BIM NBS Toolkit - the right tool for the job?

What is the NBS Toolkit?
The NBS Toolkit is a software tool through which users can draft the contents of the Employer’s Information requirements and the various documents ( Bim Execution Plan “BEP”  and Master Information Delivery Plan “MIDP”)  which map the stages of production of BIM for a project. It is the one of the last pieces in the jigsaw of products envisaged in the government BIM strategy to assist the industry in achieving a level of standardisation of and definition of the process that we now refer to as “BIM level 2”. Included within the Toolkit are digital plans of work that can be linked to the 7 stages of a facility and definitions of level of detail and level of information that can be used to specify the content of the BIM information (“Deliverables”) required from participants at each stage.

How will it work?
The intention of the Toolkit is to provide a standard “who does what when” plan for BIM for a project that is applicable to all potential BIM participants.

The Toolkit is at Beta evaluation stage and upgrades are constantly issued to Beta users. The output of the Toolkit is a set of documents in electronic or hard copy form that define what tasks are to be performed and the information and/or deliverables each participant is required to produce at each stage of the development of the facility. The digital plans of work are based upon industry standards such as the RIBA digital plan of works and the CIC Roles. In addition, new schedules of services for linear infrastructure and geographical infrastructure have been developed with the Environment Agency and Highways England.  Users of the Toolkit can add or delete tasks to the standard menus and allocate responsibility for a task to a participant in the project at each stage. The participants are defined at each stage. Deliverables are the design deliverables and can be searched for against the Uniclass data-base. For each Deliverable the “Level of Detail” which specifies geometry and “Level of Information” which specifies other information must be selected. The Uniclass system is used as the library of descriptions of objects from which Deliverables can be selected for the particular facility.

Who will use it?
The potential users of the Toolkit are anyone who has responsibility for defining or providing what is required in terms of BIM. That means the whole supply chain, from the client defining its requirements to the supply chain participants responding in detail with what they will provide and in turn stepping that down to their supply chain to define what the supply chain must provide to them. It is an ambitious aim. One of the main concerns is that  the  multiple users makes for a more complex solution than might be needed and one in which the differing participants may struggle to understand how the toolkit applies specifically to them.

How does it fit into existing contractual arrangements?
There is potentially a lack of clarity as to how these documents which develop through the 7 stages will be linked to the contractual gate ways where the obligations set out in the tasks are made part of a contractual obligation.

 Each stage allows Deliverables and Tasks to be set but as we know from the RIBA plan of works depending upon the nature of the procurement, contractual responsibility for design or supply of information may be set at different points of the process depending on when participants are engaged in the project and the role they undertake. The software at present does not allow contractual freeze points to be identified. Users can move back and forth through the stages unless administration rights can be set for each stage. Alternatively it may be a matter of exporting output at the correct stage for inclusion in the contract documentation.

By using the standard plans of work for the participant roles (including design)  it is clear that what is being dealt with is not simply tasks that relate to the provision or management of BIM or Deliverables but also the core roles of the participants. The effect of this is that design delivery and information delivery are not separated.

 That is not the clear separation of design delivery and delivery of information for the BIM model that the CIC protocol envisages. That is a critical distinction as the CIC protocol ( in response to industry and insurers’ concerns ) applied  a softer contractual standard and specific limits of liability for information produced for the BIM model compared with the usual commercial standard applied to the production and delivery of traditional design documentation. Whether such a distinction is commercially viable is debateable. There may be a battle between clients and the supply chain still to come.

Is the BIM Toolkit the right tool for the job?
It is clear that the Toolkit is not just producing BIM related tasks but documenting the fundamental roles and responsibilities of the participants in the project. It also refers to stage completion dates and contract price.  Simply exporting its information will produce a mixture BIM and non BIM material. Crucially it does not define the contractual status or liabilities that flow from the information it is creating. Lawyers and other professionals will still need to carry out that task.

 Lawyers and other professionals will have to work closely alongside those using the Toolkit or will have to review its output. The Toolkit does allow additional participants to be added and adding your lawyer may be a sensible decision.  On closer scrutiny the Toolkit may not turn out to be as user friendly for the supply chain as the “Toolkit” title suggests and will be only a part of the process of documenting the project.