CIC Blog: 2014

| Filed in Blog, Inspiration
CIC Speed Mentoring… an inspiring idea!

Sonia Zahiroddiny
Information Modelling & Management Capability Programme (IMMCP) Delivery Team
Transport for London

With a background in Computer and Information Sciences I was never sure whether Construction Industry was the right sector for me. I was anxiously looking for a mentor and/or a guide who could advise me and give me the confidence to take control of my career path. So when I was asked to take part in a speed mentoring event I gladly agreed to participate. This was a great opportunity for me to obtain advice from professionals with years of industry experience.

The event was very well organised. A list of the mentors with their biographies was received several weeks before the date of the event. Most of the mentors were known to me but I still had plenty time to find out more about them. A breakfast briefing session was also arranged to provide an introduction to the concept of speed mentoring and discuss some potential questions and topics that we may want to raise with the mentors.

On the evening of the event there were about 40 people of all ages. We had half an hour to network before the event started. The event started with a welcome and a short overview of the evening and the purpose behind it and it was closed with the same speaker thanking everyone for attending. We were all allocated three mentors; two of our preferred choice and one ‘wild card’. The mentoring session lasted for about 45 minutes and during this time each mentee had the chance to speak to their pre-allocated mentors. Mentors had allocated seating with a corresponding letter to help the mentees find them. We all had 15 minutes each to discuss our personal vision for the next few years. 2 minutes before the 15 minutes were up we would receive a warning to wrap up our conversation and move to our next mentor. 


Once the starting bell went the room exploded with intensity of several people talking at the same time, chaotic yet it was inspiring and remarkable! Some may say 15 minutes is not enough time to discuss your future career but short meetings can often be as useful as long programmes. In my case it was certainly enough time to get me thinking about what I could achieve with my educational background and give me the momentum to start planning ahead. On registration I was asked to provide a short paragraph about myself. I was very pleased that one of my mentors had put the effort in to reading it so he already had an idea of what I have achieved so far and what may be the best route for my career.


This was a great way to establish connections and to network with other individuals within the industry besides having the chance to seek information and insight from senior professionals whose constructive advice can go a long way! I found my mentors very easy to talk to, with a positive attitude and willing to share their experience and knowledge explicitly. This event is now one of my favourites as I actually got something out of it and it has made me wonder why mentoring isn’t more common? In today’s world sharing knowledge is a key to developing core skills, improving personal capabilities and would enable gaining competitive advantage and I believe construction industry holds a lot of hidden knowledge. We also have a lot of fantastic practitioners within the industry, who as mentors can give us their views on how things work (or should work), they can help us look at situations in new ways and they can certainly help define our career paths. These people are pushing the industry forward and we should make the most out of their knowledge and expertise. As someone in her mid-career level I would absolutely recommend attending a mentoring session.


Contributor: Sonia's background is in Computer Sciences and Information Systems Management. Sonia entered the world of Construction when she started her PhD at the University of Northumbria looking at impacts of BIM on Communication patterns of Construction projects. Sonia is an Incorporate member of the CIOB (ICIOB) and is currently working as a BIM consultant.

You can find Sonia on Linkedin and Twitter

Tags: speed networking, mentor, mentee
| Filed in Blog
CIC Members' Conference and AGM

Members' Conference & AGM

Construction Industry Council


CIC hosted its seventh annual members’ conference last week (May 15-16) for presidents and chairmen (both incoming and present), leading members and senior staff of CIC members, to assess the value and benefits of CIC activities and achievements over the previous year and set the members' priorities for CIC going forward over the next year.

The two day event began with the CIC AGM. This was followed by a drinks reception on the terraces of Latimer Place, Buckinghamshire which overlooks the stunning Chess Valley, it provided an invaluable opportunity for present and future leaders of CIC member organisations to meet one another and informally network in a relaxed environment and discuss each others’ pressing concerns.


                                                        Drinks Reception


                                                        After Dinner Speaker - Peter Hansford (Chief Construction Adviser)

                                                      Chief Construction Adviser Peter Hansford delivers after dinner speech

This year’s conference was entitled: Whose job is it anyway? Responding to changing innovations in the sector.  The conference  focused on future skills and the impact that technology could make on the diversity of roles that may be created within our industry. Will we lose roles as well as gain new ones and what might change in the medium to short term future?


                                                         Judy Lowe, Deputy Chairman, CITB​ - Future Industry, Future Skills


                                       Dale Sinclair, Director of Technical Practice, AECOM - Computerisation and the Project Team


                                                Calum Lewis, Operations Director, LEGO - Building Customer Delivery Supply Chain


Tags: Away Day, Members conference
| Filed in Blog, BIM
Solid Foundations for Successful BIM

Dan Bland


The Clarkson Alliance Limited


If you are interested in delivering Government projects, you may be gearing up for Level 2 BIM by 2016.  The requirement for Government projects to be delivered using full 6D BIM is set out in the 2025 UK Construction strategy.   At The Clarkson Alliance, we have been using BIM processes on a number of projects with a view to meeting this goal.

Recognising that BIM is an extensive subject, we recently organised an internal masterclass with Mervyn Richards OBE, author of BIM standard PAS1192:2 and the now infamous maturity curve, developed in collaboration with Mark Bew.  It was a fascinating day with a number of insights.  Our team collated their most memorable to share.

1.     Set out your requirements

It is imperative to set out the Employers Information Requirements – in essence the information  you want from the BIM model – as early as possible in the capital/delivery phase of the project.

The more stakeholders you involve, the better.   This reduces assumptions being made and any associated waste that comes with guessing what the stakeholder wants which is then incorrectly communicated in the requirements.

Establishing project requirements early allows the design team to focus on what they do best - creating a fantastic design that achieves the project brief. 

Designers need to be conscious of structuring design data in a way that considers the needs of others collaborating on the model, for example enabling cost plans to be generated.


     -   Set your Employers Information Requirements first and then think about producing the model

     -   Enable true collaboration by structuring model data with the rest of the teams requirements in mind


2.     Build a winning team

  • Build a BIM-capable team

Interns like me can help kick-start your BIM journey!  We’re cost effective and eager to learn new ways of working.  For organisations who want to test the waters with different BIM software, many students have access to free licences as part of their course.

Once younger members of staff are familiar with the software and processes, put their new skills to good use to up-skill other team members.

You’re then in a good place to start trialling BIM on live projects internally.  You can test BIM without sharing it outside the company whilst you find your feet.  When you’re comfortable, you can start sharing your models and (hard-won) experience with others. Once you’ve taken this step you’ll be well on the path to true BIM enlightenment!


  • Foster collaboration amongst the project team

Engage the project team early and get everyone working together from the start. 

The best BIM is achieved through early appointment of the supply chain.

Meet early to prompt initial conversations, make those difficult decisions, and address issues which may have been overlooked during a rushed design phase.

Clients have an important role here - driving any remaining assumptions and uncertainties from the brief.  The project team then has the best possible chance to respond with a fully resolved, coordinated design.

Its worth noting when we talk about early engagement we also mean the contractor and the rest of the supply chain.

Benefit from the contractor’s ‘buildability’ expertise by getting them on board early.  

You’ll find a lot of manufacturers and suppliers have been using 3D CAD/BIM for years. Use their experience to save huge amounts of time and budget by simply plugging their 3D components into your BIM models.


3.     Cut unnecessary rework

Design management - controlling the design phase to achieve project objectives - is not new and is just as applicable to BIM.

First, adopt a ‘volume strategy’ to minimise any clashes in the design.  Consider a volume as a 3D jigsaw piece – all the volumes fit together to make a complete model.

Get your team to decide roughly where everything goes before they put pen to paper (or whatever the digital equivalent is!) Clashes - for example where a length of pipework hits a structural beam - can largely be prevented by first breaking the building down into volumes and then assigning ‘ownership’ over the volumes to the appropriate disciplines.

Whilst a good volume strategy is key to minimising clashes in the first instance, it’s inevitable that the odd one or two will slip through. You therefore need to run clash detection on your models before issuing them out to the other members of the team i.e. ‘clash avoidance’ rather than clash detection. This minimises the number of issues that need to be resolved collaboratively, saving everyone time and money.

It’s your work, be proud of it and make sure that its spot on before it leaves the office!


In summary

We had a great day with Mervyn and we all learnt an enormous amount. Our key lessons learned were to:

     -   get the Employer’s Information Requirements set out early so that everyone on the team understands 

         what’s needed from the BIM model;

     -   get a BIM-capable project team in place as soon as possible and working together collaboratively; and

     -   instigate good design management processes to minimise the potential for unnecessary duplication or


Many of these foundations are set out in PAS 1192-2:2013.  Get a handle on it and you could soon become a BIM Master!


Contributor: Dan Bland is an intern currently working for The Clarkson Alliance Limited, a firm of consultant project managers and information managers based in Oxford and London. To find out more about the information management services that TCA provide see our website dedicated to BIM at


Mervyn Richards OBE is the author of BIM standard PAS 1192:2013 , developed with Construction Industry Council (CIC) and the Building Information Modelling (BIM) Task Group and Director of Avanti Partnership, a consultancy for BIM training, management and education.


Tags: PAS 1192-2:2013, BIM Task Group, Mervyn Richards OBE
| Filed in Blog
Le Grand Tour de Yorkshire


Stefanie Stead

CIC Yorkshire & Humber Chair 

Architect, Pearce Bottomley Architects

Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work because they meet diverse needs, are sensitive to the environment, safe and inclusive. The construction industry plays a huge part in building these communities, providing homes, infrastructure, jobs and social institutions. Whether the Bronze Age stone circles or modern stadia, construction is intrinsic to the creation of community and there is no better place to explore this than Yorkshire, where evidence dates back to the prehistoric.   

As the location of the Grand Depart, Yorkshire is building a new type of community for the region, one that combines sport, tourism and media. By following the cycling route map – a new sort of neighbourhood plan – we can explore the type of communities Yorkshire had – and has – to offer from Roman roads to modern arenas and ask what we can learn from the past to build the communities of the future.

The new Leeds Arena is the face of the modern construction industry and a reflection of the need of communities to gather for a shared interest, be it gladiatorial combat or a Bruce Springsteen concert.  As the first purpose-built arena with a fan-shaped design and “the best acoustic experience of any large arena venue in the country”, it created technical challenges for the construction team.  But this is not the only ‘new’ arena in the area.  2011 saw the discovery of a significant Roman Amphitheatre in Aldbrough, which also demonstrates cutting edge construction skills.

Central to the development of communities in the region was the building of monasteries in Yorkshire.  Architecturally, the buildings pushed boundaries; economically and politically, these institutions were the power houses of the country.  Fountains Abbey in Ripon was the largest and richest of the Northern abbeys, with an influence that extended to the rest of the country and as far as Norway.  It was occasionally at the forefront of international affairs, whilst closer to home, thousands of people relied on the abbey for work, food, trade and shelter, as well as spirituality.  Today it is a World Heritage site and the impact on tourism is clear but are there lessons here in constructing sustainable communities?

The Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII to form the estates of the gentry had a profound and permanent effect on the Yorkshire landscape. Their stewardship of the land continues to define the character of much of rural Yorkshire and rural business. Bolton Abbey, is a prime example of how once redundant traditional buildings that are no longer suitable for mainstream farming can be given a new lease of life within the community.

Religion was also key to the development of the Rowntree Company established by Joseph Rowntree in 1862. By the time it was acquired by Nestlé in 1988 it was the fourth largest confectionery manufacturer in the world. The company was founded on Quaker principles and Rowntree was deeply interested in improving the quality of life of his employees.  In creating the model village of New Earswick, in York, Rowntree stated that he did “not want to establish communities bearing the stamp of charity but rather of rightly ordered and self governing communities".  The Rowntree Trust continues to build today along the same principles, demonstrating that the need for well-designed communities is as relevant today as it was then.

But what about Yorkshire’s urban communities that have experienced the highs of the Industrial Revolution and the lows of the modern economy?   Hebden Bridge flourished during the Industrial revolution, being a central part of the wool industry that came to define much of the West Riding.  By the late 20th century however, the small mill town was looking like a northern backwater.  The fact that the railway survived the 1960s axe, reinforced the relationship the town has with the larger metropolises of Manchester and Leeds, allowing it to become a vibrant suburb with a distinct sense of independence.  The reinvention of Hebden Bridge fits nicely into the aims of the ‘Northern Way’ initiative before the demise of the LDAs. How can other parts of the UK replicate Hebden Bridge's success?  And should the ‘Northern Way’ be rebuilt?

Likewise, Sheffield is a lesson on how a city can be reborn.   Having established itself as the ‘City of Steel’ in the 18th and 19th centuries, the 1980s saw its dramatic fall as an industrial powerhouse, with the loss of over 50,000 jobs.  Yet Sheffield is now leading the way in its regeneration by engaging with the city in innovative and creative ways, facilitating diverse employment and taking advantage of two top class universities.  This thinking, which combined exemplary architecture and landscape design that was thoroughly endorsed by the Council, has resulted in Sheffield’s GVA increasing by 60% since 1997, standing at £9.2 billion in 2007, with steady growth averaging around 5% annually. So are there ways we can learn from Sheffield?

‘Le Grand Tour de Yorkshire’ is the subject of the CIC Yorkshire and Humber Conference which takes place at the National Railway Museum in York on 25 June 2014.

Contributor: Stefanie chairs CIC's Yorkshire and Humber regional committee and is an Architect at Pearce Bottomley Architects in Leeds.

Tags: infrastructure, Yorkshire, sustainable communities, construction, architecture, diverse,
| Filed in Blog, Farrell Review
Connecting my toaster to the internet?

Andrew Link 

Chief Operating Officer

Construction Industry Council


If the Farrell Review, which is to be published later today, does nothing more than get the words ‘quality’ and ‘value’ into the mindset  of those working in the built environment,  it will have  been a success. If it manages to capture the attention of the  general public and government ministers, then it will have triumphed.

Understandably, over the past few years, the sector has focused strongly on technology.  We are living in a fascinating digital age, where I can connect my toothbrush to the internet, the internet to my toaster and my toaster to the bath … or something similar. However, the question that needs to be asked about these technological advancements is:  Why and how is this important?

With Alain de Botton on the panel of the Farrell Review, I imagine that this type of question has been asked a great many times and  there are two major ones that need answers: Why is the built environment important to our lives?  And, why is this important to the UK and to society as a whole? I understand that the answers will come in a 200 page report and on a website.

There will be few surprises for those of us who ask these questions on a regular basis, but we in the industry are not the audience for this report. The Farrell Review needs to be aimed at the general public, at government ministers and at UK plc so that they may read and understand the value of what the industry does and what it contributes to society on a daily basis.

If the Farrell Review does not make the case,  I will have to go back and look at that toaster all over again.


Contributor: Andrew Link oversees the Design Quality Indicator,, for the CIC. The Design Quality Indicator helps stakeholders manage design quality in both new build and refurbishment projects.  It has been used on over 1,400 projects in 11 years.

Tags: Farrell Review, Design Quality Indicator
| Filed in Blog, Collaboration
Construction Needs to Adopt Sharing Culture

Darren Lester
Founder of SpecifiedBy


The construction industry is hardly renowned for its openness or sharing culture, but it is precisely those two ingredients that have the power to transform the industry for the better.

Not Collaboration

With BIM enforcement just around the corner, we are all well aware of a need to improve collaboration and the exchange and transfer of data and information. But these are fundamentally processes. Processes can be learnt, and taught, and optimised.

Collaboration between various teams isn’t difficult to set in motion because everyone can see it as a way forward and it has a strong element of compliance. It may not always be easy or straightforward to execute, but there really is no question of getting there, it’s just a matter of time.

Openly sharing knowledge and expertise is not the same as collaborating or transferring information. This requires much more than process. It requires a shift in mentality and culture.


Culture defines how we work, what is accepted as good practice and how we are perceived by others.

And it is a more transparent culture of openly sharing knowledge and expertise that we should be aiming for.

Taking the time to write about how you overcame a particularly challenging problem in your last project, or sharing data that you have worked really hard to obtain, for anyone in the industry to benefit from, takes a lot more than compliance or process.

This takes people or organisations to consciously put the good of the industry, or wider society, ahead of their own short-term goals. It requires a mind-set of, ‘How can we help the industry to progress?’

We would do well to look at the ‘open source' approach within the web development community that means an answer to even the most complicated of problems is usually no more than a Google search away. They ask each other for help and for answers. And they usually get them.

Often, someone else has already had the same, or a very similar problem, and have documented it and shared it online.

To build a similar culture of sharing, learning and improving within construction, I believe we need two key components to come together:

1. Leaders

2. Tools


A shift in culture and attitude can only happen if there are people who are willing to take the lead to share a vision and a roadmap that will inspire others to follow along the way.

And by leaders, I don’t mean heads of organisations, working groups, large companies or other “powerful” people. Being in a position of authority where people have to do as you tell them does not make you a leader. That makes you a manager. People follow real leaders because they want to, because they believe in the vision, in this case, a better industry.

The construction industry needs people who will question current processes, suggest new, better ways of working and challenge the authorities that benefit from the status quo.


As an industry, we need to be better at providing people with the tools to share their expertise and learn from each other. There are a few beginning to appear, all of which need to be strongly supported by industry. The better these early innovators do, the more new ideas will be encouraged to follow suit.

Some platforms leading the way include:


CarbonBuzz is an online platform that aims to centralise the sharing of real-life energy consumption data from building projects in order to establish benchmarks and identify gaps in performance.

Users can upload anonymous project data which is used to create a real picture of energy consumption within the industry or just use the existing data to compare against their own projects.

They say…

CarbonBuzz is an RIBA CIBSE platform for benchmarking and tracking energy use in projects from design to operation. It is intended to encourage users to go beyond compliance of mandatory Building Regulations calculations and refine estimates to account for additional energy loads in-use. The platform allows users to compare design energy use with actual energy use side by side to help users close the design and operational energy performance gap in buildings.”

The CarbonBuzz platform is potentially a great tool to improve transparency of energy consumption data, by comparing real-life performance against designed performance.

Designing Buildings Wiki

The Designing Building Wiki aims to “put all construction industry knowledge in one place and make it available to everyone for free.”

Anyone can contribute an article on a particular topic and make it available to everyone within the industry. They say…

“Construction in the UK employs 3 million people in 280,000 organisations, each holding a vast amount of expert knowledge. Everything from how to create a brief for a new project, right through to getting tax breaks for water efficient taps. But much of that knowledge is inaccessible, fragmented and dispersed. If we put it all in one place, where everyone can find it, Construction UK will be more efficient, more collaborative, more innovative and better able to compete in the global market place.”

This is a great example of sharing knowledge and expertise, and provides a great resource for getting answers to tough questions, or at the very least, identifying a good person to speak to about it.


At SpecifiedBy, we are trying to do our small bit as well, with better access to technical information and by encouraging specifiers share their knowledge and expertise of working with particular building products and materials on specific projects, so those looking for similar solutions can more informed decisions.

This will also bring an element of transparency to the performance of building products and the companies responsible for them.


Providing these platforms through which leaders can establish a voice and build a following will be key to introducing a shift in culture.


“No one knows everything. But together, we know a whole lot.”

Simon Sinek


Collaboration and the exchange of information are necessary and positive for the industry, but to make a real change, we need to accept the much more challenging prospect of changing mind-sets and culture.

Some have already started, and I believe we are on our way to a more open and transparent culture where we share knowledge and expertise for the good of the industry.


Contributor: Darren Lester has a background in Architectural Technology and is the founder of SpecifiedBy, a platform that aims to empower building projects with better information.

You can find Darren on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter

Tags: Collaboration, Communication, BIM, Knowledge sharing, CarbonBuzz, Designing Building Wiki
| Filed in Blog, Construction, Tony Burton
Corruption in Construction: What can be done?

Tony Burton

Construction Industry Council (CIC) Deputy Chairman and G&T Senior Partner 


Corruption has always been a perceived problem in the construction industry, but recently, and with the event of the Bribery Act, it has come more to the forefront of industry minds and the concern over what to do it about it is prevalent.

In September last year, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) released their second report exploring this issue and determined that 49% of industry professionals believe that corruption is either fairly or extremely common in the UK. The report also concluded that 50% of people feel that the UK construction industry is not doing enough to prevent corruption. Comments from respondents indicate that the majority of those working in the industry are not happy with the current situation and would like to see better measures in place.

Whilst this report sheds light into perceptions and reasons for fraudulent activity, it doesn’t cover every base. In my opinion, the 49% that believes corruption is common should also have been asked if they had any hard evidence because being able to recognise it, or prove it, is a crucial part of this whole debate.

One of the big problems the industry faces is that UK law enforcement agencies have an acknowledged lack of information on activity in the construction industry.

Shortly after the CIOB report was published, I was asked by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to meet with two officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) as they too were conducting research into economic crime in our industry and wanted to know more. During my two hour interview I described to them how the industry works, areas where it is vulnerable, and where in the construction process I believe corrupt activity might occur.

The NCA taking an interest is a positive step, but the questions remains: what can be done to tackle corruption in construction and for the industry to better protect itself?

Next month, in my capacity as CIC Deputy Chairman and as a direct result of interest from CIC members following my meeting with the NCA, I will be chairing a workshop that will cover issues such as what corruption is and how it can be recognised and how professionals can combat corruption and fraud. We will aim to identify where the opportunities for corruption are and seek advice from bodies such as CIOB, the NCA, and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Key to this workshop will be the two-way dialogue we can get going with such agencies, so that we can educate them about our world as well as them educating us.

This session will, I believe, be a very serious first step in getting on top of this problem once and for all.

If you have any thoughts or opinions about corruption in construction, please contact CIC Policy & Public Affairs Officer Ciaran Molloy

Contributor: Tony Burton is Deputy Chairman of the Construction Industry Council and Senior Partner at Gardiner and Theobald LLP. For more information on Tony and Gardiner & Theobald visit

Tags: Corruption, G&T, Gardiner & Theobald, CIC, Chairman, blog
| Filed in Blog, BIM, Collaboration
Is BIM an enabler for Collaboration?

Sonia Zahiroddiny
Information Modelling & Management Capability Programme (IMMCP) Delivery Team
Transport for London


Prior to the introduction of the personal computer, documentation (including drawings) within the construction industry were mainly paper based, these were managed manually and archived in a warehouse. As computers and technology became part of everyday life and the launch of the World Wide Web, the industry moved to electronic documents and drawings as well as electronic means of managing them; traditional methods were replaced by Computer Aided Design (CAD).

However, CAD had issues too; CAD was supposed to be a computer design tool to be utilised by engineers and promised to increase the quality of design and improve the management and communications through better documentation. Instead, CAD was utilised as an electronic drawing board, which meant technologists where needed to produce drawings, unfortunately most had limited knowledge of the engineering behind it.

As construction is very much project-based and since projects are highly reliant upon updated information; exchange of information, which I believe is the least mature form of communication, is regarded central to the industry. Therefore, the concept of a centralised repository for sharing and managing project’s electronic documentation so called, Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) or Extranets became popular. But after a while EDMS were integrated with e-mail to automate workflows and notify project participants of tasks and activities which resulted in vast amount of e-mails (some unimportant and unnecessary) being sent around.

Now with the emerging use of Building Information Modelling (BIM), the industry is moving towards a centralised repository with object based models. The intelligence of models and centralisation way of managing these models will alter the existing communication mechanisms and will enhance the ways in which project participants are currently working as a team.  But is BIM, as a technology and as a process, an enabler for collaboration?

Since the 90’s there has been many efforts (i.e. governmental reports published by Sir Latham and Sir Egan) to drive efficiency improvements in the industry. One of these improvements is in the area of collaboration. I’ve observed that collaboration, in some cases even coordination and cooperation, are often used to describe team work.  If you ask anyone in the industry what collaboration is, I’m certain you’ll get similar answers. But if you ask them ‘how’ they collaborate, they will more than likely say “we share information”! But does sharing information alone mean project teams are collaborating? Or are they just making project team members aware of their activities? You’re probably asking yourself, “what is the difference, after all collaboration, coordination and cooperation all mean the same thing, don’t they”?

The answer is: No they don’t!

In Computer Sciences, Collaboration requires:

Strategic planning – clearly defining who/when/where/what and how

Culture - where everyone is happy to share information, there is more engagement, knowledge sharing and innovative thinking

Trust – foundation of collaboration and collaborative working

Tools (information systems/technology) – to enable information flow and collaborative working 

All the above pillars influence and support each other to make up a collaborative environment and none of them can exist in isolation.

As I mentioned, most projects are only sharing information; they correspond to one another in an unmanaged and unstructured (so called ad-hoc) way, mainly by e-mail. The ease use of e-mail has allowed it to become the main communication channel. Project members are overloaded with huge number of emails per day, each demanding some input which needs time to consider.

Just because project members are working together to get the project completed on time doesn’t make them collaborators. They may well be coordinating through managed and structured sharing of documents via transmittals, aligning activities and schedules as well as managing dependencies using extranets with assigned roles and responsibilities and agreed workflows and data structures, or in some cases cooperating at a higher level than just a project, which requires interaction and commitment between organisations with more structured information.

I would argue in a project environment where participants are geographically dispersed, collaboration is not essential, unless all the organisations involved in the project are interdependent (mutually dependent), which means they have predefined goals with full workflow integration (Integrated Project Delivery methods for instance), shared resources, risk and liability, high level of communication and trust and real-time pipeline (to interact with a virtual environment).  

If we take the same meaning of collaboration in Computer Sciences, we can answer the question, “Is BIM an enabler for Collaboration”?

Yes – because BIM (at its lowest level of maturity) requires a Standard Method and Procedure (SMP), which recognises the importance of information and defines the roles of information management.  The SMP also strategically defines a Common Data Environment (CDE) process which enables better information management which results in more confidence and trust in the information available. BIM at its highest level of maturity provides international standards and advanced technological solutions that would be an enabler to collaborative working.

No – because BIM can’t build trust between different organisations, neither can it change the existing culture of file-based information sharing within the industry. Culture is something that needs to be changed by leadership and project participants believing in the change. The right culture will result in the right attitudes towards trust.

So in my view BIM has the potential to be a key driver for collaborative working. The industry however needs to take a step back and take a broader approach to collaboration, by that I mean rather than focusing on projects, the aim should be imbedding BIM organisational-wide. It’s key to remember that BIM is only an enabler for collaborative working; the pillars of collaboration must exist within an organisation, with or without BIM. 

*  any opinions expressed in this blog are purely my own and relate to my PhD work. 


Contributor: Sonia's background is in Computer Sciences and Information Systems Management. Sonia entered the world of Construction when she started her PhD at the University of Northumbria looking at impacts of BIM on Communication patterns of Construction projects. Sonia is an Incorporate member of the CIOB (ICIOB) and is currently working as a BIM consultant.

You can find Sonia on Linkedin and Twitter


Tags: BIM, Collaboration, Computer Aided Design (CAD)
| Filed in Blog, BIM
It’s all about the classification...

John Sands

Principal Consultant of the Sustainable Construction Group



As BIM experience increases, a number of key issues are becoming apparent.  One such example is classification – what ‘things’ are called.  If you have a vast quantity of data or information, that can be a very powerful resource.  However, all that potential may be difficult to realise if you can’t find the particular piece of information efficiently when you need it.

Classification can be defined as:

                    ‘the act or process of dividing things into groups according to their type’

Classification has been used in the construction world for many years, often without the users knowing it.  For example, many engineers would recognise that a section called ‘T10’ in their specification dealt with ‘Gas/oil fired boilers’.  This came from a classification system called Common Arrangement of Work Sections (CAWS) which covered architectural and MEP elements for construction projects.

Subsequently, Uniclass was derived from this system and gave the opportunity to classify ‘things’ in different ways, not simply as a system or an object.  Uniclass was based on the general structure described in ISO 12006, which promoted the use of classification classes, each of which relates to a classification need.  As well as products (or objects), some of the other classes suggested by ISO 12006 are:


  • Entity e.g. a building, a bridge, a tunnel
  • Complex (a group of entities) e.g. airports, hospitals, universities, power station
  • Space e.g. office, canteen, parking area, operating theatre
  • Product e.g. boiler, door, drain pipe
  • Facilities this combines the space with an activity which can be carried out there, eg operating theatre

Indeed, other classes can be added to a classification system such as ‘system’, which works very well in an MEP environment.  Similarly, an ‘activities’ class would be very helpful to define a range of activities which might be able to be done within a particular space, as an alternative to using the ‘facilities’ class.

Although consultants and contractors have managed well using just a couple of the classes above, other groups have found great benefit in classifying in a number of different ways.  For example, it would be very helpful in a hospital FM environment to use the ‘spaces’, ‘activities’, ‘systems’ and ‘products’ classes.

In a hospital it is useful to classify the ‘spaces’ in the first instance by type, and then to classify each space further by which ‘activities’ can be carried out within them.  From this it is possible to classify the ‘systems’ which support the spaces and then the ‘products’ which form the systems.  A practical example would be if the chilled water system was taken out of action then you could quickly see which spaces were affected – an operating theatre.  Once that’s known it is simple to determine which activities cannot be carried out – a number of planned operations.  Also, other products or equipment can be identified which can now be worked on as the system they belong to is not working – chillers or chilled beams.

In this era of greater collaboration it is not enough to know what we are calling things, which classification system we are using.  We must communicate with those we are working with to make sure that the solution suits all of us, and moreover that it is suitable for the whole life of the asset and not just the design, or the construction phase.

It may be that a new classification system is required to satisfy all parties involved in an asset and to make information available throughout its whole life.  This is no simple task, which becomes more complex when the range of assets is considered in both buildings and infrastructure.

It is tempting to try to find solutions to what we do individually, but it is vital that any solution must be suitable for all stages of an asset’s life, for all types of assets and for all those involved in the asset.  Once this has been achieved, the full potential of BIM can start to be exploited, and tangible benefits demonstrated in the use of information management processes.  

Contributor: John joined BSRIA’s Sustainable Buildings Group in 2012 to drive the development of BIM within BSRIA and to assist its members – and the wider industry - with the understanding and adoption of BIM practices and techniques.  He is actively involved in industry discussions on classification structures for BIM, and represents the CIBSE at CPIC committee level on this topic. He sits on the CIBSE BIM Group and represents BSRIA on the CIC BIM Forum. John can be contacted via email or BSRIA LinkedIn.

Tags: BIM, ISO 12006, uniclass
| Filed in Blog, BIM, BIM Research
BIM : Reducing complexity without losing clarity

Louise Dawes
BIM Consultant
Clearbox Limited

Introduction by Ashley Beighton, BIM Process Manager for The Clarkson Alliance 

Demonstrating that BIM can be used effectively on smaller construction projects has been an indirect consequence of our Technology Strategy Board co-funded project.  Having come onboard an existing project and introduced BIM to a Worthing Homes housing development, our aim is to explore the changes in behaviours that BIM raises as well as its benefits. 

By participating in a research project, it has given us opportunity to learn and share in a way that we wouldn’t be able to do if it was commercially sensitive.  So far, we have discovered that by intelligently scaling down existing BIM documents and standards, they become more relevant for smaller projects – the Worthing Homes project is £1-2million; there is a move away from a single stage tender process and the importance of setting up a robust Employers Information Requirement to frame everything around and focussing on an early asset model are all key.

Most of our findings have impacted clients and designers but we are not on this journey alone.  Over the course of this year, our partners Clearbox (software partner), and Worthing Homes (host project partner) will also be giving their perspective on the project so far.  Clearbox BIMXtra is the Common Data Environment for this project. It is a cloud based data hub that consolidates information derived from 3D models and builds upon this information, adding value to each stage as the project evolves.

Below Louise Dawes, BIM Consultant at Clearbox shares her experiences so far:                                

At Clearbox we have been busy defining our BIM documentation for the Meadow Road Project. In partnership with The Clarkson Alliance and Worthing Homes we have issued the  (pre-contract) Employer’s Information Requirements and are in the final stages of consolidating the (post-contract) BIM Execution Plan.

Changes to BIM Documentation

Over the last year we have seen extensive changes in defining our BIM documentation as more and more people are engaging and are having an involvement in projects with a BIM requirement.

Our initial implementation plans were extensive, very comprehensive, time consuming to write and were not easy to embed in contracts at early stages. Having learnt that the most successful method of applying BIM is at the outset of the project, we restructured our documentation so that one initial comprehensive document is now split into two; An initial document containing generic company standards which can easily be inserted into the Employer’s Information Requirements and the second, a detailed BIM Execution Plan that is comprehensive, bespoke for the project and is updated as a project progresses.

As a small project, Meadow Roads BIM documentation follows the same principles and methodology of those that would be suitable for a larger scheme. We simply downscaled our documentation to suit, without losing clarity or definition of the BIM requirement.

Keep it Simple

Apart from the CAD skills required to model in 3D there is nothing technically challenging about the process of adopting BIM. We have learnt that by reducing the complexity and writing BIM documentation with minimal technical jargon we have been able to engage with the wider project team and move BIM forward from Design and into Pre-Construction, Construction, O&M and FM areas.

Data generated by BIM is valuable and should be utilised by all; benefits should not purely be gained in design.

BIMXtra and the Meadow Road Project

Our common data environment BIMXtra has been set up ready to accept models from the consultants and contractors. All parties have been given access to this central location and will be able to view consolidated data once models have been released. The document management library will be used to store and share issued models.

In summary, to get people to participate and adopt BIM you need to ensure they engage and understand what is required to be involved in a BIM project. By defining requirements a clear understanding can be shared amongst project teams. This gives the opportunity for people to adapt to new ways of working.

To view previous blog posts on this research project click here

Contributor: Louise Dawes is a BIM Consultant at Clearbox Limited, a software and consultancy firm focused on delivering leading edge information management from modern BIM enabled projects, across the entire asset lifecycle. To find out more about Clearbox see our website

Contributor: Ashley Beighton is BIM Process Leader for The Clarkson Alliance Limited, a firm of consultant project managers and information managers based in Oxford and London. To find out more about the information management services that TCA provide see our website dedicated to BIM - BIM fusion



Tags: BIM, CAD