BIM Roundtable
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Notes from meeting No.1

Date:  Thursday 18 November
Time:  10am – 3pm
Venue:  Buro Happold, 17 Newman Street, London
Purpose: Discussion will be based around the following topics:

Chris Hindle (AECOM), Ray Purvis (Atkins), Michael Bartyzel (Buro Happold),
Jon Hardy (Buro Happold), John Evans (Capita Symonds), Peter Sell (Davis Langdon),
Stephen Holmes (Foster + Partners), Doug Bevan (Halcrow), Andy Hill (Hoare Lea),
David Light (HOK), Chris Seymour-Smith (IBI Nightingale), Gary Furphy (Jacobs),
Sean Hicks (Levitt Bernstein), Steve Wright (Ramboll UK), Brian Watt (Tribal),
Mike Clarke (URS Scott Wilson), Mike Hacker (Waterman), David Hoole (WSP Group),
Shaun Farrell (Zaha Hadid)


Paul Burger (BAM), Daryn Fitz (Bovis Lend Lease), Guy Russell (Carillion),
Graham Brierly (Laing O’Rourke), Rob Owen (Mace), David Throssell (Skanska),
Brian Napper (TPS Carillion)


Terry Boniface (BIS), Chris Hobbs (CADline), Nigel Davies (Evolve Consultancy),
Scott Grant (Excitech), Rory Vance (KnowledgeSmart), Mervyn Richards (MR1 Consulting),
Paul Oakley (Oakley CAD Services), Paul Woddy (Revit Guru), Robert Klaschka (Studio Klaschka),
Paul Shillcock (TfL)

Pat Boyle (Bovis Lend Lease), Bill Price (Costain), Chris Senior (Revit Factory),
Tim Hare (Sir Robert McAlpine), Brian Evans (SYSTRA/Crossrail), Rachel Done (UKCG),
Jeff Stephens (Vinci)

BIM Roundtable Meeting Notes

The meeting brief focused on the dynamics of the relationship between Architects and Engineers and General Contractors, in a BIM context.

This was designed to be an interactive, ‘grass roots’ discussion forum. There was an overall agenda and specific objectives for the session, steered by the meeting chair, but the rest was up to the delegates. We had no commercial sponsors, nor formal presentations from pre-arranged speakers.  In essence, a group of interested parties sharing experiences about BIM, both problems & opportunities. No official ‘committee’ behind this group.  (The ‘round’ table ended up being somewhat more of a rectangle!).
Goals?  Clearer understanding and dialogue between parties involved in a BIM project.

Why not address FM today?  FM will have a bigger impact as we move forwards.  A good topic for a future forum.
Tender process between design & construction needs to be better.  Should a tender team comprise design & construction representatives?  Should contractors be involved much earlier on in the process?  Latham & Egan talk about earlier engagement of the construction team.

Is it possible to define a new programme of works, with a particular focus on BIM?

General rule of thumb:  1 unit of cost for design, 10 for construction, 100 for maintenance.

Discussion about BIS and Govt thinking.  BIS aiming to establish a better brief from Govt about what they want as a ‘procurer’ of construction services.  Advisors to Govt BIM group headed by Paul Morrell. Integration agenda; aiming for a “push strategy” from the industry. Main focus of BIS work is what the Govt as a client can get out of this? “Govt throwing the gauntlet down to us”.  Govt are looking at comparing many different ideas, including from the US, like COBE, the GSA and USACE for getting more out of a BIM project. They want more efficient projects and BIM appears to be the best way to get it.

Integration between teams, not all technology based.  What does the client want out of BIM? What is the key difference between BIM and a coordinated 3D model?

Discussion about US contractor examples; much earlier involvement in the design process. Using screens on site, rather than paper drawings.  ‘No change’ contracts from US contractors – very confident in the modelled information.

Discussion about common arrangement stages of work; (A+B), Design (C+D+E). Pre-Construction (F+G+H), Construction (J+K) and Use (L).

Detailed discussion about stage D, ‘D+’ and E.  These appear to be the critical stages, from a BIM perspective.  Talked about contractor involvement at stage D.  Stage E also very important. Contractor gets involved but doesn’t take full advantage of this stage. Often this stage gets squeezed.  Stage E needs to be set as the point where the purpose of the BIM model is defined.

Can we create a BIM ‘checklist’ for each stage of the process?

Can we specify the detail of the BIM model at each stage of the process?  At stages A/B/C a model should be high level, grade 1, information.

General sharing experiences of how teams work together.  Client wants coordinated BIM model.  Should MEP/services engineers be brought on board earlier? BIM allows earlier integration with the architect, which is a positive.

The question was asked of the contractors present, ‘What do you want from the M&E contractors?’; the answer, simply, ‘Not a lot needed from M&E at stage D.’  M&E doesn’t appear to fit especially comfortably into the RIBA work stages.  Structural engineers are typically first to deliver a 3D model on projects.

Part of the problem is that BIM models are redrawn (or re-modelled) at each point of handover. Data is not trusted ‘as is’. Liability rests where?  Who is responsible for the BIM model? Who ultimately owns the BIM model?

Discussion about different levels of cost contingency at the different stages of work, for example;

A-B broad feasibility, low level detail, QS allows 30% contingency
C – more definition, 25%
D – 20%
E – 15%

Contingency covers risk, design input, coordination, etc.

Architects have a legacy of dividing fees according to pre-defined RIBA stages. This might be too rigid. Is there an opportunity to make some changes in this area?

Can we better prove to clients that there are savings to be made using BIM, if the design process uses a single building model through the project lifespan, including for FM?  Can we take advantage of the information in a BIM model, to help clients make savings in the running of the building?  Can we educate clients better as to what is available? Can we get a better handle on what clients need?

The point was made that the client isn’t always the operator of the building, so will not always care about FM?

When a client asks for coordinated BIM model, what exactly are they asking for?  Do they know what they want?  Do we ask the right questions, or do we just say ‘yes’?

Discussion about the distinction between 3D modelling & BIM. It is possible to have a useful M&E model without accurate objects. The information is the important part.  Consultants don’t necessarily want manufacturers objects, just their data, which they can hang off their own basic objects.

 Swap out ‘placeholders’ to real components. Spatial coordination should be a bare minimum model. Properties can be held elsewhere.
Discussion about format for BIM information, including COBE.  Scandinavia example; open format & IFC.

Discussion about TfL as a client and ‘asset owner’.  Looking to use COBE as a master s/s for updating records on their asset base.  The 3D model is not the important ingredient; the ‘I’ in BIM is key – the information contained in the model.

Clients need to inform the design team what they require at the end of a project.  Need to get spatial data correct when updating asset lists.

What do contractors want?  Contractors don’t get what they want, because consultants don’t know what to give them!  What level of detail is required, from whom and when?  The data will change from project to project.  ‘What does the GC want?’ Design information early and cheaply (and accurately)!

Project costs across the industry are inflated by 30% due to lack of accurate information and lack of coordination, as discussed by Egan & Latham over the years.

PFI was perhaps an ideal opportunity to drive BIM through the industry, but after 15 years this hasn’t been the case. The procurement system is still much the same.

Is procurement process part of the problem?  Does ‘cheapest quote wins’ stifle the way BIM is adopted across the industry?

Can the ‘green agenda’ drive progress for BIM?

Because working in 3D allows changes to be made quickly, there is evidence that clients and design consultants are making more late changes to the building frame.  If last minute changes are made to a project, there has to be a cost implication (to the client).  Low cost of delivery and maximum flexibility in the design-build process are contradictions.
The industry is still contractually obliged to create 2D deliverables; is it time for a change in contractual language? The way contracts are written is a major issue, with respect to BIM.  If changes are needed at a contractual level, can BIS help in this area?

Often supplier information can be too detailed for concept design, i.e. over modeling of components.  Is there a tendency to add superfluous detail to a model, because the software allows (or encourages) us to?  Can we get back to a simpler way of working? Are we making things too complicated because the technology encourages us to?
In general, less is more.  Clients & contractors want a lighter, more usable model. Example given of a client who has set an upper limit on file size that they will accept for a model.

General discussion about software; main vendors are not interested in making their respective software offerings ‘interoperable’. It could be argued that they have a vested interest in not being easily interchangeable!  Examples discussed; Revit MEP will export to IES Virtual Environment, but will not receive data back again.

A need for clearer recommendations to vendors (especially Autodesk & Bentley Systems).  We need better links between construction professionals and software vendors, to better understand what is required.  Is it possible for the industry to have a ‘single voice’ back to the vendors in this area?  Lack of interoperability is a headache for everyone.
Discussion about the validity of paper drawings as a deliverable.  Do we still need 2D drawings?  Can site operatives handle electronic data, or do they need drawings; sections, plans elevations?

Discussion about Acrobat Pro, viewing 3D PDF’s and producing 2D cuts on the fly.  Redlining drawings using the latest digital technology and adding the amendments back into the model.

For contractors/site personnel to use the model to ‘cut’ sections for construction, the consultant and contractor need to be 100% confident in the accuracy of the BIM model.

General discussion about the level of detail required in a model.  If a client wants or gets a fully detailed 3D model at the end of the project, are they the owner, or does the contractor have a claim over ownership of the model?  How does this affect the design consultants’ PI position and related contractual issues?

Reference made to ‘PIX’ protocol and related documents, as a template for process documents. These documents have been available for some time, but are being updated under the CPIC umbrella, renamed the ‘CPIX’ protocol.
BIS and Govt are currently reviewing contract documentation within the industry and the RIBA work stages, to encourage a smoother BIM information flow.  Is Govt pressure required to bring about sufficient changes in the current contractual model?

Can savings made on a project through more efficient use of BIM, be shared between consultants, contractors and clients? Example given of the Highways Agency doing this (sharing of cost savings between client & contractor during the construction phase).

General discussion about open formats and platforms for exchanging project information.  LUL are wary of an open format, due to the large volume of legacy data they have.  IFC is the closest format that matches their requirements; they use dgn format across departments, although the supply chain use various formats.  Still issues with IFC, for example you can IFC out of Revit, but not IFC into Revit.

General discussion about ‘grass roots’ initiatives helping to bring about change, using a ‘bottom up’ approach. Opinions divided about the need for ‘industry’ groups to take the lead, coordinated through CPIC.

CPIC is working with RIBA, ICE, CIBSE, UKCG, BIFM, RICS, CIOB and CIAT.  Not currently engaged with IstructE and BSRIA.  Brief mention of Constructing Excellence, Construct IT, BuildingSMART and updating various industry standard documentation.  CPIC working on a 5 year plan to update BIM standards.  Quick show of hands to see how many people present were members of the industry bodies mentioned; only two members present, out of 30+ delegates.  Are they fully representative of the operations-level activities taking place?

Discussion about the AEC (UK) BIM Standard, which most of the consultants present were familiar with.  Not many Contractors had heard about it to date.   Discussion about the need for ‘official’ industry bodies to agree collectively about a standard (which will potentially take a long time) vs an industry-led standard which can gain collective acceptance and approval through ‘viral’ promotion. Can contractors help to add detail to the current AEC (UK) BIM Standard?  Can this work dovetail into the CPIC project later on?

Brief discussion about work being undertaken in the US and elsewhere on BIM Standards.

Better education required for middle and upper management about BIM.  Better education for clients about BIM and what the benefits are for them.


Well attended, diverse and robust discussion about where practical improvements can be made to improve the smooth(er) adoption of BIM as a process.  Consensus achieved in some areas, disagreement inevitably in other areas.  Generally speaking, consultants were more open about their processes than the contractors present.  Some contractors entered into the spirit of the debate, others remained noticeably silent throughout.  Is this a cultural issue?  Are consultants more used to attending discussion forums than contractors?  Do contractors think that if consultants provide different (better?) project data, this will have a potentially negative impact on fees or the general dynamics of the relationship?  Could a different approach to Project insurance be a possible answer, where everyone shares the pain and the gain for the benefit of the project and client?  Would this help us move away from the ‘blame culture’ that sometimes occurs on projects?  Would it be better to engage with contractors individually, if there is resistance to sharing information in a group setting?

Key areas for further discussion include;

  1. Is it possible to define an updated/revised schedule of works, with a particular focus on how BIM plays a role?
  2. More discussion about phase D / D+ / E – and the interaction between consultants and contractors during this phase of the process.
  3. Different ‘grades’ of detail in the model at different phases of works.  A BIM checklist.
  4. The concept of ‘place holders’, to swap objects in and out of the BIM model.
  5.  The role of MEP/services engineers in the process and the timing of their involvement in a project.
  6. The role of FM in the BIM process.
  7. Educating clients about BIM.

Thanks to Buro Happold for providing the venue and refreshments for this meeting.  Thanks to Studio Klaschka and KnowledgeSmart for picking up the lunch tab.

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