The Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI), a major public contractor and property owner, is Québec government's property expert. As such and proactively, it firmly engaged on the digital shift nearly five years ago and has since assumed a leadership role in the deployment of BIM-IDP in the province of Québec. The SQI initiated and since, is leading through a gradual evolvement, this important transformation, in collaboration with the various industry players.
Digital transformation is one of the key answers to the construction industry’s challenges of increasing its productivity and addressing the sector’s labour shortage and pressure in the context of a sharp rise in project volume.
With a rapidly growing portfolio of public infrastructure projects under management, reaching a total value of $19.6 billion in Q3 2020, SQI has chosen to rely on collaborative approaches, including Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Integrated Design Process (IDP), to enable it to better develop, build, and manage its projects. It has thus succeeded in developing a unique model for deploying integrated practices, which has been gradually applied to its project portfolio since 2016.
As the owner of more than 300 public buildings, the SQI will benefit from the advantages of BIM for facility management, thus enabling it to make sustainable decisions supported by data-based value creation throughout the entire life cycle of infrastructures. BIM and IDP will help support the SQI in its commitment to set forth an example for sustainable development in Québec.
Following several pilot projects using integrated practices, the SQI confirmed, as early as 2014, the immense opportunity that these practices represented for a public owner, as well as the need to properly supervise their deployment in order to maximize their benefits. It has therefore initiated a corporate process to develop a business case, including an international benchmarking study, as well as a survey of its suppliers to assess their maturity and willingness to implement integrated practices.
To facilitate the digital shift and promote its success, the SQI has developed a corporate deployment plan for BIM and IDP. According to Daniel Forgues, professor at the ÉTS, “This deployment plan represents a benchmark for the entire industry.”
The 2016-2023 roadmap developed by the SQI is at the center of this corporate solution. It proposes a progressive deployment in order to respect industry’s real capacity to integrate change and is also translated into specific targets in the SQI’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, which has been tabled in the Québec National Assembly.
In 2017, the ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation du Québec (MEI), in collaboration with the SQI, launched a vast wide-ranging process of brainstorming, entitled “BIM: Building Together in the Digital Age.” The purpose of this consultation was to identify the actions to be implemented to accelerate the adoption of BIM in Québec and to determine the AECOO community’s expectations in this area. Some 300 representatives responded to the call.
This process made it possible to confirm the conditions already identified in 2015 by the SQI for its business case, conditions under which businesses wanted to make the digital shift, the main ones listed as follows: obtaining clear requirements from contractors regarding the use of BIM; increasing collaboration between the various players; and gradually integrating these changes.
The results of the process also materialized with the development and implementation of the Initiative québécoise pour la construction (Québec construction initiative, IQC 4.0) put forward by the MEI, which supports the industry in its digital shift. The IQC 4.0 initiative is also considered in the SQI roadmap.
A People-Centred Digital Shift
From the outset of its reflection, the SQI determined that a transformation of this nature could only be successful with proactive management, placing people at the heart of the digital shift. The innovative nature of the SQI’s corporate deployment project is therefore based on a holistic approach that integrates three inseparable pillars: technologies, organization, and processes.
BIM and IDP tools and processes are mutually reinforcing, creating an interdisciplinary synergy for the benefit of the projects. Both components are supported by project governance that helps build a collaborative environment. This creates the favorable conditions that encourage stakeholders to coordinate their designs further upstream of projects, at a time when the ability to effect change and optimize costs is at its best.
As a public authority, the SQI is committed to democratizing the process by encouraging the involvement of the largest possible number of stakeholders, including clients, professionals, and contractors. This approach is based on value creation, which guarantees the sustainability of information throughout the infrastructure life cycle. Therefore, the SQI has chosen to set its requirements around a policy of OpenBIM, a neutral international initiative based on open standards and work processes for the organization, management, and sustainability of its information assets. The SQI has set up its own business unit to support the corporate deployment project. Twelve experts are currently dedicated exclusively to the development of these practices and their deployment within project teams. This unit is responsible for skills development, continuous improvement, and quality assurance of the corporate approach. Training is provided on an ongoing basis, both to SQI employees and to its clients and suppliers. Since 2016, some 100 SQI professionals have been trained in the BIM approach and 300 in IDP. There are also more than 1,200 users of the collaborative platform deployed in support of projects.
The BIM and IDP approaches are gradually being integrated into project management processes. Partnerships with fifteen external facilitators have been put in place to guide the IDP project strategy. In addition, a facilitation community of practice was created at SQI to support professionals and develop skills in facilitating effective meetings. This community has a core group of 25 members from various administrative units of the organization.
An approach that pays off
The SQI’s BIM-IDP corporate project for the deployment of integrated BIM-IDP practices makes it possible to introduce new practices within a contractual framework that is reassuring for all players and thus more easily gain industry acceptance. It promotes better project performance and increases the satisfaction of clients of ministries and public agencies. “We haven’t seen this approach elsewhere in Canada. Although the SQI has a results-based approach, it ensures that industry is ready to embark on the process and supports them in this transformation,” notes Erik Poirier of buildingSMART Canada.
For example, the new $1.9 billion hospital complex on the site of the Enfant-Jésus Hospital in Québec City is a flagship project for integrated BIM and IDP practices. It benefits from a digital environment and, with all its stakeholders, represents for the SQI a showcase for the mobilizing and innovative aspects of new practices. On this subject, Jacques Martin, engineer, project manager, and senior mechanical designer for the SNC- Lavalin/Bouthillette Parizeau/Tetra Tech consortium, is categorical: “We have here a concrete case demonstrating that working on constructability with models saves time on the construction site. In the case of the construction of the research centre, no mechanical/electrical contractor announced a delay due to COVID-19, thanks to the quality of the models.”
As a sign of the success of the deployment, the BIM-IDP documentation1 developed by the SQI now serves as a reference in Québec. According to Forgues, “These tools are important, even essential. This documentation allows us to understand the nature of the changes and the directions that companies must take.”
The initial objectives of the SQI’s deployment project in 2016 were to use BIM in fifteen of its projects by 2021 and IDP in all projects of $5 million or more by April 2019. The results are conclusive: the original deployment targets have already been largely met. Forty projects are currently integrating BIM and thirty-two new projects, currently in the start-up phase, will integrate BIM and IDP by the end of 2020, for a total portfolio value of $13.5 billion.
In the context of projects integrating BIM and IDP, the SQI actively collaborates with some 50 government ministries and agencies and close to 150 companies, including professional architectural and engineering firms, as well as general and specialized contractors.
With such progress, the BIM-IDP roadmap has been extended until 2023 and its targets have been raised. In fact, BIM will be deployed at SQI on all projects of $50 million or more starting in April 2021 and will then apply to all projects of $5 million or more starting in 2023.
“Through my involvement in various projects outside Québec, I have seen that with its deployment plan, the SQI is a driving force towards more innovative practices in construction. This deployment plan will influence other contractors in Québec and in other provinces as well,” notes Poirier.
The SQI’s BIM-IDP integrated practices deployment project is unique in its corporate, structured, coherent, progressive, and innovative approach, integrating the indispensable collaborative aspect. This digital transformation will lead to a significant productivity growth in the construction industry and ultimately, to a built environment, both sustainable and of high quality. Widely disseminated in Québec since 2016, the project has mobilized the entire industry, and the SQI hopes to inspire other public owners in Québec and elsewhere in Canada to undertake their own digital shift.