Sponsorship disclosure: This blog article is not sponsored by any entity.
Design technology, BIM and VDC in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) are evolving at a quick pace. There are always new developments: new software, new software versions, new plugins, new scripts, and new integrations, among other things. However, related fields evolve at a quick pace too, among which we find project management and BIM management. These fields are the essence of future business competitivity at a strategic level, with a technical competence as a prerequisite.
There’s an interesting French expression which reflects this concept; it is called:
Le nerf de la guerre
That translates literally as “the nerve of the war”, or metaphorically as “the sinews of war”. What it really means is the “key to winning the war”, and in BIM, I strongly believe it is BIM management. Although I will not dive into what is BIM management or how it demonstrates itself on a project, I will focus on one embodiment of it, which is called the BIM Execution Plan.
In the present blog article, I will attempt to provide a comprehensive guide to what a BIM Execution Plan (BEP) is, why have one in the first place, the do’s and don’ts of a BEP, my top 5 BEP pitfalls and some questions and answers about them. The focus of this article is for BEPs in the design phase primarily, but a lot of the concepts apply to construction or operations as well.
Before we get started, it is important to note that the present blog article does not discuss the sections or content of a BEP, but the symptoms of a good BEP and its uses. I will write another blog article in the future where I dig into an actual BEP and outline sections and their content. This article promotes the use of a BEP, and good practices surrounding it, for the purpose of sound BIM management and project management.
So let’s get started!
You are welcome to read the entire article or skip to a specific section by clicking below:
What is a BIM Execution Plan (BEP)
Why is the BEP important
The DOs and DON’Ts of a BEP
Tarek’s top 5 BEP pitfalls
BEP Q&A on special topics
▸ What’s the ideal document length of a BEP?
▸ Who creates and updates the BEP?
▸ Should the BEP include IT topics?
▸ Should the BEP be referenced in contracts?
▸ Have you ever heard of a BIM Management Plan?
What is a BIM Execution Plan (BEP)
“The project plan is a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control. The primary uses of the project plan are to document planning assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among project stakeholders, and document approved scope, cost, and schedule baselines. A project plan may be summarized or detailed.” (Source: Project Plan)
Likewise, the BIM Execution Plan, in essence, is an operational and live document that provides a common framework for all project stakeholders regarding project BIM standards, procedures and decisions, as well as their evolution through time.
Here are two external definitions of a BIM Execution Plan by the U.S. General Services Administration and Penn State University.
According to U.S. General Services Administration (GSA):
“The intent of the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) is to define a foundational framework to ensure successful deployment of advanced design technologies on your BIM enabled project. The BEP is about optimizing work and model flow across the project, as contrasted with optimizing siloed interests. The key is good planning of the design-to-engineering-to-construction process to minimize downstream surprises, rework, redundancies or gaps in the flow of (model-based) information.” (Source: BIM Execution Plan)
According to Penn State University:
“[…] A BIM Project Execution Plan (hereinafter referred to as the ‘BIM Plan’) outlines the overall vision along with implementation details for the team to follow throughout the project. […] The plan should define the scope of BIM implementation on the project, identify the process flow for BIM tasks, define the information exchanges between parties, and describe the required project and company infrastructure needed to support the implementation.” (Source: Overview of the BIM Execution Planning Procedure for Building Information Modeling)
Why is the BEP important
In short, the BIM Execution Plan is important to ensure the successful management and execution of BIM projects. In my opinion, the two crucial factors on projects are risks and costs, which I will discuss below in the context of BIM.
Although BIM is more prevalently intertwined with design and construction, it is important to note that is not the deliverable itself, but the means and the communication tool for the deliverable; it is the means to an end. In that sense, BIM is the “language” that architects, engineers, and contractors employ to translate their design intent and constructability in a more comprehensive way. Inasmuch as accounting is the means for finance, and math is the means for physics, BIM is the means for design, construction, and operation.
- It ensures a common understanding by all stakeholders of:
- Project requirements
- Client/owner expectations in terms of quality, costs, schedules and risks
- Roles and responsibilities
- It documents in writing agreed-upon BIM standards, procedures and decisions, as well as their evolution in time
- It acts as the single source of truth for BIM on the project in case of duplicates, discrepancies, disagreements, ambiguities or errors
So, in other words, leverage the BEP to do the following on projects:
Without having the BEP as a basis for addressing these potential issues, there are higher “chances” that stakeholders are not on the same page or their individual work is not compatible within others’ or within the project. Such “chances” are what we call “risks”.
Risks, in my humble opinion, are the main project management driver on projects; more specifically, it is risk management as a function of time (change management due to risks evolution in time). The control of project risks directly drives project costs, schedules, and quality. Therefore, it is important to control, mitigate and eliminate project risks using project management tools and techniques; the BIM Execution Plan is one of such tools.
The BEP can help mitigate the risks below (on the left) by defining the following strategies (on the right):
The BEP can translate the mitigated risks pragmatically into:
- Less rework in design and construction due to lack of communication or miscommunication
- Early issues detection in the design stage and construction stage, which lead to less RFI’s, site instructions and change orders (among others)
- Higher quality deliverables within the same time, budget and other constraints, or same quality with less time or budget
All those mitigated risks translate into reduced overall project costs in terms of:
As a takeaway, always plan ahead through your BEP to ensure that you have a baseline to fall back on. Here’s an interesting quote by none other than one of the Founding Fathers of the USA:
The DOs and DON’Ts of a BEP
The BIM Execution Plan SHOULD:
✔️ Contain a title page, a table of contents, objective section, annexes/appendices section and numbered pages
✔️ Be targeted towards BIM end-users, with specific information for them to know exactly what to do regarding a topic (i.e. options for linking CAD files)
✔️ Address BIM standards, procedures and decisions that affect day-to-day tasks (i.e. sheet naming convention)
✔️ Address roles and responsibilities of BIM stakeholders
✔️ Be updated regularly so information is always relevant and pertinent
✔️ Be well written (free of spelling and grammar mistakes) and easy to read
✔️ Be well formatted (free of complicated graphics and complicated sections) and easy to read
✔️ Be straight to the point in its content, by using lists, tables, charts and graphics
✔️ Contain annexes and appendices that are too long to include as core to the document
The BIM Execution Plan SHOULD NOT:
❌ Be ambiguous or vague in its content, thus leaving stakeholders to their own interpretation or imagination
❌ Be too long to navigate through to find information at any point in a project
❌ Be written like an essay or a novel, with long text paragraphs that explain points that can be communicated in a list or table format
❌ Be full of wishful thinking or scenarios that don’t apply (or have very low probability of applicability)
❌ Contain any confidential project information, especially regarding budgets, schedules or added value
❌ Contain redundant information from other sources (i.e. project schedule, budget, etc.)
❌ Be sales or marketing-oriented
Does your BIM Execution Plan follow the list of “SHOULD” and “SHOULD NOT” items?
These lists of “should” and “should not” must be always respected to ensure that teams can rely on the BEP at any point in time during the project. I cannot stress how much of utmost importance it is to ensure the BEP is a usable, pragmatic and up to date document in order for it to be adopted by project teams and relied upon during project execution.
Tarek’s top 5 BEP pitfalls
Pitfall #1: BEP is not comprehensive
“The BEP is missing sections!! I consulted it twice regarding sheet standards and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I won’t bother next time…”Julie, architectural designer
Pitfall #2: BEP is not pragmatic or usable
“It looks like a novel and has too much text. It takes me 5 minutes every time to get this one piece of information I need. I don’t have time for this.”Mark, structural technician
Pitfall #3: BEP is not updated frequently
“Are you kidding me? We did all this work based on the BEP, and now we have to redo it all because it wasn’t updated recently? What a bummer.”Brian, electrical project manager
Pitfall #4: BEP is not being enforced
“Yeah, so I tend to just make stuff up and go with the flow. If no one is asking me to comply, why should I? It’s not my problem.”Lucy, mechanical engineer
Pitfall #5: BEP is not developed by qualified people
“Ahm, there are 3 sections that contradict each other in this document regarding backups, and the whole phases section makes no sense.”Jonathan, BIM coordinator
BEP Q&A on special topics
What’s the ideal document length of a BEP?
There is no real limit to the length of a BEP document, but based on my experience, what works best is a document that is 20-40 pages long, including a title page, a table of contents and an annex list.
Who creates and updates the BEP?
In all cases, all stakeholders must be consulted for updates to ensure everyone’s input and feedback on the changes.
Should the BEP include IT topics?
Yes, the BEP should include IT topics, but only those that are relevant to BIM only. That includes hardware inventory, software inventory, archiving processes, backup processes, IT security policies and user access management, among others.
Should the BEP be referenced in contracts?
That’s a great question. There are a lot of different opinions on this matter, and it’s important to bear in mind that I’m not a lawyer and there are legal differences in different jurisdictions.
Based on my Canadian experience, here are the possibilities:
- The BEP is not referred to as an integral part of the contract. It is strictly an operational document and all stipulations for BIM are outlined in actual contracts.
- The initial distribution copy of the BEP is referred to as an integral part of the contract, which establishes a baseline for contractual agreements. Any subsequent revisions of the BEP are not integral part of the contract and do not require signatures by all consultants.
- The BEP and its subsequent revisions are an integral part of the contract, and any subsequent revisions require signatures by all consultants.
Have you ever heard of a BIM Management Plan?
In this case, a BIM Management Plan (BMP):
- Contains high-level information that integrates the client requirements
- Includes the common standards, procedures, and decisions that apply to all consultants
- Can only be modified by the client or his/her BIM consultant
- Must be signed by all consultants every time a new revision is issued and acts as an integral part of the contract/agreement between the owner and all consultants
- Contains operational information that integrates the client requirements
- Includes the standards, procedures, and decisions that apply to the specific consultant
- Can by modified by the respective consultant only
- Doesn’t require a signature every time a new revision is issued and acts as an operational plan only
The BEP, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated tools in BIM. It is mind boggling how so many BIM professionals, including BIM coordinators and BIM managers, are so obsessed with technical tools, but not in management tools and techniques. Being very technically competent in BIM is not enough to manage teams, manage projects, grow a firm, and retain talent. The key to success in BIM starts with a stellar BIM Execution Plan and a sound execution of that plan. And like any other field in the world, practice makes perfect. Always.
On a last note, I hope you learnt a great deal about BEPs, and although I didn’t share any actual plans or discuss their content, there will be a dedicated blog article about such a topic in the future. There is so much to say about this topic that I can go on and on, but I hope you will read, re-read and analyze the points discussed in this blog article, and share your thoughts and opinions on social media.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog article and I’ll see you again soon.
Tarek Ghazzaoui, Eng.
Special thanks to the following individuals and entities for their contribution to this article:
|Stella (my dog)||Random check-ins and cuddles|
“Project Plan.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Feb. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_plan
“BIM Execution Plan.” GSA, 13 Aug. 2017, www.gsa.gov/real-estate/design-construction/3d4d-building-information-modeling/guidelines-for-bim-software/document-guides/bim-execution-plan.
Messner, John, et al. “Overview of the BIM Execution Planning Procedure for Building Information Modeling.” BIM Project Execution Planning Guide Version 22, Computer Integrated Construction Research Program, Penn State, 1 July 2019, psu.pb.unizin.org/bimprojectexecutionplanningv2x2/chapter/chapter-1/.
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