Since 2011 many UK construction industry businesses have been working towards higher levels of BIM competence and BIM compliance, and we have been helping several with that process.
Some people’s initial perceptions of BIM focus on choosing and using BIM software tools rather than thinking of BIM as a collaborative process supported by technology. BIM involves more than proficiency at using design authoring tools or selecting the right common data environment (CDE). Particularly for design businesses, BIM means rethinking internal information management processes and procedures so that professionals are applying the right digital approaches from the moment they start a BIM project – and before they even start sharing data via a CDE.
CDEs were originally viewed as file repositories or electronic document management systems, immediately confusing document and file repositories, and data management. This is hardly surprising. For decades, architects and engineers have routinely issued, tracked and controlled paper-based drawings, documents and forms; email and electronic collaboration systems have simply accelerated the exchange of ‘electronic paper’.
BIM compliance starts when design starts
At Opentree we believe becoming more data-centric starts when deliverables are created and managed using BS 1192:2007 naming and numbering conventions. This then allows electronic management of data about those files (metadata). And good practice starts within design businesses even before information needs to be shared with other project team members.
If you are serious about whole life asset data management, designers should be applying BS 1192:2007 principles from day one to manage their work in progress (WIP). Designers are often making some key early decisions during this stage. But if we only capture their final outputs when they make the transition from ‘WIP’ to ‘Shared’, useful source information and references can be lost. And status changes to ‘Shared’ deliverables will not be synchronised with the design firm’s internal systems.
Opentree’s internal BIM document management application Cabinet helps bridge the gap between WIP and the CDE. It is integrated with several CDE platforms (Viewpoint, Aconex and GroupBC are early partners), allowing the sharing of CAD, BIM, MS Office and other files. Importantly, Cabinet enables sharing of both the file and related metadata. It then ensures metadata is synchronised if, for example, a Revit model’s suitability status is changed. (Nottinghamshire-based contractor North Midland Construction recently turned to Viewpoint and Cabinet to help it demonstrate PAS1192 compliance processes to its clients.)
Overcoming industry inertia
CDEs are, I think, potentially powerful technologies hampered by industry processes still based on the exchange of files and on version and status control of those files. Much as we might be tempted by talk of “sharing a single source of the truth”, the reality is that many projects involve multiple islands of largely duplicated information – design teams, constructors and asset owner-operators may all invest in their own separate CDEs, mindful of the need to record and protect their contractual positions in an often litigious and adversarial industry.
Considerable industry inertia will need to be overcome if we are to move from being document-centric to being data-centric – no longer handing over volumes of paperwork upon completion, but developing and maintaining the built asset’s ‘digital twin’.
(This is a shortened version of an article, BIM Compliance needs more than a common data environment, recently published on the CIOB’s BIM Plus website.)