Is Level 2 BIM Possible?

“Level 2 BIM isn’t possible.”

So spoke UK BIM mainstay, Mervyn Richards, at the BSI BIM Conference at the tail end of 2014 to stunned silence. Then the fingers started to twitch and tweets began to circulate. It’s a statement that has since been echoed by many, and one which has gained a certain amount of traction in UK BIM circles.

Without doubt, this statement has a political undercurrent, as government funding for the Level 2 BIM work is reaching an end. With the self-imposed 2016 deadline for all public projects to deliver Level 2 BIM, there is a significant amount of work remaining to complete the roadmap originally specified by the Task Group, but not being possible…? I suspect that has more to do with your own perspective and requirements than it does such a black and white definition of Level 2 BIM some would have you believe.

But is it true?

Level 2 BIM is defined in Mervyn Richards and Mark Bew’s BIM wedge to help describe BIM adoption maturity. The one thing that is therefore obvious is Level 2 BIM adoption is a graduated process, not a sudden step up – it’s a wedge not a rectangle. There are further increasing aspects of its implementation, continuing up to the (not yet possible or even defined) Level 3. That means, by its own definition, Level 2 BIM has a simpler minimum requirement at the lower end, and a more complex upper end.

BIM maturity levels as published in PAS1192-2:2013

BIM has already moved beyond the silo of government definition into the private sector where it has developed autonomy and is rapidly becoming commonplace. The basic concepts must still apply, but there are differences between public and private expectations. PAS1192-2:2013 is the underlying foundation of BIM, and that in itself specifically states that the definition of Level 2 BIM will develop:

Note 3 from PAS1192-2:2013 from Introduction, page ix

Think of the analogy to the English language (or any language for that matter): language develops and evolves. Modern English bears a passing resemblance to older forms, but that shouldn’t lead to a conclusion that the 16th Century didn’t speak English, nor should it define English as impossible to speak until every verb, noun and possible usage has been fixed. Or, in more pragmatic terms, if a design team adheres to the principles and protocols of Level 2 BIM at the design stages of a project, but the contractor and client do not continue these methodologies on into construction and beyond, does that mean the architect was not delivering Level 2 BIM? Is a project where the client does not provide an EIR, but the design team instead collaborate and define a BEP alongside the contractor’s Information Requirements (CIR?), not Level 2 BIM? If BS8541 compliance is a definitive, 90% of BIM authoring tools would not comply out of the box.

It is probably easier to add more detail to the Level 2 portion of the BIM wedge:

A breakdown of Level 2 BIM maturity based on a progressive adoption of standards, procedures and supplementary documents

The important thing to remember about Level 2 BIM compliance is that there are fundamental requirements which should be met as a basic. Many of the “required” documents are not; they are supporting documents, helpful but not a criteria for Level 2 BIM compliance.

  1. BS1192

While not a specific standard written for BIM working, BS1192 defines key aspects of basic Level 2 BIM compliance:

  • The procedural expectations of the collaborative Common Data Environment (CDE) enhanced in PAS1192-2
  • File and layer naming conventions
  • Revision numbering
    This is a good example of common sense prevailing where Level 2 BIM compliance is concerned. The authoritarians will decree that to be Level 2 BIM compliant you must use the revision numbering exactly as specified in BS1192 i.e. P1 (Shared), P1.1 (WIP), etc. However, there is nothing to suggest that other, more common, revisioning systems cannot be employed. BS1192 allows project-specific revisioning, so long as those do not conflict with the standard codes. PAS1192-2 states the key requirement is that model revision matches that of its related information.
  1. PAS1192-2

Defined succinctly on page ix of the Introduction, and detailed throughout the rest of the document, the fundamental principles for Level 2 BIM are:

  • Originator-controlled models and referencing / data exchange
  • An Employers Information Requirements (EIR) and key project decision points
    Probably the single most controversial criterion, as many “Level 2 BIM” projects do not have an EIR. From a public perspective, this is fairly clear cut: no EIR, no Level 2 BIM (as there is no defined requirement for that project to deliver BIM), but in a private enterprise, the definition of BIM operations & data requirements is often specified by the design team themselves and/or the contractor (a “CIR” is becoming more common, despite not being a formally recognised title, even when an EIR exists). Provided the key definitions of an EIR are addressed, it can be argued a project is Level 2 BIM compliant. See PAS1192-3 below.
  • Capability assessment of the supply chain
    Even if that means they are not BIM-enabled.
  • A BIM Execution Plan (BEP)
  • “Application of the processes and procedures outlined in the documents and standards indicated in Table 1”
    It should be noted that many of these documents listed are proprietary, such as the CIC and CPIx work. The key for Level 2 BIM is “application of the processes and procedures” which means alternatives can be employed provided the intentions are met.
  • Deliverables
    Additionally, PAS1192 defines “some or all” of expected Level 2 BIM project deliverables:

    • Native file format
    • COBie – An objective decision should be made with regard to COBie. COBie should not be issued simply to be PAS1192-compliant, but should be included as a deliverable only when needed for asset data. Proprietary data formats are equally valid in other scenarios, depending on the stages where BIM is required and the employer’s own asset information system.
    • PDF
  1. PAS1192-3

PAS1192-3 is shown in the original PAS1192-2 BIM wedge (see above) further up the maturity scale than PAS1192-2. This standard covers the information requirements for the operational phases of a project. It helps define the relationship between BIM and an Asset Information Model. Used as part of a systematic approach it enables the production of a clearly defined EIR.

It is possible to produce an EIR without PAS1192-3, although the end data requirements may not be as precise. Does that make Level 2 BIM impossible? No, but clearly it is better with a whole lifecycle approach to data management that adheres to PAS1192-3.

  1. The ever-expanding “pillars” of UK BIM…

In addition to the basic structuring of data (BS1192-1), the procedural aspects for the capital delivery (PAS 1192-2) and operational phases (PAS1192-3) additional documents are listed as necessary.

  • BS 1192-4 (Collaborative production of information. Part 4: Fulfilling employers information exchange requirements using COBie – Code of practice) defines the technical use and structure of COBie data, one of the “optional” but expected deliverables for public Level 2 BIM projects. See above.
  • CIC Building Information Model (BIM) Protocol is described by the UK BIM Task Group as “a supplementary legal agreement”. Is its inclusion in the contract mandatory for Level 2 BIM projects? That’s probably best left to your legal team and your client.
  • GSL (Government Soft Landings) clearly only apply to public projects, although the principle of a well-managed & supported staged handover can add increased value to any project delivery. Is Level 2 BIM possible without this? Of course.
  • Digital Plan of Work (in preparation) helps to define the expected deliverables at each project stage, but is a “nice to have” rather than an essential part of Level 2 BIM. Once available, it will improve consistency and clarity of data exchanges, but the same can be achieved without the DPoW; it’s just not handed to you on a plate.
  • Classification (in preparation) will also assist with consistency and commonality, but other classification systems are being used successfully. The problem with classification systems is extensiveness, but in and of themselves do not make or break Level 2 BIM.  It is important to have one, but Level 2 BIM is perfectly possible with other existing classification systems.
  • PAS1192-5 covers digital security, an important, even critical, consideration for exchange and delivery of BIM.
    Is security a defining aspect of Level 2 BIM? No doubt it will be for public projects, and will help to define practices for private projects as well, but as with PAS1192-3, the obligatory nature of its adoption depends on the employer’s own systems.

BIM has become an entity unto itself and is rapidly developing in the private sector somewhat independently of the public. And therein lies the reality of Level 2 BIM: its possibility hinges not on the “spirit of Level 2 BIM”, not on the completeness of the UK Task Group’s work which will place you higher along the maturity wedge, but the careful definition, documentation, management and extent of Level 2 BIM on each individual project.

Verily I say unto thee, stop stalling. Level 2 BIM was possible with PAS1192-2, it is possible with PAS1192-3 and -4 and will be with Part 5, albeit in a more mature form. The world moves on and the only constant is change.