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The BIM role for designers: what you need to do

As a designer on BIM projects, do you know exactly what your BIM role entails? We know it can be daunting to keep up with the latest BIM standards and responsibilities. But don’t panic! We have crafted this article to help you understand your BIM role and what you need to do to be compliant. Ready? Let’s dive into it!

We discussed in previous articles the BIM role for contractors and the BIM role for clients. Now, it’s time to explore the BIM role for designers, as they also play a critical role in the development of construction & engineering projects. In fact, designers are responsible for transforming the clients’ ideas into tangible assets that are buildable. Getting the design right from the beginning is paramount for every project. This helps to ensure the solution provided is cost-effective, sustainable, safe and has benefits for society.

Most of your BIM responsibilities as a designer are defined in the latest BIM standards, particularly the ISO 19650 series, and the UK BIM Framework. First, it is essential that you adhere to the core steps as set out in ISO 19650-1: Concepts and principles. Let us discuss them in more detail below.

Principle 1: your BIM role as a designer and author

As a designer, you will be producing information, such as plans and COBie, thus becoming an author. It is paramount that such information is clear, complete, consistent, coordinated, and correct. This principle aims to empower authors and, in the case of designers, encourages them to take ownership of their designs. Far too often, designers rely on the quality control procedures of their organisation for someone else to pick up their mistakes. Your BIM role as a designer asks you to ensure that your designs are correct from the beginning.

Principle 2: provision of clearly defined information requirements

It is the appointing party’s responsibility, and not yours as a designer, to provide you with the information requirements. However, your BIM role as a designer requires you to ensure that the client has provided the information you need. Additionally, you are responsible to ensure adherence to those requirements.

Principle 3: assessment of capabilities

The appointing party must assess your capabilities and capacities prior to starting work. This generally happens at an organisational level rather than individual. Having said that, it is your responsibility as a designer to collaborate in the production of these BIM capability assessments. It is crucial that you respond to the questionnaires honestly.

Principle 4: Common Data Environment

One of the key aspects of your BIM role as a designer is that you use a Common Data Environment. The CDE’s requirements prescribed in ISO 19650 series are very similar to those in BS1192. For example, the information workflow should include the following steps: Work In Progress (WIP), shared and archive. However, the ISO 19650 series includes new requirements that you will need to comply with as a designer. For example, ISO 19650-2 includes a new National Annex. One of your responsibilities as a BIM designer is to ensure that the metadata you create includes a classification. Generally, in the UK, the most common classification used is Uniclass 2015, as stated in the National Annex.

Principle 5: use of technology compliant with ISO 19650

Your BIM role as a designer also requires you to use appropriate technology. This includes the necessary tools and software to enable you to follow BIM processes and procedures. For example, you should be using BIM software that allows you to undertake coordinated designs. Examples of these BIM software packages could be Revit, Navisworks, Civil 3D and ReCap.

Principle 6: your BIM role as designer for information security

It is easy to forget about this last yet important principle, especially when you are under pressure to deliver your BIM projects. It is, however, crucial that you pay sufficient attention to information security. BIM is all about collaboration, coordination and sharing of information. But one needs to be careful when sharing information, particularly project data. Usually, this information is confidential, as it contains material that can put clients and stakeholders at risk. Although in many cases the threat may not have catastrophic consequences, there may be instances where it does.

Imagine you are working in the design of an underground gas pipeline. You decide to share a snapshot of the location of the main control chamber with a colleague. Your work email is not working that morning, so you decide to share it over your personal email account, which is not encrypted. A few days after, your image somehow ends up on Google images. Suddenly, the location of the main control chamber has become publicly available, opening the possibilities for potential terrorist attacks.

The above example is of course somewhat of an extreme case of a real-life scenario. Your BIM role as a designer requires you to ensure that you keep information safe in your system and that you share it with others in a secure manner. A good way to ensure you have your internet security basics in place is to get the Cyber Essentials Certification. Remember: you never know who may be looking for the information that you have, so you need to take precautions to minimise risks.

Do you follow all the above principles as part of your BIM role as a designer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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