Plain Language Questions

Hello BIMfans,
As I mentioned when Forming a Brief, I’m going to need some Plain Language Questions (PLQs).  Plain Langauge Questions are a way for an employer to request information from the supply team in a jargon-free form (hence plain language).  Plain Language Questions can also be used to ensure that all of the required information has been provided by being integrated into stage approvals while also informing the supply chain of what they need to deliver.  NOTE: They were originally called ‘Plain English Questions’, but us Welsh were not impressed so they became ‘Plain Language Questions’.

For example, if an employer sets a question at the end of stage 2 (concept) such as:

“What are the concept design options?”

Then the supply chain will know that the employer expects several design options at the end of concept design.  Similarly, if the employer sets a question such as:

“Can my BREEAM (/bri:am/) outstanding requirement be met for each option?”

Because of this question the supply chain are now aware that the Employer is expecting some BREEAM information back.  These questions then allow the supply chain to better quantify the scope of works to inform their tender; Plain Langauge Questions also help the employer as they are able to specify what information they need and effectively halt the project until it has been received and accepted.

You Shall Not Pass!…Stage 2

This information exchanges between the employer and the supply chain are outlined within PAS 1192-2 consisting of two parts:  Suppler’s Information Exchanges (When the suppliers provide information to an employer) shown in green and the Employer’s Decision Points (when the employ assesses the information delivered) shown in red.  Once the employer is happy that each of these questions have been answered, the project can then progress to the next stage.  This bi-directional and iterative process keeps the employer in the centre, ensuring that they have access to the right information at the right time.

It’s plain to see that these question help streamline the process.

To produce your own Plain Langaguge Questions, there are several examples available included those produced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) PLQs, Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) PLQs, as well as those within BS 8536-1 and BS 8536-2. Normally these questions centre around the chosen work stages but as my house has no design or construction I have opted for a few simpler work stages.

Proposed Work Stages

  1. Brief (Producing the EIR)
  2. Model Production (Producing a BEP and then my information model)
  3. Operation and Maintenance (Using the model)

So using the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) PLQs as a basis, here are the Plain Language Questions I want to be answered about my house:

1.1 Have the model purposes been defined?
1.2 Are there any specific data requirements to achieve these purposes?
1.3 What format shall the information be delivered in?
1.4 What standards will be followed?
1.5 What level of accuracy/detail/information is required?
1.6 Is there sufficient information to produce an EIR?


Production of Information:
2.1 What existing information is available?
2.2 Is there sufficient information to produce a BEP?
2.3 What is the layout of the house?
2.4 What assets are contained within?
2.5 What asset information can be linked to the graphical model?


Operation and Maintenance
3.1 What are the sizes and conditions of the windows & doors?
3.2 What assets are in a poor condition?
3.3 What costs can be attributed to my assets?
3.4 What are the most cost effective thermal improvements that could be undertaken?

And there we have it.  By answering all of these Plain Langauge Questions, I will have all of the information I need to develop my information model.  So know I know my questions I need to establish what Model Purposes I actually want to use this information model for…

Note:  If you have any comments regarding my Plain Langauge Questions, then please let me know either on Twitter, or by commenting below.

14 thoughts on “Plain Language Questions

  1. Going to be interesting defining what asset is in ‘poor’ condition – and how you are going to discover it.

    By example, I bought a house 2 yr ago with a 10 year old condensing boiler which worked OK and had been regularly serviced, so I put it at the back of my priority list for attention.

    After the first winter’s bills in spring 2015 I became aware that the cost of my heating was higher than ‘the benchmark average’…so straight away; kudos to the power company for identifying the issue of equivalent benchmark performance (and stick with me – there is a BIM equivalent note riding at the end of this reply).

    So what to do next? With 1970’s cavity walls and the Housebuyer’s Report tick box checking ’50mm or less’ – we assumed insulation/heat loss issues may be significant. On checking the facts however, the ‘less’ actually turned out to be ‘zero’. Therefore, we quickly installed loft insulation to 300mm throughout!

    Alas, the cost of heating over winter 2015 was still high (again, against the comparison benchmark) and we turned our attention to the boiler (though cavity wall and underfloor insulation were also considered). As part of a new kitchen scheme in summer 2015 we decided to put in a new boiler and lo-and-behold, it turns out that the performance of the previous condensing boiler had seriously degraded (despite a supposed 95% efficiency from new).

    As a result, we learned the gas heating system asset now performs as per its equivalent cohort for a similar sized (no. of bedrooms/detached house), but are aware that it is still part of a system that can take further upgrades (i.e. the house it is heating can still be more draught-stopped and insulated).

    So when you asking yourself if an asset is performing ‘poorly’, you may want to also consider what you are comparing it against, whether as new data represents in-situ performance, and, what other related data inputs or factors may exist that influence performance of systems.

    Meanwhile, good luck with the rest of your project and the blog!

    BIM rider/Note: This is the exact same approach we take at iM4 in reviewing BIM performance of businesses.
    i.e. Check their BIM Maturity AND then consider how well are they performing by benchmarking them in relation to equivalent industries/disciplines; and then provide strategic advice as to the steps that can be taken to gain anything from incremental through to to significant improvements – and none of which we find clients usually consider as part of their ‘standard-Project’ BEP!


    • Yes, certainly the Plain Language Questions could be broken down using EPIC for each work stage. Thank you for this.


  2. Ok, then there is another source within this topic (schemes in English are included): ‘Requirements Management’ [Ch. Rupp].

    IMHO one will end-up needing a bill of material. The relevant (retrieved) parts and elements could be imported in CoBie lists as you did it in ‘Mindful Modelling’.

    A few years ago I stumbled over a extended method to process bills of material (Abstract):

    “The method is based on a grammar-like description of the top-bills for all variants and leads to an extension of conventional bill of material processors: additionally to part items there are logical items in the product-structure, The approach gives a solution to storage and retrieval problems related to bill of material organization with a high number of variants”


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