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Knowledge is power.

This phrase seems purpose built for the subject of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the evolution to Better Information Management (BIM) (supported by Building Information Modelling).

Despite the acronym of BIM being the same, the industry is slowly evolving from the focus of just 3D information models and going deeper – looking at the requirements and delivery of ALL information that is instrumental in designing, constructing, and maintaining assets (both buildings and infrastructure). This will help all stakeholders make better decisions during construction projects but also in the operational phase of assets because they will receive the right information at the right time.

The importance of accurate information throughout the building lifecycle cannot be overstated – and this leads to a necessary transformation in the quality of information and the way information is specified, planned and delivered, right from the project outset.

However, there are certain obstacles to tackle before the sector can fully embrace Better Information Management.

We explore the current issues with Building Information Modelling (BIM) and why it’s necessary to adapt our approach, as well as how the industry is moving forward with Better Information Management (BIM) and the benefits to clients.

First up, what’s wrong with the original process?

 
Designing a better way – the issues with Building Information Modelling

When the UK set off on its ‘BIM journey’ in 2011 there was a clear idea that BIM would evolve over time. This was expressed previously through various ‘BIM levels’ but as the industry began to embrace BIM over time little seemed to be improving for clients.

Much of the early efforts were on producing 3-dimensional models, federating them into a combined model and carrying out clash detection. This certainly started to help identify issues in designs and has reduced the number of issues that make it to site which would have added cost and potentially had impact on programmes. Whilst ultimately some of this will help potentially reduce risk pots on future projects for clients, it really did little for clients in terms of improving the information they received.

Some projects evolved to producing asset data particularly from 2016 when the UK’s ‘BIM Level 2’ mandate came into place requiring projects to produce COBie (Construction-Operations Building information exchange) which produced asset data for handover. Supply chains spent a number of subsequent years getting to grips with this, and even now teams are still learning, but much of this data (even if it is perfect) has sadly still gone to waste. A lot of this is because clients haven’t fully embraced information management across their whole organisation.

Both the previous UK standards and now the ISO 19650 suite of standards place the greatest emphasis on clients driving the process. ISO 19650 definitely goes further in this regard, but the issue is how do we get clients to truly embrace these better ways of working?

Crucial to Better Information Management, rather than just Building Information Modelling, is to think about the information clients traditionally receive. This means thinking about ALL information not just models. In fact, for many clients, models are not currently very important (this may change over time of course). By shifting the mindset from just models to all information we can all better engage and help clients to receive the information they really need to make better decisions.

This doesn’t mean Building Information Modelling is now redundant, quite the opposite, it is still a key vehicle to efficient delivery for delivery teams. However, we need to think about more than this, expanding information requirements to cover everything from Specifications to Stage Reports and Commissioning Certificates to Operations and Maintenance Manuals. By widening the envelope of what BIM includes, we can better as industry engage with clients to understand better what they need now and then look to evolve this over time to become more and more digital over time. By going back, a step or two we should be able to move forward faster.

“Too much information represents wasted effort by the supply chain and too little means clients/owners take uninformed decisions about their projects/assets”. 

UK BIM Framework

 
ISO19650 – Putting the ‘Information’ into BIM 

The British Standards and Publicly Available Specifications developed between 2011 and 2018 as part of ‘BIM Level 2’ have evolved into an international suite of standards known as the ISO 19650 suite of standards. The suite currently incorporates five key parts: concepts and principles, delivery phase of assets, operational phase of assets, information exchange and a security-minded approach to information management.

The UK BIM Framework superseded ‘BIM Level 2’ in October 2019 to incorporate these international standards along with specific UK requirements that have also further evolved since the original standards were published. The UK BIM Framework promotes and supports these standards but also publishes freely available guidance to support the implementation of BIM. Additional resources such as Information Protocol Templates have also been published to support both the delivery and operational phases of assets.

Alongside the ISO 19650 suite of standards other complimentary standards such as BS EN 17412-1:2020 (Level of Information Need – Concepts and Principles) and BS 8644-1:2022 have been published to support the delivery of robust, reliable and reusable digital information.

All of these standards have one thing in common though – they are fundamentally about ALL information not just models.

 
The right information at the right time – Benefits of Better Information Management

80% of the cost of a building is in the operational phase of a building. There is little can be done significantly to reduce this cost once a building has been constructed. However, by focussing efforts even before a design has commenced, significant decisions can be made that can help reduce the operational costs once the asset has been handed over.

A key part of thinking about costs of operations and maintenance is to understand what information is needed to manage the building over its whole lifecycle. The information that helps with this management starts in the design and construction phases. Clients therefore need to spend time thinking and documenting the information they will need to operate and maintain their buildings once the contractor hands them the keys and all the information to help manage the building for the rest of its life. Under ISO 19650 this process is referred to as ‘assessment and need’ and forms a crucial part of making sure that the information that is required is fully considered and documented. The process then leads to the production of robust Exchange Information Requirements supported by a series of other supporting documents (referred to as resources in ISO 19650).

By setting out information requirements right from the start organisations have a better chance of receiving the information they want at the right times. This also ensures that:

To transition from conventional BIM to a more efficient Better Information Management, it requires everyone to play a part. 

The implementation of standards, processes and technology will help improve the implementation of Better Information Management. But without people it will fail. Everyone has a part to play in delivering and improving information management across a building’s lifecycle. Some of our best projects have one thing in common, the people. It is crucial to get everyone on the same page whether it is the client team or delivery teams. By all collaborating in the same vein of improving the quality of information across a project, everyone can benefit.

We also need information requirements to be more structured. Writing lots of words about why information is needed is nice to understand the background but crucially and more importantly the list of information that is required has to be explicit. Asking delivery teams to conform to standards is all well and good but if there are no actual detailed information requirements listed to support this then the client is unlikely to receive the information they hoped for. We need to move away from how we have previously documented the requirements for BIM and think about how we help clients get exactly the information they need.

Again, this approach needs people to help progression but over time we can move to a world where information is specified in both a machine and human readable manner to ensure clients get EXACTLY what they are asked for and reduce the costs of their assets.

Want more questions answered surrounding BIM and Better Information Management? Keep your eyes peeled for our impending eBook, which answers all your questions on implementing information management within your organisation.

 

Terms and conditions

All content provided on this Knowledge Hub is for informational purposes only. The owner of this Knowledge Hub makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. Bond Bryan Digital Ltd will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. Bond Bryan Digital Ltd will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. 

We are happy for others to share our Knowledge Hub pieces through all social media platforms. You may include links to the original blog pieces and use part of the Knowledge Hub to then provide a link to the original content. However we would appreciate it if the content is not reproduced in full on other sites or publications without written consent being granted by Bond Bryan Digital Ltd.

This policy is subject to change at any time.

Earlier this month, Bond Bryan Digital’s Associate Director and Head of R&D, Emma Hooper, won the Digital Champion of the Year at the Digital Construction Awards. The month before, she was published in AEC Magazine’s Special Report on IFC (Industry Foundation Classes), and shared her insights on the future of IFC at NXTBLD 22.  This isn’t everything, Emma also won Highly Commended under the Customer Champion category at the BuildData Team Awards. 

Emma is going from strength to strength in her career, clocking up numerous achievements under her wing and establishing herself as a true pioneer for digital transformation in the construction industry.

Here at Bond Bryan Digital, we’re incredibly proud of Emma’s achievements and her commitment to shaping the future of this industry. So this week we caught up with Emma on her journey so far and what she’s got in store next.

information_management_emma_hooper

 

How did you get to your current position at Bond Bryan Digital [BBD]?

In a previous role as an architectural technician, I started to get involved in information management. I reached a point where I had to decide which path to take. To keep with design or move into the realm of information. I started reading about information theory, and after this I had so many ideas, I realised this was the route I wanted to go down.

Around the same time, I had started to chat with Rob Jackson about the work I had done around IFC and Revit and eventually Rob offered me a job. I’ve been at BBD nearly five years now and have had such a varied exposure with regards to information management – from the point of view of contractors, clients, organisations, industry and Government initiatives to R&D projects. Every day is different, and I love it.

 

What attracted you to digital construction?

Digital construction didn’t exist when I started thinking about my career. After completing part 1 of my architectural studies at University and realising it wasn’t for me, I ironically hated computers and wanted to hand draw everything! I started working at a betting shop and during 18 months which felt like groundhog day, I became more determined to succeed. If I wanted a job I really enjoyed I had to dig deep and learn how to draw on a computer. So I bought ‘AutoCAD for dummies’ and saved up to do an AutoCAD evening class. From that moment I became hooked with technology and I discovered I had a knack for using software – I just wanted to learn more. I managed to get a job in the design department at a tier 2 shopfitting contractors and quickly became ‘that person’ which everyone asks questions to. There I was also introduced to MicroStation and later Revit, the latter pretty much changed my life, I genuinely fell in love with a piece of software.

A large part of my career has been dealing with solving day to day interoperability issues with software, whether that was between AutoCAD and MicroStation or later Revit and what seemed everything else!  From this I started to gain an understanding of the role that consistent information played in solving these problems and that’s why I moved to focussing on information as a subject and also the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) schema. After witnessing the sheer chaos of information on projects I have been determined to help sort it out. My experiences at the coal-face have very much shaped my current role.

 

What are you most proud of in your career?

It’s difficult to name just one thing as I have been fortunate to be involved in so many.

Firstly, solving the IFC, COBie and Revit puzzle, because I had come up with a workflow to genuinely help the industry, so people didn’t have to go through the pain I had to. But also having the opportunity to educate people on what good looks like and how to achieve it.

Secondly, working on the first ‘Integrated Project Insurance’ project and being part of the original team, I learned so much from that project and the fact you were allowed to be innovative unlocked something in my brain. The first EIR and BEP I had written was commended by BSRIA, even now it’s ahead of its time in some respects. I achieved everything I wanted from modelling, so I knew after that it was time to move on to pursue information management and where I first had the idea for an information management database.

Also, being accepted onto the BSI standards committee, the AEC magazine IFC special, winning best presentation and the Rob Jackson OpenBIM award at BIM show Live 2020 and of course the Digital Construction Champion of the Year award at the Digital Construction Awards are other things I’m really proud of.

information_management_emma_hooper

 

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Whenever I’ve had challenges I always try to find ways around them. Early on in my career and working for SMEs with minimal training budgets, I would take annual leave and pay to attend events myself, or I would go online and read books to teach myself.

I suppose the biggest challenge for me is my confidence. From social media people may think I’m a very confident person but that’s not the case. I’m actually a quiet person and prefer to knuckle down and get absorbed into my work.

Especially in the early days at events, I would sometimes feel so overwhelmed and out of my comfort zone. It was exhausting but I loved what I was doing so much I was prepared to keep going. This came to a head when I was selected to present at DCW 2016. I had a presentation which was completely different and so I wanted people to hear it. I prepared for that presentation months before like my life depended on it and since then I’ve grown to love presenting and have done it countless times. My confidence has increased hugely over the last few years. I still have a way to go but I will always stick up for something I believe is right!

information_management_emma_hooper

What inspires you for the work you do?

I really want to help change the construction industry for the better. It’s as simple as that. I see so much good in it, so many great people and ideas for improving every aspect. If I can help to join the dots to help improve productivity and reduce information chaos to help assets be operated more effectively then I’ve done what I set out to do. It’s great to get messages from people who have read pieces I have written or watched my videos saying thank you and that they have really helped them in their day jobs.

 

What are you hoping to achieve in the next 5 years?

Currently, my main goal is to educate people about the role of information and data within construction. I think there is going to be huge problems with interoperability in the future because people do not understand the overall information management picture and as a result data models will be popping up all over the place, which don’t talk to each other. We’ve seen now and in the past how much difficulty we have with interoperability between software, hundreds of data models will be impossible to rectify.

I think bringing a more information-science slant to information management will be key to joining-up the standards and really understanding our information to remove the fragmentedness and complexities which exists. The data standards are growing daily, and this is something I want to try and join-up. We are also using relatively primitive methods to deal with complex faceted information. Unless we address this we won’t be able to move on to things like digital twins and machine learning. I presented at NXT BLD about knowledge graphs and the role they will have to play in the future, I would love to pursue this much more.

Now that Bond Bryan Digital is part of the BuildData group I’m hugely excited by the opportunities this presents to shaping the future of the construction industry.

It is now over 10 years since the UK government announced their intention for projects to reach ‘BIM Level 2’ maturity from 2016 onwards. Since then, the UK has moved on from ‘BIM Level 2’ to develop a current approach around the UK BIM Framework. The UK’s journey has evolved from a sole focus around building information models (BIM) to one that now encompasses thinking around all the exchange information requirements, not just the model deliverables.

UK_BIM_FrameworkImage: UK BIM Framework

 

In the early days much of the approach to BIM was led by vendors, consultants, and contractors. However, through the various iterations of the standards the onus has always been on the client to determine the information they need from both capital delivery projects and during the operational phase of assets. Now in 2022, the drive and direction are being very much driven by more informed clients.

Certainly, over the last 5 years the quality of the documentation (or resources as they are referred to under ISO19650) being produced by clients has often been of low quality. Most of these resources have been written by consultants with limited understanding of the client organisation and very focussed on models. However, consultants are not entirely at fault, as often clients are not aware of the investment required to get real value from what they are specifying and asking their consultants to document.

Many clients who produced these resources previously have seen little in the way of change and improvement in their organisations and most of the efforts of the supply chain have largely been wasted in terms of useful outputs provided to clients. That said supply chains understand far better now how to deliver the information to clients, and technology has slowly improved to help the production side. In some ways the steps that have been taken so far were necessary to get us to where we are today.

Now in 2022 we are seeing those clients who have been on their BIM journey for some time, take stock of what they are asking for and many are beginning to review and analyse the resources they have produced previously. Many of these clients are realising they need to go back to a blank sheet of paper (or at least the digital version!) and review everything they are asking for. In developing updated resources, clients are realising that whilst employing consultants is still often necessary, they themselves need to be far more engaged in the process. Clients are also realising that information requirements need to be produced in advance of capital projects coming online and that it is necessary to spend time finessing these requirements.

2022 represents an opportunity for clients to take stock and set out exchange information requirements that are aligned to current processes and standards and that will deliver robust information that will truly be of benefit to them.

When writing exchange information requirements it is important for clients to consider the future. Most information requirements historically have been produced using traditional technology, mostly Microsoft Word and Excel. These are then often provided to consultants and contractors in PDF and XLSX formats. Whilst this is adequate for communicating requirements, it does not make the most of technology solutions to improve the robustness of these requirements and to ultimately support more automated workflows.

Requirements for information are often extensive and complex, and the need for technology to help set out information requirements is becoming more and more critical. To do this, clients need to consider the use of cloud-based databases to get the most from their requirements. The use of databases is critical to removing errors and ambiguities in information requirements and for providing a greater connection between the requirements and project delivery. Of course, databases are also necessary in the delivery of information, but as both clients and delivery teams adopt these technology solutions over traditional methods, we all have a greater ability to improve the quality of the information being shared and produced.

Exchange Information Requirements (EIR)
Image: Example database of Exchange Information Requirements
 

Understandably, some organisations are not quite ready to invest in a database approach. However, at Bond Bryan Digital, we have been helping clients adjust their approach so that the information requirements are at least ‘database ready’. This process provides a pathway to developing a smarter approach in the near future when these organisations are ready to take the next step in their digital journey.

The use of databases will no doubt increase over the next few years. Databases will ultimately help more automation and potentially reduce the number of manual interventions required during the delivery phases. Using databases will help provide greater standardisation and help reduce the amount of manual intervention. To make the most of these databases, clients need people who understand the current standards, how to use and configure these databases and work collaboratively with them to document their exchange information requirements through stakeholder engagement.

It is essential for people developing the information requirements to have a combination of knowledge of current processes and standards, people skills and technology. There is currently a shortage of individuals that have a balance of these skills and the biggest challenge now for the industry is to find enough people to perform this role otherwise clients’ risk being held back in their digital journeys. Without these people, the industry will take another 10 years to access the true benefits of better information management (BIM).

Rob Jackson, Director, Bond Bryan Digital

Terms and conditions

All content provided on this Knowledge Hub is for informational purposes only. The owner of this Knowledge Hub makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. Bond Bryan Digital Ltd will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. Bond Bryan Digital Ltd will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. 

We are happy for others to share our Knowledge Hub pieces through all social media platforms. You may include links to the original blog pieces and use part of the Knowledge Hub to then provide a link to the original content. However we would appreciate it if the content is not reproduced in full on other sites or publications without written consent being granted by Bond Bryan Digital Ltd.

This policy is subject to change at any time.