One of the most important aspects of getting to understand how BIM works is to see what happens when you use it on a real project. Obviously, there are quite a few jobs that are now up and running which incorporate BIM to some degree or other but one of the most comprehensive feedback exercises undertaken so far has been on the Ministry of Justice early adopter project at HMYOI Cookham Wood, where a new house block and education building has been tendered, developed and is now in the process of being constructed using a BIM model allied to a COBie UK – 2012 data drop. The latest version of the feedback report (version 3 dated February 2013) is available on the BIM Task Group website externallink and is well worth a look.

The Cookham Wood project is for the provision of a 179 room accommodation block and an associated education facility for the Youth Justice Board. It started out as a conventional project with early constructor involvement but shortly before the tender it was converted into a BIM-enabled project.

A data-populated model was prepared from the existing 2D schemes for tender purposes and the tender document set included the native BIM model, the COBie data drops and full set of 2D drawings cut from the model. The tenderers were asked to return with their tenders a copy of the native model, a COBie data drop 2B (to respond to the COBie 2A data drop in the tender) and 2D cuts from the model in PDF format. A contract has now been awarded and the estimated contract completion date is 20 November 2013. A number of review sessions have been held, the first after the initial pre-tender design, the second at the end of the review and selection process and the final one with the Framework Constructors who tendered the project.

I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the feedback comments in the report. First is the observation that there is a huge benefit to be gained from using the BIM model for visualisation and client understanding. This probably goes without saying for anyone who is already convinced that BIM is the right way to go. The action arising from this comment points to the need to review the Employer's Requirements in any such tender process. This is a reminder that the use of BIM is not only going to refine the existing tender/contractual documentation quite significantly in terms of the accuracy of information but also that it is important to incorporate BIM requirements and COBie data in a very focused way. The implications of using BIM on a project ripple through the contractual documentation and need to be carefully considered.

The requirement for clear change control processes for the model was also raised, highlighting the need for a thorough reconsideration of the technical/contractual documentation to be used on BIM-enabled projects. There was apparently a poor understanding of how to achieve economical use of the BIM model and change control and these procedures should be documented for future use.

The tender process using BIM also needs to be considered very carefully. Because this is new constructors will need to manage the process differently and to use different resources, and there therefore needs to be considerably more forward planning and adherence to agreed dates. This is acknowledged in the feedback document – apparently the tender document was brought forward by one week, which caused problems. Clearly there needs to be more advanced planning around future BIM tenders, particularly at early stages when the parties will be unused to this approach.

Not surprisingly it is noted that effective use of BIM may need a review of the procurement process. I would suggest this is almost inevitable: as the action point notes BIM has the potential to change how designs are managed through the BIM Technical Standards Library the and risk profile will also inevitably alter. This will not only occur through the clarity of risk allocation which should arise via the use of COBie and PAS 1192 but also through the use of the BIM Protocol. At level 2, the risk allocation should be relatively similar to more "traditional" approaches.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the design consultants working with the constructors advised that they had never previously picked up BIM models developed by others to be worked upon. This raised the question as to how effective this process is: do consultants use different processes within technological solutions? There is no specific response to this issue and this is clearly something that will have to be looked at very closely in terms of aligning the processes used.

Another issue which is very relevant was the observation that the majority of the tender was administered by the constructors using the 2D information, particularly amongst their supply chain. Clearly to get the best value out of BIM this needs to change and is a recognition of the challenges of using BIM in the tender environment. BIM has to feed down beyond tier 1 to tiers 2 and 3 as the BIM capability of the tier 1 supply chain is dependent on tiers 2 and 3. This highlights the task facing working groups such as BIM4SMEs, which need to emphasise not only the scalability of BIM but also that supply chain members need to embrace the use of BIM at the earliest opportunity.

A final point of interest: it was noted that functionality, ease of use and experience in managing COBie data drops was a big issue amongst the tendering contractors. In addition, COBie is not being used by constructors outside of the Ministry of Justice project although BIM is. Experience of BIM use will develop but may be hindered by COBie capability. As I have mentioned briefly above the use of BIM entails not only an understanding of how the model itself works but also the supporting processes contained in COBie and PAS 1192. The action point notes that COBie support tools must be developed and clearly this is going to be important moving forward.

The challenges offered by BIM are considerable and its effect may be wider than many have imagined, particularly those that still see it either as only a level 2 tool or as the famous "CAD on steroids". From this perspective, the Cookham Wood lessons learnt document is extremely useful in raising issues that arise out of the practical, hands-on use of BIM and suggesting how the industry can learn from these lessons.