Fast Food French FriesMany client groups as they gradually become aware of the new buzzwords floating around in the industry are starting to add requirements for BIM to their design briefs. Unfortunately by not having a full understanding of the nature of BIM and how it differs from a single software offering many of them are specifying themselves and their consultants into a corner.

One of the key changes that is creeping into client-consultant agreements and project design briefs are phrases such as; “…[Client] will be issuing all drawings in Revit format and the consultant shall provide all drawings for the project in Revit format, including as built documentation.”

It is clear from the way these clauses are included in the agreements and design briefs that the authors are not familiar with the requirements of what they are asking for. Revit is a software package developed by Autodesk and uses a proprietary file format that is not available to any other software provider or consultant in the industry. Revit files also, by their very nature, contain significant consultant IP in terms of scripting, templates and custom built family objects and it is inappropriate for consultants to be expected to hand over this consultant owned intellectual property to other parties.

To draw a parallel it would be akin to asking a courier to pick up a package and bring it to your office, but insisting that he must drive a Ferrari F30 and when he gets to your office he must give you the car as well as the package and you’re only going to pay him for the courier service!

It is also important to note that there is no criteria given for what level of detail and information the Revit format [sic] model must contain. It is possible to provide a Revit format file (if you are one of the offices that use that particular brand of software) that contains only 2D drawings laid on top of each other. This is a particularly wasteful use of the technology and the consultant’s time but it would fulfil the requirements of brief as it is currently written. We would assume however that is not what is intended from the request to provide the client with Revit format [sic] files of their buildings.

If clients are looking to a particular use for Building Information Models (such a BIM based Facility Management) then the requirements of their system in terms of level of detail, level of object information and discipline segregation need to be identified by the brief and understood by all members of the consultant team from the inception of the project. It is very difficult and time consuming to retrospectively tailor a BIM to these criteria once the modelling is substantially progressed.

If on the other hand a client is interested in leveraging the benefits of having their consultant team work in a collaborative approach utilising BIM techniques rather than just producing BIM as a product of the process, then the requirements of how the team members should undertake the commission should be agreed across the entire team before work commences.

As a professional service oriented practice we produce all of our documentation using industry best practice BIM techniques because we believe it provides our clients with a higher level of certainty and quality in the documentation and delivery of our projects. While the original models used in the provision of our services are the intellectual property of POWE Architects we are excited to be able to offer our clients, contractors and fellow consultants the ability to work with us utilising third party information exchange technologies and formats such as those developed by industry groups like BuildingSMART. This is why we are supporting the exchange of BIM data through IFC files as they contain various (controllable) levels of object information without exposing our intellectual property to exploitation.

As client groups become more and more interested in moving towards engaging with their projects and consultants using BIM techniques they need to carefully consider how BIM can assist them before universally mandating the adoption. A well drafted BIM adoption plan will enable client groups to properly structure not only how they approach projects but will enable their consultants to work with them in developing better approaches to project delivery. A closed-mind mandating of single software products without due consideration of what is actually being asked for will only lead to poor outcomes and reduced collaboration during the design and documentation process.

Insight by Matthew Johnson – Associate Director POWE Architects
Originally published as the other 23 on Blogspot
Read more about Matthew

Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of POWE Architects.