Ryan Simmonds, sales director of framing at voestalpine Metsec plc, discusses the keys to successful collaboration and how promoting cooperation and coordination delivers construction project success
The definition of collaboration is the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing. Within this definition sits key elements for success. Coordination with other team members or those working on a project is crucial to ensure nothing is missed, as well as making sure there are no unnecessary duplications. Cooperation is another important area, and one where teams can often fall down through a lack of communication or sharing of vital information.
Together, cooperation and coordination help to contribute to true collaboration, with all parties working together to achieve a single goal. Ultimately, collaboration is not only mutually beneficial to everyone involved, but also promotes efficiency across projects being undertaken.
Benefits of collaboration in construction projects
Collaboration is a method that the construction industry has historically struggled to adopt, but one that has been consistently demonstrated to greatly benefit the industry as a whole.
Collaborating on a project from the initial stages brings numerous benefits, including reducing time delays and the need for contingency funds. The appointed design team, contractors, manufacturers and installers all working collaboratively means designs, issues, priorities and construction methods are all agreed upon in the initial stages and fully understood by all parties.
While the theory of collaboration can seem abstract, it is a very real requirement for successful projects. If co-dependent elements of a project are executed in silos with no communication or coordination, projects can hit stumbling blocks.
For example, if the installer of the framing solution on a project has not communicated with the main contractor as to when they are required onsite, the project can either be delayed as the installer is not ready or alternatively they’ll turn up onsite but not be able to gain access and begin the installation, resulting in wasted days and money.
Similarly, if the framing manufacturer and installer have not cooperated and communicated, the project could be delivered before it’s required, taking up valuable space onsite, or be delayed – again resulting in lost days.
BIM as a collaborative method
However, collaboration needs to go deeper and this is where Building Information Modelling (BIM) is vital. A structured, measured and comprehensive approach to team working, BIM has a fixed set of processes and procedures to guide users and participants how best to employ collaborative methods. Design coordination is an in-depth and involved process and BIM’s regular data exchanges ensure that the whole team is working on the same, and most up-to-date, model.
The notion of BIM is the process of designing, constructing or operating a building, infrastructure or landscape asset using electronic information. In practice, this means that a project can be designed and built using datasets and images digitally, even before the first spade goes in the ground.
Detecting conflict at early stages means they are addressed and resolved promptly and still during the planning stages. Without BIM, issues are often only picked up at major project milestones and at this point they can be difficult and expensive to rectify. The objective of BIM is to satisfy the three components of a successful project; namely time, cost and quality, by managing the project using an efficient, collaborative and reliable method of work.
Sharing a 3D model with all parties communicates the planned end result in a clear, concise and fully comprehensible way – helping the full project team to understand the requirements and see what they are working towards.
However, another crucial element of BIM is the promotion, and adoption, of collaborative working. The digital designs are shared with all parties to outline the work planned and give everyone the opportunity to fully understand what is proposed and all the requirements. The BIM Execution Plan (BEP) is a critical document as it underpins project integration and is a written plan to bring together all of the tasks, processes and related information.
The BEP should be agreed at the outset and defines what BIM means for the project. It outlines the standards being adopted, outputs required, when these should be supplied and in what format, plus any supporting documentation. As a working document, the BEP is regularly reviewed and evolves throughout the project, ensuring design teams, suppliers, manufacturers and all other stakeholders have all the relevant information, promoting collaboration between all parties.
The BIM Implementation Plan (BIP) is the blueprint for integrating BIM into an organisation’s working practices. This should align to the objectives and aspirations of the organisation, its business partners, its skill base, levels of investment and the nature and scale of projects that it wishes to undertake now and in the future.
Hosting both of these documents in a centrally coordinated Common Data Environment (CDE) means they can be updated, accessed or extracted at any time throughout the project. Adding all other BIM documents, including the 3D drawings, gives all of those involved in the overall project full visibility and input, promoting a collaborative approach throughout.
Talking about collaboration and delivering a fully collaborative project through the use of BIM are two very different things, and will have very different outcomes when it comes to a construction project. While there have been moves to adopt a more collaborative approach, using BIM ensures that all stakeholders are consulted at all stages throughout the project and that the most up-to-date documents are hosted in one central location, reducing errors in file versions or timing plans.
In addition, the use of BIM means that a design and build is fixed from a certain, agreed point onwards, removing the need for additional contingency budget or project delays due to unplanned changes caused by a lack of communication, coordination, cooperation or collaboration.
Sales Director of Metsec Framing
voestalpine Metsec plc
Tel: +44 (0)121 601 6000