(Credit: Tony Broomhead, BL Consult)
The employer’s Information Manager is responsible for the information flow and exchange between project team members.
There is much debate as to who is best placed to take on this role - should it be the architect, contractor or structural engineer?
The structural engineer has the opportunity to expand their role to encompass that of the Employer’s Information Manager as they exhibit many of the core skills and competencies required.
Sharing information through the Common Data Environment (CDE)
BS EN ISO 196508 suggests four states of information exchange:
1. Work in Progress (WIP)
This is a private area where project team members evolve the design within their own discipline. Often teams will be exploring several options and scenario testing but continuously sharing this with other team members is counter-productive. The WIP is often within the individual companies own IT infrastructure and not within the CDE
This is the information that project team members need to share with each other to complete their tasks. The frequency and process of sharing should be stated in the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) and managed by the Employer’s Information Manager.
The frequency of information exchange can vary throughout the project lifecycle, within a project stage and between different disciplines. It is imperative that the format of the data exchanges is agreed and adhered to. This includes the version of software(s) that the team are using to complete their work, the format of the information exchange and the ‘export options’.
Changing software versions throughout a project should only be done by exception and needs to be agreed by all. This does not mean that all project team members must use the same software, instead all team members must check that information required by others from them can flow unimpeded - this is often made easier by all using the same software.
Some clients have mandated software and version. This is not the same as requiring the team work to BIM stage 2. It is entirely possible for project team members to all be using the same software and version, but each in a different way leading to the same incompatibility issues as if they all were using different software.
Stage 2 is about how users structure and share the information, not which software they use. Good practice is to continually check models for coordination throughout the ‘Shared’ phase and not wait until it is ‘Published’.
The published state is reached upon agreement among the project team to have reached a significant project milestone awaiting a decision from the appointing party (client) to continue.
The appointing party’s information need is typically specified in the Exchange Information Requirements (EIR) for each project milestone.
To meet this milestone the project team will bring together all the discipline information models, produce a federated model and extract a subset of this information to meet the requirements outlined in the EIR. This subset of the federated model is known as Information Exchange aka ‘data-drop’.
Although there is no standard requirement a possible Information Exchange delivery format is COBie (Construction to Operation Building Information Exchange). COBie was originally devised to be used at the ‘Handover Stage’ only, however BS 1192-411 proposes this can be used at all stages.
The requirements for the ‘data drop’ and the format for the Information Exchange should be specified in the EIR and is effectively the scope for the contractual delivery of the digital asset information.
As the project moves to the next milestone a copy of the federated information model is archived. This is just as important to digital deliverables as it was for 2D documentation and serves the same QA, audit and project control purposes.
However, it is the recommendation of the BIM Panel that information is always stored in a neutral format (ie Industry Foundation Classes) as well as native formats due to the issue of longevity of data.
It is difficult to open native file formats from even five years ago, but built environment assets are expected to last at least an order of magnitude longer than this.
This means that neutral formats should be required at the ‘Published’ stage and checked for adequacy. Common bad practice is to exchange information in native formats which everyone checks and an ‘IFC’ version which no one has checked.
 Ministry of Works (1962) Survey of Problems Before the Construction Industries, HMSO [online] available at: https://archive.org/details/op1265587-1001 [Accessed 15 April 2020]
 Banwell C.H., (1964) The Placing and Management of Contracts for Building and Civil Engineering Work, HMSO [online] available at: https://archive.org/details/op1265594-1001 [Accessed 15 April 2020]
 EDCs for Building and Civil Engineering (1975) The Public Client and the Construction Industries (The Wood Report), HMSO
 Latham M, (1994) Constructing the Team, HMSO [online] available at: http://constructingexcellence.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Constructing-the-team-The-Latham-Report.pdf [Accessed 15 April 2020]
 Construction Task Force (1998) Rethinking Construction, HMSO [online] available at: http://constructingexcellence.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/rethinking_construction_report.pdf [Accessed 15 April 2020]
 Constructing Excellence (2009) Never Waste A Good Crisis, [online] available at: https://constructingexcellence.org.uk/resources/never-waste-a-good-crisis/ [Accessed 15 April 2020]
 Cabinet Office (2011) Government Construction Strategy, [online] available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-construction-strategy [Accessed 15 April 2020]
 British Standards Institution (2019) BS EN ISO 19650 Organization and digitization of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including building information modelling - Information management using building information modelling, London: BSI
 Construction Industry Council (2018) Building Information Model (BIM) Protocol, 2nd Edition, London: CIC, [online] available at: http://cic.org.uk/admin/resources/bim-protocol-2nd-edition-2.pdf [Accessed 15 April 2020]
 Construction Industry Council (2013) Outline Scope of Services for the Role of Information Management, 1st Edition, London: CIC [online] available at: http://cic.org.uk/download.php?f=outline-scope-of-services-for-the-role-of-information-managment.pdf [Accessed 15 April 2020]
 British Standards Institution (2014) BS 1192-4:2014 Collaborative production of information. Fulfilling employer’s information exchange requirements using COBie. Code of practice, London: BSI