Support the underdogs

Are we creating a class system in the construction industry where large projects are for the elite, supported by BIM to keep the underdogs at bay?

After reading an article in AJ, on small businesses struggle to win larger projects. I do recall seeing the PQQ questions on finance and insurance over the years, while implementing BIM Level 2 at large practices. What we did was to standardise these PQQ responses to make the response a semi-automatic admin task.

Over 2018 and 2019 DDC Solutions have focused on helping smaller practices to get on board with the BIM process and technology. And the AJ article clarified that SMEs are playing the same game as large practices, but with different rules.

What I have seen while working with clients who have lots of resource, is that even though they also need to comply with BIM Level 2 requirements on large projects and they do need to fill in the tiresome PQQs. The larger practices are privileged with policies and requirements that apply to their financial status. Many of which didn’t exist when these practices were just starting up as an SME.

BIM is now creating an additional “ability” barrier for SMEs to comply with, if they have any aspiration to grow as a company and wanting to compete for large projects. By now we have all probably heard the “prophesy” “adopt to BIM or go under”. And it is easy to say when you look at it from the top.

What the glory of Highrise projects and BIM Level 2 looks like for the small practices are quite different.

I am not talking about architectural abilities, design or ambitions here. What I am highlighting is that an SME is trying to grow in an industry that have setup targets that an SME often cannot meet.

In AJ three of these rules were mentioned:

  • Insurance
  • Turnover
  • Previous experience

And we also have the BIM Level 2 / ISO 19650 requirement to meet and in many cases a specific software is also required.

After speaking to a few small practice directors, asking what the perceived risks seem to be from a developer’s point of view, risks that have set the financial and insurance thresholds. The concerns seem to be around the delivery of correct information, on time. So, it is a technology, process and support issue then? If the small practice has the correct software, they have the correct process (BIM /ISO 19650) and can demonstrate what information will be produced and when and how it will be delivered, they have the support behind them to develop and deliver and they have the required knowledge. Is a small practice still a risk element to a project?

What if, the developer had the ISO 19650 implemented and worked with a small practice who could meet every point of the ISO 19650 requirements set by the developer and on top of that had a faster response time with collaboration and communication and the direct attention of an architectural director. Would this not reduce the risk compared with to large practice who might not be ISO19650 compliant, have a slow response time and the project is not rigorously monitored by a director?

As for Experience. Sure, going from a kitchen extension to building the next HSBC tower, might be a little bit of a step. But, applying different targets and policies depending on project types and the abilities of the SME would help the industry by opening up the playing field and competition.

Regarding the BIM Level 2 / ISO 19650 requirements set in the PQQs. Sure, being BIM or ISO compliant will not help with the automatic rejection on insurance and turnover in the PQQs. But, it will help when there is an opportunity to influence and demonstrating capabilities and capacities. Having the BIM / ISO compliancy in place, both for developers and small SMEs will automatically demonstrate efficiency at the very start of communication on the project.

E.g. the developer is asking for process and deliverables at day 1 and the BIM / ISO compliant SME can respond with the process and deliverables proposal on day 2 including full 3D coordination testing of the site, capability statements, BEP, CDE process and collaboration, modelling and training strategies and knowledge evidence for all team members. Something that usually takes weeks or months to achieve on any given project. Would an SME that can demonstrate this level of capability not lower the risk to the project?

But if an SME is automatically rejected based on PQQ and not given a chance to compete. Where is the incentive to try to progress and grow?

If we are to reach the goals set for the UK construction industry and continue being a dominant market. We need to change the direction of creating a monopoly-based industry and let talents and ambitions be heard and be given the opportunity to contribute. Still with-in controlled environments but with policies, targets and processes that enable people to grow, rather than preventing them access.


#SME #smallbusiness #architects #professionalism #BIM#BIMLevel2 #process #standards #pqq

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