ISO 19650

ISO 19650 Level of information need - The elephant in the room

It is not often these days you notice social media go very quiet on a subject. Let us be honest, those associated with Information Management, BIM, or the new kid on the block Digital Twins, are generally a very vocal and opinionated bunch; and so we should be. We are trying to change the world and evangelise the opportunities industry digitisation can provide. However, when it comes to level of information need (it’s not an acronym) there seems to be less open and public discussions.

Recently there have been a few industry webinars, which are welcome of course, including one I attended last week. However, currently feedback from those I spoke to who attended these events have been considered far to high-level and academic in nature, rather than clearly explaining practical application. Simply put, we need to have more discussion and debate on how practically we apply this new national standard on projects.

BS EN ISO 19650-1 introduces the term level of information need and, in the UK’s National Forward describes level of definition (as the aggregate level of detail and level of information) or within the main text of the standard a framework which defines the extent and granularity of information management.

UK Metrics to define information levels

We have two metrics widely used within the UK to define information levels: Level of Detail (LoD) and Level of Information (LoI). Together, with understanding the purpose of the information this could be loosely described as a level of information need. The US Specification uses the concept of Level of Development 100, 200, 300, etc. but this is less granular than the UK approach and focuses on the degree to which project team members may rely on the modelled information. Both systems have their merits and are commonly used in the UK and internationally. When reading BS EN ISO 19650-1, in particular section 11.2 Level of information need, the process all seems very familiar to what is common practice within industry, with projects defining LoD and LoI at system or component level for each project stage.

The delivery phase

When we focus on the delivery phase of projects/assets, for those projects adopting ISO 19650-2, it is the appointing party (project client) who should consider the method of assignment for level of information need and what is required to meet each information requirement. Our Task and Master Information Delivery Plans should also incorporate level of information need. Please note that many generic templates available in the public domain do not include this.

The main change

At the end of 2020, a new British Standard was published: BS EN 17412‑1:2020 Building Information Modelling - Level of Information Need. This introduces methods for describing information to be exchanged, and it introduces new areas for consideration including object detail, dimensionality, location, appearance, parametric behaviours, alphanumeric information, and associated documentation that might be required for each recipient of that information. This is moving us a long way from simply confirming you will provide a model or object at LoD4 and LoI5. To complicate this process further, each exchange of information must consider each recipient’s needs and the purpose for supplying that information.

The standard does provide a form-based method for specifying level of information and the areas considered, and questions asked via the forms are all very valid. However, here is my concern, BS EN 17412‑1:2020 and BS EN ISO 19650-2 both indicate that the appointing party (project client) shall consider the method of assignment for level of information need. Whilst the UK BIM Frameworks guidance (Part D: Developing information requirements Ed 2) is more prescriptive and states that the appointing party (client) defines the level of information need of each information deliverable. Most client organisations will not have the skills, or maybe the appetite to provide this level of clarity, and it is more likely they, or their advisors, will pass this responsibility to the Lead Appointed Party (Lead Designer or Main Contractor) and list BS EN 17412‑1:2020 as the standard to work to. We may also see this as a new Pre-Qualification Question (PQQ) to evaluate companies to understand who is innovating and developing processes in this area.

At the time of writing this blog, I have not seen the detail within the British Standard BS 8644 Digital Management of Fire Safety Information for Design, Construction, Handover and Emergency Response or Code of Practice, which will be soon out for public consultation. I am aware of sections within it describing level of information need, for me this clearly demonstrates a commitment at a standards level to the concept. I am confident that we will gradually start to see this requirement written into Exchange Information Requirements (EIR’s), although I am equally sure many projects will stick to LoD and LoI, etc. I know from those companies and agencies I work with within Asia Pacific that they will be talking this course of action.

So, what do I really think of this new approach?

For me, this is not a new conversation. Information need and the purpose is a timeless discussion and I remember as an apprentice (over 30 years ago) having discussions and guidance around this very subject. Although I have noted what I would consider errors within BS EN 17412‑1:2020, in general the principles makes sense. However, in delivery there is a lot of planning, conversations, and strategy required to ensure there are no gaps in specifying requirements or ensuring recipients do receive the level of information to suit their needs. For those of you who know of, or use the NBS BIM Toolkit, which I imagine will be many of you reading this, it is an example of a very useful reference tool, that had the potential to reduce ambiguity and benefit industry. However, it was never fully populated, and many components have no graphical examples which limits its use, which can be frustrating for users. I consider this a lesson to be learnt and when we consider methods to manage level of information need and stakeholder engagement, we must cover all the bases (using the baseball term).

I hope this article encourages more conversation in this area, more debate and discussion between individuals with different project information needs and perspectives because that was the intention.


Next steps

I would recommend reading the guidance available at the UK BIM Alliance, a very good freely available resource, and BS EN 17412‑1:2020 to provide full context. Or get in touch so we can have a wider discussion and share our approach to managing level of information need. However, as a minimum, if you are a client organisation, a lead designer or main contractor it would be a good idea to start investigating level of information need to ensure it does not become, or remain the elephant in the room.


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