Wednesday, August 21, 2013



The following comments are regarding two articles, both published in the Construction Post
(HK & Macau)
Author for each is Mr Danny Chung, Editor, The Construction Post

Article 1: (May the 15th 2013)
 ‘West Kowloon Terminus North To Miss Train By 562 Days’ (REF 01)

Article 2: (August 13th, 2013)
 “Adopt BIM For Better Project Management, Says Gammon”; (REF 09)

Article 1 discussed the projected delay to the completion of the West Kowloon Terminus North of the Express Rail Link.
It re-quoted extracts published by Local Chinese newspapers Ming Pao and Apple Daily, that predicted a project over-run of 562 days, based on an estimate by the main contractor, Leighton-Gammon Joint Venture.
In addition, the estimate of cost for additional work and costs arising from delays stood at HK$1.55 billion.

Apart from a few anonymous comments by various construction professionals the article added little extra value to the basic story. The Hong Kong construction market is tight-knit, and the recently appointed Editor (REF 02) decided to play it safe and not dive too deeply into a potentially contentious issue. With a little homework, he would have realised that a lot of useful material was freely and publicly available to him, to enrich his story.

For example, September 2012 (REF 03) a conference organised by the Lighthouse club, the well-respected charity, hosted numerous high level participants of the said project including Mr Thomas Ho, the CEO of Gammon (REF 04) and President of HK Contractors Association; and Mr Ronan Collins, the MD of InteliBuild, MTR’s BIM consultants on this project. The event was widely publicised.
Mr Collins opted to explain to the audience the novel, BIM-based collaborative approach to the West Kowloon terminal’s delivery. Mr Collins used a 25min presentation he has placed on You Tube (Google “BIM MTR KOWLOON”) (REF 05). Apart from acknowledging his fellow presenter and long term client, Mr Collins gives credit to many others for assisting him pioneering a new approach to the delivery of this highly complex project.
Had Mr Chung listened carefully to Mr Collins, he could have isolated numerous slides of this BIM presentation and then interviewed MTR and the contractors involved, on how and if the approach had really worked at the time the possible troubles were made public (8 months following this very upbeat presentation) and how, if at all, it helped minimising the risks of project derailment for both MTR and the HK Government.

‘Why BIM for MTR’ from the point of MTR’s view was very clearly and openly discussed there (REF 07), though admittedly by the BIM service provider, the claims have never been rebutted by others.
The following questions would have definitely added useful scrutiny to the topic had someone had the courage to ask:

Would the cost and time overruns have ended up EVEN higher without the use of BIM, was the cost to even trying doing BIM really justified and value for money with such low level of skill and understanding on offer amongst those involved?

Mr Chung wrote the article on the troubled Express Rail Link and how late the project was likely to be. Even if he had deliberately chosen to ignore the existence of the claimed-BIM approach and its possible impact on the success of the project, It would have done him a lot of good to make a mental note of another ambitious plan heralded by Mr Collin’s presentation, which referred to a dozen or so companies which at the time of the conference, were yet-to-embark-on MTR contracts.

 ‘TC Chu and his team have propagated BIM further into MTR projects…
Anybody that ends up working on the SCL (Shatin to Central Link) will need to work with a full blown BIM specification’ Mr Collins claimed, and provided a summary of these specifications on his slides; (REF 08)

‘The trigger is, they want to find the problems early and MTR want to collaborate to resolve those problems early… so it is not for the contractor to “keep the secrets as in …and we’ll tell you later”, they want to know the issues, they want to see the details, they want to see the model early…’ he concluded wisely.

Article 2
Being aware of these highly demanding BIM expectations by MTR of their contractors would have better prepared Mr Chung for writing the article that he published in the same magazine, on August 13th, 2013 under the title “Adopt BIM For Better Project Management, Says Gammon”; (REF 09)

By writing an article dedicated solely to Gammon, he could have presented a useful fact-based analysis of results of Gammon Construction’s attempts at BIM adoption on the previously named 2 MTR projects. Instead, he provided a mouthpiece for a company PR release.

Knowing that Gammon was one of the contractors on the previously mentioned SCL (REF 10) – the fully mandated BIM project line, where a 3 month cut-off for modelling and issue-raising was stipulated clearly and contractually by MTR – would have made it obviously important to enquire about this exercise from the Director of Innovation, Derek So, who appeared to have interviewed for the article.
Especially since Mr So was making some pretty bold claims, like:

“Citing data from the US, company director Derek So Kwok-leung said costs incurred by the contractor could be cut by 10 to 20 percent if they used Building Information Modelling (BIM) on their projects.”

Referring back to Gammon’s own website (REF 11) and noting the contract to be that of 3.4 billion  was he forecasting a saving of a conservative 340+ million to be shared by the JV and MTR at completion of the project? Or was this saving already priced in at the time of tendering?
Full compliance with this contract’s BIM component obviously would not be something the journalist would need to question this gentleman, considering that,

“Mr So said while some projects did not stipulate use of BIM, Gammon went ahead anyway with it since the potential benefits were too important to ignore.”

It is unfortunate that the author of the advertorial had not gone back to relevant government authorities to ask for their response to Mr So’s allegations that,

“…However the government has been slow by “several paces” in BIM adoption apart from the Housing Authority.”

Gammon’s bold BIM-related PR statement had given the paper “The Construction Post” a good opportunity to start a meaningful discussion on behalf of many government shareholders and MTR’s stakeholders on how these respected companies indeed managed public money, including where and how risk management approaches the likes of BIM were employed.
An opportunity obviously too risky to take.

Yet, this would have been a great forum to also analyse if MTR truly had set out to de-risk their projects with a mandated BIM-approach. Ask has it the skills, willingness and resources to police it properly or will it leave the various contractors to lead MTR by the nose, pretending to be doing BIM while carrying on with their old ways of working and making up for lack of care or productivity through inflated claims?

I write this post with the hope that in response to my notes Mr Chung of Construction Post (HK & Macau) and his or another local paper will pluck up the courage and approach the GM of the SCL line, Mr Philco Wong formally for a progress report on BIM implementation on projects under his watch, especially those that have passed the 3 months deadline set out for BIM deliverables.

His reassurance that all is proceeding as well as expected and no one is let ‘off the hook’ due to unhelpfully close associations to the said manager will give a peace of mind to all involved.

It will also assure the public of Hong Kong that not only will there be no big unwelcome surprises down the construction track of any of the current MTR projects but a likely windfall of savings between 10-20% will be enjoyed by all, just as promised by the leaders of BIM in the Hong Kong market, Gammon Construction, championed by the Director of Innovation, Mr Derek So .