23 February 2015

Define your BIM Services

More and more architects and engineers are finding BIM deliverables appearing in their engagement agreements.

There seems to be an attitude amongst owners and contractors that authors of BIM models should provide everything that BIM can do. They think that architects and engineers are already putting information in so why can't they put their information in as well? For FREE.

A view based (touted by some BIM evangelists) on the idea that the those creating BIM information for their own purposes are best placed to create everyone else's BIM information.


Here are some examples of demands put to architects.
Let's start with an all encompassing clause:
"The consultant's costs for such participation shall be deemed to be included in their PSA fee unless explicitly excluded and agreed in writing."
From a contractor:
"Export from the model to Excel all items that appear on drawing schedules or specifications with identification marks to track against delivery dockets."
"Provide, in CSV, a file that contains the X, Y, Z coordinates to use in electronic survey equipment. (all corners or centerlines if circle penetration) etc."
"Ensure all modelling processes follow actual construction methodology."
From an owner:
"Include following parameters in all Revit models:
  • ReplacementCost: - numerical value representing cost to replace the product in Australian Dollar (AU$)
  • AnnualMaintenanceCost: - numerical value representing cost to maintain the component per year in Australian Dollars (AU$)
  • ContactMaintenanceContractor: - email address for organisation responsible for supplying maintenance service"
  • AssetIdentifier: - Owner asset identifier alphanumeric value.
  • Barcode: - Owner asset identifier numeric value.
  • MechAssetRegisterLocations: - internal network address of owners mechanical asset register
  • ElecAssetRegisterLocations: - internal network address of owners electrical asset register


All design professionals undergo tertiary training. They are not trained in everything, they are trained in their field of expertise. There are also clear demarcations in expertise between design professionals, which is necessary in any team structure. It is not that hard to come up with a clear definition of where the expertise of each profession lies.

This scope is established in legal cases by relying on what a 'reasonable' architect or engineer would do, and what they would be held accountable for, in the same circumstances.

This same argument can be used for BIM. What would an architect or engineer provide to perform the services of a 'reasonable' professional. Anything beyond that is extra.

But before we look at how this might be used to define scope, let's look at what can't be used.


You can't say design professionals have always only provided paper documents (or PDF, essentially the same thing) therefore that is all a normal design services consists of.

Some design professionals get confused between HOW they do things and WHAT they are engaged to provide. Architects and engineers are not engaged to provide just documents, whether electronic or paper. They are engaged to provide a designed solution along with sufficient information to explain the design and for it to be constructed. You can not argue you should be paid extra because you are delivering your services using different tools.

You can't say the quality or competency of what has been provided in the past is a measure of the quality and competency that should be accepted now.

As an example architects and engineers have always had to provide coordinated documentation. In reality it was extremely rare for everything to be fully coordinated, so it was accepted within the construction industry that there would be 'stuff ups' on site. Even though design professionals were in theory responsible they were rarely held accountable as it was so difficult to achieve using 2D drawings and schedules.
Now the tools are available there are no excuses. If you don't use BIM and a coordination error occurs you are open to the accusation of "why didn't you use BIM?" (which can end up in court).
And you certainly can't say you should be paid extra so you can do your job more competently, as the question arises - "does that mean on your normal fee you are less competent?"

You can't claim demands to use BIM is an exploitation of your services because others are reaping the benefits.

The mindset of exploitation builds on the previous ones above. It is based on the fallacy that BIM is not beneficial for design professionals, to both their efficiency and quality of outcome. The reality is the fact it can be beneficial to others is a bonus, a bonus the smart professionals market.


As mentioned above the point to keep in mind is what would a 'reasonable' professional do.
To know what is reasonable you need to define what design professionals do:
Design professionals provide designed solutions along with sufficient information to explain the designs and for them to be constructed.

That doesn't change with BIM.

Designs solve the same problems, they just may use different methods to come to a solution. It may be arrived at by analysis software run on a BIM model rather than analysis run on a simplified separate 3D model, or rule of thumb mathematical formulas based on manually measuring 2D drawings.

Similarly for information, it is the same information but in a different form.
Rather than schedules being excel spreadsheets they are extracts from the BIM model. Both contain the same information, it is just managed a different way. The fact this means objects in the model contain schedule information is a bonus, not an extra burden.

Because an architect could model structure and then use software to do a structural analysis, so coming up with a structural design, does not make them experts at structural engineering. Nor does access to crowd simulation software make an engineer an architect. Availability of software, even expertise in its use, does not make someone an expert in the field. If that were the case every user of MS Word would be a best selling author.

Yet there is this view that if design professionals are forced to use FM software they instantly become  not only experts at Facility Management, but professionally responsible for outcomes.

How can design professionals protect themselves?


One way to cover yourself to create a BIM statement for your organisation. This may just establish BIM policy so everyone in the firm is on the same page, or it could be for explaining your BIM approach to clients and other design professionals you work with.

Example BIM Statement (for architects):
Normal Architectural services cover brief establishment, design to meet that brief, and sufficient description of that design for it to be constructed.
Whilst these services might include consideration of construction and facilities management where they impact on design, they do not include provision of construction or FM services normally provided by contractors and property managers.
Therefore our architectural deliverables only include information pertinent to our services, they do not include information relevant to construction or FM. For example the architect does not model pour breaks in concrete floor slabs, nor include barcodes in schedules of equipment. The architect is not responsible for these, is not able to assess what is required, so does not include them.
That is not to say the architect is incapable of including construction or FM information. These additional services could be provided as long as they are identified as separate from normal architectural services, and issues such as scope, responsibility, PI coverage, time and cost are taken into account. 


The best way to shelter from unreasonable demands is to define what it is that you do.
The trick is to do in a way that doesn't make it look like you are being difficult, negative, or cutting off future opportunities.

This should be done in promotional material, Expressions of Interest (EOI), Requests for Proposals (RFP), client agreements and consultant agreements.

The wording in each type of document obviously needs to vary as they serve different purposes, but the meaning needs to be consistent across all to avoid contradictions. I've seen a client use words from an EOI to insist a service be provided even though that service wasn't mentioned in the client agreement.

The salient points to make are:

  1. Clearly define scope of your professional services.
  2. Your office does use BIM to do your normal work (if you do).
  3. You can provide the products of your normal work to third parties. 
  4. You have the capacity to provide additional BIM services (if you can and want to).

You should already be defining the scope of your services and that doesn't have to appear within or adjacent to a description of BIM in your document, which is where the other points may appear.
It should go without saying that you shouldn't claim to use BIM if you don't, I mention it here because unfortunately it occurs a bit too often.
You might also want to slip in some paragraphs about working collaboratively, leadership and other icing on the cake.

An example for EOI or RFP:
Our office uses BIM processes to deliver buildings using up to date software including Autodesk Revit.
We takes a leadership role over this process and work collaboratively with other members of design teams to facilitate coordination and integrated design solutions.
We can support construction processes and FM kick-off through the provision of project architectural information in electronic format, including 3D models and schedules as data.
We has the capability to provide additional services including BIM Management, BIM Coordination and inclusion of construction and FM data in architectural models.  

An example for client agreements:
We employ BIM processes utilizing Autodesk Revit in the production of architectural deliverables. Besides [the capability of] being active participants in design and construction BIM workflows, We [can/may/will]  provide these deliverables as structured data useful for populating construction or FM systems. 
We [can/may/will] provide BIM leadership to the design team to guide overall project BIM processes through the design phase of the project.

Another approach is to make a list defining what you consider to be included and excluded from your standard services. Again this could be an office policy document or on a project by project basis. Some examples:
Participate in BIM planning process
  • attend nominated number of BIM only meetings
  • manage BIM planning process
BIM Execution Plan
  • in-house project BIM Plan
  • change once to align in-house project BIM Plan to project BIM plan
  • create in-house project BIM Plan to specific requirements
  • create project wide BIM plan with other participants
  • manage project wide BIM plan during project


Design professional tend not to share information around their relationships with clients. A fact clients take advantage through divide and conquer.
Some BIM demands are quite scary, not just the hit on profitability, but also the possibility of litigation not covered by professional indemnity insurance. Yet professional design firms are largely left to fend for themselves.

One would expect our professional organizations to take some leadership, even if it was just to be clear about what does and does not constitute the services of their members. The usual argument is that it is a commercial decision what services a firm offers and is paid for. But the reality is most commercial clients of design firms are larger and more powerful than they are, it is hardly the level playing field the commercial decision argument is based on.

The idea is not to restrict services design professionals can provide, nor dictate what is paid. A firm can always decide to provide additional services, and even decide to do them for free. A firm can obtain and offer the expertise required to provide FM services, or enhanced BIM services. These are the commercial decisions a firm makes.

What we can't let happen is the normal services and expertise we have be expanded without our consent into areas we have little expertise, or indeed, interest in.

This is not just an issue for the owners of design firms. If your bosses agree to do extra work for free they are not going to be giving you anything extra to do the work. They will expect you not only to do the extra work, but also to learn how to do it, and all this within the same time frame. And really, do you want your job to become one largely of data entry?

The expectation of free BIM services will pervade our industry and jobs unless we make a stand. Owners of design firms need to be clear that BIM services are extra, employees need to make their bosses aware that extra work takes extra time, and work outside their expertise takes training.

And we should all be sharing our experiences more. If you come across what you believe are unreasonable demands say something. Tell your colleagues, complain to your professional organisation, write letters, write emails, comment where pertinent, hell, even write blog posts.