Today, we bring you an exclusive case study looking at how Newforma enabled BDP to become the first UK company to meet BIM Level 2 requirements using project information management solutions to achieve critical efficiencies.
The pressure is on in the AEC industry; by April 2016, the Government mandates that all government construction projects must be delivered to BIM Level 2 standard – meaning that companies competing for government contracts will need to employ the fully collaborative project delivery practices described in the BIM Level 2 guidelines.
The latest results from the NBS BIM survey, released in April 2015, show that BIM adoption is faltering with 48% of respondents using BIM, down from 54% in the previous year. Despite 95% of respondents to the survey showing a clear understanding of BIM, nearly two-thirds cite a lack of client demand as the main reason for not adopting this way of working. So, if the client isn’t demanding this then why bother? In fact, BIM has been shown to have extensive benefits for businesses themselves. The NBS research showed that of those firms which have adopted BIM, 59% have seen cost efficiencies, 56% have seen an improvement in client outcomes, 51% an increase in the speed of delivery, and 48% an increase in profitability.
BDP’s journey to BIM Level 2
While some firms are still getting to grips with the benefits of BIM, others have established ways of working which have been vital in helping them meet these standards quickly and successfully. BDP, a major international practice of architects, designers, engineers and urbanists, was the first UK company to achieve BIM Level 2 back in November 2014, putting the firm “at the forefront of the BIM working environment” according to auditing body BRE.
With the BIM Level 2 certification process proving extremely rigorous, early along their BIM journey BDP realized their existing project information management tools and processes could never scale to meet the needs of a BIM-compliant contract. For this reason, they sought an overhaul of their digital tools to ensure the firm was properly set up to meet these standards.
Handling the explosion of information
To realize the full potential of BIM, project teams must collaborate from as early in the process as possible to optimise form, function and construction process. However, collaborative BIM and the increased use of digital technologies means that the volume of information being shared and revised has grown far beyond the traditional information management practices in place. BDP found that on early BIM projects, their quality assurance (QA) and Document Control processes were overwhelmed.
There are a number of other information feeds which contribute to this explosion in information, including in particular the design, review and numerous iterations of 3D models, which produces multiple versions of drawings and specs. With teams required to collaborate and communicate as closely as possible, there is also a boom in email communications and meetings which produce action lists, meeting minutes and infinite other documentation to be stored and managed.
Whilst all this information is important, it risks becoming digital “waste”, as opposed to useful, if it fails to get incorporated into the design and uses up valuable resource as people seek emails, minutes, and other data they need to call up, but aren’t able do this readily. It is commonly assumed that BIM has the potential to eliminate much of the physical waste in a project; this is true, but only effective if this ‘digital waste’ is managed.
In its search for integrated software to manage information for its large, multi-national, multidisciplinary projects, BDP had so far been disappointed. Before deploying Newforma, BDP was reliant on a cloud-based solution, which was separated from their design tool and the ‘work-in-process’ project folders on their network. Other systems the company considered proved cumbersome, lacked integration abilities, or worked in siloes.
Newforma, on the other hand, integrated with existing software and processes, won quick adoption by users, and promoted firm-wide, cross-project integration. It also mitigated the risk of lost or misplaced information, according to Alistair Kell, Information & Technology Director at BDP, who says: “It’s all about risk management. To find detailed information that resolves or diffuses a situation, sometimes when callers are still on the phone, is invaluable.”
Integration is key
The Newforma solution integrates multiple products to manage connected work processes, from organizing PDFs generated from Revit to managing document sets at the desk to viewing those documents on iPads in the field. It removes manual double handling from the process, saving Document Controllers time that they can re-invest in QA and control, allowing the process to keep up with the velocity of BIM.
As well as this, Newforma integrates with email clients to allow team members to easily file project related emails to specific projects. Its Search feature returns matches buried in hundreds of supported file formats on their network file folders, and the Info Exchange feature provides a simple, web-enabled file transfer and sharing function for collaboration with external team members, along with the transparency of an integrated audit trail. Finally, smartphone and iPad apps extend these capabilities to mobile team members, allowing them to access information and perform field functions such as site reporting, snagging and inspections.
Alistair comments on this: “Before Newforma, people were managing projects from their individual email inboxes. Newforma software allows them to keep using email, but provides ways to file it with other project documents or associate it with an action item, RFI, issued drawing revision, or BIM model, and find it again.”
A structured approach to BIM Level 2
BIM Level 2 acknowledges that BIM requires the management of model inputs and outputs. When it came to ensuring that BDP was complying with BIM Level 2 guidelines, the firm took a structured approach. BDP applied a standard set of Newforma Action Items to each project, ensuring individuals complete specific documents as part of the BIM execution plan; helpfully, action items in Newforma carry due dates, assignments and reminders. When completed, these documents can then be accessed by all team members via the Project Handbook BDP developed within the Newforma platform.
The Handbook collated these action items from the BIM execution plan, as well as another set of action items related to the firm’s ISO 9001, 14001 and 27001 QA/QC policies, into a cross-project dashboard view. BDP’s senior executives then used this to manage risk across the business.
The implementation of Newforma software has been deemed a success across the board, and has proven instrumental in helping BDP become the very first company in the UK to achieve BIM Level 2 Certification in 2014 by government auditors. Alistair Kell said: “The structure that Newforma gives us and simple means of accessing information is key to all of our ISO and BIM Level 2 compliance. The flexibility it gives whilst still addressing compliance with rigour makes it more suited than other more rigid systems.”
This achievement will undoubtedly provide BDP with tangible business benefits as the BIM Level 2 mandate goes into effect in 2016. BRE, the organisation which carried out the audit, explained; “Certification under the scheme saves time in tendering processes and puts business like BDP at the forefront of the BIM working environment.”
Aside from the BIM Level 2 certification, BDP has seen numerous other benefits resulting from the Newforma investment, including reduced risk and improved workforce productivity. Alistair said: “Irrespective of the BIM mandate, Newforma has been a solid investment for us. We’ve calculated an annual 4x ROI attributed to our ongoing investment in Newforma.
Technology can unlock the benefits of BIM
The move toward BIM can be daunting for some firms in the AEC sector, particularly those smaller firms with fewer resources; however they only need to acknowledge the results of the NBS BIM survey and the possible benefits it highlighted to realise the potential value of the investment. The research showed that of those firms which have adopted BIM, 59% have seen cost efficiencies, 56% have seen an improvement in client outcomes, 51% an increase in the speed of delivery, and 48% an increase in profitability.
The use of digital tools, as shown in BDP’s case, can make a radical difference in how quickly a firm meets BIM Level 2, and project information management can provide an easy way to manage the vast amount of data that comes out of a BIM project. BDP’s approach to achieving BIM Level 2 provides a solid best practice example that the industry can learn from and follow to meet the April 2016 deadline.