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BIM Execution Plans: One of my Three Passions…

by Chad Wisler

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Chad Wisler

As we toast to the New Year, there is no better time than now to discuss one of the best project planning tools needed for almost every project active in our industry. Although it may not be at the top of the your list during the holiday season, but by gaining a better understanding of the importance of developing a BIM Execution Plan for your projects, it will pay off for you, your firm, and most importantly your clients. Historically, any ‘managed’ project was proactively managed throughout the development of a Project Execution Plan, which was either very simple or very detailed (not complicated). This often was depending upon the project team members and the scope of work.

Reaching back to my project management professional training, and late night reviews of the Project Management Book of Knowledge (look it up), the most critical time period of a project is within the first two to three weeks. This is the or not.

The BIM Execution Plan is the direct offshoot of today’s design, construction, and facility management focus through streamlined project teams and relatively ‘new’ software platforms.

A BIM Execution Plan is essentially a subset of the overall Project Execution Plan for a project that is focused on the BIM environment and how it will be utilized for the design, construction, as-builting, and facility maintenance for the project/building. The Plan is a jointly agreed upon and developed plan that documents what software will be used to generate the BIM model, who is responsible for what and when, and how the model will be utilized throughout the project (design, construction, and owner use). Such a simple concept is perhaps self evident to many of the professionals reading this article, however at the same time BIM and its variations of its implementation on a project cannot be left to chance.

There are three options in developing a BIM Execution Plan:

Option 1 – don’t do it, option 2 – develop a very detailed plan, and option 3 – develop a simple, clear plan.

Each option may be suitable for your project, but my recommendation is to focus on Option 3 for our projects.

Option 1 – Don’t Do a Plan

Unfortunately, the majority of BIM projects today still do not employ any ‘Plan’. While BIM and the associated software platforms (Revit, Intergraph, Navisworks, EcoDomus, Archibus, etc.) are relatively mature, their overall integration into a project is not, and perhaps never will be since there is not a “one-solution for every project/client”.

Therefore, if your project does not have a BIM Execution Plan, you are putting unnecessary risk on your firm, your client, and also reducing the potential of “what the project could be…”. This is a lost opportunity for you and your client. Don’t do it.

Option 2 – Overly Detailed Plan

Some of the most impressive plans are literally hundreds of pages and take months to develop. Most of us have worked on projects where we have spent several months developing a ‘plan’ and a beautiful/colorful ‘record’ document for the Plan and feel great about it. However, at the same time, the team is moving forward, developing habits, and most importantly, not following the plan and essentially falling back to a ‘non plan’. This in turn results in misaligned models and expectations of the model for design, construction, and owner use.

Option 3 – Simple, Clear Plan

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Chad Wisler

The more concise and clear a plan can be the better. In doing so, all participants (designers, management, CMs, and owners) can clearly understand the modeling efforts, and what is (and is not) modeled and by whom. The plan is then followed and used as a tool to manage the project. Because the plan is simple; it can be used as a communication and check-in tool for all members of your project team. Additionally, by keeping it concise, it can be developed, reviewed/approved within a couple of weeks of the project which further aids in its real-time use.

In summary, develop a plan, keep it simple and concise, and engage the participants in its development. Don’t get caught in the ‘academic’ level of producing an ‘impressive’ binder for the plan or even worse – not developing a plan at all.

Lastly, remember that we develop plans to focus on how to achieve a goal (in life and business). The BIM Execution Plan is a valuable tool for proactive management of today’s BIM projects. Happy New Year!

Chad Wisler, PE, LEED AP BD+C is a managing principal at R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, LLP in Boston.