Sunday, September 16, 2012

How full is your BIM? (Part 2)

The urgent need to clearly define BIM ‘Scope of Services’

Blog entry by: Dominik Holzer

The dangers of a ‘Full BIM’ scope

I was recently approached by a lawyer during an industry function where I presented the (amongst others) four documents discussing ‘Legal and Procurement’ aspects of BIM. The lawyer was pleased to see that the construction industry is now increasingly considering the legal aspects of BIM.  “We are currently having a lot on our plate”, he said “…lots of disputes between consultants, contractors and clients who collaborate on projects using BIM; there seem to be large discrepancies between the clients’ expectations and what ultimately gets delivered by the consultants and contractors – More work for us lawyers!”.
These comments do not surprise me in any way. I’ve recently written an essay on this blog, debating the dangers of using ambiguous acronyms such as ‘Full BIM’ in project briefs or even in contract documents. 

Pervasive use in contracts and high level industry documents

I am at times torn between a smile and horror when I hear a presenter say: ‘We do Full BIM!’ Unfortunately, the ‘Full BIM’ phantom has made its way into nearly every BIM presentation or document.

The South Australian Government Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) has recently published a position paper (search for: 'PO42' in their library) describing their goal to mandate ‘fully integrated BIM models’ from their consultants by 2015 (with increasing BIM deliverables staged between 2013 and then).  ‘Full BIM’ even features in a report by the Australian branch of  buildinigSmart . Their National BIM Initiative document was recently handed to Federal Government for consideration. In the report, the implementation of ‘Full collaborative BIM’ is proposed by 2016. There is no doubt that buildingSmart refers to lifecycle BIM, addressing various aspects of building procurement to planning, delivery and operation. At the same time, we are entering a phase in the adoption of BIM where such definitions are too ambiguous and the report would benefit from a reference page where the scope of ‘Full Collaborative BIM’ is laid out in greater detail.  Even if that were the case, I still doubt that there even can be such a thing as ‘Full BIM’. Any project has its own affordances for BIM deliverables; a buildingSmart definition of ‘Full BIM’ may by far exceed what is required for individual cases and rather confuse clients than providing greater resolution about this topic.

BIM for FM – No standards yet!

A simple example where things go wrong is the request by clients for ‘FM ready BIM’ (in my view: most clients’ expectation of ‘Full BIM’). I’ve recently learned that, even from an FM perspective, a general response to such a request (or worse: a clause in the contract) is impossible to achieve at the current point in time (in Australia). The Facility Management Association of Australia (FMA) is still working on FM Standards in Australia. Given the lack of such standards, there exists no consensus about what ‘FM ready’ actually constitutes in the context of BIM. As a key policy advisor at the FMA admits: “… any FM expert is likely to list different BIM deliverables than those listed by a colleague”.

Moving forward – Addressing ‘BIM Scope of Service’

I suggest for those in the industry who include ‘Full BIM’ in their vocabulary to apply a more humble approach and stick to already existing industry definitions.   The RIBA in the UK has made a start to generating a BIM Scope of Work document by proposing an - as yet limited to architects – BIM Overlay to their ‘Outline plan of Work’. Elements of a ‘BIM services’ catalogue already exist, woven into the American AIA’s E203 document where BIM deliverables are split into Level of Development (LOD) and Model Element Authors (MEAs).  Still, the E203 is rather aimed at supporting collaboration between consultants and a different catalogue is required that lays out BIM scope of work to clients and contractors as well and that gets certified by an independent industry association.

Clients should then refer to elements of that catalogue to determine the aspects of BIM they expect on their project(s). As stated in the first part of this essay, clients need to be encouraged to become more proactively engaged in BIM. Ticking all the boxes (of what is possible) would less likely get signed off by consultants or contractors who already struggle to match their fees to the changing effort related to an increasing list of potential deliverables.


  1. Domonick,
    Regarding BIM for FM, are you familiar with the buildingSMARTalliance (US) COBie exchange specification?

    Steve Holzer

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