Let’s start by making it clear that although we develop digital design briefs with our BIMsense clients, this is something that is very much an emerging approach. However, the idea is more than just a concept. The approach of developing your design brief in machine-readable digital format is sound and will enhance and enable robust and verifiable workflows.
As of 2019, the existing situation in the industry is that we prepare our design briefs in a variety of formats. We have design guides and specifications in pdf format, we have room data sheets and area data sheets in Excel tables and we will reference best-practice documents, such as British Standards. Documents produced in pdf format have benefits over their paper equivalents by enabling complex searches and easy navigation. And Excel tables enable data to be exported and manipulated.
But the valuable data contained within these existing design briefs has many limitations.
Cross-referencing between the documents is laborious. The only practical approach is to read a section containing references to other documents, and then to manually find, open and navigate to the relevant document and referenced section. Consistent and widespread use of hyperlinks would enable easier navigation, but is difficult to implement. Organisational design guides are often developed over many years, taking best practice from many sources, which can lead to contradictory requirements. And the data remains largely confined within the corresponding documents. Data can be cut and pasted, but this brings in opportunities for human error and any future updates will also need to be manually managed and coordinated.
There are many benefits to a digital design brief, most importantly:
A digital design brief in its simplest form provides information about your requirements for a facility in a consistent and structured way.
You probably currently produce area data sheets (ADS) at the earliest stages of a project, with your ADS defining the type of spaces that your facility will need. Your schedule is likely to be generated from an Excel sheet and will include information on the type of space and the area allowance. When detailing the type of space, you may use the wording and coding that your space-planning department uses, or you may use descriptive terms to describe the space. These terms are either specific to your organisation or a project-specific description. When you use the names, they are probably very clear to you and your team, noting exactly what type of space that the name refers to. Some names will be very clear, a classroom will be a classroom. But, what happens for more ambiguous rooms, is a staff room the same as a communal kitchen? Is a workroom the same as a tutorial room?
These sort of ambiguities can be avoided by using a consistent taxonomy; a consistent naming. To enable us to have consistent naming, we use classifications. By having a consistent naming of the spaces, all stakeholders are agreeing to the names of spaces and avoiding ambiguities.
The naming of the types of spaces is just the start. Your digital design brief will contain multiple items of data or attributes, including, for example, the name of a type of space, and the area of the space.
Digital design briefs provide two distinct sources of data. The first relates to the facility, spaces and zones. Essentially, spaces or volumes within a facility. The second source of digital design brief data comes from specific entities such as doors, windows and air-handling units.