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What I learned from studying the ISO 19650 BIM standards, (pros & cons)

Updated: Mar 7

What I learned from studying the ISO 19650 BIM Standards, breakwithanarchitect

This blog post provides insights into my experience in studying the ISO 19650 standard and the supporting UK standards. The post is based on my personal experience (more than ten years) in the construction sector as an architect and an extensive study of the BIM UK (and not only) standards during the past four years. The people who know me could say that I am a BIM "enthusiast"΄that is sometimes perceived negatively; is BIM the answer to all of our industry, challenges, or is it a trend soon to be forgotten and probably replaced..

Is BIM the answer to the construction industry problems or my challenges as a client, an architect, engineer, or contractor? (delays, miscommunication, extra cost, clashes, poor data, lack of trust, low productivity, rework, etc..)

My answer is this:

Smart people learn from other's mistakes. They also learn from other's success. But nothing compares to personal experience. So, you have to engage. If we all engage and support the digital transformation and BIM, we can collectively upgrade the sector.

BIM Iceberg effect_breakwithanarchitect
BIM Iceberg effect_breakwithanarchitect

After all, the digital tools available today need to be properly controlled and managed so that the information can be produced and reviewed in a structured manner and then provided to the right party at the right time. In the digital world, we need to collaborate and communicate in a structured manner to control the digital flow of information and outcomes. BIM is not the answer to all of our problems. Still, we have to combine it with the other links to our sector, such as integrated project delivery, offsite construction, lean construction, smart cities, and sustainability.

In my experience working as an architect in construction projects for over a decade, (2002-2012), I spend numerous hours producing construction documents in 2D, preparing manual cost estimations, quantity take-offs, delivering the client requirements, participating in coordination meetings, and on-site coordination. My construction experience is based on various projects, such as residential projects, office buildings, and almost 50 industrial buildings (as a head of design), and participation in design teams with public sector projects, after graduation. Overall, the experience was overwhelming, and I was often in a fight or flight mode, constantly dealing with miscommunication, errors, uncoordinated drawings, and express visits to the construction site.

The value of BIM if you are in your 40s

Anyone who graduated around 2000, as an architect or an engineer, understands the value of digital transformation in the sector, even those who are in general hesitant about changes or are not thrilled about the digital ways of working for numerous reasons.

All professionals who graduated around 2000 (like I did) had the advantage to experience both the CAD-based construction projects and the digital evolution of BIM that we experience today. This fact translates first to an understanding of how complex a construction project can be and what are the common challenges in the sector. Secondly, our generation is still professionally active and "young" enough to understand and embrace digital transformation. I would say that the timing is great; we can compare old ways with the new ones, evaluate the changes both in our daily professional routine and the sector, and lead the way to digital transformation based on our understanding of the construction process. Training and skills development are indeed necessary no matter your age or your experience in the field, and the personal study of the BIM industry standards is highly recommended.

In contrast, the younger professionals in their 30s, and especially those in their 20s, have some or little experience in construction projects; therefore, they can not exactly understand the granularity and the significance of the digital transformation that occurs with BIM. Younger architects and engineers follow the current trends to acquire the skills and knowledge to find a job and make a career in BIM, in line with the latest industry demand. And the timing is good for them, too; they are not obliged to offset, trim and extend lines to manually draw a section of a building. They do not necessarily need to print drawings and 2D layouts. They do not need to work in an office (BIM supports remote working with cloud solutions). They do not need to communicate with emails and pdfs, as long as the company they work for has a Common data environment, BIM authoring, and BIM coordination software.

You can also watch the Youtube video: ISO 19650 in 3 minutes - Information Management functions

My personal BIM journey

During the past 5 years, I studied the available BIM industry standards, specifications, and guidelines (including numerous BEPs) from various world organizations, such as BSI, AIA, BIM Forum, Building Smart, BSI, Penn state university, Natspec, MIT etc. Soon, my focus shifted to studying in detail all the UK BIM Level 2 suite of standards that support the well-known BIM Level 2 implementation.

What I soon realized was that the UK government dedicated more than a decade to testing, reviewing and getting feedback from the industry to achieve the BIM UK Level 2 goals and lead the way to digitalization. The BIM UK standards are a valuable asset for the construction industry; however, they are not easy to read and understand, especially if you don't work in the UK context. The UK standards are complex and interconnected with each other, and you usually need to use more than one standard to understand a specific concept. Nevertheless, the UK standards start as Publicly Available Specifications, which means that are tested and revised in connection with the industry, and they later contribute to the development of the ISO standards. As part of the BIM Level 2 initiative, the UK industry attracted several industry experts who wanted to build a new and better working life for themselves, their companies, and even their countries. I am definitely one of them.

My personal interest in BIM standardization, as a means of delivering better information management and a structured construction process, led me to focus and study in detail the UK BIM standards published by the British Standards Institution, BSI, (that supported the development of the ISO 19650 standards) and a number of research papers that provide an in-depth understanding on current research trends.

At this point, I want to highlight that many countries and several organizations worldwide have worked extensively with BIM implementation; however, there are significant differences in terms of the BIM requirements and implementation, e,g the US focuses more on technology, while the UK on processes, roles, and standards. A number of guides, templates, and guidance materials have been published to support the BIM implementation at a local, regional or national level.

ISO 19650-2 process, breakwithanarchitect
ISO 19650-2 process

ISO 19650 Pros

ISO 19650 series is comprised of 4 documents. ISO 19650-1 describes the principles, concepts, and terminology, ISO 19650-2 presents the details of the information management process, ISO 19650-3 focuses on the asset's operational phase, and ISO 19650-5 on the security of information.

The ISO documents are based on the principles and the content of a currently redrawn PAS or a British standard, as part of the BIM Level UK suite of documents. (BS 1192: 2007 + A2: 2016, PAS 1192-2: 2013, PAS 1192-3: 2014 PAS 1192-4: 2014 PAS 1192-5: 2015 PAS 1192-6: 2018 BS 1192-4: 2014 BS 8536-1: 2015 BS 8536-2: 2016). The ISO series documents include activities and tasks, diagrams, and a step-by-step approach towards digital processes that supports the flow of information within the information management cycle (from the Project information model to the Asset information model). The ISO 19650 series is also connected to ISO 55000, ISO 21500 (Asset and project management), and ISO 9001 (Organizational management).

Project and asset Information management lifecycle
Project and asset Information management lifecycle

ISO 19650-2 has a provision for a National Annex that only a few countries developed so far to adjust to local conditions, such as Italy. The majority of countries have not developed a National Annex, or they are using formally or informally the UK National Annex included in the BS EN ISO 19650-2.

You can also watch the Youtube video: ISO 19650 in 3 minutes - Benefits and Challenges

In terms of ISO standards and BIM, other ISO standards are relative to BIM and the construction sector, such as the ISO 12006, Building construction organization for information about construction works and the ISO 16739, the IFC international standards, and others. ISO 19650 is the standard that addresses the "Digitization and organization of data about civil engineering works and buildings, including BIM".

In general, standards help the construction industry make more effective and efficient projects by establishing design, construction, and manufacturing processes. An international standard for BIM can support the different construction markets to work together based on a common language. A common definition of BIM will help remote teams collaborate efficiently and increase construction sector efficiency and quality.

The reason that standards are vital to the construction industry is that the sector has significant problems that can be solved when applying a system or structure. For example, from my experience as a head of design, I had to deal with uncoordinated drawings with little attention to detail, spend hours layering drawings or deal with the fact that the site manager didn't receive or followed the latest changes in the construction plans. The construction site is a complex ecosystem; without a system and a structured approach delays and errors occur. with a major impact on time and budget.

Another benefit of using ISO 19650 is that the new international standard reinforces the Employer/client/appointing party providing a structured process to support BIM project implementation. The standard highlights the client's leading role in the early stages of the digital collaboration to establish the project's information requirements and the collaborative platform, the Common data environment, CDE. These requirements will set the basis for the design, construction, and operation of the asset. You can also read the interview on Asset information requirements here. As a result, the client influences digital collaboration and the quality of deliverables. If the client doesn't provide information requirements in line with ISO, then we can say that the project is not based on ISO 19650.

You can watch the Youtube video: ISO 19650 in 3 minutes - Information Requirements

ISO 19650 Cons

ISO 19650 series, as ISO publications, are generic. For each concept explained, the reader needs to refer to other documents and standards, local, regional or international. The different parties have specific tasks, documents to generate, and resources to refer to. These connections to other sources are not well explained in the documents. The reader has to identify the relationships to other industry standards, which can make one's BIM ISO journey a challenging task. To fully understand ISO, one needs additional guidance to understand the relationships between the various concepts, and this is provided by the UK National BIM Framework Guidance suite of documents. Still, if you are not based in the UK, the guidance should be considered carefully and examined in terms of your project's local context. Nevertheless, the guidance is detailed, well structured, and provides valuable insights organized according to the specific topics. The guidance is available to download on the UK National Framework website for free.

The absence of details in the ISO documents has received many negative comments from leading experts. As a result, experts read and interpret the standard in their own understanding, and this can be an exhausting task that could result in misunderstandings and prolonged debates.

The terminology is another negative aspect of ISO. Terms such as the appointing party, lead appointed party, and appointed parties, or the phrase the appointing party appoints the lead appointed party, and the lead appointed party appoints the appointed parties, and so on. This terminology can be confusing when you read the document. Also, the graphics included in ISO are basic and difficult to read and don't support the visual communication that such a high standard should provide.

Naming conventions have also received negative comments from the industry. It is undeniable that when we share information digitally, the use of structured and understandable naming conventions for information is vital. However, the XXX-XXX-XX-XX-XX-X-XX-XX-XX-XX-XXXX-XX-XXX naming of information containers seems a bit long and scary in my Windows folder and difficult to read.

Last thoughts

A lot of people ask me why I am so excited about an industry standard. As an architect, Autodesk certified instructor, and part-time PhD researcher in the field of BIM, I am fascinated by the impact that BIM and, in particular, BS 1192:2007+A2:2016 (that led to ISO 19650), have on the industry. BIM started as a UK practice but has been quickly adopted by the largest construction markets. Various organizations work with BIM initiatives to support a unified approach in Europe, the USA, and worldwide.

In addition, many start-ups invest in BIM-oriented workflows that support open BIM solutions, coordination, live sharing, and communication in a digital context. It is worth mentioning that five years ago, only a part of the industry was interested in BIM; today, I meet people, clients, and colleagues who are equally or more excited than me, interested in learning, actively engaging, and supporting the transformation. Read the blog post The need for BIM standards in digital construction.

Standards may consist of a few pages and hundreds of words. Still, the real opportunity lies in the fact that our industry's nature, with the traditional workflows, the cultural gaps, the interoperability and execution issues changes. The new path for the construction sector is led by digitalization, standardization, and innovation.

BIM is the heart of digitalization for the industry and is often referred to as the 4th evolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution describes the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds. It's a fusion of advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies.

This blog post was translated into the Chinese language and featured in the Shanghai BIM organization blog. You can find the translation here:

BIM CPD certified online training, in line with ISO 19650

BIM training by BIM Design Hub introduces you to the concepts and principles of Building Information Modelling, BIM, in line with ISO 19650 and provides sufficient skills and knowledge of the BIM process, standards and guidelines that support the digitalization of the construction industry.

BIM ISO 19650 training includes 2 courses, the BIM Foundations, and BIM Information Management with a total of 40 CPD hours.

E-learning ●Training is delivered through an educational platform with video tutorials in structured Modules.

Further study material and downloads ● At the end of each Module you will find extra material for further engagement.

Portfolio activities ● The activities will help you understand what you have learned and record the development of the course.

Join a community ● In the discussion forum you can interact with other students and participate in the BIM discussion.

CPD-certified training ● Successful completion of the courses results in a CPD certificate with international recognition.

Bonus ● 30% DISCOUNT on BSI standards

Subscribe to the BIM Design Hub youtube channel for more content on BIM and ISO 19650.

Author: Panagiotidou Nicoleta

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BIM training by BIM Design Hub introduces you to the concepts and principles of Building Information Modeling, BIM, in line with ISO 19650 and provides sufficient skills and knowledge of the BIM process, standards and guidelines that support the digitalization of the construction industry.

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