23 November 2012

Collaboration or Coercion: The Design Collaboration Plan

There is a lot of talk about 'collaboration' in BIM guides. In my mind collaboration means voluntary co-operation. But the requirements of current BIM guides read as enforceable obligations, more like coercion than collaboration. You WILL provide a model suitable for 4D, you WILL use IFC to exchange data. Where's the love?

Until I started studying the BIM guides out there I assumed collaboration meant the team got together and negotiated mutually beneficial work practices.
We'll create some specific views the mechanical engineers can use to put our model into their Navisworks, if they create some reflected ceiling plan views in their model with the settings we want.
We'll ensure all structural elements are modelled separately (particularly walls) in our model, if the structural engineers will commit to accurately placing (within the millimetre) their structural components.

But I struggle to see where these types of arrangements fit into current BIM guides. If it is the intention to allow for them (and they say it is), why are things that are agreed indistinguishable from BIM requirements and deliverables? Part of the problem is deliverables are expressed as work methods rather than actual deliverables, a topic I explore elsewhere.

My solution is to have a separate document, a Design Collaboration Plan (DCP) to record these co-operative types of arrangements. This DCP would be part of a group of documents that form the BIM Management Plan (BMP).
Read my previous posts on the structure of a BMP, and other plans, the Project BIM Brief, and the Participant BIM Plans.


I call it the Design Collaboration Plan because this type of collaboration occurs during the design phase of a project. To be specific, it is about collaborating to create the Design Intent BIM.
During design a lot of changes happen to the model, and a lot of iteration happens. We start with no building and end up with a design for one.
During construction there are less changes to the model, and those changes are less dramatic. We start with a building design and end up with a record of what was built.
Even on Design and Construct projects where documentation and construction proceed closely together, it is still the design team that is doing all the investigative work in the BIM model. The contractor wants it when it is resolved, not before.
The extent of change during design, and the pace it proceeds at, requires a lot of cooperation amongst the design team. Anyone who has worked on a project where that cooperation was less than optimal will know what I mean.


Most BIM guides talk about the BIM process being run by a Project BIM Manager, usually assuming they are appointed by the client. Obviously there needs to be someone to take responsibility for things running smoothly. But an alternative approach is a BIM Panel, with a chairperson, or Leader.
The panel would be made up of project BIM managers from each of the design team firms. The BIM Leader  could be elected (or coerced), the idea being that person is the one with the best BIM knowledge and experience. So rather than a Project BIM Manager dictating to everyone what will happen, there is a group of experts making agreements.
A BIM Panel may not always be practical, but either way, dictator or democracy, the Design Collaboration Plan can still be created and enacted.


The idea behind the Design Collaboration Plan (DCP) is to coalesce the individual Participant BIM Plan (PBP) intentions into a single cohesive document. The DCP will obviously be different to a PBP because it won't contain information that is only relevant to one participant. In fact is should only contain information relevant to cooperation.

The process to create a DCP might go like:

  • Agree on project BIM Objectives by reviewing participant BIM Objectives from all the PBPs, along with the owner's from their BIM Project Brief (BPB).
  • Agree on project BIM Uses by reviewing participant BIM Uses from all the PBPs,  along with the owner's from their BPB.
  • Agree on project Level of Development by reviewing participant Level of Development from all the PBPs.
  • Agree on a project File Exchange Schedule by reviewing File Exchange Schedules from all the PBPs.
  • Negotiate software specific agreements.
  • Review the plan to ensure it aligns with the client's BIM Project Brief (BPB).

 It might take several meetings to get agreement on everything. It might be necessary to renegotiate or add further agreements as the project proceeds. Once a contractor is appointed further changes might be required to satisfy the contractor's BIM requirements. So the DCP is a live document that may be revised quite often.
I'd recommend the DCP be an item in regular project consultant meetings, even if restricted to just highlighting the need to make changes to it (so triggering a BIM meeting). On smaller projects all DCP issues could be resolved at regular project consultant meetings, particularly if people with other roles are moonlighting as BIM Managers.

As with my previous posts the description I offer below is not definitive. The contents and structure of Participant BIM plans and requirements of the BIM Project Brief will go a long way to inform what is required  for a particular project.

The appointed project BIM manager or BIM Leader of the BIM Collaboration Panel is responsible for creating the DCP, but the contents of it comes from the results of meetings.

Once all major consultants are engaged for the project. If project consultant meetings are being held then it should be possible to start the DCP.

How this DCP fits into the overall BIM Management Plan (BMP) as defined in the BIM Project Brief (BPB).
Purpose and uses of this DCP.
Referenced individual PBPs.
Who is author / responsible for this DCP and contributors from each consultant group.
Contact information for these people.
Record of revisions to this DCP.
Meeting & review timetable.

Project specific BIM objectives.
Project specific BIM uses.
Level of Development of overall Design Intent Model (i.e. all models combined) that matches BPB minimum modelling requirements, either:
- general description;
- specific description;
- LOD table.
File exchange schedule.
Project Base Coordinates.

Software Names & Versions used.
Sheet Naming Schema.
Agreed Categories and their uses.
Shared and/or common components.
Views for others to use.
Clash Detection Methodology.

Next post I'll look at the contractor's BIM Execution Plan, the last plan in my suggestion for a BIM Management Plan structure.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome blog's.
    Great information... thanks.
    Scott C. aka The Revit Jedi