Are BIM (and Contracts) just a means to an end?

BIM, construction,
© Sasinparaksa

The BIM world is awash with individuals that are passionate advocates of BIM and of the software and technologies that support the activities that are at the heart of BIM. They are the vital lubricant in the engine of BIM but they are not the motivating force for BIM or for a more enlightened way of working. We can sometimes feel that BIM has become an end in itself!

BIM is only a means to an end. An end that is, for example, a driver of more predictable project outcomes, a facilitator of more efficient design, construction processes and project optimisation but, above all, a means to an end that creates better buildings to serve the needs of society and of business.

BIM with the processes and protocols that surround it are like contracts – in themselves, they do not improve the outcomes of projects. Both are facilitators and controlling mechanisms to define ‘rules’ that help ensure consistent project direction, control and management of the participants. In essence, BIM related methodologies and protocols, like contracts, are mechanisms that are more about process and control than it is about stimulating behaviours that are focused upon the holistic added value that all parties to a project can bring to the design, construction and operation processes if appropriately enabled.

During my 30+ years in practice as an Architect, I have frequently witnessed project behaviour from others that is more defensive than it is constructive and this frustrates me deeply. Such behaviour saps project energy and it distracts the participants resulting in less than optimal outcomes. The stand-out projects in my career have been those where the sense of a team’s common purpose have been most evident. In these projects I have experienced true collaboration.

FaulknerBrowns has been members of Constructing Excellence since its inception I have been one of a small group of ‘Collaborative Working Champions’ for over two decades. In that time the construction sector has enjoyed a series of erudite reports from the likes of Latham and Egan amongst others, that have articulated the benefits of collaborative working, focusing upon value, not just price, increased project integration and continuous improvement. With the popularisation of BIM, I naively believed BIM could be a catalyst for a material step-change in collaboration, given that BIM inherently requires a much higher level of collaboration and team integration. But with the exception of pockets of best (or better?) practice, the reality is that our industry remains wedded to its discipline-centric silos, resulting in us spending too much time checking our rearview mirrors rather than the road ahead.

So if BIM can’t change the industry, what can?

Well, I think I might have seen the light! Contrary to my initial remarks BIM, facilitated by appropriate contractual methods, can change the way we work, the way we behave and the way we interact with each other. My Damascus moment is Insurance Backed Alliancing (IBA) combined with Integrated Project Insurance (IPI). This is truly transformational and it will change your life for the better or at least your project related activity – I can’t vouch for any other area of your life!

What makes IBA different is that rather than creating mechanisms that aid the resolution of conflict once it has occurred, it places behaviours at the heart of the project processes so that project participants put the project first, ahead of their individual needs and in doing so avoid conflicts at source. Consequently, project challenges are shared and the solutions are arrived at in a genuine environment of the joint endeavour. Whilst BIM is not a pre-requisite for IBA and IPI it was at the heart of the recent government trial project because BIM supports and reinforces the integration of project thinking so effectively.

There is much written about IBA and IPI and it is not for me to explain it in detail here, save to quote the Reading University independent research project report ‘Delivering more for less under the IPI model’, dated February 2018, on the Advance ll project at Dudley College:

[The Project] “has broken new ground in project procurement, organisation and delivery and demonstrated considerable benefit from collaborative working among the key project participants. The project has achieved many notable successes …… pioneering completely new governance methods, organisational structures and operational processes.”

“A notable feature of the project has been the highly effective collaboration between designers and constructors, working in an Alliance with the client, and focused on achieving clearly stated strategic goals and success criteria. The IPI Model, with its comprehensive arrangements for procurement and governance throughout the project – ranging from formal procurement, contract and insurance provisions, through less formal (though very active) facilitation to encourage and support collaborative working – has been instrumental in establishing and enabling a working environment in which this effective collaboration has flourished. Central to the IPI Model has been the sharing of risk and reward by Alliance Members, engendering a sense of ownership of project outcomes and a sharing of responsibility for achieving them.”

Finally, in my view, projects delivered in a truly collaborative environment are much more professionally satisfying and rewarding because they drive behaviours and solutions that are optimised rather than driven to the lowest common denominator – often lowest price rather than best value – and generally they are more commercially successful too in my experience for all involved. I profoundly hope we can embrace IBA and IPI with our hearts and our minds and to allow BIM and these contractual arrangements to immerge from the risk averse, confrontational, wasteful, inefficient and price-focused mind-set, into a business-as-usual, IT enabled and enriched, value-added and collaborative environment.

BIM, construction,
© Sasinparaksa

Author: Nick Deeming is a Partner of FaulknerBrowns Architects. His career has been focussed on the benefits of collaboration because he believes that this not only creates a more pleasurable working environment but is also a more effective, profitable and sustainable way to work. He is a practising Architect, a Constructing Excellence Collaborative Working Champion, a member of JCT Council and Chair of the JCT BIM Working Group.




Twitter: @jctcontracts


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