I am a manager of construction information, tools and people .
I believe that hands-on manipulating of project information by all project participants is the key to achieving any meaningful improvement of the AEC industry operating within the post-gambling-era.
I consider myself to be a model-based construction information practitioner (shortened to a ‘BIM- meddler’) rather than an ‘expert’ or even ‘specialist’.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
WEST KOWLOON TERMINUS NORTH TO MISS TRAIN BY 562 DAYS
TERMINUS NORTH TO MISS TRAIN BY 562 DAYS
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
Article 1: (May the 15th 2013)
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
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
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
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
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
Especially since Mr So was making some pretty bold
“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
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
(for all references write to firstname.lastname@example.org)