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February 20, 2019

Facilitating digital collaboration in NEC4

Facilitating digital collaboration in NEC4

The NEC4 works contracts launched in 2017 included a new secondary option X10 on information modelling to reflect increasing use of building information models (BIM) and digital engineering in the global construction industry.

The option provides for creating or modifying an ‘Information Model’, the requirements which are set out in an ‘Information Model Requirements’ section in the contract scope. The contractor is also required to provide and update an ‘Information Execution Plan’ in the same way as an NEC4 programme.

Clarifying terminology

Certainly there is a growing number of industry standards and guides for digital information models. The latest of these are parts 1 and 2 of ISO 19650, which the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published in in December 2018 (ISO 2018a and 2018b). In the UK these are replacing BS 1192 (BSI, 2008) and PAS 1192-2 (BSI, 2013) respectively.

Depending on which standards are used on a project, it may be necessary to amend or adapt NEC4 option X10 terminology, using either the information model requirements in the scope or a Z clause.

For example, NEC published a practice note last year (NEC 2018) with a recommended scope entry for matching clause X10 terminology with that of the UK Construction Industry Council’s BIM protocol (CIC, 2018).

Common data environment

All standards mentioned above refer to a ‘common data environment’ (CDE) for the shared asset information model. This comprises documentation files (e.g. correspondence, specifications, manuals, warranties), nongraphical data files (digital attributes) and graphical data files (e.g. three-dimensional models, two-dimensional drawings). On top of this is metadata, describing what a package of CDE information contains.

However, a CDE is not specifically referred to in option X10, or in NEC’s recommended scope entry for the CIC BIM protocol. And while the ‘Information Model’ in X10 is defined as electronic integration of information provided by the contractor, client and others, it does not explicitly cover the documentation or file formats for information exchanges. Furthermore, X10 does not spell out the responsibilities and rights of those who give and receive information.

For example, an NEC4 ECC project manager might issue an instruction with 50 drawing files to the client, another designer or the main contractor. In this instance the project manager has become an information provider, though not perhaps in the sense envisaged in option X10. The receiver of these files might prefer them to be in an alternative digital format, and may also wish to have an Excel file listing the drawing numbers, titles and file names.

Proposed Z clause

Notwithstanding the possible need to amend, adapt or amplify option X10, the construction industry still relies heavily on paper. While we may all work in digital environments, we still spend a lot of time and money in ‘paperising’ the exchange of information at each stage of a project.

I thus propose a Z clause for NEC works and service contracts, including the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC), NEC4 Alliance Contract and NEC4 Professional Service Contract, to help improve digital collaboration (see box). In addition to supplementing option X10, it can also work without X10 as well as cover all day-to-day document exchanges. In the case of contracts using option X10, it could alternatively be incorporated into the scope.

The clause explicitly defines a common data environment, documentation and metadata as well as introducing the responsibilities and rights of ‘information originators’ and ‘information receivers’ at all levels. While it could be argued that allowing individual parties to specify data formats could result in additional data conversion costs for information originator, this is more than offset by removing the need to physically print and deliver paper copies, as is still the norm on many projects. If a paper copy is still required, doing the data conversion at the same time as printing rather than retrieving old data will also minimise additional costs.

Overall I hope the proposed clause will help to achieve a more seamless and cost-effective exchange of digital data between all parties on NEC4 contracts, in the same way as if they were from different departments of a large manufacturing company.

Proposed Z clause / scope entry for digital collaboration

Defined terms

  • (1) Documentation is textual information relating to the Information Model, such as correspondence, specifications, certificates, warranties, manuals and scanned drawings and data, which is exchanged between the Parties pursuant to the contract.
  • (2) The Common Data Environment (CDE) is a common or a single source for collating, managing and disseminating the Information Model for facilitating collaboration between the Parties pursuant to the contract. The CDE used for this Project is https://drow.cloud.
  • (3) An Information Originator is any Party which sends out information and/or Documentation for the Information Model.
  • (4) An Information Receiver is any Party or Subcontractor of that Party which receives information and/or Documentation from an Information Originator.
  • (5) Metadata is data that describes information and/or Documentation delivered by an Information Originator for facilitating the sorting and filtering such information and/or Documentation. Metadata includes but is not limited to the date of creation or modification, date of submission, file type, file name, author, receiver, title and reference number.

Information exchange

  • (1) The Information Receiver has the discretion to ask the Information Originator to send the information, Documentation and/or Metadata in a digital format as required by the Information Receiver provided this is compatible with the CDE. The Information Originator shall not refuse to provide the digital format of the Project Information, Documentation and/or Metadata as required by the Information Receiver unless otherwise required by the Project Manager.
  • (2) Unless otherwise required by the Project Manager, the Information Originator shall mutually agree with the Information Receiver and record in writing the digital format.
  • (3) The Information Originator shall upload the information, Documentation and/or Metadata to the CDE.
  • (4) The Information Originator shall provide the digital format of the information, Documentation, and/or Metadata to the Information Receiver as quickly as possible, and always within 14 days of receiving the request.
  • (5) The Information Originator is required to provide updated information, Documentation and/or Metadata to the Information Receiver if the Information Originator considers the previous version has become outdated or obsolete.

References

BSI (2008) BS 1192:2007+A2:2016.Collaborative production of architectural, engineering and construction information.Code of practice.
BSI (2013) PAS 1192-2:2013.Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using building information modelling, available at http://cic.org.uk/admin/resources/bim-protocol-2nd-edition-2.pdf (accessed 2 January 2019).
CIC (2018)Building Information Modelling (BIM) Protocol II – Standard Protocol for use in projects using Building Information Models
ISO (2018a) ISO 19650-1:2018,Organization and digitization of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including building information modelling (BIM) -- Information management using building information modelling -- Part 1: Concepts and principles.
ISO (2018b) ISO 19650-2, Organization and digitization of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including building information modelling (BIM) -- Information management using building information modelling -- Part 2: Delivery phase of the assets.
NEC (2018)How to use the CIC BIM Protocol with NEC 4, Practice Note 2, April 2018, available at: http://www.neccontract.com/getmedia/1f73e289-2948-49cc-a031-e94583c9554e/NEC4ECC_Practice-Note-2_BIM-and-CIC-Protocol.aspx (accessed 2 January 2019).

Written by CK NG, Build IT


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