Following on from our previous blog posts about the UK BIM Alliance’s ‘Going Digital‘ report, we are now going to take a closer look at Module Four “Formalising the use of Digital Working.”

Most construction projects start off with a decision being made on which procurement path the project will go down – in other words, how will the project buy construction and professional services? There are a few options to choose from including client-led construction management, contractor-led design-build and traditional working.

  • Construction Management – the client, hires all of the suppliers directly and retain both control and risk.
  • Design Build – Contractor leads the team, either from the start of or at some point during the project
  • Traditional – client appoints a professional to deal with the design and project management, and a contractor to deal with the build.

The addition of BIM to construction projects now means that whatever procurement path is chosen; everyone involved in the project needs to understand and be aware of their exact duties, especially when it comes to the digital models. If this isn’t the case, then there may be disputes, poor coordination of the project and other unexpected risks.

The BIM Protocol

The easiest way to define duties and really take advantage of BIM benefits is to use a BIM Protocol. There is a standard form of this available from The Construction Industry Council, which contains the main section defining principles and terms, followed by appendices which carry project-specific details and processes. The client should complete the Protocol and make sure it is incorporated into every agreement they have with their team members.

It is also good practice to appoint an Information Manager to be a source of advice on what the client should ask for. The Information Manager will also probably recommend that a Common Data Environment (CDE) be set up. A CDE is an electronic repository which holds all of the shared information.

Protocol Appendices

The first two appendices of the BIM Protocol are concerned with setting up the plan of work for all parties, which stage of the project information needs to be delivered at and a plan to achieve all of this. It is essential that these appendices are reviewed at every step of the project as the understanding of the project deepens.

The Benefit of using the BIM Protocol

The BIM Protocol is a useful digital tool as it means that everyone involved in the project is clear on their obligations when it comes to the digital model and the intellectual property the model contains. This only works if the Protocol becomes part of the building contract and any subcontracts as well.

This formalisation of the BIM process should, therefore, become an established part of the selection of all contractors for the project, and also their briefing as well. After all, effective project management depends on the explicit allocation of responsibilities and proper planning. Integrating a more digital way of working into construction projects will then work to the client’s advantage moving forward.