BIM4SME Awards Winners Case Study 2

This is the second post in the series showcasing the winners from the BIM4SME Awards 2017.

This week's case study features the winner of the Best use of BIM for the use of Embedded Data, submitted by coBuilder as the provider of ‘Embedded Data’ services (tools and consultancy) on the National College for High Speed Rail project.

Accurate as-built data with coBuilder for Willmot Dixon’s ‘NATIONAL COLLEGE FOR HIGH SPEED RAIL’ project



Stripped from all unnecessary complications, Building Information Modelling is a digitalisation process and ‘information’ lies at the heart of it. Construction product information in the form of digital data is essential for streamlining the construction process, which, in effect, is the main purpose of BIM. Utilising digital data in the initial design stages ensures that buildings are being designed with clients’ requirements in mind. Having manufacturers’ data at hand has undeniable value at the procurement stage when contractors and their subcontractors can easily purchase products according to their technical specifications. Out of these uses, embedding data in as-built models is probably the most important one, as knowing what is actually installed in a building allows building actors to verify and validate that all requirements are met in the end and that what is designed as actually installed. It allows the true client – the end user of the building to benefit from well-maintained and operated facilities.

That is why general contractors such as Willmott Dixon have made an important step towards providing embedded data on many of their projects, most notably the ‘National College for High Speed Rail’ project. To tackle the challenge of setting requirements, collecting, validating and delivering construction product data on this project, Willmott Dixon have employed the international construction data experts coBuilder.

National College High Speed Rail - Birmingham Campus

How the need for data extraction was embedded into the project documentation

Information Requirements in BIM (IRs) refer to the information needed for making decisions during the whole life cycle of a built asset. That is to say, they inform the asset and project information models (PIMs) at the delivery stages and AIR at the operation stage. These ‘information models’ consist of 3D models, data and documents. In order to work with data on a construction project, one needs to first start working with the documents specifying the information requirements for the project.

The first step in the scope of coBuilder’s consultancy was to work with the project’s BIM Execution Plan (BEP) and Employers Information Requirement (EIR) by analysing what data was required for the project. This effort was central for setting Willmott Dixon’s Information Exchange Matrix document that defined the set of required data deliverables. They were based on product and property types as well as their associated values and further requirements such as scheduling.

coBuilder’s information management tool ProductXchange functioned as a common digital environment for allotting these requirements to the supply chain partners, so that they were informed about the exact type, format and time of the data deliveries. ProductXchange was used as the platform for collecting, validating and verifying the project data.

How was data validated and exported

Embedding the established data requirements within its mechanism, the ProductXchange tool was used to set up automatic filters that allow the different subcontractors to fulfill the data and document deliverables as set up by the EIR, AIR and other specific data needs.

Apart from automation, over the course of the ‘National College for High Speed Rail’ project, coBuilder supported Willmott Dixon by checking that the Information being collected was accurate and delivered on time via ProductXchange. The work entailed attributing different requirements to specific subcontractors in relation to documents and data, work packages, information exchanges and dates of deliverables. coBuilder’s experts were also responsible for monitoring the system’s notification dashboard for any legislation breaches, missing information, documentation etc. over the course of project. This included weekly/monthly checks to identify if products are missing, in breach or not delivered on time. If that was the case, coBuilder used the emailing system in ProductXchange to contact subcontractors/manufacturers and make sure that the data and documents were supplied.

At the end of the collection period, the finalized verified and checked product data sheets in ProductXchange were exported in COBie and XML. The exported files were used for publishing a complete digital O&M manual.

How was data used effectively by other project team members

The collection and validation of as-built data relies heavily on standard-based manufacturers’ data. coBuilder’s experts research national, international, legal and market data requirements (CEN, CENELEC, ISO, BREEAM) in order to devise Product Data Templates(PDTs). PDTs are used to transform information into interoperable data that can be checked, distributed and embedded in any software. Digitising product information through a Product Data Template is a shared responsibility of the whole supply chain. Through the integration between ProductXchange and goBIMcoBuilder’s award-winning tool for digitizing manufacturer’s data, contractors and sub-contractors can receive accurate data directly from the only credible source the manufacturer. For this purpose, manufacturers and suppliers can be invited to join goBIM via ProductXchange.

In essence, embedding data in models through ProductXchange benefits the manufacturer, enabling them to work closely with their clients and augment their product with digital services. Secondly, general contractors benefit from Centralised Requirements Management (CRM). With ProductXchange they can communicate their requirements to the supply chain and provide accurate, checked information models. Facility managers benefit from having information required for maintenance, refurbishment and renewal available at handover and throughout the life cycle of the facility. The biggest benefit however, is for the end user, as operating with digital data has a direct impact on closing the performance gap and producing healthier, safer buildings that match their original design.

How can data be potentially incorporated into Facilities Management

Public construction and infrastructure projects can benefit greatly from implementing embedded data in their FM routines. The difficulties in their maintenance stem from some of their typical traits: because of their scale and long lifecycle of intensive exploitation, they are the perfect candidate for utilising accurate as-built data for achieving efficiencies in FM.

After the validation and verification stage is complete, accurate as-built data can be exported to COBie or directly to coBuilder’s BIM Viewer, where the full list of installed products is available for tagging of objects in the as-built model. Based on the data input by the sub-contractors and the general contractor, the FM can take advantage of the embedded data in the IFC model. In terms of proprietary Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) tools, there is still a gap as a few software solutions operate with open data formats such as COBie and IFC. As per today, coBuilder provide machine-readable data that can be easily integrated in any FM system via an API.

About coBuilder

coBuilder is digitising the construction industry. For over 20 years they have worked hard to employ technology and knowledge to provide the means of creating accurate interoperable product data.

Different platforms have different terminology for products. Different actors have different information requirements. Moreover, in many cases both clients, general contractors and FMs need data beyond COBie. Identifying this gap has made coBuilder’s information management business model a means for delivering the benefits of BIM in the built environment.

Recognising benefits such as coBuilder’s expertise in standardisation, IT integrity and  commitment to openBIM, Willmott Dixon have chosen to work with ProductXchange on projects such as the ‘National College for High Speed Rail’ as well as the ‘Schuster Annex – University of Manchester and Menai Science Park’.

Through coBuilder’s ‘Embedded Data’ services, Willmott Dixon were able to:

• Collect the asset data (COBie) and product information (O&M product PDFs) throughout the construction phase of the ‘National College for High Speed Rail’ project.

• Deliver an accurate and validated as-built COBie sheet based on the client’s data requirements

• Deliver a full repository of product-related PDFs in the O&M manual, in the required structure and embedded as-built product data, into open formats.

• Ensure that all stakeholders could benefit from accurate, paperless construction product data – ready to be transparently shared with anyone who might need it.

National College High Speed Rail - Doncaster Campus

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