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27 (122) 2016
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Real Estate & Construction

Why Poland must get ready to build in BIM

By Paweł Pudłowski MP, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Digitisation, Innovation and New Technology
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Many of the pathologies at the heart of the construction project in Poland are caused by poor planning, project management and budgeting, as well as a lack of trust that manifests itself in an adversarial attitude between investor and contractor.

The adverse effects are felt by public and private sector.

Time is wasted on lengthy negotiations to obtain the best price, which invariably the contractor overshoots during the construction process. Every złoty is squabbled over. Project documentation is done under pressure of time, as cheaply as possible, which results in shortcomings, which in turn results more time wasted as parties try to apportion blame on one another and penalise the person responsible for the consequent additional costs. This all leads to tensions and misunderstandings; cases often go to court, where judges who have no technical experience prevaricate with verdicts. Progress is slow and painful – the tax payer does not get value for money.

Over-optimistic budgets, prepared with the goal of winning the tender, often don’t cover the actual costs. Often projects require changes and improvements, dealing with issues which were overlooked in the conceptual phase; these lead directly to additional financial claims.

General contractors and their subcontractors end up embroiled in protracted negotiations as both parties try to reduce losses caused by the clashes between investor and contractor. The investor tries to avoid extra costs resulting from the changes using contractual provisions, while the contractor looks for grounds to obtain a more favourable price by claiming for additional work resulting from problems overlooked in the planning stage. The general contractor will also try to flip the extra costs onto its own subcontractors.

Arguments break out as to whether additional work falls within the scope of the basic work as defined in the contract, underpayment in the final bill is transferred down the supply chain, which often leads to the collapse of weaker subcontractors. All this contributes to strengthening the atmosphere of mistrust and the entrenches defensive thinking. Parties spend their energy forming a giant mass of documents, and worry that their drafting team devotes less attention to the project’s quality. Creativity goes into  the art of avoiding the consequences of the shortcomings of the process, rather than into delivering buildings and infrastructure that benefit the tax-payer, society and the Polish economy.

Most of these negative phenomena can be dramatically reduced with the introduction of Building Information Modelling – one of the most revolutionary developments in the history of construction.

BIM is not just about taking a 3D model of a building or piece of infrastructure and adding non-graphic information such as price, instructions or guarantees. It’s about sharing information and collaboration from the outset of a project through to the object’s eventual demolition. BIM involves the investor, the developer, the architect, the general contractor, subcontractors, suppliers – as well as the facility manager and tenants. Every stakeholder in the project has access to the BIM model.

BIM allows for harmonious cooperation of all participants; it is transparent at every stage of the investment process, as well as the subsequent operation and maintenance. It reduces the need for parties to waste time on securing their own interests. This in turn can bring undoubted savings nationwide, in all the above mentioned phases.

BIM allows buildings’ owners and users to calculate whole-life costs – for example, will the energy savings over 30 years of installing triple glazing rather than double glazing cover the additional cost of the triple glazing? CO2 emission savings can also be calculated using BIM.

The British government, convinced of the rightness of this direction, mandated the use of  BIM for public-sector investments in the UK from this year. This process, guided by the BIM Task Force that reports directly to the Cabinet Office, took many years to achieve, with the active cooperation of all government departments and agencies that procure building and infrastructure.

However, the forced introduction of BIM in Poland as a result of the necessity to comply with the EU Directive on Public Procurement brings with it the danger of uncoordinated, purely formal and bureaucratic activities.

The administrative imposition of the use of the BIM, to which neither the public party nor its contractor are prepared, will be catastrophic.

Many design offices are incurring high costs, modernising equipment and deploying many new employees to implement the technology, but a lack of awareness among managers in the public sector who are procuring projects puts into question the rationality of such investments.

Worse still, even with the right experience, gained through implementing projects abroad in their own industry, it’s difficult to find equal partners, which would create a homogeneous, multi-discipline team. A contractor’s knowledge of how to use BIM is only of value if the architect, subcontractor and developer also know how to use it.
The issue of the high cost of purchasing more efficient hardware and software is often raised. Such investment must have the chance of pay-back over the course of its future use. If there’s a lack of demand for construction projects delivered using BIM, the investment becomes pointless.

For the public-sector investor, on the other hand, there’s the reasonable risk that because there’s no efficient, experienced team in place, the new system won’t meet the expectations. It is a closed circle, that without bold intervention and state support it will be difficult to break

On 31 May, consultations were held in the Polish Parliament on the current state of BIM in Poland. At the meeting, members of parliament were informed about the current state of implementation of BIM in other European countries and then in Poland. Several design industry practitioners took part in the discussion about the situation in Poland.

The following day, in my role as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Digitisation, Innovation and New Technologies, I made an interpellation (No. 3816) to the Minister of Infrastructure and Construction, about the state of BIM methodology implementation in Poland.

In it, I called for the creation of a nationwide programme, run by the Ministry of Infrastructure, which would be aimed at preparing the following groups to use BIM:

  • Investors and developers

  • Building contractors and subcontractors

  • Architects and designers

  • Facility managers and property administrators

  • Higher education in the field of construction

The minister will need to issue regulations specifying:

  • The procedure and method of implementation of BIM methodologies,

  • Uniform nomenclature of documents and descriptions of work

  • Harmonised marketing of construction products with standardised symbols

  • Methodology for calculating whole-life costs for buildings

There will also be the need for a methodology for calculating the cost of the entire life cycle of buildings appropriate for Polish conditions. A budget to assist companies in leasing hardware and to incentivise software purchase is also needed.

In my interpellation, I also called on the institutions and organisations that took part in the parliamentary consultative meeting on 31 May to declare their participation in developing a detailed programme for implementing the BIM methodology in Poland.

I concluded the interpellation with five questions for the Minister of Infrastructure and Construction:

  • Is the ministry interested in implementing the BIM methodology into public procurement as quickly as possible?

  • Do you agree with the demands that were presented during the consultation?

  • At what stage is work on implementing BIM in the Ministry currently, and will the work continue?

  • What is the composition of the team working on the implementation of BIM?

  • Could you benefit from the knowledge and experience of experts participating in the consultations referred to in this interpellation?

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