by Paul Shillcock
Update: Since this article was first written, all the content from the NBS National BIM Library has moved across to NBS Source.
What is ISO 19650?
ISO 19650 is a series of international standards. It defines the collaborative processes for the effective management of information throughout the delivery and operational phase of assets when building information modelling (BIM) is being used.
Based upon the UK 1192 series, the ISO 19650 series enables teams from around the world to minimize wasteful activities and increase predictability around cost and time, through a common approach to the management of information.
How ISO 19650 came about and its benefits to your organization
Following the UK Government's BIM Level 2 initiative in 2011, a series of national standards and publicly available specifications were produced. These documents have become known as the UK 1192 series, and define BIM Level 2 in the UK.
Following their publication, international asset owners and clients (particularly in the Middle East and Australia) also recognized their benefit, and began to require the adoption of the management processes defined within the UK 1192 series on their projects.
As a result, many international organizations felt that being asked to work in accordance with UK standards to win work in those countries was unfair. As a result, the international community approached ISO and demanded that the UK 1192 series be elevated to an international level. It certainly wasn’t a case of the UK saying to the world, ‘We’re the best, so use our standards’. If anything, the elevation of UK 1192 series to an international series may give the UK construction industry a competitive advantage. This is because forming an international series of standards creates a level playing field for organizations and suppliers from around the world to compete, innovate and collaborate, regardless of where those companies are located.
From a global perspective, I believe this is a positive move. In fact, I strongly believe that the ISO 19650 series presents a real opportunity for the UK construction industry, and those organizations that have already aligned their business processes to the UK way of working to capitalize on their investment and foresight.
The timing of the publication of ISO 19650 has also been important. We are increasingly seeing delivery teams consisting of organizations from different countries, with different cultures and differing ways of working, coming together on projects. Therefore, the ISO has helped these teams to adopt a simplified and common approach to managing information.
There are also big benefits for large multinational organizations too. For many years, these organizations have struggled to accommodate the differing requirements from their customers, partners and suppliers.
The ISO 19650 series has helped these organizations to establish a unified approach across each of their regions and offices, creating immediate efficiencies and increasing the mobility of their internal resources.
How to turn the UK 1192 series into an international series
I often get asked what the difference is between the UK 1192 series and the ISO 19650 series. The short answer is ‘Not a lot!’ It’s 1192, but not as we know it. This is because to get an international standard approved, you need to align with ISO’s editorial requirements and make certain compromises to gain a consensus across all the members of ISO.
With dozens of countries involved in the process, each with varying cultural and legal constraints, producing a common way of working at an international level isn’t a quick or easy task. When we started the process, I was told that it would take a minimum of five years to produce. I naively thought that this was bonkers, and that I would have the second part done in a matter of months. But I was proved wrong, and the production of parts one and two of the ISO 19650 series took over four years.
Once published, the ISO 19650 series can be adopted as national standards by the member states of ISO. For the UK, this means that BS 1192 and PAS 1192-2 will be withdrawn and replaced by BS EN ISO 19650-1 and BS EN ISO 19650-2. This is because there cannot be two competing standards at a national level.
During this process, CEN (the European standards body) also confirmed that they would adopt the ISO 19650 series as European standards. This means that they will become the preferred method of procuring publicly funded projects across Europe.
Built on a solid foundation
The ISO 19650 series uses the UK 1192 series as its basis. The starting points were the collaborative production of information defined within BS 1192, and the management of information during the delivery and operational phase of assets defined within PAS 1192-2 and PAS 1192-3 respectively.
As lead authors, the first step for David Churcher and I was to extract the text from the three base documents and remove all the ‘UK-isms’, such as the UK Government’s strategy, BIM Level 2 and UK-specific references, etc.
We then took the concepts and principles from all three documents to form the initial draft of ISO 19650-1. For BS 1192, this related to the concept of principles behind the collaborative production of information and the common data environment. For PAS119-2 and PAS1192-3, it was the concepts and principles around the effective management of information. At this stage, it was important to include PAS1192-3, so we could have the concepts and principles throughout the entire life of the asset.
Next, we focused on the activities and tasks within the information management process for the delivery phase of assets from both BS 1192 and PAS 1192-2. Combining the two documents made a lot of sense as they are very closely related. This became the initial draft of ISO 19650-2.
From that point, the international working group, convened by Anne Kemp, began the process of developing the documents. Our mission was to establish a common approach to the management of information when using BIM that could be adopted for anywhere in the world.
The next steps for ISO 19650
With ISO 19650-1 and ISO 19650-2 now published, the focus has moved on to the management of information during the operational phase of assets, and the adoption of a security-minded approach to the management of information relating to sensitive assets.
Using PAS 1192-3 and PAS 1192-5 as a baseline, the international working group is currently drafting ISO 19650-3 and ISO 19650-5. We hope that they will be published in early 2020, at which point PAS 1192-3 and PAS 1192-5 will be withdrawn.
How ISO 19650 works locally and internationally
During the process of developing ISO 19650-2, it became apparent that we were just not going to be able to get international consensus on some things, particularly when it came to standardized conventions and codification. We therefore came up with the idea of including region-specific requirements within a National Annex. The idea is that ISO 19650-2 defines the requirements, and the National Annexes define the standards which must be used to meet the requirements in a particular region.
To give you an example: there's a requirement within ISO 19650-2 for information to be classified. In the UK National Annex, it states that the classification system is to be Uniclass 2015, and we would expect the US National Annex to state that the classification system to be used is Omniclass. This enables the ISO 19650-2 requirement for classified information to be met, but in a way that allows flexibility for each region to use standards that are already in place.
The other big sticking point was naming conventions. ISO 19650-2 requires each information container to have a unique ID, but we’ve struggled to get everybody to adopt the convention defined within BS 1192, so getting an international consensus was close to impossible.
Whilst it overcame the barrier, it didn't solve the problem.
The addition of a National Annex enabled the standards to be completed so that they meet the needs of different regions. But in doing so, I believe we failed as a working group to create a truly common approach. This is because organizations who work in different regions will still need to comply with local standards, which adds unnecessary overheads, such as continuously educating teams and maintaining multiple configurations in the common data environments, for example.
Helping the UK transition from BS 1192 to ISO 19650
Interestingly, when we started the development process, we expected some resistance from other countries – but what we didn’t expect was the amount of resistance we received from people in the UK. I think many people expected the ISO 19650 series to be the UK 1192 series in all but name, and they felt that it was somehow different to what they knew.
Our brief from the outset was to retain as much as we could from the original documents. Given the constraints under which we were working, I think Anne Kemp, David Churcher and I did that very successfully.
I can assure everyone that all the key concepts and principles of the UK 1192 series remain. It certainly looks different, but I think it’s changed for the better, in terms of structure and clarity. I believe it’s now a much more complete and logical set of standards.
The ISO 19650 series also includes all the work that was done (but not published) to update the UK 1192 series based upon the lessons learnt in the UK over the past few years, and to align the requirements and terms within each of the documents. As such, it is recognized that there is a need to support people transitioning from the UK 1192 series, and to help them navigate their way around the new documents.
This led to the BSI commissioning David Churcher, Anne Kemp and I to produce transitional guidance for those familiar with the UK 1192 series. This includes the mapping of terminology and key amendments, which will be published as PD 19650-0, alongside BS EN ISO 19650-2.
Guidance is key
I personally believe that the adoption of the UK 1192 series in the UK was hampered due to the lack of clear guidance. As a result, we ended up with a scattergun approach to guidance that was based upon different interpretations of the standards, which invariably included misinterpretations, contradictions or mistakes.
I was therefore delighted to hear that the three leading bodies in this space – the British Standards Institution (BSI), the UK BIM Alliance and the Centre for Digitally Built Britain (CDBB) – have agreed to collaborate to create a single guidance framework for the adoption and implementation of the ISO 19650 series.
This guidance framework is due to be available in the next few months, but it will be an ongoing process that will rely on everybody getting involved to share their experience with others. I would therefore encourage everybody to take part in supporting this initiative, which I’m sure will become a valuable resource for everybody, at all levels.