 
  • describes required content of DCP & CBP.
  • should never need to be revised (contractual implications if it is).

Participant BIM Plans (PBP)
  • by each member of design team.
  • created as part of consultant bids, or immediately after each consultant appointed.
  • describes methods that will be used to satisfy BPB.
  • software specific. Doubles as in-house project manual. 
  • describes how BIM model will be constructed, including what will be available to others & what is required from others.
  • provides basis for DCP.
  • may be revise due to agreements in DCP.

Design Intent Collaboration Plan (DCP)
  • by design team
  • created after design team appointed.  
  • similar structure to current BXP guides .
  • refers to, rather than duplicates individual consultant PBP content.
  • describes what will be available to CBP.
  • may be revised due to new participants, and requirements of CBP.

Construction BIM Plan (CBP)
  • by contractor.
  • created as part of contractor bid, or immediately after contractor appointed. 
  • similar structure to current BXP guides.
  • describes methods that will be used to satisfy BPB.
  • describes what is required from DCP.
  • describes what will be available to FM & As-Built. 
  • should not need to be revised, but could be if necessary.

For this series of plans to work as the project's overall BIM Management Plan all plans must be freely available to all project participants. If there is any information that is required to be controlled, it must appear only as a reference, available only on request where appropriate.


What are the advantages I see of this structure?
  • Direct users of each plan are responsible for its creation, so that each plan is in the hands of those best placed to create something meaningful to them, and to enforce it within their organisation.
  • The client can define their requirements without interfering with how they are delivered. Any (gasp) BIM consultant engaged will have their influence limited to the BPB. 
  • PBP can be based on each consultant's in-house office BIM manual, avoiding the situation where every project requires a custom written BIM plan (and manual).
  • Plans can be requested as part of bid processes and so become part of the selection process, or alternatively mandated as part of service delivery. 
  • Each informs the requirements of the next, but can stand alone as a useful document, and be enforceable in its own right.
  • Only the middle plans, PBP and DCP, may need revising to ensure they align with subsequent plans. And as these only involve the design team should be easier to revise.

What do you think?
I've listed the advantages, what are the disadvantages.
Have I left any BIM plans out?

I've purposely not talked about specifics in each BIM plan, but in my next post I'll have a go at the BIM Project Brief (BPB).


  1. Antony I like it but I do think each plan would need a transition portion from plan to plan. Also we do need to think downstream uses of the models, i.e. is the model to be used for QTO. What parameters need to be included in the families for FM useage to be filled out later by future team members. Also there would need to be a collaboration plan for all project members.

    The current layout you have would work in a design bid build senerio but what about collabrative early contractor involvement ventures and design build ventures.

    I do not like the siloed approach I think BIM has effectively helped us to break down those silos but you are right the PxPs currently fall short.

    Good start though.

    John Grady Epic BIM

    1. John, Thanks for your encouraging comment, in response:

      I would see these plans operating together, not sequentially, so there is no transition between plans. The PBP is still in operation right through the project, and the BPPs and DCP can be altered to align with the BXP.
      My point about downstream uses is that we should only consider those we know will be required, and who requires them. There is no point putting in data for QTO if it may or may not happen. And if it is required it should be formulated as a specific deliverable.

      I'm not sure what your definition of 'collaboration' is. In reality we don't 'collaborate' with the client, we do what they ask. The same goes for our relationship with the contractor. My definition of 'collaborate' is mutual benefit. Anything else is doing work for free.

      My proposal to have separate BIM plans is in response to the difficulty of getting single BIM plans to work on Design/Bid/Build projects. I don't know about the US, but in Australia the vast majority of projects are Design/Bid/Build. Even Design/Build rarely go out without some design work done (i.e. the contractor is unknown during design). I would see IPD type contracts using a single BIM plan as that is what they are designed for. But why is a BIM plan devised for a highly unusual contract type being forced on everyone?

      I don't see separate BIM plans as a 'siloed approach'. It is a realistic way of getting the players involved at a stage of the project together and setting out how they will work together. People who work in silos will do so whatever the contractual arrangement. I don't think IPD will be the social engineering nirvana some people are pushing it to be.

    2. Long story short, I agree with John. I am having same problems to understand how your approach involves the needs and uses of downstream players. This can lead to silos as it is right now but BIM by its concept is about collaboration. Also here in Estonia most of the projects are delived by using Design-Bid-Build. Howevere, this does not mean we need develop BIM processes around this notion. In the end we design to build and build to realise clients objectives either business or personal. But as said I think it is a interetsing initiative and will lead to something more solid. Great job!!!

  2. This post is fantastic.
    Here are two areas where I find the idea of a single BIM execution plan fails.

    Audience is one. Somehow we are supposed to write execution plans that equally convey to an owner all BIM processes on the project and how they are going to be achieved as well as the exact procedure for any coordination members participation. The result is usually a document that does not achieve either very well.

    The other issue is how to deal with process versus individual use. Often times a PXP will show how models will develop through different phases of the project while separately listing off BIM uses that are desired. But it does little to integrate these two items. IE., If your model is not adequately developed at the time that you wish to derive estimates from the model then the plan doesn't work. Model Development and BIM uses need to be tied together or separate models need to be created for BIM uses that are trying to be put in place at the wrong time.

    I think your idea of the siloed approach is the only way to achieve an execution plan that directs the correct information to the correct people at the correct time. I do think however that there needs to be one overarching plan that ties it all together so that you don't end up trying to achieve something when you are not ready for it. This might be covered in the BPB you mention.

    I have been thinking along the same lines and have been trying to put something together. I wish you luck in creating a functioning BIM execution plan.

    Connor Christian

    1. Conner, good to see I am not alone.

      I assume the intent is that LOD (or M3) tables showing model development through phases is supposed to align with BIM uses, but is not explicit. There is a fair bit of criticism of LOD, but I've stuck with it rather than invent something new because people are becoming familiar with LOD, and it is better to use the devil you know. But maybe it is time for some tweaking of the LOD concept.

      As I said in my reply to John's comment, I don't see separate BIM plans as a 'siloed approach'. This term is a derogatory term invented by IPD evangelists to disparage everything not IPD.

      My idea is that all the separate BIM plans come together to form a 'BIM Management Plan'. All new plans reference plans that come before them, so should be held together with previous plans. So in a consultants office their BPB plan should co-exist with the PBP, other consultant BPBs and the DCP.

      In theory the PBP should define the minimum contents of subsequent plans, but if it doesn't that won't stop subsequent plans being created.

  3. very good post.
    But I have one question.

    How can the CBP describe what is required from DCP if it will only be create further down the line when the contractor is appointed?

    1. The DCP is revised once the CBP requirements ave known (last line in description of DCP).
      Not ideal but it a contractor is appointed after work commences l don't see any alternative. Obviously there are limitations on what can be changed in the DCP if work has already been completed. Maybe "change requests that have to be agreed" (which might involve extra payment) is a better description.