7 Ways to be collaborative

It is with a huge sense of satisfaction that I can say I was part of the winning BIM4SME Giants team.  The Giants won an award at Build New York Live, a global BIM competition organised by Asite and this is detailed on their blog pages.

What did we do and how did we win?

Rob Garvey Core Group Member

Before I divulge any secrets, there are several things you need know.  Firstly the BIM4SME Giants team was formed of SME companies and individuals, most who had not worked together before and I, for one, had never even worked on any BIM project!  Secondly, what I am about to reveal is available to everyone, at low / no cost and can be used on non-BIM projects as well. Whatever your views on BIM, what the Giants and other Build Live teams is pretty remarkable in the 48 hour competition.  Digital technology was used to great effect and all participants have benefited from testing their capability and surprising their bosses with what can be possible. Yes, Archicad, Revit, Synchro, Exactal and appropriate IFC data exchanges were all important, but what I believe was just as important was the way the team communicated, cooperated and collaborated.
slack_icon.png Our principal communication tool; a Slack team was created and all participants joined.  Channels were set up for each pertinent communication thread eg design, cor-ordination, meetings etc. very effective at focusing conversation, sharing information and minimising email traffic.
bt_icon.jpg Pre-arranged meetings were scheduled and took place via BT Conferencing. With good project management, meetings were kept to reasonable strict half an hour slots and ensure progress and clarity of subsequent actions
joinme_icon.png At the same time as being on the conference call, the Join.me online meeting facility enabled computer screens to be shared and progress demonstrated.  During the design this was the Architect, during the production of the final report, prezi was shared.
prezi_icon.jpg Prezi is a presentation tool and allowed numerous editors to work on te same document at the same time.  So each party was able to add their content in double quick time. Awesome!
twitter_icon.png Social media, primarily Twitter, was used to good effect keeping the team and the outside world up-to-speed with progress
storify_icon.jpg The stream of social media was captured each 24 hours in a Storify.
The seventh would be our Common Data Environments; we used Newforma prior to the project starting andAsite Adoodle during the project for, amongst other things, data and file exchanges. As for email – we couldn’t avoid it, but minimised its use by using the other tools above! However, it is evident there are many collaborative tools that enable appropriate communication to take place, with individuals in different locations using different and multiple platforms simultaneously. So what tools do you use? Or are there tools you would like to use and are not developed yet?

A Micro SME PAS1192:2-2013 and the Curate’s egg

It can be an unforgiving existence being a solo practitioner. Sitting looking at the same four walls, day in day out, the moniker “lonely BIM” seems very apt. In that context, understanding and applying documentation produced to underpin and assist with realisation of UK Government’s 2016 BIM mandate (the so called eight pack) seems a world away from the relentless cycle of working up client briefs, waiting forever while projects snail through the planning process, getting the bills out and keeping the bank at bay.

Graham Paterson Core Group Member

Having said that, most consultants and small contractors we deal with are now working digitally in some shape or form. BIM or no BIM, applying BS1192-2007 to, the management of digital files seems to click as a protocol for structuring and managing data flows between disciplines.

The primary functions of the PAS 1192-2: 2013 document were to support the Government’s aspirations with digitisation of construction and provide more general industry guidance in setting out a framework for collaborative working and information management on BIM enabled projects. As far as the BIM Task Group is concerned, BS 1192: 2007 and the later PAS1192-2: 2013 were mutually inter-dependent as benchmark protocols which support the Government’s BIM strategy and migration of firms from lonely BIM towards Level 2 competencies.

Two years on from publication of the UK Government’s 2011 Construction Strategy, the genesis and evolution of PAS 1192-2:2013 as a BIM protocol marked an industry watershed for the management of digital data. The essence of PAS 1192-2: 2013 was to present UK construction with a template for doing collaborative BIM. Most significantly, the guidance set out a matrix of key principles and practical actions for applying Level 2 BIM to projects. The PAS authors argued their document offered equal value to small practices and large multi-nationals.

Although development of the PAS suite was informed by a consultative process, there is little published evidence that the draft standards were road tested in the field among SME and micro organisations. In some ways, mapping out UK construction’s response to the PAS 1192-2:2013 is like a frontier-land; the territory is largely uncharted, there is little tradition and/or knowledge base to draw from for small projects. Two schools of thought have emerged, mainly through blog commentaries and online discussions.

The first is that the structure of PAS 1192-2: 2013 incorporates some flexibility of interpretation when applied to building and/or infrastructure developments. The second perspective suggests that if the PAS is not used “as is”, different interpretations across the industry will result in dilution of meaning and lack of consistency in project specific applications of the standard. We are inclined towards the first viewpoint and to some extent, evidence trawled from BIM4SME’s industry clinics supports that argument.

From a reader’s perspective, PAS 1192-2: 2013 is not a hugely challenging document to navigate through. It is quite lengthy and does introduce roles and administrative layers for information management which may not necessarily fit with small project requirements and/or workflows. Also there are some aspects of the PAS which seem more clearly defined than others. Level of Detail/Definition (LOD) is one key area which would benefit from more work and specific guidance for practitioners. At this point in time, the concept of LOD seems ahead of industry’s ability to deliver on the detail.

PAS 1192-2: 2013 is riddled with acronyms, but pushing these to one side, ascertaining a client’s information requirements from the outset of a project is not rocket science. Clearly, some clients may be more interested in post-handover aspects of information management than others. For a housing association with a significant maintenance portfolio, efficient post-handover information management is a given. While a commercial developer might have little interest in the maintenance phase and may be intent on selling on an asset as quickly as possible after completion.

Perhaps significantly, the director of one architectural practice reflected that with BIM, his firm were less inclined to rush into design quickly and more likely spend time with the client thinking about and discussing information requirements in detail. As with the application of BS1192: 2007, taking a structured and holistic view of data management seems little more than common sense in a digital age.

A BIM Execution Plan is simply a formal record of who does what and when in relation to the generation and management of digital data. Even the smallest building commissions may sit within established industry frameworks for design management and cost control like RIBA Plan of Work 2013 and NRM 1,2,3. A BIM Execution Plan can interact and comfortably mesh with these templates.

As handover approaches, whatever the scale and value of projects, most design and/or project managers will gather together information necessary to facilitate their client’s use of the building. PAS 1192-2: 2013 simply sets out protocols for formalising and structuring that digital data prior to building occupation. After that, the associated PAS 1192-3 picks up the reins as a “specification for information management for the operational phase of assets using Building Information Modelling”. Or in plain language, a protocol for managing information after handover.

Wiki tells us that the term “the curate’s egg” derives from a 1895 Punch cartoon which depicted a hapless curate eating breakfast at his bishop’s house. In response to the bishop’s embarrassment that his guest had been served up with a bad egg, the curate desperate not to offend his host responded "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!"

This micro-SME would argue that PAS 1192-2: 2013 comfortably escapes the curate’s egg tag. Most of the document is understandable, palatable and makes sense. Cutting through the jargon and acronyms, the PAS maps out pathways which support structured and logical workflows. In the digital age, data is king (or queen) and PAS 1192-2: 2013 serves its purpose well as an enabling tool. We await the revised document with interest.

Graham Paterson is an architect, chartered technologist and core group member of BIM4SME

Curtailing the role of the CCA

Don’t you think that with the findings in the Edge report and the recent curtailing of the role of Chief Construction Advisor that once again the Construction Industry has completely lost its way? Not that there aren’t enough to represent us – how can it be that for a sector that contributes so much to GDP there is so little effective high level influence and support.

Tim Platts Chair of BIM4SME

I have been in the industry now for 40 years, and in that time seen wholesale changes, many good and positive, but there is also a deep seated resistance and conservatism which always needs a good shake if we are to be prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.

Representation of ‘council’ members from the mighty of the industry may seem a good thing to do, but do these people really have time to dedicate, altruistically for the benefit of the industry as a whole? I personally appreciate the huge commitment of time and energy I need to put in to a small organisation like BIM4SME to gain ground on the things that need to be done, but running a multinational alongside the daunting responsibility of developing and supporting our industry does not sit at all well with me.

At BIM4SME we are all but too aware of the nature and composition of the supply chain which makes up some 80-90% of the actual work in design and construction/installation that gets carried out (most of which is home grown) and which gets engaged by the continental conglomerates that proliferate now in our industry.

We have seen wholesale consolidation in the industry with many names having disappeared or being swallowed up, leading to much reduced capacity and competition. The loss of the skills, heritage and commitment that this encompasses, is a very sad indictment of the current state of UK plc, and will lead to control and influence in the hands of a few. This ultimately is not healthy for the industry or those within it, and as we can the control now lies elsewhere. Whilst some might endorse the ‘Darwinist’ approach and sure new, lean and agile companies may well appear – they will likely come out of the same mould, their future determined by the conservative corporations. Comments are already being made about the lack of proper representation at high level, and it is simply appalling that the government schmoozes up to the big corporates once again, through ignorance or perhaps by design?

If we are really serious about developing a well-equipped and sustainable workforce, conversant with digital construction and ability to design,  do we really think that this can be left to vested interests or do we believe that a more representative voice and presence in the corridors of power is required?

Unlike the CEO of CIOB, I do not “welcome the shift from representation at government level” and whilst continued dialogue is always helpful and must be sustained we need to see a more cohesive and joined up approach across the various sectors of the industry, look what the BIM Task Group and the broader BIM community has achieved in this respect.

Even he recognises that leaders do not have time to ‘waste’ (invest (sic)?) and only ‘hopes’ that this will produce a focused outcome. Yes, we cannot rely purely on Government funding, and we don’t! Something we at BIM4SME are only too acutely aware of having received not a penny  in the 3 years of our existence.

Tony Burton has put this more adroitly in saying that “government has often asked for industry to speak with a single voice but it appears itself now to be working against that objective”, and I am afraid the relaunch of a website(Strategic Forum) will not cure much at all.

If people really need to see how much can be done through the passionate commitment of dedicated professionals and practitioners then I suggest they join one of our planning sessions* or BIMclinics ™, where bare creative ambition and a passion to drive change can be seen and tasted.

Take a look at our end of year report and in our own small way, see what a bunch of focused professionals can do and want to pursue for the genuine benefit of our ailing industry.

*indeed any of the BIM4 special interest groups

On the Edge Commission Report

The likely impact of Paul Morrell’s review of the professions, Collaboration for Change can be debated, however it has to take account of the potential influence exerted by the BIM Community.

Rob Garvey Core Group Member

BIM is proving to be significant catalyst for change. Whilst the BIM Task Group has been financed to promote BIM and has supported the development of a BIM community, when you scratch beneath the surface you find a collection of volunteers that have been brought together with a common purpose. That common purpose is the desire to work together, share good/best practice and encourage others to engage in an exciting and hopefully better way of working. Is this not what spawned the creation of our current institutions?

The BIM community includes the BIM 4 groups and the #UKBIMcrew. The BIM4SME group is focused on supporting SME organisations, from across the industry, to adopt and implement BIM. The BIM4SME group consists of individuals from the broad spectrum of the construction industry including the traditional professional institutions, contracting organisations within the supply chain as well as academia. It is truly pan-industry. Utilising the current technology, the members of the group are able to effectively and economically communicate with each other. Things happen and change is taking place, both within the individuals involved, but also the individuals that engage with the various initiatives.

Taking a step back and reflecting on what the BIM4SME is doing and achieving, it is clear that is aligns with the original aspirations of our current professional organisations. The BIM4SME group is flexible and willing to adopt whatever approach is appropriate to engage any SME organisation willing to engage with BIM. It has developed various materials to share knowledge and has embarked on a collaboration with the RICS to promote BIM for SME’s via the BIM4SMe awards. It is a not for profit, low cost operation that relies on the dedication of the collection of volunteers. It cannot be underestimated the power and value of willing volunteers.

Morrell’s timely review of the professions recognises the pressures for change and it’s appropriate that the institutions realise the dangers of not adapting. Change will be difficult without supporting from the governing institutions, however, it won’t stop it will just be by-passed. The institutions need to collaborate and support the progression of the industry.

What is evident from my involvement within the BIM community and specifically with the BIM4SME group is that it does not recognise the traditional siloed boundaries of the professions. Individuals from the broach spectrum of the built environment have similar aims and want to work together for the better; I would suggest we are seeing change happen and the desired change perceived by the institutions. Paul’s analogy of the Hanseatic League is relevant, “the more efficient competitors less pre-occupied with their own internal struggles” already exist and are forging ahead.

Rob Garvey for BIM4SMEs