BIM in Construction Public Procurement

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David O’Brien, Senior Advisor to the Construction Procurement Policy Unit in the Office of Government Procurement (OGP), spoke about the BIM Public Sector Strategy and the enthusiasm for BIM in the Irish public sector at the first CitA Smarter Cooperative Building Series event of the year: ‘A Public Sector BIM Adoption Strategy Update’.

On 15 March a statement of intent on the adoption of BIM across the public capital programme was published on the Construction Procurement Reform website inviting responses from industry in advance of preparing a strategy which will be put to Government for adoption. Irish building magazine spoke to David about BIM in Construction Public Procurement.

David, can you please tell us about the public projects BIM has been and is being used on and the advantages it has given?

We are too early in the stages of project development to give any great perspective from our experience on public works projects but there are positive indicators. The recently completed Greenway Hub in Grangegorman is one project that has been completed using BIM. The National Development Finance Agency has included a BIM requirement on their PPP projects for 3 years or more and a number of projects have been completed under this programme. They have reported a very positive outcome but it is important to note that companies who undertake PPP projects have a long-term interest in the operation and management of the project on completion and so were very quick to appreciate the value that BIM represents.

What organisations and individuals are influencing the OGP with regards BIM?

CitA has been active in this space for many years now. Representatives from CitA addressed the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC) in May 2012 where they set out in very clear terms the benefits that BIM could offer. At that stage, a number of the GCCC member bodies were trialling BIM processes.

The establishment of the National BIM Council (NBC) has prompted us to take the step to recommend an adoption strategy to Government. It has helped to focus the debate through its representation and we believe it can develop the support structure necessary to manage an orderly transition to BIM over the period of the strategy.

You attended the 2015 CitA BIM Gathering and you spoke at CitA’s February meeting. What do you think of the BIM work, knowledge and skills of Irish contractors and consultants?

We are aware that the larger main contractors and consultancies are BIM proficient. These companies are using BIM on projects abroad extensively and there is a growing appetite and use of BIM here in Ireland. Where we see a challenge is in getting small enterprises up to speed with BIM. The disruption it can cause in the short term can have a disproportionately higher impact on small businesses. The recovery in the sector is also a worry because, outside of the urban centres, the recovery is very patchy.

We have launched a public consultation last week which includes a statement of intent and an indicative timeline. We want to use this process in association with industry to identify the state of readiness and temper our approach accordingly so that businesses are not left behind.

Can you tell us about the research the OGP has done on BIM?

It is important to set out the policy context where BIM is concerned which started with Construction 2020 and a focus on the internationalisation of construction services. The 2017 Action Plan for Jobs has been specific in setting up a requirement for a BIM adoption strategy across the public capital programme. At an EU level, the Commission has established a BIM Task Group to facilitate and coordinate the adoption of BIM.

We are guided by our member organisations on the GCCC who have already adopted BIM and are exploring BIM in much greater detail. The rationale for the introduction of BIM is compelling from our perspective.

BIM represents a really useful tool to deliver Government’s construction procurement policy and fits well with the public works contracts because it provides an assurance, once the information requirements are met, that a project is well defined.

The GCCC and OGP’s main focus will be to integrate BIM requirements into the Capital Works Management Framework.

Has the OGP looked at how BIM is being used in the UK and the way the BIM mandate was introduced?

The UK Government’s BIM mandate was a key element in the drive to reduce waste in their construction strategy. The scale of their infrastructure procurement and the application of BIM to the large, central government projects would not work here where projects tend to be a good deal smaller. We will be taking a more measured approach in recognition of the scale of the projects we typically procure. As part of the consultation process, we are looking for a structured response to key questions, and this will inform our strategy which will be graded to suit what the market can deliver.

We are working with public sector colleagues to establish an oversight group who have the technical expertise to contribute to the templates and documentation that will be required. Obviously, a huge amount of work has already been undertaken in the UK and this will be considered as we develop our approach. The fact that so many aspects of the challenge were carefully considered prior to the adoption in the UK allied with the learnings from completed projects means that it is impossible to ignore this rich resource.

What departments are interested in the use of BIM and what it can deliver?

It varies across the public sector – those with larger projects and programmes have been early adopters. The National Children’s Hospital, and the big health projects have had BIM requirements for a number of years. The National Development Finance Agency has mandated BIM on their PPP programme. The Department of Education and Skills and the Office of Public Works have invested in the technology and are applying it to many of their projects internally. Transport Infrastructure Ireland is looking to adopt BIM on some of their projects. The local authorities are building their BIM capacity with Dublin City Council pushing it on their bigger projects. There is a broad interest across the public sector.

What does the OGP think of BIM and what it can offer the public?

We have 3 objectives: cost certainty on award, timely delivery and value for money. All of these are difficult and challenging on construction projects, as I know your readers will be aware. BIM can help a public body achieve all three and, for this reason, it cannot be ignored. We get structured information with BIM, the project itself is well defined, risk is confronted allowing it to be managed through the design and construction stage, where it cannot be eliminated. It has the capability to deliver better infrastructure, and eliminate wasteful processes. It improves how we go about procuring buildings entirely. As we adopt BIM it may also open up opportunities for its adoption in Building Control and perhaps even the Planning process.

What is the OGP planning to do about integrating BIM into public works contracts?

There are minor changes initially. We are currently looking at the UK Construction Industry Council’s protocol to map this to our own requirements. The outputs and the structure of information are important. We will focus on the employer designed approach initially as this is how the majority of our projects are procured. I don’t see a huge amount of change in the output or manner in which projects are tendered – drawings, specifications and bills of quantities will continue to be the primary outputs for tender initially. We have a group working on the implications for existing documents and templates and setting out recommendations where changes are necessary.

What are the challenges in introducing BIM into procurement and contracts in Ireland?

I think it will improve procurement once it is established, but it will require a culture change in the industry to get there. We don’t want to see anybody left behind, and so the purpose of the consultation process is to give people sufficient information and time so they can adapt to the change.

Will there be a BIM mandate for Ireland?

Our approach will be quite different to that taken in the UK with a more detailed adoption timeline taking into account the scale of projects that are procured in Ireland and the capacity of the industry to adapt to BIM. This technology can deliver, our focus is on managing the pace at which it is adopted to allow businesses time to invest in the resources necessary.

Can you tell us about the role of the OGP on the National BIM Council, the NBC BIM Roadmap and how it will influence public procurement?

The NBC has been a great initiative. We were asked to participate by Enterprise Ireland and we were happy to do. The NBC includes participants from across the public and private sectors as well as academia. It is not, of itself, a policy forum but it has the capacity to support the adoption of BIM across the industry. It offers the possibility to understand the differing agendas and to consider the opportunities to align, to the greatest extent possible, the approach across public and private sector clients.

What will the criteria be for applying BIM on projects, for examples, value, complexity and size? 

We have steered away from project size and instead have focused on two criteria; construction complexity and operation and maintenance requirements. The complex projects come first, then the smaller projects, but no project is escaping structured information requirements.

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