Ralph Montague on why we need the Employers Information Requirements (EIR) in building information modelling, key objectives to the EIR and the key considerations and challenges whilst writing the EIR


Author: Ralph Montague BArch MRIAI, managing partner, ArcDox (BIM Consultants)

There is less than one year to go until the 2016 UK government mandate, requiring all centrally procured construction projects to be delivered using BIM (building information modelling). Architects, engineers, contractors and suppliers to this sector are having to rapidly upskill, in order to deliver projects to the required standard PAS1192-2:2013 (specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects).

But even if you do not work in the UK public sector, both public and private clients here in Ireland are also beginning to make BIM a requirement under this standard. To remain competitive and relevant, companies have to understand their role in a BIM process.

It is important not to see BIM as something extra that you simply add on to a traditional design-management process, but rather as an alternative methodology – a far better and more sophisticated way to produce, manage and exchange project information. BIM is a process carried out within a digital 3D object-based modelling environment, where each object in the virtual building assembled in software represents a real-life building component, and these objects act as the primary placeholder for vital information about that component.

Multiple traditional drawing and schedule documents can be derived/output from these models, but the usefulness of BIM, as an approach, is that all the information is captured in one place – and, if a change is required, all the information is managed in one place, so that all documents can be kept coordinated and up to date. This brings about enormous efficiencies in creating, managing and exchanging information and avoids the duplication of effort associated with the traditional exchange of paper-based information.

Extended BIM and why employers want it

The ability to view, navigate and explore all the project information in this data-rich 3D building model, gives every stakeholder a much better understanding of what is being proposed, and how it will fit and work together, facilitating far better communication, decision making and sign-off, for a much more efficient and effective design coordination process. The ability to analyse these digital models, with software for structural performance, energy performance, quantity take-off, clash detection and programme sequencing, gives the team the ability to optimise design solutions, reduce uncertainty and risk, and help better inform the client and other stakeholders.

Lastly, the process of gathering and managing vital information about the building assets in this digital environment, for both design and construction process, ensures that this information will be available to the facilities management team at handover, in a useful format to bring into their operational systems.

One of the main reasons the UK government, as a client, is demanding BIM is to gain significant benefits of cost, value and building performance, and improve the way projects are procured. It is about government clients becoming better informed – and better at procuring both the physical infrastructure and the information that facilitates its development and ongoing operations. It is no wonder, therefore, that a key component of the PAS1192-2 process is the Employers Information Requirements (EIR), a document that should clearly define the information about the built asset being procured and the process for information development, management and delivery during the project work stages.

This is something new for construction clients, who may be used to describing the physical functions and features of the building they want, but not being experts in information management, may find it difficult to describe their information requirements. This was less of an issue in the traditional paper-based environment in which the construction industry is used to working. Clients trusted their design and construction teams to produce and deliver the information required to build and operate their facility as printed drawings, specifications, schedules, reports etc. As long as the printed documents conveyed the right information, it did not really matter what method or standard was used in the background to create that information. As long as they could print it and read it, that was fine.

Of course that is over-simplifying it a bit, as clients are aware of the downsides of a paper-based information process, which is slow to produce or change, difficult to understand, access or query, prone to error and results in a lot of duplication of effort. One party has to manually transcribe information from one set of paper outputs into systems to carry out their task, only to print the results back to paper, to pass to the next party to repeat the process. Clients have also become painfully aware of how deficiencies in the documentation can lead to risks, delays, variations, cost overruns and disputes, never mind the excessive administration involved in trying to mitigate these issues.

BIM – the solution

Of course, BIM claims to be part of the solution to these inherent problems of a paper-based process, but with the digital production, management and delivery (exchange) of information about buildings comes a whole new set of issues that have to be considered. For instance, as a client, what are you going to do with all this data, how will you use and maintain it, how are you going to check and validate the digital information against your requirements, and will the digital data be accurate and useful for the long-term operations of your facility?

As a client, if you do not know what you want and you do not know what to ask for, then you are probably not going to receive what you need. Also, you may have to spend a lot of time and money repurposing, or even recreating, information as you transition through design, construction and into handover and operations. So the employers’ information requirements have to be carefully considered at the start, with the end in mind.

The importance of the EIR is also highlighted when you consider how fragmented the design and construction functions are in our industry, and clients may incorrectly assume that they do not have to explicitly state their requirements – that implicitly, the professionals they employ will automatically use the latest and best practice in producing, managing and exchanging information, and collaborate in such a way that does not cause costly duplication of effort, abortive work, risks or problems during construction.

Unfortunately, few of the benefits of BIM will materialise automatically or by accident, unless there is a clearly defined and managed BIM strategy and process put in place as early as possible and as part of the works requirements – a process that is continually monitored and that drives the BIM process through design and construction to the successful handover of the project. Some initial enthusiasm and goodwill may help project teams to get started in BIM but, without a clear requirement, at some point the process will likely break down. People may choose not to participate, or may encounter challenges and revert to traditional problematic and wasteful ways of working.

Of course in the end, it is not the BIM process itself that clients are really interested in, but what it can help deliver in terms of cost savings, value, certainty and useful information. Productivity (value for effort) in other non-farming industries has almost doubled in the last 40 years through the adoption of digital technologies and processes, but productivity in construction has remained stagnant or even slightly fallen.

The waste factor in design and construction is reported to be over 30% of the cost of construction. This is a very high percentage, particularly in an industry where fees and profit margins are so low. The objective of the EIR should be to have an information delivery process, which will help drive out wasteful duplication of effort, misunderstandings, delays, abortive work, labour inefficiencies, wasted materials and excessive administration of an inefficient paper-based industry.

PAS1192-2 Standard

The PAS1192 standard includes key elements like the EIR and the project BIM Execution Plan (BEP), two key documents that will drive the BIM strategy throughout the project. A contractual BIM Protocol should be implemented between all parties that participate, to ensure they carry out their obligations and to ensure all rights and responsibilities are managed/maintained. The design team should make sure the tender documentation includes specification information to drive BIM through the construction stage.

In addition to delivering the native BIM files, the EIR, BIM Execution Plan (BEP) and BIM Protocol should require all designers, contractors and sub-contractors involved in the project to also submit the asset information required by facilities management for post-construction operations. This should be supplied at all key stages in an agreed structured digital format, as a minimum standard COBie (construction operations building information exchange format/BS1192-4:2014) as being specified in the UK, using Uniclass classification. This will ensure that the data is well ordered and ready to be imported into the operations systems without requiring the facilities managers to re-type the information.

While clients need to become better informed and better at stating their requirements, designers and contractors also need to become skilled to respond to these requirements and to deliver on the promises of a BIM process. I would highly recommend that readers visit the UK BIM Task Group website, to find out all they need to know about writing and responding to the EIR.

Ralph Montague, BArch MRIAI is managing partner of ArcDox, a specialist BIM consultancy practice providing professionally managed advice, production, support and training services to the construction industry. An architect with extensive experience in managing large projects, Montague endorses BIM as a more cost-effective and highly efficient way of producing and managing construction documentation and the building process. As chairman of the RIAI practice committee for BIM, and co-ordinator of the Construction IT Alliance BIM Group, he has been leading the development and adoption of BIM in Ireland since 2009. 

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ArcDox-BIM.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ArcDox-BIM-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanCivil3D,construction,United Kingdom
  Author: Ralph Montague BArch MRIAI, managing partner, ArcDox (BIM Consultants) There is less than one year to go until the 2016 UK government mandate, requiring all centrally procured construction projects to be delivered using BIM (building information modelling). Architects, engineers, contractors and suppliers to this sector are having to rapidly...