Collaboration is not just a key interest of mine (read my posts) but it is also one of the 4 essentials for BIM.

In SCL paper D101, Ashcraft states that liability concerns have lead practitioners, and their lawyers, to contractually isolate the BIM – thus depriving the model of its greatest benefits… Building Information Models are platforms for collaboration.

BS EN ISO 19650-1 confirms:

Collaboration between the participants involved in construction projects and in asset management is pivotal to the efficient delivery and operation of assets… True collaborative working requires mutual understanding and trust and a deeper level of standardized process than has typically been experienced…

Collaboration is essential to BIM throughout the project lifecycle, ie in both its delivery (construction) and operation (asset management) phases. Collaboration requires mutual understanding/trust (read my posts) and a standardised process (such as ISO 19650 – if you are involved in a BIM project, you are going to need to read it).

BIM requires a shift away from silo-working to ensure the project partners collaborate and share best practice. 38% respondents to the NBS National BIM Report 2018 say lack of collaboration is a barrier to BIM.

Cultural Change

As I reported in my post on the COMIT conference, people – their conduct, behaviour, culture or ways of working together – are considered the single most important means of creating change in the industry.

Collaboration is not yet part of the culture of UK construction. One of the reasons for that is (as David-John Gibbs says) that the nature of construction involves short term, interdependent, multi-party teams with differing organisational goals. Such short-term projects do not drive collaboration or culture change.

Can contracts drive collaboration? Those who have adopted the more collaborative standard forms such as PPC 2000 would say yes. But a decision to use PPC 2000 is based on wanting collaboration – any cultural change is facilitated by but not driven by the contract. As the most popular UK construction suite of standard form contracts is the Joint Contracts Tribunal Suite, which has a mere two optional sentences to cover collaboration, standard form contracts are currently not playing a significant role in driving culture change.

Could government make all the difference? Ever since the Banwell report in 1964 (ditto Latham 1994, Egan 2002 and Worstenholme 2009), there have been calls from government for the industry to move from its adversarial finger-of-blame culture to more collaborative ways of working. Those reports did not drive a culture change.

The Digital Built Britain Strategy 2015 suggests that these laudable iterative approaches to industry reform lacked the compelling transformational forces of transparency and feedback made possible through technology… [which] will allow us for the first time to fully align supply [networks]

Perhaps the combination of working digitally, the new processes required to share analyse correct and store data, and the increasing importance of a supply network (not hierarchical chain) will together create the perfect storm to drive cultural change and collaboration. I hope so!

What should you do?

Going Digital 2018 confirms that when digital working methods are employed, the standard forms of appointment and contract need to be augmented to take into account changes in traditional processes and obligations. Properly managed BIM requires that all parties involved have clarity as to their rights and duties, particularly regarding the digital models. Unless these rights and duties are contractually binding there may be poor coordination, unexpected risks and avoidable disputes.

If you are working on a BIM-enabled projects, your contracts need to explicitly and implicitly support collaboration.

Contracts can and should clearly define the processes, behaviours and roles of the project partners to encourage the behaviours required for true collaboration, as well as identifying the goals everyone is working towards (especially those relating to data and information).

References: Building Information Modeling: A Framework for Collaboration (2009), Ashcraft; SCL Paper D101. Available free for members or for a fee from; Gibbs and others (2015), Building Information Modelling, 31 Const LJ 3, 167; Creating BIM Silos is Blocking Real Change

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