One of the new opportunities that Building Information Modelling (BIM) offers the construction industry is taking on the role of “BIM information manager”. As part of their institutional BIM protocol drafting, a number of professional bodies (including, we understand, the Construction Industry Council, whose protocol is expected soon) have begun to develop the role.
In-house BIM teams in major contractors are also developing protocols and, as part of that process, have been fleshing out standard job descriptions for the BIM information manager.
But what is that role and why is it central to the effective implementation of BIM?
The buck stops here?
In a nutshell, being a BIM information manager is all about managing the successful implementation of BIM. After all, information and the ability to exploit it is the central value proposition of BIM. Modelling on a typical (BIM level 2) project might encompass separate discipline-specific models feeding into a central reference model. As a collation of individually authored models, the central reference model provides the basis on which the value-enhancing BIM-based analysis is carried out.
When multiple models are brought together in a common reference model, the construction team or building owner can apply additional applications, giving cost analysis, programming or thermal efficiency data. Accuracy is vital. For example, cost analysis may be meaningless without accurate data. However, accuracy is not limited to the data but also applies to the process adopted for its input, to using a consistent level of detail and knowing the purpose that the data is designed to serve (now and in future).
So, as far as the integrity of the modelling process is concerned, the BIM information manager has a critical role to play, and it is easy to argue that the buck should stop with him.
A policing role
The BIM information manager should prepare and manage the “information plan”. An information plan applies to all project participants and will define key project base-lines including:
- The level of detail to which individually-authored models are to be developed.
- Model and file naming conventions and software compatibility requirements.
- Model access rights.
A key priority is ensuring information transfer from one phase of a facility’s life-cycle to the next. For example, from construction to as-built or as-built to post-occupancy management. This must be achievable without extensive manual re-input of data. This way, data used in subsequent stages retain their integrity and the model retains value throughout the facility lifecycle.
Because the role of the BIM information manager extends through the project lifecycle, it is likely to change hands: for example, from the construction stage to long-term asset management. The role can be undertaken by a range of professional disciplines, so there is likely to be competition in the market as particular disciplines seek to convince the industry of their suitability.
Avoiding design creep
One potential risk is that the role of policing the quality of information could creep into design co-ordination territory, with design risk of the sort assumed by a lead designer. Those developing the BIM information manager role have tried to distinguish it from a design co-ordination role. The role of design co-ordination should remain with the party to whom that role has been allocated.
I think it will be interesting to see how the service specifications (scopes of services) for a BIM information manager will develop across the industry. Given the stress that is being put on distinguishing the role from that of a design co-ordinator, existing designers should ensure that their role specification clearly distinguishes the information manager role from wider design duties.
Clearly, being a BIM information manager could bring new business and revenue opportunities. However, being the gate-keeper of the BIM modelling process also means that clients will hold the BIM information manager to account for any loss in value of the model caused by poor-quality or badly organised information input. Despite such potential liabilities, in the current economic climate, many design consultancies and other players are actively pursuing market share as BIM is rolled out more widely.