Practical Completion and BIM

By John Gouldsmith & Bart Kavanagh

As the National Building Specification (NBS) releases its 10th annual BIM report, this article examines the relationship of Building Information Modelling (BIM) deliverables to Practical Completion, (PC). By BIM deliverable, I mean not the BIM used for the design and procurement phases, but a BIM that is to be provided under the terms of the Building Contract for the Client/ Employer to use in the management of the property after PC.

The JCT Standard Building Contract 2016 describes PC in the following clauses.

Clause 2.30 addresses the completion of the works

“2.30 When in the Architect/Contract Administrator’s opinion practical completion of the Works or a Section is achieved and the Contractor has complied sufficiently with clauses 2.40 and 3.23 in respect of the supply of documents and information, then:

Clause 2.40 addresses the provision of Contractor’s Design documents.

“Where there is a Contractor’s Designed Portion, the Contractor, in addition to his obligations under the CDM Regulations in relation to information for the health and safety file, shall, before practical completion of the Works or relevant Section and without further charge to the Employer, supply for retention and use by the Employer such Contractor’s Design Documents and related information as is specified in the Contract Documents or as the Employer may reasonably require that show or describe the Contractor’s Designed Portion as built or relate to the maintenance and operation of it or its installations.”

Clause 3.23 addresses the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM).

“.1 the Employer shall ensure that the Principal Designer carries out his duties and, where the Contractor is not the Principal Contractor, shall ensure that the Principal Contractor carries out his duties under those regulations;

.2  … the Contractor shall comply with regulations 8 and 15 and, where he is the Principal Contractor, with regulations 12 to 14; …”

The JCT also published a Practice Note “BIM and JCT contracts” in 2019, although this does not specifically address the issues considered in this article.

Regulation 8 of the CDM requires:

“(6) Any person who is required by these Regulations to provide information or instruction must ensure the information or instruction is comprehensible and provided as soon as is practicable.”

Regulation 12 requires the preparation of a health and safety file, (HSF), which must “… contain information relating to the project which is likely to be needed during any subsequent project to ensure the health and safety of any person.” This must be kept up to date during the course of the design and construction of the project and:

“(10) At the end of the project, the principal designer, or where there is no principal designer the principal contractor, must pass the health and safety file to the client.”

In addition, Part 8, regulation 38 of the Building Regulations 2010 requires the provision of Fire Safety Information (FSI):

“(2) The person carrying out the work shall give fire safety information to the responsible person not later than the date of completion of the work, or the date of occupation of the building or extension, whichever is the earlier.

(3) In this regulation—

(a) “fire safety information” means information relating to the design and construction of the building or extension, and the services, fittings and equipment provided in or in connection with the building or extension which will assist the responsible person to operate and maintain the building or extension with reasonable safety; …”

BS EN ISO 19650-1-2018, (ISO 19650), ‘Organisation and digitisation of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including building information modelling’ provides guidance on the fundamentals and definition of information requirements and any resulting BIM. Annex A to ISO 19650 seems, however, to be written from the perspective of an information manager, rather than that of a construction contract administrator. It covers issues raised in general, but does not for example:

  • Establish project information requirements for PC;
  • Establish project H&S and FSI requirements, milestones, etc.; or
  • Discuss compatibility with the construction contract requirements and clauses.

At paragraph 5.1.2 it states:

“The appointing party shall establish the project’s information requirements, as described in ISO 19650-1:2018, 5.3, to address the questions to which the appointing party needs answer(s) at each of the key decision points throughout the project. In doing this, the appointing party shall consider: …

— the intended purpose for which the information will be used by the appointing party; …”

It will be incumbent on the Employer, therefore, or someone directly appointed by the Employer for the purpose, to define what is required of the BIM in relation to the HSF and FSI requirements and to ensure that these are all compatible with the form of construction contract adopted for the project.

Large organisations which regularly act as Employer are likely to develop their own processes and procedures to effect the application of ISO 19650 to their particular needs. Given the critical nature of HSF and FSI, however, all Employers will need to ensure that BIM as a deliverable is adequately aligned with their construction contracts.

Different construction contract variants and different forms will have significant and subtle variations[1], but the following general principles regarding the incorporation of BIM deliverables are likely to be the same in each case:

  • Define any contractual BIM deliverable and how it relates to PC at the outset;
  • Define if and how any contractual BIM deliverable provides any part of the HSF and/ or FSI and how it relates to PC at the outset;
  • Define the BIM acceptance testing process at the outset;
  • Allow sufficient time for the BIM acceptance testing process, including sufficient rectification of any defects prior to PC;
  • Ensure that the BIM requirement is aligned with the construction contract;
  • Adequately monitor the BIM to ensure that each PC requirement is duly delivered.

Currently, there is very little specific guidance on how this might be achieved; the various BIM textbooks and guides that are available, do not address the handover of BIM at PC in depth or at all. Certainly, they do not address:

  • How to assess whether a BIM deliverable is adequate for PC?
  • How to assess whether a BIM deliverable provides adequate HSF or FSI?

If a BIM deliverable is included in the contract, especially if it contains the HSF and/or FSI, then the Employer will need to put in place a suitable method of review and assessment, to ensure compliance with the terms of the contract, to satisfy the statutory requirements, and to enable the CA to either:

  • endorse the BIM as acceptable for PC from their own assessment and testing, or
  • endorse the BIM as acceptable for PC after assessment and testing by others.

In this regard, I suggest that the steps that would apply to practical completion of the physical construction works could be applied equally to PC of the BIM deliverable, for example:

  • Commissioning the BIM as the H&S information and the FSI;
  • Snagging the BIM against pre-defined H&S and FSI information functionality;
  • Training of Employer staff in how to use the BIM effectively as H&S information and FSI.

Paragraph 5.7.4 of ISO 19650 provides the following guidance on how this might be done:

“The appointing party shall undertake a review of the information model in accordance with the project’s information production methods and procedures.

In doing this, the appointing party shall consider:

— the deliverables listed in the master information delivery plan;

— the appointing party’s exchange information requirements;

— the acceptance criteria for each information requirement; and

— the level of information need for each information requirement.

If the review is successful, the appointing party shall accept the information model as a deliverable within the project’s common data environment.

If the review is unsuccessful, the appointing party shall reject the information model and instruct the lead appointed party to amend the information and re-submit for appointing party’s acceptance.

Partial acceptance of the information to be exchanged (as defined within the MIDP) can lead to coordination issues, therefore it is recommended that the appointing party either accepts or rejects the entire information model.”[2]

The adequacy of the HSF and FSI contained in the BIM is a matter for the Employer, Principal Designer and/or Principal Contractor to agree upon and some formalised review (and correction if necessary) of a BIM containing HSF and/or FSI will be needed before PC can be certified. The time and cost of this process must be planned for and included in the contract documents, including risk and contingency allowances for when approvals are potentially not given or delayed.

Compliance with the Building Regulations must also be considered and incorporated into the BIM deliverable. This begs the question, should the Building Control authority review, and approve/ certify, the relevant aspects of the BIM if it contains FSI? It seems to me that they should, because the provision of FSI is a requirement of the Building Regulations for construction works.

The effective handover of a BIM deliverable containing H&S and FSI is important because the consequences of mistakes and misunderstandings are potentially serious. One can easily see how the cost of rectification or loss associated with a defective BIM could – for small to medium projects – cost the same sum as the building project to put right.

Perhaps more importantly, a defective BIM deliverable that leads to an H&S offence or conviction could be devasting, for the person fined or convicted. Also, a defective BIM that leads to an H&S incident, or fire say, where incorrect information it contains has been relied upon could generate a wide variety of losses, claims and disputes.

In summary, a BIM deliverable has the potential to: provide an effective and efficient transfer of critical HSF and FSI information from the Contractor to the Employer; to accommodate the requirements of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (RRFSO) and fire risk assessment; and to be a convenient tool for facility management during the operational life of the property. If the potential is to be fully realised, however, the BIM criteria need to be considered from the outset, managed and updated throughout the course of the project and subject to robust scrutiny at PC before being handed over to the Employer.

[1] See articles in the Summer and Autumn 2019 editions of Perspective.

[2] ISO 19650 provides a useful flow diagram, including how the process is to be reset/ redone, if either the information model is rejected.