Partnering, both on single and multiple projects, has delivered exceptional results, but it requires planning and depends on changes in behaviour that many people find challenging. Collaborative forms of contract have developed to provide a clearer path for partnering and have become the norm for increasing numbers of clients and project teams. But what is the impact of BIM on partnering, and is the digital integration of design comparable to the integration of working relationships?
In his recent Construction Industry Council report Growth through BIM, Richard Saxon CBE made some important observations about the relationship between BIM, partnering and collaborative forms of contract. He suggested that "What partnering needed to succeed was BIM" and that collaborative forms of contract, namely JCT Constructing Excellence, NEC3 and PPC2000, "are seen as the vanguard of the contracts of tomorrow", particularly to support BIM Level 3. Richard Saxon perceives a future in which integrated design through BIM is matched by integrated "self-checking documentation" that would "remove the source of a lot of disputes".
As a champion of partnering, I am excited to explore the ways in which BIM will secure its future, particularly in view of the fact that in the experience of many public and private sector clients and teams, systematic partnering (even without BIM) creates the best means of achieving excellent projects. In this context, it is significant that in an economic downturn the Government Construction Strategy in 2011 made a clear connection between partnering on the one hand and savings on the other. The Government did not recommend that we respond to financial constraints by reverting to lowest price single stage tendering under risk-dumping traditional forms of contract, but instead built its recommendations around the opposite – namely, a more detailed build-up of risk and the cost of risk under the collaborative processes of "early contractor involvement". For the avoidance of doubt, the Government Construction Strategy expressly recommended JCT Constructing Excellence, NEC3 and PPC2000 as the contracts through which to achieve these objectives and embarked on a Trial Project programme to gather objective evidence of whether its recommendations worked in practice.
The first four Trial Project reports were produced for the July 2013 Government Construction Summit, and of these the Ministry of Justice Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institution is particularly relevant to the links between BIM and collaborative working. The Cookham Wood project was the first Government project to adopt BIM, and MoJ developed a BIM model for use in its team selection, throughout all stages of design development and user consultation, and also to inform its post-completion operational requirements.
Cookham Wood adopted early contractor involvement through 'Two Stage Open Book' under the PPC2000 form of contract, which provides for a multi-party team to sign a single contractual hub. This enabled all of the BIM contributors (architects, engineers, main contractor and sub-consultants) to understand how their work fitted in with that of the other parties. They worked under the same terms of appointment, all signing one multi-party contract, and followed a fully integrated programme of key dates for development and implementation of their design contributions.
Most critically, the two-stage structure of PPC2000 ensured that Interserve (the appointed main contractor) and its key specialist subcontractors such as SSC (precast volumetric cell provider) and EMCOR (mechanical and electrical specialist) were formally appointed months in advance of start on site, with a clear set of BIM-led design stages and other activities that led up to authority for them to commence work on site.
The practical benefits of this approach appear in the Trial Project case study and include:
- Financial and time savings achieved through the precast volumetric cell solution proposed by SSC
- Additional cost savings achieved through alternative lighting and service duct/cell riser proposals submitted by EMCOR
- Improved design coordination and better liaison with the Cookham Wood Governor who praised the benefits of a "walk through of the buildings highlighting views into and out of areas that normally I couldn't do until completion".
The combination of Two Stage Open Book and BIM under PPC2000 led to an independent Constructing Excellence report that MoJ has achieved 20% savings. These savings were directly attributable to efficient joint working by all levels of the supply chain, particularly during the period of their early contractual appointment in advance of start on site.
In recent years, it might be argued that partnering has suffered from a failure to define its own terms of reference, making it vulnerable as a 'wish list' for dispute avoidance rather than a methodical basis for procurement, contracting and project management. It is clear from Cookham Wood and from 'Growth through BIM' that we are entering a new era where partnering, supported by a clear set of controlled systems, can generate undeniable benefits:
- If new relationships for key supply chain members are created early enough through Two Stage Open Book
- If team appointments are set out in a two-stage collaborative contract such as PPC2000
- Especially if the creation of an integrated team is combined with a system for developing integrated design contributions through BIM.
In order to understand BIM and partnering better, it is important to place them squarely in a procurement and contracting context. MoJ have done this successfully and have reaped the rewards of financial savings, innovation and improved user satisfaction.