Karen Alford, Flood Risk Manager, digital asset data and information at the Environment Agency outlines the progress made by the organisation from an employers perspective of utilising BIM Level 2, but also highlights concerns for industry adoption…
The BIM Level 2 mandate deadline for centrally funded government contracts has now passed, but I continue to be surprised at how ingrained the belief is that it’s about software, and if the acronym BIM is added into the contract its all sorted. Although better use of software and technology is part of the expected benefits, the mandate requirements are all about the management and delivery of structured data and information that meets the employer’s requirements. The application of PAS 1192 standards provides the consistent approach to make it easier to exchange and utilise information with the employer, within the supply chain, and across client organisations.
The Environment Agency formally introduced an Employers Information Requirements, BIM protocol, and clauses onto its capital contracts in April 2015 to give projects time to adapt to the new requirements ahead of the formal deadline. We deliver a portfolio of projects and quickly realised a corporate approach is required if we are to drive a consistent set of deliverables to achieve the step change in asset and environmental information delivery, which is so essential to the business. There is a clear benefit for the supply chain too. They now have a consistent set of requirements that applies across the portfolio of projects. We are in the final stages of agreeing a Framework BEP in response to our Framework EIR, along with an improvement plan for areas which are at a less mature stage than we would like. This will keep the cost and time to a minimum for each commission because the team can focus on the specific project deliverables and confirm the elements covered by the Framework BEP will be delivered on the project.
The role of the employer is essential to derive the benefits and lead the expected reduction in costs. For example, we have worked with the NBS to ensure all our asset types are represented within UNICLASS 2015 and aligned our asset attributes requirements to COBie. This provides the facility for our suppliers to better align their own programme and costing software to a data structure which is commonly available and will enable faster procurement, 4D (programme) and 5D (cost) deliverables to the employer based on a common set of standards. The Environment Agency is investigating the development of a parametric object library built around our common asset types.
The initial research is indicating a time reduction of up to 50% in design time. If this is applied across all our projects not only will there be a cost saving, but we can begin to build our asset attribute data in at the start and align our engineering standards and costing models.
An employer driven approach brings with it changes in business practices, but there are four main areas which continue to cause me concern:
Firstly, a common data environment (CDE) which complies with the requirements of PAS 1192-2 and is being used as the single collaborative tool by all parties including a joint venture or consortium. A CDE forces collaboration not only within the contracting entity but with their respective supply chains and is a critical component to the success of the BIM mandate. At a strategic level, this offers a back office efficiency opportunity for suppliers as once introduced, it can be applied across government delivered projects.
Secondly, being able to demonstrate how they are planning to up-skill their teams and supply chain partners. Most suppliers have a BIM team but most do not currently have sufficient plans about how they are going to up-skill the whole project team. This is not about sending everyone on a Revit or Civil 3D course, but how they are going to improve incrementally the skills across their teams, including their suppliers, to become data and information savvy in whatever area of the business they represent.
Thirdly, using data and information to better understand health and safety risks through design, construction and though to operations. The need to retain good knowledge about health and safety risks across the whole lifecycle is so critical and better use of data and technology can make this much simpler and more efficient.
Lastly, demonstrating application of the triage approach as outlined in PAS 1192-5 on the security of data and information. Data security as opposed to system security is a new area for the industry but will become increasingly important, so early consideration about the approach is essential.
The HM Government BIM Working Group, comprising of representatives from the centrally procured organisations, are responsible for the embedding Level 2 across the industry. Achieving the Government BIM mandate deadline is just the starting point. Such a big change will take time to embed, not only within individual organisations but across the industry. It needs leadership from the employer organisations to actively tackle issues such as interoperability and explore how they can harness the benefits of digital practices and prepare for Level 3 Digital Built Britain. ■
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Karen Alford FCCA
Flood Risk Manager, digital asset data and information