Many AEC industry professionals assume that BIM will evolve into a contractual deliverable with a right of reliance, in much the same way that today's traditional construction documents as drawings and specifications are binding contracts. We often assume that the benefits of relying on BIM as a contractual deliverable will ultimately outweigh the risks, and be worth the effort to change the way design intent and means and methods are dependably communicated.
When we talk about BIM in this way, we're talking about "Big Boy BIM."
That is, BIM for real, not for reference. Truly raising of the bar of expectations about what goes into BIM, and who can use it.
To accomplish this, there are numerous challenges to overcome in our industry today, and equally as many things that must go "just right" for this to happen. So how do we get there?
Last week, I moderated a candid panel discussion, "BIM Won't Work as a Deliverable, Will It?" at the BIMForum in San Diego, CA, where the theme was "Transforming Deliverables." Three accomplished panelists – an architect (Josh Emig, Perkins+Will), a contractor (Ricardo Khan, Mortenson), and a lawyer (Lindsey Pflugrath, Skellenger Bender) – drew from their deep industry expertise in BIM to debate and discuss the barriers and critical success factors for using BIM as a deliverable with right of reliance. That is, we identified what could go wrong and must go right, in order to use BIM as a reliable means of communicating design intent, and construction means and methods. Finally, the panelists suggested strategies to begin taking action on moving forward with BIM as a deliverable with right of reliance.
Moderating a panel with an architect, a contractor, and a lawyer – all with well-informed opinions about BIM as a reliable deliverable.
But just what is meant by BIM as a "Deliverable" with "Right of Reliance?" To begin our panel, we proposed the following working definitions:
A product as a result (vs. milestones) of a process that is…
- Required by the contract (vs. instrument of service),
- ready to dispatch to the site or client, and
- may require submission, approval, or acceptance (vs. project record or artifact)
- Right of Reliance:
A claim to consider information that is…
- Dependable or trustworthy
- Takes precedence over conflicting information elsewhere (vs. for reference only)
Critical Success Factors
The panelists each identified critical success factors (CSFs), or "what must go right," to successfully use BIM as a deliverable with right of reliance. The top ten CSFs they identified included:
- Define purpose. Start with the end in mind, set a goal for right of reliance, and clearly agree on the reason for changing deliverables.
- Pull. A true need and a process that defines and accepts the input.
- Trust. Relying on the quality of information is born out of reliance on the person/source of the information as trustworthy and dependable.
- Agreement. Carefully spell out how a model will be used, who will own it, who will contribute to its development.
- Define targets. Ensure that the deliverables are used as part of the natural downstream workflow that drives fabrication, without the need to recreate a fabrication model.
- Clarity and specificity. To tie information in the BIM to new or existing process.
- Adaptability. People, process, tools, comfort level, expertise must evolve to trump rigid processes
- Internal Quality Controls. Set standards and processes for each firm that will be touching the model.
- Measure. Focus on outcomes of performance, rather than process or activities undertaken.
- Time. Eventually, the standard of care can develop and be widely recognized across the industry.
Of course, they followed up CSFs with barriers, or "what could go wrong" including the primary legal and risk management obstacles. Their top ten barriers are:
- Culture of our AEC Industry.
- Slow development of processes that afford more than referential value for BIMs and ancillary databases.
- Slow adoption/evolution of integrated delivery types (still too much "old way").
- Inability to create opportunities or respond to opportunities when they do arise (Innovator's Dilemma).
- BIM agreement vs. privity. Do you create a BIM agreement on a project through which everyone agrees on how the model will be used, and what intellectual prop rights people will have, etc.? In doing so, you create privity between parties. Is it worth the risk?
- Intellectual property. Who owns the BIM, and when?
- Designer of record. Who is the "designer of record" if multiple entities are changing the design?
- Closeout. Lack of clarity in what the deliverable looks like at project closeout.
- Liability in FM. How far out will liability extend if owner is using model for facilities maintenance?
- Standard of Care. What is the standard of care for BIM, when entities must rely on it?
Finally, the panelists identified the following short-term strategies to control CSFs, overcome barriers, and begin work in your firm right away to ultimately move the industry forward to using BIM as a deliverable with right of reliance. These included:
- Share your vision of the future. Decide that delivering BIM reliably is something your firm wants, and set your strategic plan accordingly.
- Start small. Create Level of Development specifications. Not per design phase, but per design package or bid package (caissons, foundations, steel, etc).
- Quality management. Establish internal model management/quality controls for assuring that models accurately capture information in a way that avoids the pitfalls of excessive documentation and that downstream parties can depend on the information for their own uses.
What do you think? Is your firm ready to embrace the tools, adopt new processes, and change the culture on your project teams to being relying on BIM as a deliverable? What critical success factors, barriers, or strategies would you suggest in addition to the ones listed here?