For years I have enjoyed the science-based comic strip XKCD, by Randall Monroe. Many of its comic strips, such as the one on Standards are very relevant and I often reference them. However, my favorite of Randall’s creation is the book ‘Thing Explainer’ and its premise, to explain ‘things’ using the one thousand most common words in the English language. So inspired by this book I have done the same by writing this piece about Building Information Modelling (BIM); using XKCD’s simply writing guide to help; I hope you enjoy.
When we build, things often go wrong. Parts ordered for a job may be the wrong size, put in the wrong place, or even just be the wrong part. This has been happening around the world for years and years. The reason for this is because when we share information, we only share enough to help us; not sharing enough to help others. This means when we try and use information from others, it is often confusing, missing bits, or is just wrong.
Our leaders saw this problem too and wanted to help. They wrote papers telling us we were not building as well as we should be. These papers said we fought too much, instead of working together, but we didn’t listen. In 2009, when the banks broke, building owners didn’t have enough money to build, so our leaders told us (again) that we needed to work together to build better, but we still didn’t listen. As we never listened, our leaders had to think of a way to make us listen. So, they told us that if we wanted to work for them, we would have to work together, telling us that we had to use Building Information Modelling (BIM).
Our leaders chose BIM because they saw how working together can help us to make, share, and use other people’s information better. To help even more, new papers were made explaining how to share information. It explained that owners needed to say:
[Employer’s Information Requirements]
- Who shares the information; [Outline Responsibility Matrix]
- What information is needed; [Information Requirements]
- When information is needed by; and [Project Milestones]
- Why owners need the information shared. [Information Purposes]
By having owners say this, builders could write back in a letter saying:
[Pre-contract BIM Execution Plan]
- Who they will use to help them; [Project Implementation Plan]
- What information they will share; [PIM Deliverable Strategy]
- When information will be shared by; and [Project Milestones]
- How they plan to work together. [Project Goals for Collaboration]
After the builders have won the job, they then sit with their team to plan what parts of the job each team will do [Responsibility Matrix], what information is needed and by when [Master Information Delivery Plan], as well as how information being shared needs to be set out [Standards, Methods, and Procedures], writing all this into a single agreed plan for everyone to follow [Post Contract-award BIM Execution Plan]. To make sure everyone can follow the plan, the builders check their teams [Supply Chain Assessments], they do this before starting the job so that they know they have the right team for the job.
As they do the job, each team shares their information so that no two bits cross [Clash Avoidance]. The teams do this by sharing their work in one place for everyone to use and follow the agreed plan on how to name everything, making it easier to find information [Common Data Environment]. The builder also checks with the owner at the end of each stage to make sure what they are building is right for the owner and that they have all the information they need about the job [Employer Decision Points, Supplier’s Information Exchange].
By planning out what information needed and when by, the builder can be sure that no information goes missing [Project Delivery Management]. Also, by planning how information is created, the builder can be sure that the information is right and can be used by everyone who needs it [Project Information Management]. Finally, by planning how information is shared, the builder can make sure that information has been checked so that all of the information is correctly [Check, Review, Approve].
At the end of the job, the builder shares all the information needed by the owners to look after the build [Asset Information Model], and the owner checks to make sure that this information is set out as they asked for [Asset Information Requirements]. If the set out of information is agreed at the start of a job, the builder can make sure his team follows it and gives back information set out as needed.
Finally, to make sure the owner’s information stays clear, right and without missing bits, the owner must look after this information until the next job. When needed, the owner may have to add, change, and remove things [Trigger-related events] to keep their information right.
And that’s it. By following these steps, builders and their teams can work together to give the owner the build they want. By creating an agreed plan there is a better chance that the parts ordered for a job won’t be the wrong size, put in the wrong place, or even just be the wrong part. That means that when the job is finished there is less of a chance that money will be a problem, or that it’ll take more time to finish; and best of all, the job finishes with a happy owner.