Although the use of BIM is most commonly associated with the design team, it is in the field of project management where it perhaps has its most long-term application. For whereas design team personnel will differ at varying stages of an asset's life cycle, the need for management of that asset (whether a building or some other form of construction) is continuous, from inception through to end of life – a true cradle-to-grave process. Project managers therefore need to be able to understand and interrogate the BIM information, in order to maximise its benefits.
BIM online collaboration - cradle to cradle
BIM facilitates collaboration throughout the entire project life cycle. Some obstacles remain to full BIM implementation, including concerns regarding cost investment in the necessary tools, and the resolution of issues surrounding ownership and intellectual property rights.
Online collaboration is on the rise, moving away from traditional time- and labour-intensive communication methods. We are moving from a document-based environment to an integrated database working method. Frequently-updated information from a wide range of consultants and stakeholders is fed into the model, and needs to be managed; in addition to wider issues such as the team cooperation required for successful BIM implementation – in other words, the management of people and attitudes. This move towards a more collaborative and transparent future is both dependent upon, and an enabling mechanism for, partnering; we may finally see Egan's and Latham's recommendations implemented on a wider scale.
Traditionally the geometric model and scheduling software have been two separate databases. Now we are starting to combine the two (the so-called '4D' of BIM, being analogous to the 'fourth dimension' of time). Project managers work with automated data, being able to see relationships; and use that to manage process and hence make better decisions based on more reliable information, and at an earlier stage. Therefore decisions lead to better outcomes, rather than managing the consequences of those outcomes. Scheduling and budget control are improved, and more accurate benchmarking is possible.
Although the project manager may not be producing model information themselves, they will nevertheless be looking at model views and other information in formats such as the BIM Collaboration Format (BCF). This is a platform-neutral data reporting format, which is used for exchanging e.g. clashes or other problems, in isolation from the entire model; thus assisting collaboration between different disciplines using different software applications. In other words, project managers are involved with the use, interrogation and analysis of the model.
BIM is change management more than anything. It is fundamentally concerned with:
- Time and cost estimation
- Design input at differing stages, for example subcontract trades on site.
Traditionally the geometric model and scheduling software have been two separate databases. Now we are starting to combine the two.The BIM model is used at each stage of the project. It forms the basis of the Employers Information Requirements (EIR) pre-tender, and then the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) post-tender. PAS 1192-2:2013 (incorporating Corrigendum 1) sets out the requirements for the BIM model for the CAPEX phase of the asset lifecycle, i.e. delivery. It is then transferred from the Project Information Model (PIM) to the Asset Information Model (AIM). PAS 1192-3 sets out the requirements for management of the OPEX phase. Moving into the post-construction operation phase, that same information then forms the basis of the Asset Management Plan.
The CIC BIM Protocol identifies that a key appointment to be made at the outset of a project is that of 'Information Manager'. The information manager has a key role in setting up and managing the Common Data Environment (CDE). The CDE is a central, shared repository for collecting, managing and disseminating the project documents. The requirements for the CDE are set out in PAS 1192-3. The CDE is a critical tool for effective collaboration, quality control and avoidance of waste. According to the BIM Task Group, the role has three principal components:
- Managing the Common Data Environment
- Project information management
- Collaborative working, information exchange and project team management.
Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)
BIM supports processes such as Integrated Project Delivery. The American Institute of Architects defines IPD as: "a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste, and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction" (source: 'Integrated project delivery: a guide').
The guide cites six key factors of IPD, as differentiated from traditional procurement routes:
- Integrated team comprising key stakeholders, assembled early in the process and working collaboratively and openly
- Information openly shared at all levels; expertise and knowledge contributed early in the process
- Collective management, shared appropriately between the stakeholders
- Team rewards are shared, and based on project success
- Building Information Modelling is utilized
- Risks are shared.
The guide identifies nine key principles for successful IPD:
- Mutual respect and trust
- Mutual benefit and reward
- Collaborative innovation and decision making
- Early involvement of key participants
- Early goal definition
- Intensified planning
- Open communication
- Appropriate technology
- Organization and leadership.
Finally, the guide sets out eight phases for IPD:
- Conceptualization (programming)
- Criteria design (schematic design)
- Detailed design (design development)
- Implementation documents phase (construction documents)
- Agency review
- Construction (contract administration)
Project managers can play a crucial role in this process by assisting the stakeholders (in particular, asset owner and budget controller) to adopt BIM and IPD principles and agreements. The driving force behind IPD is to maximize the value of the finished asset, by setting incentives for the stakeholders. By uniting the participants' interests, collaborative design and decision making is enabled, thereby reducing abortive work; and enabling increased efficiency through data sharing.
Post-occupancy, the asset manager can use a spreadsheet containing all the (non-graphical) digital information about a building, in the form of a COBie file. This was developed to improve the handover process to asset owner-operators, for facilities management decision-making – including operation of the systems and infrastructure, planned (and reactive) maintenance, repair, replacement and, eventually, decommissioning, dismantling and recycling. BS 1192-4 covers this.