BIM Level 2 Accreditation and the Wizard of Oz
“The Wizard of Oz solved the Scarecrow’s problem of having no brain by giving him a Diploma” - Philip B. Crosby.
If you had asked me three years ago if I would personally recommend investment in a BIM Level 2 Accreditation or Certification scheme, my answer would have been a very clear and concise no, and to wait instead. This view, and consequent advice given to others, was based on the limited uptake and traction across industry at the time, and lack of clear evidence that the industry would value or even want yet another certification type scheme. Today, my views have changed, my advice is very different, and I believe the overall landscape across our sector is changing. As the title of this blog suggests, I will be referencing the Wizard of Oz (you will understand the link further on), but for now let’s assume things have changed, and as Dorothy said to Toto, “I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
I have been keeping a close eye on BIM Accreditation schemes for many years, and the reason for the personal interest is simple; throughout the new BIM standards and specifications there is a key requirement to check and assess the capability and competency of the supply chain - and where assessment is required - this normally leads to testing or marking, and therefore possibly associated certification and accreditation. On a BIM-enabled project, with increased collaboration at its heart, ensuring that all participants have the required competencies and understanding is key for project success. This I know only too well from direct project experience, so I firmly believe that anything that can help build and confirm competency of those companies I would wish to work with or employ can only be a good thing.
Something changed close to three years ago within the industry; Excitech customers were starting to ask why we were not offering BIM Level 2 Certification directly? Companies were re-evaluating their current BIM journeys (I’m trying desperately not to insert a yellow brick road reference here) but maybe more importantly, there was evidence that some companies were not pre-qualifying for work based on a perceived lack of BIM capability. It can be challenged that BIM may only form a small part of the selection process; costs and fees will always dominate, however; the winning work and selection process was now subtly different.
There are several company capability assessment tools available, but predominately as an industry, we are reliant on the issue and receipt of paper-based questionnaires, with two prominent templates being used. Those available firstly from CPIx (Construction Project Information Committee, 2015), and secondly PAS 91:2013 Construction prequalification questionnaires (British Standards Intitute, 2013). Although I know the authors personally, I must admit I am not a fan of the CPIx BIM Assessment Forms, but in consideration that it is only available as a BETA and was originally published in 2011, I believe with the emergence of BIM Level 2 Accreditation, its place in history will go down as the original catalyst for a more formal and comprehensive assessment of capability across industry.
PAS91, which was revised in 2013 includes a BIM section and with little subtly, indicates a new future assessment route for industry. It states that if a company holds a third party certificate of compliance with PAS 1192-2:2013 from an organisation with a related UKAS accreditation or equivalent, you can tick the box, provide a copy of your certificate and be exempt from answering further questions, i.e. you pass go and move forwards.
I mentioned two years ago we noticed a step change, and after investigation, decided that becoming a UKAS accredited certifier was not our preferred route to help customers, instead preferring to partner with a specialist in the area of Accreditation and Certification, which led to Excitech partnering with Lloyd’s Register (LR), a global and significant organisation in this space with a provenance that has existed since 1760.
So, what has been the impression from this partnership? The first thing I would say, and from customer feedback, is that the LR scheme is the most rigorous of those available in the market currently, that is not to say other providers’ schemes are less worthy, but it does highlight an industry problem. Currently, there is no-uniform and fully aligned UKAS accredited scheme available, but why would there be? How can UKAS outline and define with providers an aligned scheme based predominately on Publicly Available Specifications (PAS), a document that’s role is to speed up standardisation and is often produced due to an urgent market need. Industry needed a standard for BIM procurement and project management, and we were given PAS 1192-2:2013, essentially a work-in-progress and a natural precursor to a British or International Standard. However, with current initiatives to upgrade these key BIM documents from PAS status to ISO19650. UKAS, I believe, will have an opportunity to fully align all BIM Accreditation schemes, so there is an agreed minimum set of assessment criteria that must form part of all future assessments.
So, should you avoid the current BIM Level 2 Accreditations?
My advice is no, from my experience with the LR scheme, it adds real value and investigates many aspects of an organisation from initial recruitment and assessment of staff, to providing clear instructions to project teams, considering supply chain capability, ensuring you have the right BIM Level 2 processes in place, and considers risk management and continuous quality improvement.
I have previously stated that I believe `the AEC industry always allows us opportunity to improve upon the last project`, and continuing from that I would like to share an observation made by the late Philip B. Crosby, one of the early world leading experts on quality management. “The Wizard of Oz solved the Scarecrow’s problem of having no brain by giving him a Diploma
”; he went on to compare this to going to the doctors; the doctor takes an X-ray, alters the X-ray but doesn’t send you off for surgery to treat your ailment. I would recommend that if you invest in BIM Level 2 Accreditation you must seek to not only be compliant but also use it to improve your business. This could be achieved by using the certification process to help develop a more expansive BIM strategy, improving current processes, or taking a stronger view on quality assurance and continuous performance. If all you want is a `BIM badge` or a `diploma` but not make any business change, then I believe it is a wasted investment and missed opportunity.
Whichever scheme you invest in today will not be a poor investment. The schemes will evolve, they will align, and customers will be informed of any changes in requirements before any future surveillance visits. We are seeing strong evidence that Employers are now valuing these company held certifications. All indications suggest that industry wants this new level of compliance and quality assurance, and specifically for Main Contractors who have a very wide and diverse supply chain, at this time I cannot think of a better and more efficient way to assess the competency across a large and varied supply chain than through a third-party certifying organisation, who will not only manage the assessment process, issue conformance certification but will also annually review and assess those organisations ensuring they are working to current standards and workflows. As a caveat, none of these schemes are confirming you are brilliant at BIM, sorry, but they are instead indicating to your clients that you have the competency and required foundation in place to be successful in delivery.
Going back to the Wizard of Oz, to be successful on a BIM-enabled project we need a brain just like the Scarecrow, but not a Diploma it needs to function. Like the Tin Man we need a heart, and in this increasingly collaborative way of working, an open one; and finally, just like the Lion, we need courage as an industry to drive change and deliver the improvement we all know has to happen. BIM Level 2 Accreditation is not as simple as clicking a pair of ruby slippers to get you to a totally new place, but I would suggest it will take you a long way down that Yellow Brick Road, sorry but I had to get it in there somewhere. If you would like to know more about BIM Level 2 Accreditation, or just curious as to how it can help your business, please do get in contact below.