A picture paints a thousand words,
but never underestimate the power of text
(Adapted from Source: NBS.com)
Stefan Mordue, Technical Author and Architect
BIM objects are much more than just graphical representations. Using them as placeholder to connect to a wider source of information provides for a powerful and rich source of information.
‘Author it once, and in the right place; report it many times’
Information in the Building Information Model (BIM) comes from a variety of sources, such as 3D visualization tools ( Autodesk Revit or Nemetschek Vectorworks, Archicad, Bentley Systems …) as well as cost estimating, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), capital planning and management systems (CPMS), geographical information systems (GIS), building automation systems (GIS), model checkers and specification software.
All BIM objects have properties, and most also have geometries (although some do not, for example a paint finish). To avoid duplication, information should be both structured and coordinated.
Some information is more appropriately located in the ‘geometrical’ part of the BIM object while other information is more suited to the ‘properties’ part, such as the specification. The specification is part of the project BIM, and objects live in the specification. In traditional documentation we would ‘say it once, and in the right place’, however with BIM, we want to ‘author it once, and in the right place, to be able to report it many times’.
Figure 1: Appropriate location of information
‘A picture paints a thousand words, but never underestimate the power of text’
Let’s take an analogy of a BIM object representing a simple cavity wall. The object will tell us the width of the brickwork and height of the wall. However at a certain point in the project cycle it is the written word that is needed to take us to a deeper level of information. It is within a textual context that we describe the length, height and depth of the brick. It is words that are used to describe the mortar joint and wall ties.
BIM objects are as much about the embedded data and information as they are about the spaces and dimensions that they represent graphically.
It is this connection to a wider source of information that really empowers the object, making it a rich source of information. Think of BIM objects if you will as a ‘place holder’ – not only a physical representation of the real life physical properties of the said object but also a home for non-graphical information such as performance criteria, physical and functional condition data, life-cycle data, detailed and current cost data (materials, equipment, and labor), and operational information.
‘A new generation of specifiers is being empowered by BIM. We can begin to specify at a much earlier stage in the process’
Specifications were once undertaken by the specification expert, often once the detail design was completed. A new generation of specifiers is being empowered by BIM. We can begin to specify at a much earlier stage in the process.
In reality “specifiers” are now a team of stakeholders – Owners, Contactors, Subs, AE’s, Oversight Groups ….
By connecting the BIM object to an NBS Create specification, a direct link can be made to NBS technical guidance and standards, at the point where the designer most needs them. For example, if the designer is a subscriber to the Construction Information Service (CIS), then any technical documents cited in the specification that are available can be downloaded instantly.
Figure 2: NBS Revit tool bar
‘We have recently integrated geometric BIM objects with the corresponding NBS Create specification clauses to achieve a greater connection between the two’
BIM and BIM workflows are consistently being refined and updated as they become more commonplace and as standards and protocols emerge. While we can never solve all coordination issues, we hope to improve coordination by linking databases, objects and eventually coordinate key property sets.
Traditionally, a value that was represented on a drawing may not correctly corresponded with the value within the specification simply due to a ‘typo’. An example being where a ’60 minute fire door’ has been recorded on the drawing but has been recorded as ’90 minutes fire rating’ within the specification. Aside from this coordination debate, practices will also need to decide and establish office policies on where information is recorded. While the specification system has detailed guidance and links to standards, regulations and suggested values, geometric BIM software has great visualization analysis and instance scheduling functionality.
Figure 3: Connection to a wider source of information empowers the object
At present, the NBS National BIM Library objects are classified using both the draft Uniclass 2 Work result code and the System name to give a deeper link between the object and specification. The NBS National BIM Library contains a number of objects that connect at a ‘product’ level (e.g. hand driers, baths, individual doorsets) while others work at a ‘system’ level (e.g. cubicle, partition, door and signage systems). Yet other objects are at an ‘element’ level (i.e. made up of a number of systems) such as external walls.
Following a period of industry consultation, Uniclass 2 is now being finalized for publication during 2013. Classification of content in the National BIM Library and NBS Create will then be updated.
National BIM Library Parameters
|NBSReference||NBS section/clause number||45-35-72/334|
|NBSDescription||The full description of an object||Hand driers|
|NBSNote||Where a second system which is related to the BIM object can be described||=[Blank]|
|NBSTypeID||A reference to the object for the user if one or more is used with the project|
|Help||URL of a website where additional help notes are available||http://www.nationalbimlibrary.com/|
|IssueDate||The issue date of the object||2012-12-06|
|Version||The version of the object||1.1|
A hand drier is an example of an object that links nicely to an associated product clause (NBSReference=45-35-72/334). Using tools such as NBS Create and the NBS Revit plug in tool, the corresponding product will automatically be captured; it can then be used to enrich the object with information such as power rating and noise levels.
A doorset is an example of an object that maps beautifully to an NBS Create System outline clause. For example using WR 25-50-20/120 Doorset System, we can then specify system performance, component and accessory products (e.g. glazing type, fasteners and threshold strips) as well as execution.
Certain NBS National BIM Library objects are at an ‘element level’ where they comprise a number of systems. In this situation we give a primary work results classification, the NBSReference. In addition, to help the user, we add the Uniclass 2 element code in an extra parameter field.
The following example is a Unit wall element comprising 100 mm thick stone, 100 mm mineral wool insulation batts and 100 mm concrete block, lined with 12.5 mm gypsum plasterboard on 25 mm dabs.
WR 25-10-55/123 ‘External multiple leaf wall above damp proof course masonry system’ has been used for the primary reference. From this System outline we can specify the stone facing, insulation and concrete block, together with DPC, lintels, mortar, cavity closers (which all in turn have product codes). A further system outline, WR 25-85-45/140 Gypsum board wall lining system, is given, from which the lining can be specified.
‘This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the launch of NBS and we are now seeing project information being coordinated through intelligent objects’
An object could potentially relate to two different systems. An example of this would be a rainscreen cladding object. The following example is an aluminium cassette panel rainscreen system with metal frame, weather barrier, insulation, concrete block and plasterboard lining. This particular system could be either a ‘Drained and back ventilated rain screen cladding system’ 25-80-70/120 or a ‘Pressure equalized rain screen cladding system’ 25-80-70/160. The detail which would differentiate between the two is not shown in the geometric object itself but rather in the detail that would be found within the specification. When used in conjunction with the NBS plug-in tool, you are presented with the option to select the most appropriate system, and then to specify it to the appropriate level of detail.
Figure 4: Technology is enabling better processes and connection
We are now beginning to see project information being coordinated through intelligent objects. The classification system, structure of data and technology are enabling better processes and will allow us to move a step closer towards full collaborative BIM.
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Cloud-computing will have a much more significant impact upon how the built environment is managed than 3D visualization. Information drives cost savings and higher efficiency. How and when we access information will forever alter day-to-day and strategic business practices for Owners, AEs, Contractors, SubContractors, Business Product Manufacturers, Building Users, Oversight Groups, and the Community.
BIM is the life-cycle management of the built environment support by digital technology.
Currently, the efficient life-cycle management of the built environment is being retarded by several factors:
- Existence of data silos;
- Organizational/professional cultures;
- Reliance archaic construction delivery methods (design-build-build, vs. IPD, JOC), and
- Poor life-cycle management knowledge transfer.
Most disconcerting is that, in most cases, methods for gathering and working on significantly enhanced tactical and strategic facility life-cycle management practices are readily available. Primary failures and relative lack of progress relative to BIM occur due to lack of applying information to resolve planning, resource allocation, and execution in a timely, collaborative manner. Cloud computing uniquely addresses all of these important issues.
Data silos evolved from improper higher education and professional training practices, inefficient and adversarial construction delivery methods, as well as piecemeal IT procurement policies.
Traditional data processing systems and application specific software solutions were confined by the high cost of memory and storage. Memory, storage, and processing power are now relatively inexpensive, to the extent that they are mathematically approaching zero. As a result Internet massive scale storage, search, and processing paradigms are rapidly becoming commonplace. That said, Excel and similar spreadsheet-centric programs, and even relational database technology are not up to the task of accessing and working upon data fast enough.
Cloud computing however enables the searching and use of massive data sets in milliseconds. Additionally real-time, multi-point collaborative access is securely enabled by cloud computing. In short, cloud computing eliminates the need for data silos.
Moving the currently disparate knowledge domain AECOO (Architecture Engineering, Construction, Owner, Operations) practices into a collaborative process, and shifting information access to an earlier point within the construction project planning process are also enabled by cloud computing and associated “newer” construction delivery methods (Integrated Project Delivery – IPD, and Job Order Contracting – JOC). Former time-line and silo restricted aspects of present day-to-day AECOO business practices stand to be vaporized by the precision search and analytic capabilities of modern cloud computing. Cloud computing is a highly standardized and virtualized commodity infrastructure, when combined with with standardized terms, cost data architectures, and similar generalized information hierarchies enables real-time continuous processing of open digital document/ information flow.
Fear that cloud computing will reduce the importance of Architects, Cost Estimators, Construction Managers, and other related profession is unfounded. Certainly inter-relationships and roles will evolve, however for those that are receptive, capabilities and potential within each profession will be expanded.
First and foremost BIM is the life-cycle management of the built environment supported by digital technology. While the industry is currently fixated upon 3D visualization tools, aka Revit, Archicad, Bentely… they only represent components of a BIM solution.
Construction cost estimating, and facility life-cycle cost estimating are critical components of any facility design, project delivery, repair, renovation, sustainability, or planning function.
Here’s a list of BIM Construction Cost Estimating Requirements:
1. Collaboration – involvement of all stakeholders – Owners, AE’s, Contractors, Oversight Groups, Community …
2. Transparency – Appropriate access to cost information, and associated comparison to published independent third-party costs such as RSMeans Cost Data.
3. Consistent Format and Terminology – Use of a standard set of terms and data architectures such as Uniformat, Masterformat, Omniclass.
4. Metrics and Benchmarks – Time, Accuracy, Cost
5. Proper allowances for local conditions – geographic, weather, productivity of labor, …
6. Appropriate level of technology to assure productivity, collaboration, security, audit trail.
7. Robust Process – The application of a robust process and business “best-practices” with a focus upon continuous improvement.
8. Appropriate knowledge of all “levels” of construction cost estimating and their potential accuracy – Square Foot / Conceptual / Building Level Construction Cost Estimating, Assembly / System Level Construction Cost Estimating, Unit Line Item Construction Cost Estimating.
9. Knowledge of the impact of the Construction Cost Delivery Method upon construction costs and life-cycle costs – Design-Bid-Build, CM@Risk, Design-Build, Job Order Contracting, Integrated Project Delivery
10. Fundamental understanding of Total Cost of Ownership and Facility Life-cycle Management – Physical and functional conditions, Operations, Sustainability, Renovation, Repair, Efficient Project Delivery Methods ( IPD-Integrated Project Delivey, JOC – Job Order Contracting )
Accurate construction estimates are a fundamental component of any successful construction project.
The more accurate the scope of a construction project, the more accurate the estimate.
To achieve accuracy in both the scope and the estimate requires collaboration and communication among Owners, AE’s, and Contractors. Thus, while many/most AEC professionals could likely provide an accurate estimate if provided an accurate, detailed scope of the project, the latter is rare.
The endemic lack of collaboration among Owners, AEs, and Contractors, as well as relatively low percentage of timely accurate construction project scopes are both due to the inconsistent application of robust project delivery methods.
Any significant improvement in construction cost estimating and associated procurement, project management, and actual job-site work must be based in the development and deployment of efficient project delivery methods, such as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), IPD-lite, Job Order Contacting(JOC).
Accurate scoping requires a knowledge of the construction processes. Unit costs and standardized data architectures and lexicon play key roles in accurately communication project requirements, however, AE, site, and execution components all impact unit pricing.
Converting scope to quantities requires a solid understanding of construction techniques, working with numbers, drawing scales, waste factors, plan reading, conversion factors, labor/material/crew/equipment variables …. and quantity take-off (QTO) and unit, assembly, system, and square foot costs are all important aspects. For example, professional estimators..whether Owners, Contractors, or Independent, get their unit costs a wide range of sources… historical information, contractors, trades, business product manufactures, as well as published national average, and localized cost data.
While a lump sum price is so much more than “just” the total of unit material, labor and equipment costs, unit costs and standardized cost data architecture do, however, help in mitigating “missed items” and in communicating and resusing cost data.
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Interoperability is a common “buzzword” used whenever you here a discussion about improving productivity with the AECOO (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owners, Operations) industry sector. Unfortunately, it is a term associated with primarily with technology, and its usage implies that interoperability from a technology perspective is a major, if not THE major stumbling block to construction sector productivity improvement. This “assumption” would be blatantly false. Drastic culture and process are the requirements for mitigating waste within the AECOO sector.
The primary issue that dictates the tone and efficiency of any facility construction, renovation, repair, or sustainability project is process related… and is “the construction project delivery method”. Assuming capable parties in each “knowledge domain” the delivery method must provide for, support, and monitor collaboration, transparency, and accuracy. Common taxonomies, cost data bases, etc. play a role, as does supporting technology that embeds and distributes consistent processes. While its true that cloud computing is an enabler, with its role to support the cost effective integration of various knowledge domains and technology silos; the underlies processes linked to a collaborative project delivery method focused upon life-cycle management is the critical aspect.
Integrated project delivery (IPD) and job order contracting (JOC) – the latter also referred to as IPD-lite as it target renovation, repair, and sustainability vs. new construction – are current examples of proven efficient construction approaches that dramatically alter the “status quo”.
Common taxonomy plays a key role and is also generally overlooked. For example, cost estimators, even today, primarily rely upon spreadsheets and customized cost databases vs. integrating powerful software packages and standardized cost databases (ie RSMeans). “Doing it my way” and exclusively using spreadsheets prohibits efficient information reuse, is prone to data and formula errors, and create largely unsupportable databases. How can multiple cost estimators share information on a project, or communicate with Owners, Contractors, AE’s, Subs, etc… if they aren’t speaking the same language? They can’t… and they don’t. And this is just one example of many…across multiple knowledge domains whether it be capital planning and management, maintenance and repair management, building automation systems, procurement, bidding, project delivery, …..
The AECOO sector can’t even begin a discussion about achieving higher levels of interoperability, exchanging BIM models and data, etc., until it shifts its focus exclusively to culture and process change. We don’t even have a common understanding of BIM, let alone sharing BIM models. Even today, many view BIM as 3D visualization, vs. life-cycle building management supported by technology! We need to recognize that design-bid-build (DBB) and even design-build (DB) and the associated “accepted” practices of change orders and lawsuits are contrary to the basic tenants of productivity, collaboration, transparency, and accuracy.
Certainly it is true that our industry is fragmented and relatively slow at adoption of new technology, however, this is due to our culture, and our lack of efficient processes.
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BIM is the life-cycle management of facilities supported by digital technology – NIBS. That said, BIM is critical to sustainability/green as is collaboration and cloud computing.
As BIM, Green/Sustainability, and Cloud Computing are considered “new” and not necessarily “mainstream”.. and all three are “hot topics”, it’s not surprising that some organizations are engaging in BIM-washing, Green-washing, and Cloud Computing-washing.
These issues are extremely important, thus worthy of discourse.
Here’s an informal poll relative to Green-washing. The question, asked on Linked-In was “Labels + Certificates = Sustainability. Yes. No. Or?” The question and responses bring to mind “LEED”… a great marketing tool perhaps, but it’s value remains uncertain, especially when considering long-term/life-cycle aspects. Also what due labels really mean… who polices product labels? Is bamboo really green if you consider it is transported halfway around the world. Is mercury-based lighting sustainable? Oh and yes…. the Prius and other vehicles have the nasty little batter disposal problem to deals with…
CLOUD COMPUTING WASHING
Cloud computing is NOT taking legacy applications and moving them to the cloud via a virtual server. Cloud computing consists of three tier technology.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
Cloud computing is viewed as a means to break down traditional data and process stovepipes. Cloud computing encompasses four different deployment models, and in these preliminary stages of cloud development, organizations are free to determine which model best serves their needs. The four models, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”), include: (1) private clouds, for the use of a single agency; (2) community clouds, shared by multiple agencies; (3) public clouds, largely for the public’s use and benefit; and (4) hybrid clouds, facilitating the sharing of data and utilities across two or more unique clouds of any type.
(Peter Mell and Tim Grance, Nat’l Inst. of Standards and Tech., The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing – 2009)
Cloud computing will enable collaborative, secure, and transparent applications and the rapid deployment of robust business process.. both so sorely needed in the AECOO sector (architecture, engineering, construction, owner, operator).
Ok folks. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. 3D visualization is NOT BIM !!! The integration all aspects and processes of facility life-cycle management is BIM. Will all this occur in Revt, Archcad, or some IWMS system… absolutely NOT! Cloud computing, however, integrated with existng knowledge-domains such as CPMS, Construction Project Delivery (IPD, JOC), CMMS, CAFM, GIS, BAS, …. now that’s BIM!