Open-access content Tuesday 4th June 2013
The role of FM in informing the design of a building prior to its construction may have been peripheral in the past, but that's all changing.
4 June 2013
Last month, a new and heavily revised version of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)'s long-established framework for the structuring of construction projects was introduced.
The new framework enshrines the requirements of building information modelling - and should ensure that construction project managers factor in the likely operational performance of the building they're looking to build.
It's called the RIBA 'Plan of Work' (POW), and its incorporation of two new stages - 'Strategic Definition' at the beginning of the process and 'In Use' at the end - holds considerable promise for the involvement of FM.
Last July, RIBA commenced a project to fundamentally change the POW - a document used
for the past 50 years by most UK architects (and many international ones) when planning new construction projects. The POW has been accepted as the definitive UK model for the building design and construction process since its introduction back in 1963, during an era when the regulatory framework for building design and construction, industry structures and procurement arrangements was far simpler than it is today.
Back in 1963, the very idea of Building Information Modelling (BIM), or of the government mandating all of its construction projects be based on BIM, would have seemed outlandish. Today, technology has made BIM possible - and the new RIBA POW makes use of these technological advances.
The POW framework has been amended over time to reflect developments in project team organisation and procurement approaches, but to date these have been incremental and reactive to changing circumstances, rather than strategically driven. The RIBA POW has thus far been revised four times (1967, 1973, 1998 and 2007), but this fifth revision is the most significant, from a facilities management perspective, by some distance.
The genesis of this new RIBA POW lies in publication in 2011 of the Government Construction Strategy. Working with the Construction Industry Council (CIC), RIBA set about re-shaping the POW with a set of unified work stages suitable for use by - critically - all the members of a design and construction team. This they saw as a "once in a generation opportunity to update the industry's process model, to address key changes in areas such a procurement, town planning, sustainability, BIM and construction delivery".
The newly introduced 2013 POW is described by RIBA as "a fundamental reworking". From a traditional model, comprising 11 work stages, the new version consists of eight. Added to these are additional, context-specific 'task bars' that are assigned, if required, as you build your POW document.
Therein lies one of the other big changes: the RIBA POW now works as an online tool. Users can customise POW models for their organisation and/or project, and assign relevant task bars at set-up stage. The aim, says RIBA, is to "enable greater integration across the industry". The document is supported by the CIC, of which the BIFM is a member.
Until the new POW's launch, the RIBA Plan of Work (2007) consisted of 11 work stages defined by the letters A-L, each with a description of the key tasks to be completed at each stage. The new POW consolidates this down to eight work stages defined by numbers 0-7, but these are augmented by eight project-specific 'task bars' that replace the description of key tasks, three of which (procurement, programme and planning) can be customised by the user.
Other task bars include one for 'suggested key support tasks', detailing the activities required to embed BIM into the process, one for 'sustainability checkpoints' and one to build in UK government information exchange requirements.
The 11 work stages of the old POW have been incorporated into new stages numbered 1-7, but the opportunity for FM is in two entirely new stages. The first, 'Stage 0', is entitled 'Strategic Definition'. It's at this initial stage that a project is strategically appraised and defined before a detailed brief is created. RIBA says that this is "particularly relevant in the context of sustainability when a refurbishment or extension, or indeed a rationalised space plan, may be more appropriate than a new building". The point is to test the validity of the construction project in all its facets prior to giving it the green light.
It's at this stage that feedback from previous projects should be evaluated, and where input from FM should be most valuable - and this is where the other new stage, 'Stage 7 - In Use' comes into play.
At Stage 7, successful operation and use of a building is measured through post-occupancy review, project outcome appraisal and "the updating of project information, as required, in response to ongoing client feedback until the end of the building's life". This feedback is then made available for use at Stage 0 (Stage 0 'may require a review of a number of sites').
Although now launched, project manager Dale Sinclair says the new plan is still effectively a "work in progress". Taken as a whole, the RIBA POW should help the many interested parties in construction projects meet the Government Construction Strategy's goal of "replacing an adversarial culture and challenging existing models".
Aside from the way in which the models themselves are structured, much of the talk about building information modelling comes back to two issues: who owns the models and who is responsible for their maintenance? (It's three issues if you include the question of private sector incentives for deploying BIM.)
f nothing else, logic suggests that these are things the FM department should be doing, but there is understandable concern about the practical considerations. Is BIM model maintenance part of an outsourced contractors' obligations? How and where is the data stored? Is the model to be stored independently? At what stages in its lifetime is it updated to take into account a building's change in use, or other project work?
Exactly how the FM sector responds and fits into all of this is still up for debate, but as an issue it's not going to go away. In the past, various government-sponsored reports into the construction sector have put forward ways of improving the ways in which organisations in the construction chain collaborate with each other. These proposals have faltered because of the lack of a central, readily-accepted way of organising all of information and communication required. With BIM, and project frameworks such as the RIBA POW, there are now strong mechanisms for doing so.
The cost, design and performance data used in BIMs and made available to all parties in the construction chain is a new phenomenon, with the potential to make the recommendations of such as the Latham and Egan Reports into the construction sector a reality at last.
RIBA's is not the only 'plan of work'. A 'Digital Plan of Work' is being developed by the Government's BIM Task Group. It, too, has seven stages, starting with strategy and ending with operation. The development of the 'dPOW' can be traced to the government mandating that BIM processes be used on all publicly procured assets by 2016. The focus of the dPoW is on the potential for the rich levels of data in building information models informing each level of procurement during the construction process.
The idea of the dPOW is that different stakeholders - clients, managers, designers, contractors, trade suppliers and building operators - have clear access to the data in use within BIMs. According to the group: "The advent of clear data requirements brings many opportunities for value creation into the industry and it is our intention that this document will aid understanding to encourage others to seek and capitalise this value."
The dPoW is currently being developed, with all the member organisations of the CIC having an input into the proposed final product, the BIFM among them. With so many organisations involved, this is an understandably complex and detailed process.
For FM, what all of this means is an opportunity, as a sector, to use information on building operation in the best possible way - to inform the design process of the next generation of buildings.
So many of the issues faced by those who actually run facilities, from levels of building cleanability to access and worker wellness issues, can and should be communicated back to the beginning of the design process, not retrofitted once the building is in use.
Although these are early days, the development of these of work, both of which now require an FM input to be effective, is something the sector can make full use of.