ISO 19650, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Have you ever woken up one morning and felt that implementing BIM on your projects might be just like the old wild west portrayed in those many spaghetti western films or current games like Red Dead Redemption? Wild, uncultured, lawless, fraught with danger and living every day on the edge in a potential life or death situation? I am sure your answer is no, of course not, but there may be some similarities. The construction sector has been on a journey in the UK and anyone evangelising or implementing BIM as part of the Level 2 initiative have all been pioneers, wanting to build a new and better life for their friends and colleagues. Although, instead of wrangling cattle we are trying to wrangle data and information and control the environment it lives and breathes within. But of course, in any lawless society we desperately need laws and morals to provide a polite and decent society for our townsfolk, and a local Sheriff to keep the piece. Okay, I know I am pushing this western angle a bit too far now but this new standard, does provide a very good basis and opportunity to tame the Wild West, but it will not give you all the answers, there is still a lot of work and effort required.
So, what is The Good? – For anyone reading the new ISO 19650-1 and 2 as an academic, part 1 is an interesting read if you want to understand that the BIM Maturity Wedge is now depicted as a Square for example. I have read every section and of course I would recommend that you read the whole ISO series so you get full context and understanding. But for most jumping straight into part 2 and reading this in detail might be a good decision, and although this may seem strange, do start by looking at Appendix A. Information Management Assignment Matrix. Here you will find a responsibility matrix and a step by step activity list for a project from appointments, to capturing lessons learned at the end of the project. Have a look at the matrix and work out which tasks would or may be assigned to you, at Excitech we have already mapped out the potential functions and associated responsibilities for every project role and now use this matrix as the initial framework. As you read through ISO 19650-2 you can focus on the key areas that apply to you but also as you read, understand each stakeholder’s role and duties in a clearly presented and logical format.
So, what is The Bad? – When you read any industry standard you must understand its purpose and context, it may be a guidance, or a recommended code of practice for example. As I stated earlier the new ISO will not give you all the answers, so if you wanted to clearly understand the Level of Detail, Level of Development, Level of Definition or Level of Information Need, using the ISO term, you will be very disappointed. This is a standard full of concepts and principals but not finite detail. I have seen many negative comments on social media platforms regarding this lack of content and I fully understand why, but I do believe this level of guidance was always beyond the intention and scope of the ISO 19650 series, and I agree with many across industry that we still desperately need this industry guidance. For now I would suggest that publications such as BSRIA’s Design Framework for Building Services 5th Edition (BG 6/2018) or the American Institute of Architects BIMForum 2019 Level of Development Specification may for now provide some form of guidance. However here also lies a significant industry risk and there may be a few metaphoric shootouts at the OK Corral due to arguments relating to what exactly is the right Level of Information Need. In summary I think the ISO does what it was intended to do and provides an international framework for information management with BIM as the foundation, but there is another level of detail the industry will still need to develop to avoid misunderstandings, prolonged debate or even dispute.
So, what is the Ugly? Well there is not really an ugly part in the ISO, but on review as we developed our Excitech delivery toolkits for ISO 19650 projects, we have found that in the main the guidance is clearly defined, and the term or definition changes are reasonable. Although when you read sentences such as `There is a special case of the “lead appointed party” which is an appointed party directly appointed by the appointing party.` it does raise a small smile even though it is technically correct. However, if I was pressed, I personally believe the supporting graphics especially in ISO 19650-2 provide very little value and this is a point of view coming from someone who loves visual communication. I have already seen examples on social media where people have started to represent the ISO concepts in graphical form and these are a great improvement, so maybe once again it is industry practitioners and pioneers who will continue to drive adoption and wider understanding by building upon basic principles. However what has been reinforced in this new international standard is the Employers/Client/Appointing Party’s role and responsibility for the success of a BIM enabled project. Asking for BIM and a bit of COBie was never the right approach but now this is very clear if you are the Employers/Client/Appointing Party in your town you will have to be the Mayor and Sheriff on your projects. You can of course sub-contract out some of these duties but in the end the levels of culture, collaboration and quality of outcomes on your project will be due to your direct influence. It is wrong technically to put this observation into this section but if you do want to avoid an Ugly project the Employer/Client/Appointing Party must take a leading role.
The Wild West was eventually declared won, depending on your point of view and historical context, but today as we embrace a new and ever changing digital-age we have taken a significant step forward with the publication of ISO 19650 and the associated PD 19650-0 UK Transition Guidance. I firmly believe we all need to embrace the general principles it offers and take a good look at our current workflows. Many of us jumped into our saddles and started the long ride west many years ago and we have stopped often to check that we are on the right path or trail before proceeding. This is a fantastic chance for the industry to set-up camp for the night to review the journey so far, get some rest and plan the next day’s ride so we don’t get lost or get into any trouble.
This brief Blog is not supposed to be a highly intellectual review of ISO 19650, for those of you who know me well, or have read my previous blogs you will know that I like to take a pragmatic and hopefully humorous, or different view on life where possible. In this regard the final comment above “This is fantastic chance for industry to set-up camp for the night to review the journey so far” was my main point today. We now have an internationally recognised standard that will not be revised for five years, the next review will be 2024, the suite of documents will be added to, PAS1192:3 and PAS1192:5 will also transition to ISO, at a time to be confirmed but anticipated to be 2020 but any investment you make now will be valid for the next five years. At Excitech, we are already in discussions with Clients where ISO 19650 will be the mandated standard and compliance will be required, and when these projects move into procurement this will give everyone involved from the Employer, or Appointing Party using ISO terms, and the supply chain whether you are a designer, contractor or manufacturer an opportunity to sit around the camp fire and review previous BIM enabled projects, apply lessons learned and develop more robust standards, methods and procedures based on this International Standard as the framework. For me personally this is an exciting time and provides a land of opportunity, and one I hope the industry embraces fully.
Before I close, you may be wondering how can someone get so excited about an industry standard? It is a fair question. For me as an industry practitioner, consultant and part-time academic, which ever hat I put on, I do of course know this is only an industry standard, but just think of the cultural impact BS 1192:2007+A2:2016 has had on the industry. There are not many I meet across the industry today that do not know what a Common Data Environment (CDE) is or haven't worked within one. There are not many who do not work to agreed documentation naming conventions or nomenclature, and by applying these basic concepts leads to increased standardisation, consistency, collaboration and efficiency, all good and positive outcomes. The new ISO and the associated PD 19650-0 UK Transition Guidance moves us forward once more but now on an international stage, with BIM as the foundation. By looking at the wider impact on the industry beyond just the words written in the standards is the real opportunity that excites me, and this will drive continued innovation and digitisation across the Construction sector.
Back to the Wild West, the Pony Express was replaced by the telegraph system, and only history will decide if our BIM development to date can be compared to the era of the Pony Express (which only lasted nineteen months) or the telegraph, or even maybe the emergence of the telephone, but for now I will ride into the sunset in the knowledge that the world tomorrow may be a little brighter and less lawless than today.