This viewpoint is by guest author Rexter Retana.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an essential part of the construction procurement process. However, when BIM deliverables are indiscriminately injected into the scope of services of project players, or across the construction supply chain, a BIM scope creep will occur.
What is a BIM scope creep?
The project management discipline recognizes three project ‘boundary elements’ – scope, cost and schedule - acting in tandem with each other (Wagner, 2013). When one boundary element is increased or diminished, the other two elements must also increase/diminish in order to regain project equilibrium (Fig. 1). According to the Project Management Institute (PMI, 2013), ‘scope creep’ is the incremental expansion of the project’s scope – e.g. through additional work requests - without the necessary readjustment of the other two elements:
Fig. 1 Project Boundaries (Retana, 2014)
BIM scope creep are two main types - demand-side and supply-side:
A. Demand Side Scope Creep - when clients set ambiguous or unrealistic BIM requirements:
Below is an excerpt from a recent Request for Proposal (RFP) whereby a client injects BIM into a project scope using a single generic clause , devoid of justification or detail:
“This project will be undertaken utilizing BIM design processes and tools and is to be at Level 2 standard and in line with BS1192. The Architect will be responsible for this process as lead designer and is expected to undertake the BIM Manager role.”
Such a blanket clause is increasingly common and highlights two main issues:
- Either the client/owner is not sure what BIM deliverables to request, and thus resorts to embedding a generic catch-all phrase into the RFP; or
- The client/owner has low BIM maturity and does not fully recognize the impact BIM requirements place on project cost and schedule.
B. Supply Side Scope Creep - when project players ‘gold plate’ their deliverables:
Gold plating occurs when project participant(s) include processes/deliverables which do not improve the execution of the project, are not requested by the client/owner, and do not necessarily improve the final product (the actual facility). Gold plating has several negative consequences (Project Management Learning, 2014):
- Gold plating increases project cost by consuming additional time and resources;
- It increase project risk especially if additional deliverables are undocumented;
- Raises client expectations for future projects; clients may grow accustomed to additional unnecessary deliverables; and
- Heightens the possibility of client dissatisfaction and may lead to legal disputes.
Preventing BIM scope creep
To prevent both demand-side BIM scope creep and supply-side BIM gold plating, project participants – especially the Design Lead and Project BIM Manager - should use their experience and available knowledge to educate clients/owners and clarify BIM project requirements:
a) Educate the client
The Design Lead (the Architect in traditional contracts) needs to invest time and effort in educating the client/owner of BIM’s deliverables and limitations. Clients should be also encouraged to evaluate their own BIM abilities (Giel and Issa, 2014) and improve their internal BIM capability/maturity (Succar, 2010) so they benefit from BIM deliverables and workflows .
b) Clarify BIM requirements
The Design Lead (plus other project participants) should identify the generalities and inaccuracies within the project’s RFP or tender documents. This is preferably done during the feasibility phase or – if difficult – during the pre-tender clarification period. If Design Lead(s) lack the internal experience to do this, there are a number of noteworthy BIM publications which clarify BIM’s benefits/challenges, and the impact of BIM tools and workflows on a project’s Capital Expenditures (CapEx) and Operational Expenditures (OpEx).
One such noteworthy publication is the Uses of BIM framework (CIC, 2013) which identifies 25 BIM Uses across four facility lifecycle phases (plan, design, construct and operate). BIM Uses (or Model Uses) are a clear way to identify, structure and communicate project requirements/objectives and thus reduce the risk of BIM scope creep.
Another approach to improving clarity is the development or adaptation of BIM protocols and standardized workflows. For example, the Project Initiation diagram (Fig. 2) explains the basic steps necessary to initiate a collaborative BIM project.
Fig 2. Project Initiation diagram - adopted from Succar et al. (2013 – page 186) – direct link
The diagram is intended to clarify the many steps necessary during the early planning phase – including:
- Establish project scope based on the project brief or Employer’s Information Requirement (EIR);
- Identify project’s target model uses (e.g. sustainability analysis, design validation, structural analysis, etc.) as derived from the project brief or EIR;
- Establish modelling standards, elemental Level of Development (LoD) and communication protocols (e.g. file naming conventions, annotation standards, etc.) to be used throughout the project;
- Identify software solutions (e.g. structural analysis software, wind simulation software, lifecycle costing software, etc.), information exchange formats (e.g. IFC4, NWD, RVT, CIS/2, etc.) and network infrastructure solutions (e.g. content management solutions);
- Agree on model review and data verification processes to ensure model quality and compliance with the client/owner’s information requirements; and
- Document all technologies, processes and protocols through a BIM management/execution plan or similar.
To prevent supply-side BIM scope creep, the Project Manager (or project’s BIM manager) should actively combat BIM gold platting as it adds no value to the project (PMI, 2013). In order to inhibit or minimize gold plating, Project Manager(s) need to:
- Educate the project team of the need to strictly adhere to the agreed scope of services; and
- Continuously monitor all BIM deliverables as to meet – neither exceed or fall short of – the client/owner’s requirement.
BIM scope creep and BIM gold platting are two faces of the same coin and – if not addressed - will increase project cost and schedule. Only when limiting BIM deliverables to those of benefit to the project or to the end product can BIM scope creep be minimized.
Rexter Retana is a Senior BIM Coordinator and Lead BIM Implementer at RSP Architects Planners & Engineers Pte Ltd (Singapore). Rexter works across both the architectural and structural departments and his responsibilities include: BIM implementation, BIM management, staff training, R&D and the generation of BIM standards and protocols.
Rexter is a Member of the Structural Engineering Institute, an Associate Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of San Carlos (Philippines). Rexter is currently undertaking a Master’s of Science in BIM Management at Middlesex University (UK).
Rexter can be contacted by email: rexterretana(at)gmail(dot)com.
Computer Integrated Construction, (2013), The Uses of BIM: Classifying and Selecting BIM Uses, Version 9, Pennsylvania State University (link)
Giel, B. and Issa, R. R. A. (2014) 'Framework for Evaluating the BIM Competencies of Building Owners', in Issa, R. and Flood, I., eds., Computing in Civil and Building Engineering (2014), Florida, US, June 23-25, 2014 ASCE, 552-559 (link)
Project Management Institute, (2013), The Project Management Body of Knowledge, 5th Edition, PMI (link)
Project Management Learning, (2014), Gold Plating in Project Management (online article)
Succar, B. (2010) 'Building Information Modelling Maturity Matrix' in Underwood, J. and Isikdag, U., eds., Handbook of Research on Building Information Modelling and Construction Informatics: Concepts and Technologies, Information Science Reference, IGI Publishing, pp. 65-103 (link)
Succar, B., Sher, W. and Williams, A. (2013) 'An integrated approach to BIM competency acquisition, assessment and application', Automation in Construction, 35, pp. 174-189 (link)
Wagner, T. (2013), Preventing Scope Creep, [Online] Accessed on July 31, 2014 (www.lynda.com)
 Editor’s note: the terminology used in this post are mostly based on UK’s evolving standards. Reader’s from Australia, US and other countries need to replace these with their local equivalents.