Exchange (Employer's) Information Requirements
An Article by Iain Miskimmin
Be careful what you ask for….
The EIR is an Employer’s chance to define their requirements for information, but they need to be very careful what they ask for. Too prescriptive and you are preventing innovation and progress, too loose and you will probably receive something that you did not expect!
As an Employer, if you just demand that you want Level 2 BIM, you may be sadly deluded in the fact that it has not been finalised and will not go down to the level of detail required to stop the Employee running contractual rings around you.
If I asked every one of you to put the word BOW into a sentence, then I would get many different answers or interpretations of my requirement.
I play a bow and fiddle...
I shoot arrows with my long bow...
The middle of my arm is an elbow...
The front of the ship is called a bow...
When meeting the Queen I bow...
I wear a bow tie with my dinner jacket...
To get the answer you require you need to define the context, the same applies when asking for BIM.
So let’s start at the beginning. Why is it an Employer’s Information Requirement rather than a Client’s?
The EIR needs to be present and used at every level of the supply chain, not just during the relationship between the client and the tier 1 contractor. Everyone at every level needs to understand what is needed of them and to be able to produce their information to the same quality. We are all employers, all the way down the supply chain.
So, let us state the obvious: A considerable proportion of the cost of creating information about an asset is not clear at the beginning and picking the lowest bid will not always get you the most cost effective asset information. To combat this, we need to be more specific about what we want. We do not necessarily have to define how the employee creates that information, but we do have to make sure they understand the validation it needs to go through and the way it needs to be delivered, so that you can make the best use of the information that you, as the employer, are paying for.
In the end, the EIR is what YOU want, not what others think you should be asking for, so the table of contents needs to reflect your priorities. The best way to test your EIR is to ask it a plain language question (see the AIR document) and see if you can get an answer that will help you to make a good decision in relation to the asset. If you cannot, then it is time to go back to the drawing board.
When writing what you want, you need to make sure that whatever you receive has gone through a rigorous enough validation process that you can trust what it tells you. To do this you must think about what is delivered, how it is delivered, who delivers it, where they deliver it to and when they hand it over (I also include validation in the delivery).
In the beginning
It is suggested that at the beginning you may want to define the following:
Priority of contract documents
Obligations of the employer
Obligations of the employee
Electronic data exchange
Use of information models
Liability of the information model
Definition of the Social, Environmental and Financial outcomes and the 3 year term used to measure their success.
We must then think about the people who are required to deliver the information. We must ensure that all members of the supply chain give someone the responsibility of delivering the information requirements. This is normally a GSL (government soft landings), IM (information manager) or BIM role that understands the importance of information and the risks of poor quality information.
A good source of information on this might be BS1192:2007
If their supply chain does not have the level of skills required for the project, this should not be a barrier to engagement and so defining how they might up-skill those people is an important response to the EIR in the BEP (BIM Execution Plan) - but unless you ask them how they might do this, it will not be a part of their plan.
What information might I get and what do I have to provide?
So that the Employee can respond with clarity, you must be clear on what information they will receive in the briefing data drop. This should be defined in the AIR and reflect your current assets and constraints. The AIR will tell you what information is to be provided, but the EIR will give the specifics of this particular project.
You also need to define what Common Data Environment the Employer has in place that the Employee needs to either use or interface with. This may also ask them to define a master delivery list within their BEP.
OIRs, AIRs and Classification systems
To ensure that the entire supply chain from top to bottom understands the client’s vision and the objective of the project, the EIR must define some of the Organisational Information Requirements.
The Classification of assets, or how we commonly identify things is important to allow the employee to structure their information and ensure we are all speaking the same asset language.
For example if Employer classified a particular asset as a stool, the tier 1 as a chair and the manufacturer as a seat - and I asked the question “how many chairs are on site?” I could get very different answers, depending on who I talked to.
It must also reference the AIR, which needs to be comprehensive in its definition of the information needed at Facility, Entity and Element level.
To ensure that information can be federated into a joined up Data Model, we must make sure that everyone is using the same libraries, templates and coordinate systems etc.
File attributes/ metadata
Container naming conventions
Revisions and versions
Coordinate reference systems
Digital model file sizes
Classification (data & Information)
This is not an exhaustive list but gives you a starting point.
Two things to note here are that you are not defining how the employee creates information, you are defining what it is when they deliver it. Also some may not think that size matters, but it does! If you do not define the physical size of the files you are expecting to receive, your own IT infrastructure might not be able to cope.
It is really important that when generating information whether it is CAD, Document, Asset, GIS or Metadata that all the Employees follow the Employer's libraries and templates, so that this information can be picked up out of the PIM (Project Information Model) and placed in the AIM (Asset Information Model) without the need for translation and used to answer the questions that will allow good decisions to be made - i.e. taking into account everything known.
So with that in mind, the EIR must reference documents, standards or libraries for 2D & 3D CAD models, structured data, drawings and documentation.
To ensure there is a consistency of information throughout the supply chain and all information that is generated no matter by whom, the EIR must set out a minimum standard of working methods to create a base line of quality and trust. This should prevent information being regenerated because of lack of trust between partners.
Most procedures will already be defined in the standards and methods of working, but if they are not, then as a minimum the EIR needs to set out the processes for the following:
Create/ Amend information
Undertake container compliance checks
Review and approve information
Review and authorise information
Review and accept information
Undertake assurance and change control
Appointment close out
Benchmarking & certifying
During many projects we find that the Employees that were originally promised to the team are taken off and put somewhere else. They are invariably replaced (through no fault of their own) by less competent Employees which increase the risk to the Employer’s asset delivery.
To prevent this from harming the Employer’s vision of delivering a world class asset with a reduced maintenance and operations cost, the EIR should define how the Employee is assessed.
This should take place prior to the bid through some form of self-assessment tool such as the BIM Compass, during bid through case studies and finally throughout the project phase by ongoing audits.
The EIR is a great method for ensuring that the Employers get what they need from the information delivered during the lifecycle of an asset, but it needs to be comprehensive enough to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. A good way of doing this may be to hold pre-tender briefings with potential Employees to explain in some length what is meant by each section and show examples of how it might be delivered.
It is a fine balance between dictating what is delivered and how the employee creates that deliverable. One reduces the risk of asset procurement and the other decreases innovation and pushes up costs.