18 August 2017

Construction is a 'team sport' with a multitude of different disciplines coming together (at various stages) to work on the delivery of a project. 

Ever closer collaboration is key to realising the benefits of a BIM approach and therefore how information will be delivered across the project lifecycle needs to be carefully considered from the outset.

How is information exchanged on a BIM project?

In order for information to be successfully exchanged it is necessary for all contributors to understand what they need to provide (and what others will be providing too) and how this information will be both presented and used.

Every construction project will require certain information, in certain formats, to be delivered to the client at key points during the project lifecycle. These information delivery points, sometimes referred to as 'data drops' effectively act as 'stage gates' - a point at which data can be analysed and decisions can be considered based on the information available to multiple stakeholders at key points in time. These stage gates ensure that projects are properly validated and controlled as they develop.

As a BIM Level 2 project progresses the information available will build, typically providing ever-greater richness in detail. It's possible too that, in some areas, the amount of detail will decrease as decisions are made and extraneous information or fidelity is removed.

The NBS BIM Toolkit is a free-to-use tool that can be used to help employers specify what information they require and to validate the information has been supplied to them.

How information will be delivered across the project lifecycle needs to be carefully considered from the outset.

When is information exchanged on a BIM project?

This will vary according to project requirements and the client's own needs. Guidance is available in the form of plans of work, of which there are several available.

The RIBA Plan of Work proposes six data drops at the following stages of a project:

1. Design Brief
2. Concept
3. Design development / technical design
4. Production information / tender documentation
5. Practical completion
6. Post-practical completion.

More detail is provided in the BIM Overlay to the RIBA Outline Plan of Work.

PAS 1192:2 (Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using Building Information Modelling) proposes data exchange in line with the following stages:

1. Brief
2. Concept
3. Definition
4. Design
5. Build and Commission
6. Handover and Closeout
7. Operation and In Use

The supply chain are likely to have their own information exchanges on a more frequent basis than the exchanges made with the employer.

Where are information requirements detailed?

What's required on a project should be detailed in the Employer's Information Requirements (EIR). While a project brief describes the nature of the asset to be built, the EIR sets out the information the employer wishes to procure. In setting out these information requirements the employer is seeking to ensure the asset is developed in line with their needs and that they can operate the completed development efficiently and effectively.

What's included in a data drop?

A wide range of information is likely to be produced and exchanged via a data drop.

These are likely to include models (in both native and Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) formats), structured data (such as project schedules or COBie files) and a range of reports or analyses (either in native formats or as .pdfs).

Each data drop provides an opportunity for the client to check and validate the project's compliance with the initial brief and Employer's Information Requirements. It's also a chance to ensure projects are still within tolerable parameters when it comes to cost. 

What to read next...

Validating Employer's Information Requirements
Professor Steve Lockley, Research Director at BIM Academy and Professor of Building Modelling at Northumbria University, looks at considerations around validating employers’ information requirements.

What is a BIM Execution Plan (BEP)?
What is a BIM Execution Plan? What is it used for? What form does it take both pre- and post- contract? Who is responsible for its production? We explore the BEP and how to rise to the challenge of meeting Employer's Information Requirements (EIRs).

What is the Common Data Environment (CDE)?
What is the common data environment or CDE on a construction project used for? Who contributes? Who is responsible? Who owns the information within? Why use a CDE at all? We explore the idea of a central information repository that is at the heart of BIM implementation.