INFOCUS – October 2009

In this issue:  Project-Level BIMM

bimM: A practical look at Building Information Model Management

In last month’s INFOCUS, we began to explore the concept of BIM Management. We looked at the different roles that are being created as BIM develops throughout the industry. Acknowledging the need for clarity in a changing environment, we identified three primary levels of BIM Management, abbreviated as BIMM.

  1. Project level
  2. Office level
  3. Organizational level

In this month’s edition, we dig deeper into the role of the Project-Level BIM Manager.

Project-Level BIMM

There are fundamentally two grades of Project-Level BIM Managers. Each is typically charged with looking after project model(s). In some firms these people may be referred to as ‘Model Managers’.

The extent of this responsibility is what distinguishes the two grades, and it is determined by whether they are supporting a single or multi-discipline (and multi-party) design team and/or workflow. Which one will depend on the ability or experience of the individual, and of the party they represent. Where the level of BIM adoption is limited, it is likely that the Project-Level BIM Manager may support only a single A/E/C discipline. Typically, this is the case during the early stages of implementation of BIM technology and workflows, as teams first learn to employ BIM within a narrower scope. To embrace a new process is achieved more easily while in the ‘safe’ confines of one’s ‘silo’. We’ve had decades of ‘silo-induced’ work practices, but we shall see greater levels of collaboration and integration as BIM use matures.

In the case of a more ‘BIM-mature’ organization, the Project-Level BIM Manager may have a far broader set of responsibilities. This responsibility may require the individual to possess and demonstrate more extensive knowledge (of construction, project workflows, the different needs of the design team, etc.), experience and potentially a better set of personal characteristics and skills.

Whether in a single- or multi- discipline focused role, the Project-Level BIM Manager should:

  • Play a key part in leading the BIM project planning process. This will require dialogue with the client and/or other design team members to assist in identifying key project objectives, as these may shape the project delivery method employed. The objectives will also influence the model’s performance criteria, which may vary at different stages during its assembly. It is imperative that the Project-Level BIM Manager should have a sound understanding of BIM and what benefits it can help to deliver.
  • Possess the ability to communicate effectively to a range of people. This may determine which individuals are selected for this part of the role. Sometimes the more ‘technically savvy’ people don’t always have great communication skills, so this should be considered before appointing the most accomplished ‘nerd’ to this role. This may provide incentive either for technically savvy people to improve their communication skills, or for those with communication skills (notionally, but not always management types) to become more technically savvy.
  • Be intuitive about what will stimulate others to be involved – particularly when trying to effect change. Most people won’t change until they see it is in their own rational self-interest to do so. If the BIM Manager can effectively communicate or demonstrate this to a range of personality and role types, he/she will be much more effective in the workplace.
  • Be capable of recognizing opportunities for what may constitute additional value for the client of a BIM-delivered project. The more they understand about the client’s business, the better they’ll be able to recognise opportunities. Any idea that will benefit the project, and in turn benefit the client, is a candidate. Being able to develop a practical strategy to achieve these things is also a valuable skill, as it is sometimes wise to stage the implementation of new processes and to ensure that the objectives are achievable. Being overly ambitious can lead to exposure to increased risk, and/or failure to deliver. It this sense, it can be counter-productive.
  • Establish and employ the project’s Model Coordination Plan (also known as the BIM Protocol or BIM Project Guide). This must articulate the model’s performance requirements and define how they will be achieved. This may vary per project phase or milestone. The document should define who is responsible for achieving what, and by when. It is important that this document remains a live document, open for continual improvement. For the life of the project and beyond, it must also be developed sufficiently to allow time for contributing parties to meet their obligations at each milestone. This means that much of it is required prior to project commencement. In practice, this document (or parts thereof) may already be developed as an organization-standard, serving as a template of sorts for all future projects. It may be adapted to suit individual project needs. Among those things that should be determined within the Model Coordination plan are:
    • Model composition, as it relates to:
      • Model purpose (design intent vs. estimation, construction or fabrication Information) and/or key objectives
      • Document packages & project phasing
      • Worksharing methodology (workset assignment, naming, user access)
      • File linking methodology (file assembly/division, coordinate systems, insertion method)
      • Project Levels
      • Site extents and relationship between site and model
      • Designation of building systems (Core, Facade, Interiors etc.)
      • Coordinate Systems (Survey Datum, Project Origin)
      • Use of Groups vs. Links
    • Project Data Management – i.e. consideration of what level of information will be appropriate and how it can be achieved, using:
      • Schedules
      • Database connectivity (import/export)
      • Keynoting
      • Model geometry (level of detail appropriate – what to model, and what to draft)
      • Particularly when working within a multiple-discipline design team, the extent of information required from each party and when needs to be articulated. One helpful guide to establishing this is the BIM Protocol document ‘E202-2008’, published by the American Institute of Architects. It aids in establishing ‘Levels of Development’ (LODs) of the model and its components, identifies which party is responsible for creating what, and what level of control or responsibility they are to have with respect to it. It should also cite any special considerations applicable, and provide comments to assist.
    • Project Standards
      • These are sometimes aligned with organization BIM standards, but due to the increased collaboration with other parties, these may vary from one project to another. The extent to which these vary between organization and project should be considered carefully. Not everything must be changed from the organization-level standards to achieve effective collaboration between design team members.
      • Nomenclature for:
        • Materials
        • Parameters (especially Shared Parameters)
        • Views
        • Sheets
        • Content Libraries and library items (including both System and External Families)
        • Project Files (Local and Central files)
      • Modelling techniques (e.g. under-floor beams to be modelled as beams and not as floors)
      • Documentation techniques (e.g. the use of keynotes or tags rather than text notes)
      • Content creation
        • This may include ensuring that any firm-standard customised family templates are used for component creation, and that the amount of content originating from sources other than the agreed location(s) is minimised or eliminated
        • Poor integrity of content can result in poor integrity or stability of project models. Conversely, high quality, high integrity content can significantly reduce the file size of the model, and improve performance.
      • Presentation techniques
        • This is not usually as critical, as it is an area where creativity may be exploited. However, to have favoured techniques that are well-defined can assist in selection of output styles.

Beyond what is to be agreed and covered within the Model Coordination plan, the Project-Level BIM Manager should:

  • Monitor how well the design team adheres to standards documented within the Model Coordination plan, and advise the team as appropriate where improvement is required, and why (after all, they have agreed to it!)
  • Ensure that questions from the design team are properly documented and addressed
  • Provide guidance to design team in regard to management of the design, and the completion of the model
  • Ensure that design changes can be monitored and tracked by design team and others, where appropriate
  • Alert senior (BIM) management to risk factors actually or potentially influencing projects
  • Be responsible for project file management and maintenance (of one or all disciplines represented by the design team), including:
    • Local File creation frequency, method and naming convention (which may become an automated process with the use of script routines or third party programs)
    • Archive copies of central files, particularly at project milestones (in accordance with an established process), which also may become an automated process
    • Project team responsibilities (supporting integrity of the project files, worksharing methods (file synchronisation (between Local and Central files) and compaction, relinquishing, element and workset borrowing)
    • Purging/deleting of redundant items
    • Reviewing and elimination of model warnings
    • Regular auditing of the project files (Central Files)
    • Design and execution of Model Audits (this may be done in collaboration with others from the design team or within the internal organization)
    • Monitoring of project content (i.e. components), and solving or recording any issues that require attention
    • Check whether models received comply with agreed Information Exchange standards and protocols (these must be clearly defined beforehand – see below, re Information Exchange agreement)
    • Archive copies of received files (this process should be clearly defined)
    • Clash detection and issue of clash detection reports to appropriate parties for remedial action

Where the design team includes multiple disciplines, these duties may also include:

  • Defining how the coordination of model exchange between multiple parties is to occur. The creation of an Information Exchange Agreement is central to this. This, too, should be a progressive document, and needs to be prepared prior to project commencement. It should define:
    • What each party is responsible for achieving within their model(s). For example, an architect may be responsible for creating an element type, while the structural engineer may be responsible for reviewing it and ensuring it functions correctly. The quantity surveyor or contractor may be responsible for providing an estimate of the cost of the same item(s).
    • How information will be transferred, to whom, and by when. File formats and interoperability levels between them need to be established. Who needs what information from whom should be determined, and by when – relating to milestones, but also to exchange frequency.

Ideally, there should be at least one Project-Level BIMM serving on each project team. The role may not need to be exclusive to one project – they may be responsible for multiple projects; the number of which may vary according to the size or complexity of the project(s), the ability of the individuals, and that of the team members they support.

The items discussed to this point are by no means exhaustive or fixed. Not all responsibilities or skills may suit individuals, and the roles they fill may be tailored to acknowledge this.

In our next edition of INFOCUS, we’ll look at the role of Office-Level BIM Manager, and how they work with the Project-Level BIM Managers. In the following edition, we’ll look at the Organization-Level BIM Manager, and cover what joint responsibilities may apply at all levels of BIM Management.

If we are to be able to select the best person for the job (i.e. of BIM Management), we should take a closer look at each level of responsibility or role to better understand what is required. Then we can begin to see which people best fit each role.

In the next edition of INFOCUS, we’ll begin this process by exploring in some detail what it means to be an Office-Level BIM Manager.

Stay tuned!


1. Construction & Non-Farm Labor Productivity Index (1964-2003), US Dept. Of Commerce, Bureau of Labor Statistics