Category: OpenBIM (page 1 of 2)

A day at the YORhub Client Conference

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by thinkBIM Chair, Duncan Reed.

Thursday 15th November saw the first YORhub Client conference take place at Aspire in Leeds. thinkBIM were represented through Liz and Donna on a Leeds Beckett University School of the Built Environment and Engineering stand while I was supporting Adam Holmes, Interim Design Manager from East Riding of Yorkshire Council (and long-time thinkBIM supporter) in a workshop session titled “The benefits to clients in using BIM and Soft Landings”

Firstly a massive thank you needs to go out to the team at YORhub for getting over 100 clients in one room to talk about important topics such as the National Construction Procurement Strategy for local government, lessons to be learned from the Grenfell disaster, the fallout from Carillion, delivering social value through procurement, NEC vs JCT contracts and of course BIM.


OIRs, AIRs, AIMs, EIRs, BEPs? The world of BIM is still a confusing place without a huge amount of consensus. So how do you get started a clients, designer, contractor or supply chain partners to understand what is really needed?

Because of this Adam and I focussed our breakout session on the drivers for working digitally, for “doing BIM”, and how this can be translated to useful processes that deliver value for YORhub members. We wanted delegates to understand the strategic need to define digital deliverables and how these can be expressed in a non-technical way to both construction and non-construction professionals alike to add value throughout the lifecycle of an asset.

Helpfully the UK BIM Alliance has recently published a great guide for Clients to help them to ‘go digital’ see link

In addition to discussing (and recommending) this guide our session focussed primarily on just Figure 4 from PAS1192-3:2014.

I’ve always thought this is a really important diagram by putting the wider needs of a business in the context of digital processes. But equally though that some of the terms that are used feel like construction terminology that probably means nothing to business leaders. Yet these same business leaders will probably be doing all of this already, just using different terms.

So our session focussed on helping the delegates understand what OIRs, AIRs and EIRs might actually be, how they are probably defining them already and so how to match existing business processes to the drivers of BIM.

First up was OIRs – basically I believe that this is actually not much different to a business’s mission statement; that paragraph on the home page on your website that sums up what you do, your values and how you do it. When you think about it this way it starts to become easier to see where an Organisations Requirements start to relate to Information that define their assets. In less than 10 minutes in each session we came up with these great answers for OIRs

  • World Class Teaching (our examples from the room were both new developments at Universities)
  • The number of students the University wants to attract
  • The subjects they want to offer – improved existing and new
  • Carbon Targets
  • Environmental Targets
  • Sustainability
  • Asset Value, accounting requirements
  • Statutory information

From this it then became easier to start to develop Asset Information Requirements. Examples that were generated by the delegates were

  • The Number of Properties needed
  • Occupation Levels required, Uses
  • Accommodation Schedule and Room Area requirements
  • Lifespan Requirements, Targets (or Reality)
  • Specific Data Requirements such as room numbering
  • FM / Maintenance Statutory Information needed
  • IT Provision for the asset

We discussed the use of performance specifications to drive value or where specified products may be a preferred option for a client instead. But overall the AIRs should take business goals and make then something tangible for a specific asset.

We debated whether Plain Language Questions actually come from the AIRs rather than being another feed into the EIRs. However if you consider a Plain Language Question is a question asked in a language you (the person or organisation raising the question) understands then we came to the conclusion that these questions are the results of Stakeholder Engagement and End User requirements. These parties should be free to ask their questions in a way that makes sense to them and it is the construction teams role to turn those into the more technical requirements defined in the EIRs.

Overall I found both sessions really interesting; it was great to have client focussed conversations with an engaged group of clients. Going through Figure 4 in some detail helps everyone to understand what information is needed when and why which helps to demystify the whole process. We heard that YORhub is looking to set up a Client Group and for me this can only be a good thing. Here at thinkBIM we will be very keen to support this group to help and advise them on how they might practically adopt appropriate digital processes on their projects and asset portfolios.


#BIMOpenMIC in Yorkshire – Round One Sheffield

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Following the success of the Manchester session, #BIMOpenMic marks another great turnout in Sheffield, the ideal opportunity for BIM focused individuals to generate BIM-related discussions and debates viva voce.


With thanks to our sponsors & organisers:


Here you can look at RYDER Landscape Consultant presentation:

BIM through the Landscape OpenMic

#BIMOpenMic in Yorkshire,Round One: Sheffield! -Tuesday 14th March 2017

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in collaboration with BDP, Steel City BIM, Graitec and Digitalgreen
Tuesday 14th March 2017
BDP Offices, 1 N Bank, Sheffield S3 8JY 
18:00 to 21:00

We are delighted to announce that following the success of the Manchester session, #BIMOpenMic is continuing up North!
These events are about starting conversations and generating discussion about all things BIM and helping address the day to day issues it presents in our work.
So join us for observations, opinions, rants, tips and tricks at our “anything goes” session. Be there and be vocal!
Can’t make it to Sheffield?
Keep an eye out for further dates around the County
#itsBIMupNorth meets #BIMOpenMic – the perfect combination

Many thanks to our hosts BDP and event sponsors Graitec for helping us to put this event together.

1 Mic
1 Spotlight
1 screen (with sound if required)
80 People
Sign up to speak on the night, Only 6 x 10 minute slots (first come, first served)
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
Anything Goes!
Platform agnostic
Topic agnostic
Discipline agnostic
Hot topics encouraged
Audience participation encouraged

Click here to book your FREE place!

thinkBIM is a Leeds Beckett University initiative




Connecting Project Data beyond the site – Thoughts from June #tbim2016

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On Wednesday 1st June 2016 we held our second operations and in-use BIM seminar which focussed on the wider application of built environment digital data and how it can be usefully shared and utilised. ThinkBIM steering group member Paul Wilkinson shares his thoughts on the evening below.


Paul WilkinsonOpen Data, BIM and the Semantic Web

Guest Post by Paul Wilkinson. (Please note this post first appeared on Extranet Evolution on 2nd June – link here)

The latest ThinkBIM ‘twilight’ seminar, held in Leeds yesterday (1 June 2016), looked at the wider application of data relating to the built environment. Too many BIM events focus purely on the creation and use of data within a built asset project team; some extend the discussion to look at reuse of data for facility management, operation and maintenance; but few BIM events look at how some BIM and other built environment data might be connected to other data or even made more widely available, perhaps as open data.

Becoming more open

So far as BIM is concerned, the UK government’s 2011 insistence on BIM processes generating “open shareable asset information” is often assumed simply to be about ensuring data is interoperable: capable of being shared between different applications, operating systems and IT hardware. However, the first word is also strongly linked with the UK government’s wider digital agenda – the February 2015 Digital Built Britain strategy (strongly endorsed in the recent 2016 Government Construction Strategy and leading us towards BIM Level 3), for example, is not just about construction, but a fusion of industry strategies relating also to business and professional services, future cities and the information economy.

Discussions about open data are increasingly common, particularly in the UK, where the government has set out to be a world leader in creation and reuse of open data (it recently ranked first in an Open Data Barometer league table of international performance), with data valued as a key part of our national infrastructure (however, in December 2015, the Open Data Institute wrote an open letter to Lord Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, arguing data is not being given “the same importance as our road, railway and energy networks were given in the industrial revolution and are still given now”).

The government’s open data push is being realised both centrally and locally, and is predicated on a belief in greater transparency, in ‘Government as a Platform’, giving tax-payers access to their data and other information derived from government investment in public services and assets. As well as central government’s National Information Infrastructure and, several local authorities have launched open initiatives, some creating dashboards sharing metrics generated from open datasets (look at the London Datastore, Open Glasgow, Leeds Data Mill, Bath:Hacked and Open Data Bristol, for example).

Open is everywhere

In addition to BIM-related open data conversations, I have attended Constructing Excellence meetings about open data (read Ben Pritchard’s blog post); I am part of an EthosVO-led, Innovate UK R&D project (SkillsPlanner) using open linked data as a resource to help address construction skills shortages; and I have led conversations in the Chartered Institute of Public Relations about the need for communicators to be more data-literate, more aware of open data issues and opportunities.

However, yesterday’s ThinkBIM event (held at AQL’s datacentre housed in a former chapel – now the beeping digital heart of Leeds) was more focused on the built environment challenges and opportunities.

  • While commonly regarded as a mapping organisation, Ordnance Survey’s core skills are in data, technology and interconnections. Echoing the Association for Geographical Information’s recent Foresight report (post), Ordnance Survey’s Paul Griffiths described geospatial data as the ‘glue’ connecting data about built assets to other data about the environment and about social aspects of the areas around those built assets. in February 2015, OS launched OpenMap, a new digital map bringing open geospatial data to mobile and web platforms. Then, using examples drawn from Thames Water projects undertaken using the ‘Semantic BIM’ platform provided by SaaS vendor GroupBC (formerly better known as Business Collaborator), Griffiths showed how data about existing building types and heights, flood risks, crime, employment and education could be used to augment existing decision-making tools (“project design need no longer happen in splendid isolation”).
  • ODI Leeds’ Tom Forth showed various examples of data captured by Leeds City Council and made open, including a powerful example of how public building energy use could be cross-referenced with IT data relating to office occupancy to demonstrate when and where energy savings might be made (making “ten million lines of data” open, he said, also helped make that data usable and bridged gaps that previously existed between FM and IT departmental silos). Datasets about empty buildings, housing density and open spaces could also be accessed to inform public debates about housing shortages and planning decisions.
  • GroupBC’s CTO Steve Crompton then provided a ‘RetroBIM’ critique of legacy information, suggesting around 98% of current built asset data was effectively trapped in drawings and documents held in internal file-sharing systems, not lodged in databases where they could be used as a basis for decision-making (“Let’s democratise some of that data, put it in the cloud,” he said). He briefly described how GroupBC’s Semantic BIM platform could provide vital contextual data to support efficient decision-making for planning, designing, constructing and operating built assets.


During the panel discussion, it was clear security, commercial confidentiality and personal privacy concerns all need to be addressed in selecting what data might be made open (the Open Data Institute has a useful ‘data spectrum’ diagram showing the continuum from closed to open data). But Tom Forth stressed many bodies currently hold huge volumes of dormant data that could be made open (surely, such data will only have value if someone does something with it?).

Government departments are already opening up some of their data reserves so that they can be explored and exploited. In June 2015, DEFRA, one of the most data-rich departments in Whitehall, opened up thousands of datasets so that they could be more widely used to improve the quality of our natural environment.

It was also clear that the industry currently known as construction is still at an early stage in not just its BIM journey (the BIM Level 2 deadline passed less than two months ago) but also in its open data journey. To re-use an argument I’ve given in recent lectures and conference keynotes, we have only just started to move from “common paper environments” to “common data environments” – and open data is part of the more long-term BIM Level 3 picture (is it just a coincidence that the ‘semantic web’ is sometimes referred to as Web 3.0).

groupbclogoGroupBC: semantic BIM differentiation

I speak regularly to the main SaaS collaboration vendors active in the UK, and GroupBC is the only one actively developing semantic web capabilities. That is not to say that rivals aren’t thinking about integration between their platforms and other information systems – APIs are a key part of Viewpoint’s roadmap, I heard at last week’s customer summit, for example – but GroupBC is pioneering the use of linked data to build new products and enhance the capabilities of existing tools.

Its ‘Semantic BIM’ technology moves beyond the typical uses of BIM for visualisation, clash detection, construction sequencing, etc, and opens up a potentially huge web of related data, from ‘location intelligence’, to data shared by or licensed from other commercial or public bodies, and to data held in internal corporate systems. BIM, therefore, becomes just part of a bigger built asset data picture – the semantic web allows teams to exploit far richer seams of data, potentially unearthing vital ‘nuggets’ of information for accurate and timely decision-making.

Group BC have also written an excellent post on their own blog about their work with Semantic Web – please check it out at the link below.


A selection of the best tweets and images can be found at the storify below. Please keep checking back as presentations will also be available shortly.

ThinkBIM’s next half-day conference, focused on BIM for operation and in-use, is at Squire Patton Boggs new offices in Leeds on Wednesday 6 July 2016 – more details to follow.

Thinkbim returns with our spring series #tbim2015

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2015 is now upon us, a year that sees the next general election and the last chance for the UK construction industry to determine how to deliver Level 2 BIM.

Still trying to get to grips with what this all means? Why not come along to our Spring series to hear what contractors and manufacturers are doing to make digital processes work for them.

Dates for your diary

Recycling Data

Wednesday 4th February 2015 17:30 to 19:30

We welcome back our thinkBIM friends BAM Construct to talk about how they are utilising model base workflows to benefit more and more of their business functions


Bim for Manufacturers; a joint event with the BIM4M2 group

Wednesday 4th March 2015 17:30 to 19:30

Hear speakers from BIM 4 Manufacturers and Manufacturing Group discuss their BIM journey to date


GreenBIM Half-day Conference

Wednesday 1st April 2015, 13:30 to 17:30

Following on from our successful first #GreenBIM conference in December we continue to drive the BIM & Sustainability Agenda focusing on the construction & assembly phase of the building life cycle. Check out our write-up of last December’s great inaugural GreenBIM here, where we welcomed a (more than!) full house to discuss key issues around how we can use BIM to make our buildings & building processes more sustainable.





GreenBIM – Think BIM and Green Vision together at last!

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On Wednesday 3rd December, a full house of attendees joined us at WSP in Leeds for our inaugural GreenBIM event. The conference was extremely well recieved and we are delighted to be able to present you with our storify summary of the event below. Our storify includes tweets, images and PDFs of all the presentations from the event.

Check out what some of our attendees have been saying…

“It was such an amazing and informative #GreenBIM today! Thank you!

“Brilliant experience – learnt a lot very quickly”

Our next ThinkBIM & Green Vision series start in February with twilight seminars on 4th February (ThinkBIM) and 11th February (Green Vision). Also look out for details our of first Constructing Excellence breakfast event of 2015 on 28th January.

Spreading the #BIMlove – BIM in Mauritius

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IMAG1983When I was invited to Mauritius to deliver three BIM lectures to Architectural technicians, QS and Civil Engineering students on behalf of thinkBIM, a knowledge exchange network at Leeds Metropolitan University, I was excited to take up the BIM gauntlet and fly out and see if I could inspire some BIM enthusiasm amongst the digital generation out there.

The lecture room in Rushmore Business School was full with all three disciplines of students. Most of whom had not heard of BIM, some who knew a little or thought it was REVIT. These were all students who had Androids and were attentive and interested in this new subject area they had not seen before which for them ‘could change the way they work’.

Rushmore Business School is a leading international private tertiary education institution providing academic and professional courses to school leavers, graduates and the business community. The Business School is fully accredited and all its courses have been approved by the Tertiary Education Commission and the Mauritius Qualifications Authority in Mauritius and the British Accreditation Council in the United Kingdom (First in Africa).

It was brilliant, by the end of the first lecture the students were queuing up to ask more questions, discussing the potential of BIM for Mauritius, their sector and improvements in process, design and construction and opportunities for export markets such as Africa and Madagascar.

Whilst out there not only was I fortunate enough to visit the students but I was also invited to see General Construction Co. Ltd. (GCC), the largest main contractor on the island, to give a presentation on behalf of thinkBIM to the Directors and Head of Structural Engineering and Quantity Surveying (along with representatives from HR, IT). All this thanks to one of our alumni of Leeds Metropolitan University, Laurent De Senneville, now working as QS and BIM Champion for GCC Ltd.

Image079GCC Ltd is one of the leading building and civil engineering companies in Mauritius. Founded in 1958, the company is involved in a range of activities from the design and construction of office and hotel complexes and harbour and airport development facilities to the development of roads, bridges, dry docks, pipelines and reservoirs. GCC Ltd is privately owned by Mauritian shareholders who are dedicated to hiring local labourers and further developing the island.

ThinkBIM delivered an Intro to BIM and the impact on contractors to a full boardroom, myself there in person and ThinkBIM Ambassador Duncan Reed (Digital Construction Process Manager at Tekla) via google hangout. We fended questions on implementing BIM and the opportunities for the contractor. What struck me was the positive enthusiasm of GCC Ltd which was later confirmed over lunch where our discussion focussed around Laurent driving BIM implementation within the organisation with continued support from thinkBIM.

“It has been a great opportunity for GCC to welcome Claire and discuss with her and Duncan on BIM. They both contributed in kickstarting our BIM endeavour and we are looking forward to further collaborate with BIM communities while we build our BIM strategy for the future.” Jean-Marc Desvaux, Head of IS, GCC Ltd

Laurent’s starting point is to get a BIM steering group assembled to focus on getting the organisation to Level 1 through reviewing internal processes and identifying opportunities to remove waste from their internal processes.

In order to assist GCC Ltd on their journey we have provided them with a Mentor company here in the UK (Premier Interlink WACO UK Ltd) who are an offsite manufacturing contractor based in East Yorkshire, whose BIM implementation is being led by Pete Foster. We will be setting up regular Skype calls and dial in discussions to Mauritius to share best practice, lessons learnt and progress as both organisations progress towards reaching their BIM objectives.

“We were delighted to be given the opportunity to collaborate with GCC Ltd on their BIM journey. The discussions and questions this joint venture will raise will be invaluable in progressing BIM for both parties and shows the meaning and value that BIM can provide.” Pete Foster, Head of BIM Implementation

This for me has been an example of what BIM can do, it can start discussions across the globe between individuals and organisations seeking to make Construction a sexy, streamlined sector which will attract and retain talented young students like Laurent.


#TBIM2013 Understanding Data for FM

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Over 40 construction professionals gathered in the Rose Bowl in Leeds last night for what was a great event as part of thinkBIM’s summer BIM Operation and Maintenance series. Once more thinkBIM brought honest open, valuable lessons learnt in collaborative BIM to our members, demonstrating benefits that are being realised and ways of overcoming cultural barriers to change and make things happen……

Liam Brady of Manchester City Council opened the evening taking our group through the Manchester Town Hall Complex project, using excellent quotes and analogies along the way. Tom Oulton, our YH BIM Champion, shared his BIM journey so far at East Riding of Yorkshire Council with statement images, humorous analogies and open lessons learnt of the progress he has driven at the Council, Rob Jackson was our final presenter taking us quickly into the realm of Data and IFCs

Liam started out highlighting where BIM benefits are currently being reaped in the design and construction phases of the Manchester Town Hall complex, also outlining the potential benefits of BIM as a real driver for them to engage FM and attain the bigger benefits of BIM. The old Town Hall, Town Hall extension and Central Library will be run as one complex. A huge undertaking for a sector who have historically poorly maintained asset information. Liam focused on how to actually capture the information taking us to the Cabinet Office BIM on a page’ slide, indicating client requirements and BIMExecution Plans to identify what is needed at all the stages of the construction process. For the project in question BIM wasn’t mandatory but was being tested within a strong framework of partners with cabinet office support. Liam took us through the process of extracting data out of the model via Artra which is then fed into the estate management package, C Pad, creating an accurate repository of information. Underpinning this process was the need to embed the FM team within the design process. This empowered the FM team to influence design and enabled the design team to be constantly thinking about the operational implications of their design decisions. Liam described this as the ‘Cultural Mesh’; communicating to and engaging the FM teams was brought about by breaking the model down by individual systems, i.e. water sprinkler system, breaking down into systems means you can go right into the information of lifecycle service requirements and supply chain details. Without buy in to update the data in the model the data would be worthless, this was the biggest risk and so the responsibility to update lies with the FM service provider, if they don’t update, they don’t get paid.

The Town Hall Complex project has also been a pilot for soft landings which has enabled the sharing risks and responsibility and not stopped the handover arguments but it has shifted the focus of arguments from blame to solutions. Again key to its success has been engaging the full decision making group. Liam closed his presentation stressing the importance of collaborating and sharing information in order to progress in BIM and identified exciting new opportunities for BIM use on their project.

Next up, Tom Oulton spoke of how he had spent too long at the coal face of CAD, waiting for BIM to happen. Tom has now emerged from his CAD cocoon into a beautiful BIM Butterfly. Tom took us through a delightful, honest and open account of his personal ‘Battle for BIM’ and how he has managed to make it happen with limited resources and enthusiasm in the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Tom advocated REVIT saying ‘we use it, we like it, it is doing everything we need it to do’.

Tom poetically took us through the barriers of the fear of change; the huge learning curve that people initially were not keen to embark on. The need for buy in form all parts of the organisation not just the designers and engineers but also senior management and procurement was stressed in order to enable he changes needed to make the design teams BIM enabled. Using the Monty Python analogy of ‘so, what has BIM ever done for us?’, Tom was able to show detailed progress of use of revit by the council for Beverley highways, accurately model the sanitation and drainage and design work on the fire station project for Humberside Fire and Rescue all done in house and all coordinated via navisworks. Tom highlighted the benefits of BIM on a variety of projects from Schools through to multi purpose service centres. Benefits for the Multi Purpose Facilities have been the optioneering. Tom conclude with the comment that BIM has brought PEACE for the time being, FM will be the next Battle

Last but by no means least was a techy, nitty-gritty presentation from Rob Jackson of Bond Bryan, the passionate advocate for openBIM as industry wide standards. He took us through an abridged version of his sellout BIMShow live presentation ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’.

Rob started with their frustration of the need to demonstrate we can deliver data to FM and clients, emphasizing that to get to FM, we need to understand the beginning bits of the process. Key to this process is creating reliable and useful models in terms of both geometry and data. Rob’s passion for reliable data exchange and IFCs in order to deliver projects came across, encouraging us to look at IFC for Level 2 delivery.

Rob stressed the importance in both importing and exporting between software solutions highlighting that Bond Bryan as a practise, although ArchiCAD users, have bought both Revit and Navisworks so that they can test and deliver models as per client requests. Rob’s message was clear and strong regarding the need for the construction sector as software vendor clients to push for improvements in interoperability. There is a lot of talk about IFCs not working when often it is user error or indeed modeling in different ways in different softwares. Rob took us through the detailed tests he has been carrying out between a variety of softwares, findings of which he is currently sharing with software vendors to enable changes and improvements. Often when we think of interoperability it is presumed we are discussing problems between different software vendors but in fact, Rob indicated that there are even problems within softwares from the same manufacturer (i.e. two Autodesk products)… key is to test and pilot exchanges between softwares.

Rob brought his presentation to a close notifying us all of the positive feedback he has recently had from Autodesk, indicating that indeed the customers have not been asking the right questions and making a plea for all to push vendors to improve as being able to work in different software environments is important.

A lively Q and A focused on People as the main barrier to effective adoption and implementation of BIM within organisations and the need to present the benefits to all; questions on interoperability highlighted the need to test and  push software companies to make things work especially on the FM side to set the agenda.

thinkBIM – Beyond Design – Facility Management (First Published on NBS Blog)

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The below article has been taken from the Construction Code Blog and was written by Stephen Hamil.

Today I attended the thinkBIM “Beyond Design” event. I scribbled this blog post down as the day progressed – so apologies for any for any grammar or spelling which is worse than usual… 🙂

First up was Deborah Rowland from the UK Cabinet Office. Deborah chairs the FM workstream reporting into Mark Bew and David Philp as part of the UK Government’s BIM Task Group.

The Government Soft Landings policy is out for draft at end of July and looking to be ready for September. Soft Landings has been around for many years, just not called “Soft Landings”.

When looking at after-care, they don’t want a “box of manuals”, sometimes they don’t even get a box of manuals. Traditionally this is something that is poor. So we need to focus on the handover documentation and then quality post occupancy evaluation so that we can have a feedback loop to influence the design next year.

One thing that is critical is that the BIM data/the COBie data feeds into the CAFM software tools for the FM professionals that already exist within the public sector and their supply chain partners.

Another critical item is to get the FM professionals involved at the briefing stages and to set the FM budget. To look at OpEx as well as CapEx. This will work best if the FM industry gets on board now.

Discussion at the end was around can the BIM software and CAFM software work together? But surely BIM is the process and the data flows between?

I then stayed with Deborah for her ’round table’. The first discussion was on how we can work backwards from the FM data to go back to the design team so they can set up their data with the occupier as the ultimate end user of the data. Deborah explained how the government trial projects will be monitored and lessons will be learned to tighten the processes over the next few years.

Deborah Rowland from the Cabinet Office

The criticism of COBie is it is being perceived is that it is 100’s of thousands of lines of information about everything that is no use to everyone. When you buy a car, you want a nice concise car manual. Not a big spreadsheet of every property of every component. I personally see that there is a lot of confusion around COBie at the moment. My take on this is that there is a lot to be gained from clever software to hide this information behind the scenes. The software must then easily provide the information that is needed intuitively at the right time. Is there an analogy here with Google Maps? There is a huge, huge, huge amount of information hidden away – as you zoom in on a premise, then you get information you need (phone number, web address, reviews of food/service). We need the same for a building – zoom in on room, then system, then pipe – then get the spec. The user doesn’t need to care about the complexity behind the scenes.

The absolute fundamentals are 1. Receiving a good brief, 2. Designing to the brief, 3. Building to the design and then 4. Handing over well structure information so the building can be operated efficiently and future briefs can improve.

One of the big challenges will be keeping the model up to date. Three years to design, three years once complete – what will the data structures and software capabilities be six years from now?

Next item of question for Deborah is how hungry are the government to look at OpEx and not CapEx? Pay designers more, spend more on real quality systems and products – that is the way that real money is saved over 70 years. But “does a government with a 5 year term care about this?” Will they spend more in the short term? Deborah’s experience in the private sector says that you can reduce both by learning the lessons from previous similar buildings.

My conclusion on this is that we have three broad challenges:

  1. Where does the information come from?
  2. Can the software hide away this structured data so that you just get what you want when you need it?
  3. How is this data updated over the years – as soon as it goes out of date it’s useless.

What about post occupancy evaluation tools? All goes quiet. Educating the users is also important – don’t open the windows else the Air Con works twice as hard. Then change of subject – what about “crystal ball time”. Ten years down the line the building receives a major refurbishment and alteration. Can the structured data be round-tripped back into the design package and then merged together? Who knows?

For a big refurbishment job now, why not get a 3D cloud model instead of 2D – then use this as a base for the refurb work in the main design model. No real difference to new build? But if users already have existing CAD DWG files – will they really spend the money for the point cloud?

And after a quick tea break it was time for the second session. I chose the “BIM and Asset Management” with Jason Allen from IBM (BIM Lead in the Asset Management division) – Maximo is the main software package they use.

Jason Allen doing the roundtable – @EEPaul working the digital magic

What information is needed for FM? And what information is not needed? “Is anyone out there actually handing over an as-built model that is full of data once construction is complete?” is the question. Nobody around thinkBIM Roundtable 3 is doing this. One suggestion is that at the end a point cloud survey is done. But this will just give the geometry surely? Who is putting the as-built data in?

When speaking about the Government MoJ trial project “Two cells and a corridor give 15,000 lines in an Excel spreadsheet” – surely this is not right? Ten type components with Fifty attributes each – it’s only 500 lines in a database? Maybe it’s the instance attributes that are bloating the model? If this is the case then some sort of consolidation is required to make sure the database/spreadsheet does not explode? Again, the confusion over COBie is definitely there at the moment. At NBS we are working on a sample integrated model showing this process off – it’ll take a month or two to finalise but I think it will really help.

Functionally what is needed is a big COBie button in ArchiCAD or Revit or Bentley which allows the users to specify what objects they wish to export – these have to be pre-linked to the spec – the many objects not in ArchiCAD/Revit/Bentley model but in the spec then need picked – then it generates a *concise* COBie database (Excel or openOffice or SQL or Access or XML) automatically.

To date there are currently two excellent resources for COBie 2012 UK:

What is COBie?

James Allen suggests that the BIM and the FM database are not different things – it’s the same data just further down the line. The physical asset should even update this BIM as to how it is operating (energy use for example). Allows Asset Managers to actually monitor their portfolio of buildings.

It doesn’t matter where the data is – doesn’t matter which database it is in – what matters is that is all hooked off the “master model” through open standards. And then it was time for the adventurous bit – a live web stream from America from Marty Chobot VP of BIM Initiatives FM Systems in the USA.

@FairSnape makes the web streaming from the USA work

What do owners really need? Again was the question that was asked. From design to construct to operate – the importance of the graphics diminishes and the importance of the attributes increases. Now the problem is that there is a ton of data out there. This information needs to be presented in a useful way to the client.
Marty then goes through a few BIM and FM case studies. For one facility it took two person years to digitalise the information they wanted. That’s not a fun task if it has already changed by the time you have finished. By integrating the FM information into a master BIM they calculated they could save 4-6 months Xavier uni asset management database.

Similar to the FM presentations at BIM Academy last month, the level of detail of the information you are going to store and *maintain* has to be agreed and pragmatically assessed. If you try and maintain too much information you will fail and it will go out of date.

MathWork’s Apple Hill 4 Project was the next case study – where a new building was being built with the intention of getting it perfect for digital information for FM. Marty suggests the same idea that was floated earlier in the day that the BIM deliverable to the operator needs agreed at day 1. Also identify what information is needed – what attributes for what systems and what components. Insist these are delivered and in what format (sounds a lot like the UK COBie iniative).

What really, really matters is that you agree your numbering and naming conventions early. Get the FM involved throughout. And look out for BIM savvy sub-contractors wherever possible.

The day always ends with Pecha Kucha. Three really nice ones from @StefanMordue from NBS, Jon Moorhouse from Constructive Thinking Studio and Olli Aro from Clicks and Links.

@StefanMordue – It’s not just hard FM (lollipop) but soft FM too (ice cream)


Building Information Modelling and Interoperability

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By Dr Stephen Hamil Director of Design and Innovation and Head of Building Information Modelling at NBS.
This article is based on the presentation on the same topic presented by Stephen at the ecobuild 2012 ‘Better with BIM’ seminar series.

One thing that makes buildings more difficult to build than say aeroplanes or cars is that traditionally the different members of the construction team work in silos. So, within a design team you may have an architect, service engineer, cost consultant and structural engineer all focusing on their own work which leads to coordination problems. At a higher level, the design team and construction team may also have communication challenges and the risk of an adversarial and not a collaborative working process. Even looking at the basics, does an architect coordinate the information on the drawings and specification as well as is possible?

Many believe that the problems of silo working and badly coordinated documentation will be greatly reduced through the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM is all about structured information that is coordinated. This is information that flows through the construction process from brief through to facility management. For this to work successfully, interoperability is critical. However, what are the different levels of interoperability?

Interoperability between software from the same vendor

The first (and easiest) method of interoperability is that between software from the same vendor. In everyday life, this may be embedding a Microsoft Excel spread sheet into a Microsoft Word document or receiving an email that contains a post code using Gmail and opening the exact location using Google Maps.

Within construction, a good example of this is a service engineer, architect and structural engineer all working on separate 3D models in their versions of Autodesk Revit. These separate models may then be aligned to show a combined design model and then passed to the construction team to plan the work in Autodesk Navisworks. This gives great benefits in terms of coordinating and planning the work and avoiding clashes between structure and services once the construction commences.

Interoperability between software from the different vendors

However, a building cannot be fully designed and built using software from a single software vendor. The design team need to specify the performance, detailed products and execution, referring to the latest standards and regulations. The prelims and contractual issues also need to be specified and the project management and costing of the building also needs to take place.

When software from different vendors needs to communicate then communication rules need to be agreed. For example, the reason a movie produced using Adobe Flash may be viewed within the Apple Safari web browser is due to Adobe and Apple documenting and then following the rules on how the applications communicate together.

Within construction, one good example of this is the NBS annotation plug-in for Graphisoft ArchiCAD. This allows a user to design the building in ArchiCAD and complete the specification using NBS Create. Objects in the CAD model and the specification may be coordinated by the user, allowing the specification or technical guidance to be viewed from within ArchiCAD and for coordination reports to be generated prior to issuing information. Any conflicts between drawings and specification are flagged to the user to be resolved prior to the information being issued. This level of interoperability can greatly reduce costly errors and really help with coordinating project information.

Interoperability through open data standards

The final method of interoperability considered in this article is where information is to be displayed or transferred between software applications through open data standards. Within computing this is very common and normally taken for granted. An email, for example, can be authored using the Apple iPhone, then sent to a three different contacts that are using three different software applications, for example, Microsoft Outlook, Google Gmail and the Yahoo Mail. This is only possible through the data standards RFC 5322 and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). Users do not have to worry about these, in fact I’d never heard of RFC 5322 until researching this article – but software vendors know that if they follow the rules then collaboration will work in terms of sending and receiving emails.

Within construction, there are two well established data standards for the transfer of data: Green Building XML (gbXML) and Industry Foundation Classes (IFC). One example of the use of IFC to support a truly impressive workflow was demonstrated recently as part of the Integrated Carbon Information Model (iCIM) project at the UK ecobuild 2012. This was a Technology Strategy Board funded project involving AEC3, RIBA Enterprises, BIM Academy, Autodesk, BSRIA, BCIS, The University of Bath and Faithful & Gould.

Within this process, the user may submit a concept design from Autodesk Revit in IFC format to the iCIM website. Once submitted to the website the user can click through the objects in the BIM and configure these based on NBS technical guidance and embodied carbon and financial cost data. These building objects can be constructed one material at a time or National BIM Library pre-configured constructions may be used. Throughout, the user is presented with simple graphical displays of environmental impact at different levels of the building (whole building, element or material) and these estimated costs can be reviewed against the initial budget costs for the project. The final part of the journey is then ‘round-tripping’ the configured type objects back into the Revit model and automatically generating a coordinated outline specification in NBS Create.

This is true use of IFC, an open data standard, to allow information and software from multiple sources to work together to improve the construction workflow. By using open standards, this process has the potential to work equally well starting the journey off in ArchiCAD, Bentley, Tekla or Vectorworks. Equally, if the user would prefer to use their own source of carbon or cost data or even standard BIM components, then these could be plugged in as an alternative.

The adoption of open data standards in construction takes me back to the world-wide-web hitting the mainstream 15-20 years ago. For the first few years, everyone was just amazed by what was possible through this new technology. I remember the excitement of creating my first website – similar to the buzz around BIM today. Then towards the end of the 1990s, as the web matured, users around the world started strongly voicing their opinion that it was not acceptable that they had to craft their website multiple times so it worked correctly in Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera and Netscape Navigator. Users demanded robust open standards and nowadays we have Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer all putting their open standard credentials first and foremost when promoting their new releases. This is great news for those that write websites due to a common set of rules and also those that use websites due to increased competition and ultimately a better software product.

I strongly believe that there it is no coincidence that we are now hearing about initiatives from buildingSMART, Graphisoft and Tekla around the OpenBIM movement and when we read about the Autodesk Revit 2013 feature set there is a big long list of enhancements to the IFC import and export functionality. The UK National BIM Report 2012 showed that the percentage of UK construction professionals using BIM on at least one project had jumped from around 10% to over 30% in 12 months. The situation where the construction team cannot at least create record models of their data using an open format will become unacceptable to most very quickly now.

Interoperability and the UK Government Construction Strategy

In May 2011 the UK Government published its Construction Strategy. Interoperability through open data standards was at its heart.

In terms of the BIM requirements, the Government, as client, is mandating data drops at key stages throughout a construction project. The open data format they have demanded is buildingSMART Construction Operation Building Information Exchange (COBie). This is a simplified, non-geometric sub-set of IFC. This is a relational database that, in its most simple form, can be a spreadsheet.

A COBie data file contains all of the required information about the building:

  • Spaces and zones
  • Specification and location of the objects
  • Facility management jobs for the objects
  • The contact details for the project team members and all manufacturers/suppliers

The UK Government had the option to choose a proprietary file format to document their building stock over the coming years, but by specifying an open data format they have:

  • Protected the integrity of their data for years to come – technology changes at incredible pace – who would have predicted the dramatic failure of such dominant market leaders Kodak or MySpace or Alta Vista?
  • Ensured competition amongst software and information providers from a fair open playing field. The various FM and costing software packages will become stronger and stronger. The information feeding into the BIM processes will come from many sources. This will all help to catapult the UK construction industry into a position as a world leader.

Exciting times.


Stephen Hamil –

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