BIM for Quantity Surveyors – Think Procurement!

The response to BIM from the Quantity Surveying (QS) profession and people in procurement has been a little mixed and largely muted. Could it be that we’ve been missing the point and perhaps a huge opportunity?

To date, most coverage seems to be concerned with:

  • Questions on the future of the QS profession (these reflected an initial nervousness). Will we need the QS in the digital future, where 3D models can be the source of data available to all?
  • The potential impact of digitisation on the evolving role of the QS, and why, perhaps, the profession should not fear BIM after all.
BIM for Quantity Surveyors – Think Procurement!

The focus of almost all the debate has been on cost planning and the automation of the quantification process. But whilst the quantification and costing of construction works is indeed a core competency for surveyors, equally, there are other fundamental capabilities in the wider commercial management skillset possessed by the QS.

Let us take just two of these:

  • Procurement and tendering – traditionally for design and construction works, but how will the QS approach encompass BIM and the need for both project and asset information?
  • Contract practice – how will the QS extend the use of standard forms of construction contracts and design appointments to include new BIM processes and data deliverables?

Clients commissioning design work and construction projects are becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities BIM brings to procure not only the physical asset, but also a data-rich model to accompany it. This data becomes the fuel of asset management, allowing clients to identify and manage a range of issues, covering both the efficient operation of the facility and effective financial return from its investment. Digital information future-proofs the asset owner’s approach and adds considerable value to the physical asset.

The question, then, is how will BIM and its valuable outputs be defined and procured? There are few sources of commentary, and precious little guidance, on these issues.

The standard forms of contract do not provide terms and conditions for BIM, so the means of including the required process and project deliverables must be addressed separately. Generally, the accepted approach is to use an addendum of ‘protocol’ to incorporate BIM as part of a binding agreement, giving it full contractual force, without compromising the other terms and conditions.

So, the principal is established, but how to put it into practice?

There are three reasonably well-known sources of addenda:

  • CIC BIM Protocol
  • ConsensusDocs 301 BIM Addendum
  • AIA Digital Practice Documents

The latter two have been drafted in the USA and the terminology used has not been designed to reflect the UK’s approach to BIM Level 2. Whilst that does not prevent their use on projects here, great care is needed in drafting documents that must reference and align with others, including the recognised Level 2 standards in the BS/PAS 1192 series.

And therein lies the issue. Or perhaps issues in the plural, because:

  1. The addendum/protocol documents do not in themselves define the BIM process and its deliverables. This must be done by combining the protocol with a series of other documents used during the procurement, tender and contract formation process.
  2. The identity and content of these documents may vary considerably from project to project, depending on the procurement route and process adopted by each commissioning client. The hierarchy and inter-relationship of documents must be established and properly referenced for the protocol and contract/appointments to work effectively.
  3. The protocol and the related suite of Level 2 documents have been developed at different times and by independent, often unrelated, organisations. So, it is only to be expected that differences in structure, interpretation and terminology still exist.

Inconsistency in the use of terminology? Source

The recently released second edition of the CIC BIM Protocol seeks to address some of the instances, but the issues remain.

Of course, these issues are not fatal to BIM adoption, they are merely the inevitable product of innovation and developing levels of maturity in our industry. The rapid and increasing pace of change will see these issues at first identified, then resolved. Progress will continue, and we must move with it.

The QS will, in time, have options to use digital models to speed the take-off process. With amended workflows and increased focus on interpreting the information provided, greater emphasis should follow on from the quality and timeliness of advice that can be provided.

In the meantime, however, there is work for the QS and procurement professionals to do. Before project teams and construction clients can benefit from the undoubted potential of the BIM process, we must find effective ways to procure the information and process.

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