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News & opinion

29 OCT 2019

ICMS 2nd edition: positive feedback and a challenge to the profession

The International Construction Measurement Standards second edition (ICMS 2) were officially launched on October 11 at the European Council of Construction Economists (CEEC) meeting in Brussels.

Prestigious construction industry professionals from around the world were in attendance for the launch of the standards, which incorporate life-cycle costs into a harmonised cost reporting framework.

As a CEEC core member, RICS chose to launch ICMS 2 at the event with the hope of receiving high level feedback on the standards.

ICMS 2: what's new?

Alan Muse, global director of built environment standards at RICS, is vice chair of the standards-setting committee. In Brussels, he provided an overview of the ICMS journey, before highlighting the differences between the first and second editions of the standards.

The ICMS coalition, now a group of 47 professional and not-for-profit organisations from around the world, was launched at an International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington DC in 2015, which Alan called a 'seminal moment for the profession'.

ICMS are an unprecedented singular methodology for reporting, grouping and classifying construction project costs.

The first edition of the standards was published in July 2017 with the intention of harmonising global cost reporting across markets, regions and subsectors. Industry feedback was extremely positive, proven by several key public stakeholders choosing to adopt the standards.

Following industry consultation, the second edition of ICMS builds on the first: adding life-cycle costs into the equation and, in turn, integrating facilities management and construction.

ICMS 2 panel Brussels
A panel discussed the 2nd edition of ICMS, and were keen to highlight the collaborative process of developing the standard

After his introduction to the updated standards, Alan was joined by Ken Creighton, director of professional standards at RICS and chair of the ICMS Coalition Board of Trustees, and Gerry O'Sullivan, construction law consultant at Mulcahy McDonagh & Partners and executive secretary of the standards-setting committee, for a panel discussion. The panel was moderated by Justin Sullivan, chair of the Standards Transformation Project Implementation Advisory Group, who will take over as chair of the coalition in January 2020.

Ken Creighton opened discussions, saying: "ICMS is about making sure that all of the trillions that are being spent all over the world can be spent more efficiently."

The panellists were keen to highlight the collaborative process of developing the standard, discussing how they separated the technical writing from the politics in order to succeed.

Ken continued, saying: "We've worked together to a common purpose in a way that governments couldn't have done. That's our superpower; that we were able to come together without politics and create this standard."

ICMS is about making sure that all of the trillions that are being spent all over the world can be spent more efficiently

Ken Creighton
Chair of the ICMS Coalition Board of Trustees and Director of Professional Standards at RICS

The coalition is now focused on progressing what Alan calls the 'future in five':

• Accelerating adoption of the standards
• Making the standards nationally relevant
• Embracing a whole life-cycle approach
• Integrating the standards into digital construction
• Gathering, sharing and enabling data.

While the coalition focuses on the above, for its part RICS is working to develop standards which comply with and map to ICMS, such as the forthcoming Cost Prediction professional statement and New Rules of Measurement suite update.

Positive feedback

The launch of the standards was accompanied by a handful of presentations on the theme of 'strengthening links across Europe'. Ilektra Papadaki, policy officer for digital construction and sustainable built environment at the European Commission, offered the room an overview of EU Construction 2020 and beyond.

She discussed the action plan made in 2013 – which was centered around innovation, skills and qualifications, resource efficiency and circular economy, regulatory framework and internationalisation – and the new 2050 vision, for which some of the focuses include the value chain, life-cycle performance, and working more closely with local governments. The focus of the commission is now moving from the micro to the macro; no longer just strategising on a sectoral level, but taking a more integrated, multi-level, multidisciplinary approach.

Alan Muse called the launch of the ICMS coalition in 2015 a 'seminal moment for the profession'

ICMS is integrated into the commission's plans, and they believe it to be key to setting standards for costing in their new-life cycle approach.

Mary Flynn, BIM Manager at Dublin City Council, also spoke positively about ICMS during her presentation about the Irish Government and BIM. She said: "ICMS is perfect for Dublin City Council as it's a structured cost system."

Industry input

By positioning the ICMS as a 'what', rather than a 'how', the coalition set a number of challenges for the industry.

First: understand how ICMS can benefit your country and how you can contribute to that. If your country has a national cost system, ensure those using it understand how it integrates with ICMS. If your country doesn't have a national cost system, consider using ICMS for that purpose. If you're in a position to do so, write guidance about how to use ICMS in your jurisdiction.

Second: start inputting data into the ICMS models. The more data that goes into the models, the more use cases there are, the more certainty we can develop around project costing.

Finally: use the standards as an opportunity for the profession to unite. Ken Creighton said: "There is a lot of scepticism around this profession and its standards. The difference between other standards and ICMS is that ICMS enables consistency. There is a difference between opinions and facts and that is where our profession needs to step up".

"As a profession we need to be able to go to governments and say, 'here are the facts'. Now that the ICMS exist, we need to combine that with professionalism. The only way to address scepticism is through professionalism."

As with the first edition, the second edition of the ICMS is subject to ongoing industry feedback on which the standards will continue to be maintained and developed.

Alan Muse said: "The strength of ICMS is that it's a collective sectoral response to a problem that existed."

The sector must continue to unite to reap the benefits of ICMS.

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