The advent of 3D modelling is a natural progression from 2D, just as in turn, that was a giant leap forward from drawing boards. Computer aided design revolutionised the design process and accelerated the use of specifications as a key design information tool and contracting document, which very quickly replaced the old system of Preambles in BQ’s. This placed the responsibility for specifying squarely with the the architect, who became able to create a suite of information to suit new methods of procurement, manufacture and construction techniques.
Will BIM have the same impact? I think not, simply because it is a natural progression as opposed to a complete change in the way of working, and will eventually be replaced by something better. The creation of a complete BIM model that becomes the Contract by including every single piece of information that determines the nature, scope, design, commercial and legal requirements is, I believe, a long way off. BIM is a tool not a panacea for all of the ills of our industry and like any tool its successful use will depend on its intelligent use by construction professional.
Specifications are relatively easy to link within a BIM model, but there are options for intelligent use and I see myself, as someone who was at the forefront of the original “specification revolution” in the 1980’s, questioning much of what is currently happening in this regard.
Software developers, manufacturers and those who advocate the use of standard specifications for every project (i.e. a one suit fits all solution) are pushing for automated specification production generated by material selection from libraries within the BIM model. Taking this one step further I understand that they also seek to do the same with cost planning, quantification, pricing and contracts. I am not saying that this is wrong, but it is not always suitable, in fact I cannot remember a single occasion in my 47 years helping to deliver projects ranging in cost from a few thousand to hundreds of millions of pounds when a building was designed by product selection alone.
Specifications are key contract documents, which do more than simply state material and workmanship requirements, and they certainly do not cover every product requirement, or reflect a 100% complete detailed design. The fact is that these days construction contracts are almost always awarded before the design is complete and numerous procurement routes and amended T&C’s have been developed to deal with that situation.
The key point here is that the specification is a contract document, probably the most important document, other than the T&C’s in any agreement. It therefore has to deal clearly with post contract issues related to finalising the detailed design and process, all within a lump sum price agreed with the contractor. A standard specification is unable to deal with these circumstances and as such BIM models need the ability to incorporate specifications of different types. It is relatively simple to do, as we intend to show through “intelligent use”.
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