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Efficient BIM collaboration

Efficient BIM collaboration through process-oriented team coordination

The conversion to an integral and cooperative working methodology with building information models (BIM) is a highly topical issue for those involved in value creation in the building industry. 

An effective introduction of model-based work processes in the company requires a holistic change management, which is not limited to the conversion to BIM-compatible software and the qualification of employees, but rather entails a cultural change in internal and cross-organizational process structures. While the structural organization of a construction project varies depending on its size and complexity and the composition of an organizational structure depends on the required technical expertise, the subtasks in the execution of (technical) design for each project phase always remain the same. The decomposition of tasks into sub-processes that can be planned and controlled is the core of the process organization; the efficiency in the implementation of work processes reflects the productivity and profitability of a company. Sustainable success in the introduction of BIM in the company and in the implementation of a "BIM project" depends decisively on clear rules and a clear communication of (BIM) processes and interfaces within and across the organization. 

Regulations as the basis for a sustainable increase in productivity 
Rules and regulations in the form of modelling standards, client information requirements (AIA) or a BIM Execution plan (BEP) describe the goals, requirements and methods of model-based collaboration. BIM information management, as part of this set of rules, plays a central role in the internal and, above all, inter-organizational exchange of information. The use of coordinated, standardized BIM processes offers the opportunity, especially for building services engineering as an important structural generator for the design process, to have a much stronger influence in early project phases and to achieve a better understanding of the requirements of the model-based calculation, dimensioning and analysis procedures among other actors.

Implementation of a process-oriented working method with digital building models
The need for process orientation for construction and design companies when working with building information models is also illustrated by the numerous standards on BIM information management published this year. DIN EN ISO 19650 "Organization of Data on Buildings - Information Management with BIM" - Part 2, published as a draft in April 2018, formulates the necessary framework and requirements for information supply processes. The DIN EN ISO 29481 "Building Information Models - Manual of Information Delivery" - Part 1, published in January 2018 Methodology and Format describes the IDM format (Information Delivery Manual) developed by buildingsmart based on the BPMN standard (Business Process Manual Notation) established in business administration and explains in detail the use of process diagrams for information exchange of BIM data. The published VDI Guideline 2552 Part 3 "Building Information Modelling - Data Management" is based on international standardization and addresses the topic of process orientation and structuring of BIM data. In published sheet 7 of the series of standards, the topic of process modelling on the basis of DIN EN ISO 29481 is presented in detail and in particular the connection between project management and value-added processes is discussed.

In practice, it can be stated that the maturity level of BIM software products is no longer an obstacle to the use of digital design methods from a technical perspective. On the other hand, there is still a great deal of catching up to do and a need for development with regard to the implementation of a coordinated, process-related working methodology for the model-based exchange of information on the basis of the standards mentioned above. The creation of BIM process diagrams is often seen as an annoying and unnecessary extra effort by many design companies that are just starting with BIM or are gaining initial experience in a "Big Open BIM Project". The potential offered by the standardization of information supply chains and interfaces is still often underestimated and it takes a lot of persuasion on the part of the BIM management to implement a process-oriented exchange of information, which is essential for a successful cooperative approach, among the actors involved.

Information exchange via standardized BIM process diagrams
A central component of model-based collaboration with BIM is the coordination of Levels of Development ( LoD) and processes at the beginning of a project. The Level of Development is used to determine the model content and model quality in a temporal context. BIM processes, on the other hand, describe internal and external interfaces and provide necessary Exchange Requirements ( ER). ER describe a lot of information needed to create a specific task and are communicated in a standardised form using the IDM format according to DIN EN ISO 29481. 

In the BIM-based design and construction of buildings, all tasks can be classified into integral (organisation-wide) and internal (organisation-internal) processes. Internal BIM processes primarily serve the respective actors to structure their workflows and to systematise them through repeatable sub-processes. These processes can be used again and again for new projects and require only minor adjustments, if any. Integral BIM processes are strongly dependent on the general project organisation structure and have to be reassessed or evaluated depending on constellation, requirements and project goals. An example of an integral BIM process is S/D design (Fig. 1). 

Database based BIM process management system 
In the BIM projects managed by E3D Ingenieurgesellschaft, an in-house developed BIM process management system (E3D-PMS, Fig. 2) serves as an information source for all parties involved. The E3D-PMS provides an assignment of actors or trades to BIM processes and enables project participants to edit, manage and version process diagrams online based on the IDM format. An overall process map is used to structure the individual processes clearly in their overall context. 

Introdution of a process-oriented working method
The changeover to a process-oriented way of working requires the company to recognize that BIM primarily means a cultural change in collaboration and coordination. The availability of qualified personnel is the looming bottleneck, so existing specialist resources should be used in such a way as to add the most value and be as efficient as possible. This is only possible with a software landscape that is as coordinated and able to support processes as possible, which is not limited to the classic CAD solutions but also includes the areas of project management, controlling, document management, finance and AVA. 
The BIMiD Guide 2018 of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy starts exactly at this point by presenting the changes in the BIM design process in comparison to "conventional design" and focusing on the need for a clear understanding of the process among designers and contractors: "The added value is in closed and optimized process chains and not in the BIM model! (BIMiD guide, 2018)

Jaroslaw Siwiecki M.Sc. RWTH
Architect, Research Associate

Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christoph van Treeck
Chairholder, both Chair 
for Energy Efficient Building E3D, RWTH Aachen

Header Image: Artem Kovalenco / Shutterstock