ISO 19650 in South Africa: The importance of pursuing global BIM standardisation and certification trends | Infrastructure news

We are currently facing a global evolution of professional work. With the rise of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and the buzz around the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Big Data, there are still many professionals in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry asking, “What is BIM?”

By Astrid van der Laan*

Building Information Modelling (BIM), a collaborative process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places, is a concept that has been in development for a few decades, gaining prevalence in the early 2000s. Ongoing development of standards surrounding BIM have led to the international ISO 19650 standard.

Adapted and developed from the UK PAS 1192 standards, the ISO 19650 standard suits both vertical and linear project approaches. Thus, it is suited to all stakeholders within the AEC industry.

The ISO 19650 “Organisation and digitisation of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including BIM” currently consists of several parts, with some still in development. ISO 19650-1:2018, namely Part 1 “Concepts and Principles” is currently a SABS Draft Standard: the public enquiry stage ended 31st July 2022.

Existing standardisation within the AEC industry, construction contracts, building methods, and professional titles are well established and regulated. But there is no agreed consensus as to what a BIM capable individual or organisation should be able to do. And, erroneously, BIM has become synonymous with software competencies. The current lack of a unified framework leads to a focus on technology. BIM processes may make use of the latest technology. However, technology should not be the driver.

Those of us making use of BIM tools and processes have considered working collaboratively in tandem, but we often end up adding an extra layer of complexity, with additional software solutions, extra modelling requirements, and 3D collaboration deliverables. All over and above the existing documentation and contractual obligations surrounding a built project.

Bearing in mind that there is currently no globally agreed specification against which an individual can be ISO 19650 BIM accredited, there definitely is a need to seek training and certification.

A present, there are nowhere near enough ISO 19650-BIM-savvy people within the AEC industry to make BIM processes business as usual. The current ISO 19650 ready practitioners need a much larger majority of people throughout the industry to upskill and maintain the momentum required to see the standard adopted successfully.

So rather than being part of the crowd waiting until they’re forced to learn, it is highly beneficial to peruse any relevant training now. This will benefit not only an individual, but their organisation as well as the entire AEC industry, which will be better off for it.

What to look for in BIM certification programmes

  • It’s not about attendance certificates, but demonstrated capability
  • It’s not about what software to use, but the information to exchange
  • It should focus on the information management process, not the data generated
Increasingly such training should also address the need for improvement of soft skills for information managers, who are driving the digital transformation within an organisation. However varied the roles of individuals seeking certification, ISO 19650 is ultimately about information management.

There are over 40 activities within an all-encompassing ISO 19650 standardised information management process, and no one person has the capability, capacity nor authority to undertake all of them. Over half of these activities are upstream of BIM model production. No one person is an expert in the entire process, one just needs to understand how to undertake their role effectively.

Seeking ISO 19650 certification is but one pillar in organisational accreditation; companies that already focus on well organised and thorough workflows for managing information are well on their way.

Information and business goals

An organisation should be able to demonstrate capability and capacity to undertake a role; confirming that specific people on a specific project have been evaluated for their roles. It should also align information goals to business goals, identifying defective workflows and mitigating negative effects, rather than just advocating the positives of successful BIM implementation.

Accepting ISO 19650 Part 1 nationally is only the first step. Understanding that the implementation strategies surrounding the standards are still developing is critical. We are all learning, implementing, and trying to do things better. Rather than implementing something different for every built project, let’s get everyone behind the same standard. Let’s move the industry past this question “What is BIM?”

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