EIR – Leading from the front

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Jason Whittall, Director of Architecture & BIM for One Creative Environments Ltd details the development of an EIR and where the client should start their journey…

“Seeing as how the V.P. is such a V.I.P., shouldn’t we keep the P.C. on the Q.T? ‘Cause if it leaks to the V.C. he could end up M.I.A, and then we’d all be put out in K.P!” As goes the famous line from Robin Williams in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’.

The BIM arena is equally rife with acronyms and abbreviations and in my recent BIM Coordination meeting you could have been excused for thinking I was on the set of the movie itself. The terminology can be confusing for both new adopters of BIM and clients trying to define a brief for a BIM project. With known knowledge gaps in the industry, broadly where are we currently in the UK with BIM?

The BIM culture has been embraced by the different disciplines in varying ways. Architects generally claim they’ve embraced the BIM culture as part of the government’s push-pull strategy to adopt BIM to Level 2 by 2016. Since structural engineers often model in 3D anyway, they’ve had a great head start which is slowly being followed by M&E engineers who are increasingly seeing the benefits. Landscape architects have a keen interest with solid roots back in GIS principles, but lack of advances in specialist software generally leads to a lower level of adoption of BIM. Contractors (certainly from larger companies) are realising the benefits of BIM in reducing clashes and managing defects.

However, subcontractors have been slow to respond and many suppliers have produced over-modelled, over-constrained model families, detailing every nook and cranny, in the belief it will lead to a secured specification. QS firms have also become involved, perhaps initially fearful that the ’QTO button’ will replace their profession (which is not the case), since even if they receive a model it is extremely unlikely to have been set up in a way that can be readily utilised for quantification.

So where does that leave the client? Who is actually supposed to be driving a consistent BIM approach in order to provide direction for the whole project team and end users?

In the ideal world (and according to PAS1192-2:2013), the BIM process starts with the client forming a clear set of Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR), which is driven from an evaluation of their Organisational Information Requirements (OIR). This is followed by BIM competency assessments and creation of a Master Information Delivery Plan (MIDP). Only at this point is the client in a position to appoint a suitable design team to create the BEP, deliver the project, and provide clearly defined usable information deliverables. However, at present, this is not what we see in the industry.

The government’s push-pull strategy is well founded. It is designed to drive change from ‘both ends’, and in theory the client (certainly in the centrally funded public sector), has an obligation to work to BIM level 2 on all projects from March 2016. However, BIM adoption from clients is not prevalent at present (aside from the flagship projects driven from the M.O.J.). Client driven EIRs are few and far between. Too often, I have read bid documents that include in the BIM section; ‘We are interested in BIM and would like to see how the tenderer can utilise BIM to their advantage’ or; ‘The design team must use BIM in the production of the planning and tender packages’. While well-intended, this statement is not a clear EIR!

Without having set up a project structured to deliver specified data outputs, the tendency is for the project team to be led by the most experienced party, perhaps the architect, or perhaps all doing their own thing which they regard as “BIM”. But each firm is then able to create information that doesn’t follow agreed standards or set out simple ‘rules’ such as file sharing formats, common origins, and project datasets. It is becoming increasingly common for QS firms to be asked to take off from a ’BIM model’ when they’ve had no prior input into its creation. This has only one outcome: the QS concluding; ’This model is of little use to me; they haven’t modelled it in the right way’.

So what is the right way? Who is right? Rather than debate the possible failures of the design team, surely it is more prudent to seek ways to prevent this situation occurring in the first instance?

PAS1192-2:2013 sets out a framework for the information that should be considered and included in the EIR. It is not one-size-fits all however, and will vary from project to project and client to client. The Information Requirements will depend on the uses the client has for BIM through the life and operation of the building. The PAS1192 suite of BIM Standards also set out a framework for the timing of production of these crucial documents, including recommendations for common data output formats.

Many times I have been called into projects where BIM is suggested too late. This commonly happens during the design development stages after all consultants have been appointed regardless of their BIM competency. Or even worse, on a current project where the client asks during late construction; ’Is there any chance we can get a BIM model at the end of this project?’ without ever having specified a single BIM deliverable prior to that moment! Clients, like many in the industry, often associate the term ’BIM’ too closely with only simple 3D geometry aspects.

There are clearly knowledge gaps in the stakeholder circle and crucially, the most influential gap is at the head of the project. Clients are becoming interested in BIM due to its massive advantages through the full life cycle of the project. Aside from the capital savings that can be achieved in construction, there can also be large operational savings. Adding into this the benefits of making informed decisions about the asset, BIM really is too good to miss.

Clients interested in BIM however, are caught in a difficult position. They lack hands-on experience and knowledge of what should be specified in the EIR. The answer is the same one that we all face when looking to change our culture and adopt a new way of working; we seek advice and support from those with knowledge and experience. Without accepting that there is a knowledge gap, it cannot be filled with a meaningful plug and projects run the risk of being too tightly or too loosely ‘BIM specified’. Each of these problems bring potential issues for the design and construction teams. The RICS has a growing list of Certified BIM Managers, who are qualified and equipped to support the client at the project outset. There are a growing number of technology companies specialising in BIM deliverables, and even software resellers have teams of expert consultants that can support the client and guide them on wider issues when enquiring about new software platforms.

BIM has the potential to unlock massive savings and provide powerful sets of data which can be harvested and capitalised upon at each stage of the project. These savings and data resources are unlikely to be achieved in a robust and consistent manner if the project deliverables are as unspecified as a, ’let’s see if the design team can do us a bit of BIM for a planning application’ as part of a PQQ process!

It is said that; “in life there is no such thing as a free dinner”, and BIM is the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat data buffet. In order to realise the massive potential of BIM, a small investment at the project outset is essential. It also requires the creation of fully collaborative processes, as consistent delivery will lead to the consistent output of reliable, usable data.

A relatively small outlay will reap massive returns through the lifecycle of the project. By using BIM correctly, we can move away from acronyms and abbreviations towards the ultimate:

“Goooooooood morning, Vietnam! Hey, this is not a test! This is rock and roll! Time to rock it from the Delta to the D.M.Z.!” (Good Morning Vietnam).

Jason Whittall RIBA | APMP | RICS Certified

BIM Manager

Director – Architecture & BIM

One Creative Environments Ltd

Tel: 01905 362300

Jason.whittall@oneltd.com

www.oneltd.com

www.twitter.com/Oneltd_Jason

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