BIM for the UK Ministry of Justice – Quality assured!

Bond Bryan Digital took part in the UK estate transformation for the Ministry of Justice to work collaboratively with two contractors, providing quality assurance in the project between Dec 2017 and Aug 2018. The role was to carry out checking not for the geometry, but instead, for the data in all the discipline models, and also to create project-specific rulesets to support the information managers. The successful outcome included nearly 20 000 Solibri rules and 16 federated models with very, very few errors.

A part of the Bond Bryan architectural company, Bond Bryan Digital (BBD) is an award-winning consultancy offering expertise especially in information definition and management throughout building projects. Their goal is to help clients gain better value for the entire life-cycle of their built assets. Therefore, rather than just modeling, BBD Associate Director Rob Jackson defines BIM as Better Information Management – supported by OpenBIM processes.

In the estate transformation project, the original scope for BBD was quality assurance with Kier and another contractor, but after getting started, the scope extended to also re-align the requirements with open standards. Jackson reflects: “The original requirements were very good, actually, probably the best requirements we’ve seen. We really wanted to finesse those.” As a starting point, BBD received a set of documents with various data where one of the focus points was the categorization used by the Ministry of Justice. For example, there were items in the requirements that are outside the scope of the COBie standard or that are not supported in the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) schema.

“You can’t use information until you’ve checked that information.”

The two contractors also had different authoring software in use and there were data exchanges between different systems where there was room for clarification. Furthermore, the models were quite complex, for example, as they were also designed for manufacture and assembly. This made it even more important to ensure the requirements aligned with the model checking. “That connection is very important, so we spent some time reorganizing the requirements in order to then build the checking rules around them,” Jackson explains. For true consistency of the data, the information needed to be aligned with open standards as far as possible, going further than merely mapping the authoring tool models for IFC classification. There was a clear need for OpenBIM.

OpenBIM allowed for all the parties to deliver in the COBie and IFC formats regardless of the tools they were using. Jackson emphasizes: “When I talk about delivering in IFC, I don’t mean a model which is coded in IFC with some data in it. What I mean is a model which is as compliant as can be with the IFC schema.” Along with OpenBIM, the original data was reconfigured to use the IFC classifications instead of the original categorization. Some of the attributes were amended, for example, the original attribute for heating and cooling capacity was broken down into two attributes, one for heating and another one for cooling. In addition, BBD wanted to be very clear not just about which attributes were wanted, but also where in the IFC they were wanted. This resulted in a requirement document for how the data was going to be delivered, setting a very clear framework for the actual model checking processes.

Next, BBD demonstrated how the actual requirements could be delivered by creating test files and verifying that the documents from the different authoring tools were identical in IFC. The test files were also used to create the Solibri rules. “We did a lot testing as a part of that process,” Jackson reflects. “The testing goes both ways in that you first build the models, then you check them and realize that the models have issues, so you correct those and then you realize your rules have issues. And by the time you finish, you’ve got the aligned set.” BBD valued the testing as an important phase in the project. “As a result, we really knew that we could deliver the project, instead of just creating rules and hoping they would work,” Jackson concludes.

“People think of geometry as being important on the site, of course it is, but so is the data.”

As the project output, BBD created nearly 20 000 Solibri rules for checking different concepts, disciplines, element types and stages in the models. Some of the rules were re-builds from earlier projects. Although initially a massive task, it’s bringing great benefits and time-savings also in the long run. Jackson describes: “Some of the work was a part of the estate transformation project and some of it we took as our own research and developed the rules further. It has involved most of this year, but I’ve just taken a very similar set of rules for another project and it took me less than half a day, now that I’ve got those rules, to re-configure.”

The role of BBD in the estate transformation project ended with a successful delivery of 16 federated models, fully checked with very, very few errors, from where the models could be taken forward and developed further in the project. Although geometry in this project was not in the BBD scope, Jackson highlights the importance of having a tool that checks both the geometry and the data. “In terms of delivering quality projects, Solibri is valuable both for our architectural teams, who are focused on coordination, and for our digital team, who is primarily focused on information. Being able to develop a single approach is extremely valuable to us,” says Jackson, and continues: “In many ways you can’t do the information checking without the geometry because otherwise your quantities and COBie data is going to be incorrect so for us, having a holistic approach is really a key to what we do. People think of geometry as being important on the site, of course it is, but the data is also important when people are placing orders, doing counts, and so on. Authors are still responsible for that data – it is their responsibility to put the right values in – but people make mistakes and the more we can automate that process and remove those mistakes from the models, the better the outcome.”

From that, the benefit of data validation is really in removing errors as early as possible, and ultimately, reduce cost by minimizing risks, and that can only benefit the clients in the long run.” In another recent coordination management project, BBD found 1000 truly important issues. “Even if you took a conservative cost estimate for £500 for a clash on site, for 1000 issues that’s almost half a million pounds of saving or potential risk pot that hasn’t been spent.” It’s an opportunity that Jackson wants to promote and spread out not just in the UK, but also in other parts of the world.

Rob Jackson, Associate Director, Bond Bryan Digital


Rob Jackson is an accomplished information manager and BIM consultant with vast experience in construction and a background in architecture. An advocate of OpenBIM workflows and the use of open standards for years, he actively takes part in various BIM committees and platforms, presents at BIM related events worldwide, and engages in conversation both in social media and in the BIMBlog by Bond Bryan Digital. To learn more about testing data exchange in the estate transformation project, go to the related BIMBlog post.