In May 2011, the government published its Government Construction Strategy which called for 'a profound change in the relationship between public authorities and the construction industry' with a view to making long term economic improvements by reducing the cost of public sector construction.
It has been acknowledged by government and the industry as a whole that the UK has failed to fully utilise the benefits of the public sector in the construction market as a means of boosting growth in the industry. The strategy provided that government will require fully collaborative 3D Business Information Modelling (BIM) as a minimum by 2016, which envisages all project and asset information, as well as all documentation and data, being electronic.
Having recognised the importance of an efficient construction industry in the UK, various tools have been introduced to try to streamline the construction process which in turn may reduce the number of disputes arising during the life cycle of a project.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) has issued various Publicly Available Specifications (PASs) which aim to support those in the construction industry who are still in the early stages of introducing BIM into their construction processes.
PAS 1192-3, catchily entitled 'Specification for information management for the operational phase of construction projects using building information modelling' is the most recent of these specifications to be released, and focuses on the operational phase of assets using the Asset Information Model (AIM). PAS 1192-3 is the partner document to PAS 1192-2 ('Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using building information modelling') which focuses on project delivery in the construction phase of the project using the Project Information Model (PIM). In addition to the specifications, a policy document was produced on Government Soft Landings (GSL); a proposed process produced in an attempt to align 'the interests of those who design and construct an asset with the interests of those who use and manage it.'
Many PFI schemes that began in the late nineties or early 2000s are now in the mid-stages of their lifecycle, and increasing numbers of PFI disputes are now being seen. In some ways this is surprising — PFI contracts are for the long term, and long-term relationships need to exist between authorities, project-cos and service providers. However, these relationships can sometimes sour into acrimonious disputes, and the infamous 'ketchup case' (Compass Group UK and Ireland Ltd (t/a Medirest) v Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust  EWCA Civ 200) is an example of just how nasty things can get. In addition, with pressure from above to reduce costs, authorities are looking at everything they pay out under their PFI contracts. Equally, many service providers will have found they are operating on PFI contracts with tiny (or non-existent) margins, and are reviewing whether everything they are asked to do really is covered by the contractual requirements, or whether part of it might actually be a variation attracting additional fees. With this sort of squeeze from the top and the bottom, it's no wonder more disputes are happening. The bespoke and complex provisions of each PFI contract can include ambiguities as to who does what, and how much they should be paid.
The Government Construction Strategy not only outlined the BIM strategy in respect of construction projects, but also confirmed that in order to reduce the cost of public sector projects, detailed measures needed to be implemented aiming to reduce costs by up to 20 per cent. Achieving this will require control of costs not just in the construction phase, but throughout the whole lifecycle.
BIM and GSL
Modern buildings are multi-dimensional complex endeavours; the construction process requires effective collaboration from the beginning of a project, right through to its operation. It is only logical that available technology should be harnessed to allow the conception and design of building through a virtual medium before the building is formed and used in reality. BIM allows this to be achieved. It is the process of generating and managing information about a building during its entire lifecycle which involves the creation, collation and exchange of shared 3D models between the project team which can be viewed collectively through an electronic database. Using such a system provides all the parties involved with access to comprehensive and co-ordinated information about the project as a whole. It is envisaged that the BIM process will lead to fewer disputes, as parties will be more aware of each other's input from the outset, and can deal with issues such as clash detection at a much earlier stage due to the visual element of BIM.
It will take time for the BIM system to be used universally and to a high level of maturity. That said, the Government Construction Strategy has adopted an ambitious target of requiring fully collaborative Level 2 (3D) BIM as a minimum on all its projects by 2016.
With this in mind, BSI issued PAS 1192-2 in February 2013. This focuses specifically on the delivery phase of projects, from the identification of the strategy through to handover of the asset, and specifies standard requirements for achieving BIM Level 2.
PAS 1192-2 has evolved from British Standard (BS) 1192-5: 1998 'Construction drawing practice guide for structuring and exchange of CAD data' which set out a method for managing the production, distribution and quality of construction information, and from BS 1192:2007 'Collaborative production of architectural, engineering and construction information. Code of practice', which provided a more comprehensive code of practice that can be applied to 2D and 3D model-based information. PAS 1192-2 builds upon the framework outlined in the original BSs which established the methodology for producing, distributing and ensuring the high quality of construction information with a view to collaboration. PAS 1192-2 goes further, focusing particularly on how, with the help of the methodology, the government goals to implement BIM Level 2 can be achieved.
PAS 1192-2 firstly requires a statement of need from the client as to their outcomes for the project, and from here, works through the stages of the information delivery cycle. This PAS aims to look at the project from beginning to end and specifies in detail the requirements for five stages of information delivery: (i) procurement; (ii) post contract award; (iii) mobilisation; (iv) production; and (v) asset information model maintenance. In addition to BIM, all central government construction projects will also be required from 2016 to adopt the GSL methodology. Born from the BSRIA/Usable Buildings Trust 'Soft Landings' process which sought to ensure energy use of finished buildings matched specifications, GSL is intended to address three key aspects of sustainability: environmental, economic and social impact.
Under the GSL process, government departments will be required to define a series of high level outcomes at the very beginning of a project; the process is intended to make clients think more carefully about what they want from their buildings and focuses their minds on the outcomes and meeting the needs of end users.
In order to encourage the smooth running of the GSL procedure, government departments need to appoint a GSL project champion to undertake the role of defining the outcomes of the project and to manage the process.
Using early client involvement, the project champion will assist the client, the project team and the facilities management team to define the project outcomes and set a commissioning and handover strategy which should include information regarding how the building is to be operated. The project champion's input will be vital from the design and construction phases through to operational handover and it is to be hoped may help prevent disputes.
PAS1192-3, issued in March 2014, is described as a 'specification for information management for the operational phase of assets using building information management', and its very existence is testament to the fact that it is not just in the construction phase that there is likely to be significant expenditure related to an asset.
The specification talks of 'assets' and their maintenance, reminding us that what we are dealing with here, particularly in PFI projects, are not just buildings. A hospital or a school is an essential asset for both the commissioning authority and for the local community, and needs to be carefully managed, not just during its construction but throughout its lifespan.
PAS1192-3 thus deals with an AIM which can be derived from the Project Information Model (PIM) produced from the BIM construction phase defined in PAS 1192-2, or created from scratch for an existing building. However, unlike the construction phase in PAS 1192-2, the operational phase is not a linear progression from commissioning to eventual disposal of the asset, and PAS 1192-3 therefore has to allow for the evolving use of the asset, and for modifications and enhancements to be made, as well as for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the asset.
The document discusses the data transfer processes required to: (i) create an AIM; (ii) exchange asset information with a PIM; (iii) use the AIM to support organisational requirements; (iv) update the AIM as the asset changes; (v) maintain the AIM as a resource for the organisation; and finally (vi), record information relating to the disposal, decommissioning or demolition of the asset. Unfortunately, the language used in PAS 1192-3 makes it a very difficult read for the lay person. The document is thick with three letter acronyms and definitions, and at times seems almost wilfully obscure. For example, a section entitled 'Linkages between OIR, AIR and AIM' ends by providing: 'If the information held within the AIM [Asset Information Model] is not sufficient or suitable to satisfy the OIR [Organizational Information Requirements] then the organization shall amend the relevant AIR [Asset Information Requirements] to acquire the necessary data and information.' Translation: if you haven't got the information you need, get it.
The other issue is that while PAS 1192-3 is described as a 'specification', it is in reality little more than a discussion of the types of information that ought to be held in an AIM, and a broad outline of how it might be exchanged with external systems. Those coming from an IT background and expecting that the specification for an AIM will contain record layouts and data exchange protocols will leave feeling disappointed. When you get past the acronyms, the information in the PAS is unfortunately rather generic and unspecific. However, it's worth remembering that this is not a fully-fledged BS, and that the BSI themselves say that PAS such as this will be reviewed within two years of their publication, to assess whether they should be revised, withdrawn or go on to be formal BSs.
And so …
The lack of detailed specifications for publicly owned assets such as schools and hospitals, which set out in detail how they should be maintained and how they can be modified, has been the cause of many PFI disputes. Government is trying to exert better control over the construction phase for its assets using Level 2 BIM, and trying to ensure those assets better meet its needs through the use of GSL. With this control over the design and construction phases, there is clearly an opportunity to use the BIM model to manage costs in the operational phase, and to reduce the numbers of PFI disputes. PAS 1192-3 is BSI's attempt to specify how this should be done, and while further work needs to be done before it becomes a BS, it is clearly a step in the right direction.