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The BIM role for clients: what you need to do

It can be a complex task for clients or asset owners to compose and collate all the BIM requirements on a project. It is essential you get things right at the outset, giving your project the best foundation for a successful BIM outcome. We have crafted this article to help you explore the steps involved.

Last year we published an article discussing the BIM role for contractors and sub-contractors. In that article, we mentioned how the terminology familiar to most has changed with the introduction of new BIM Standards – in particular, ISO 19650-1 and 2. These changes also affect clients and asset owners. For example, the official terminology to describe a ‘client’ or ‘asset owner’ is now ‘appointing party.’

In this article, we will focus on the principles that you need to follow as a client on a BIM project. ISO 19650-1 sets out these principles for your BIM role as a client – or appointing party. If you are familiar with the BIM Level 2 principles included in the old PAS 1192-2, then you’ll be happy to know that they haven’t changed that much.

ISO 19650-1 brings new responsibilities

One of the key differences with the new ISO standard is that it puts more emphasis on your responsibility as a client to provide clearly defined information requirements. This means you are responsible to explicitly define and describe your information requirements, both at organisational and project levels. Your projects will not realise the potential benefits of BIM without this principle in place. Let us not forget that the prime goal of BIM is to bring about efficiencies. And to reach those efficiencies, the first step is for you to set out your information requirements clearly.

Prior to starting work, the next principle a client must comply with is an assessment of capabilities and capacities. Your BIM role as a client is to check that the individual or company you appoint to carry out the works has the required level of competency to do so. You have two main options to do this. The first one is to request bidders to complete prequalification questionnaires (PQQs) based on PAS 91:2013 or use the CPIx BIM Assessment Form. These forms will help you assess the capabilities of the different organisations or individuals. The second option you have is to open the tender only to companies which are certified, albeit this may narrow the field considerably and restrict companies with a proven track record of BIM delivery from tendering for the works. The most common types of BIM Level 2 certifications are given by BRE and Lloyd’s Register.

Get your CDE and security systems in place

Another key principle is the use of a Common Data Environment (CDE). As a client or asset owner, you need to ensure that a Common Data Environment is in place for your company and your projects. Luckily, CDEs will follow the same structure as BS1192:2007. That is, data will go through ‘Work In Progress’ to Shared, to Published, to Archive.

For Stage 2 BIM you are only required to have a Common Data Environment for your own company. However, there is clear potential benefit for you to discuss having a ‘common’ CDE among all stakeholders to the project. This is an important step in moving towards Stage 3 BIM, where more emphasis is placed on real collaboration across different organisations.

A factor that most clients tend to give for granted is the security of the information. One of your major BIM obligations as a client is to ensure your data is secure. One way to know you are implementing the right security systems is to get the Cyber Essentials Certification. This way you can make sure you are securing your internet connection, your software, and the access to your data. It would also be a good idea to check that your bidders have got this certification or a similar one in place.

The EIR and its increasing importance

As we said, ISO 19650-1 places greater responsibility on you as the appointing party. Your BIM role as a client now has a greater focus on solid BIM planning at pre-tender stage. Oftentimes in the past, Exchange Information Requirements (EIR) had become repetitive, superfluous, and not relevant to each specific project. This might have been due to time constraints or to a lack of knowledge or awareness. Now an extra level of responsibility has now been introduced to help avoid EIRs being ‘passed on’ from one project to another. In turn, this will have positive impacts on productivity, efficiency and quality of the data and information produced. Within the EIR you will need to specify the BIM information requirements of your project. These range from the Level Of Information Need to the COBie and other BIM data.

In summary, ISO 19650-1 has introduced new responsibilities that you will need to fulfil as part of your BIM role as a client. Others, however, remain the same as established in the old PAS 1192. We hope this article has helped you better understand the role of appointing party. If we missed anything or you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.

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