Managing BIM Model Data

Managing BIM Model Data

Having accurate quality models enriched with useful data provides significant benefits throughout the life of a project.

Getting hold of the data, assigning clear responsibilities and ensuring that you have a supply chain with the necessary data skills can make the model data enrichment a difficult task. This often results in incomplete and inaccurate data sets that aren’t useful to anyone.

Data Development

During the normal BIM process the data is built up and enriched throughout the various project stages. Starting during the very earliest stages with basic project data such as defining the type of building, the names and uses of spaces, zones and systems. Then moving on to define individual components, such as a door, a window and a fire damper. As a project progresses through to the construction phase the information accumulates and becomes more detailed with data such as individual components installation dates and warranty information.

Responsibilities for the Data

Before a project commences everyone involved should be clear on their model and data responsibilities. The Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR) documents a project’s model and data needs. The EIR should provide clear responsibilities for the source and the management of each item of data.

Exponential Increase in Data Sources

As a project progresses through to construction the sources for the individual items of data exponentially increases. Before a project commences, the employer is the only source of data. At the start of a project, this will increase to two (the employer and the project manager). This then quickly doubles as the main designers are appointed. For each main designer, there will often be at least one specialist designer, this could be catering, landscaping, piling, acoustics etc. Each specialist component within a project, such as cladding, curtain walling, roof finish, air handling unit, boilers will have their own data source. Detailed design will require data from the individual suppliers of each component. Then during construction, designers will remain influential and suppliers continue to provide data. In addition, we have contractors and subcontractors. With many of the subcontractors employing further subcontractors (often small single employee companies) to deliver the project.

Project Stage Data Sources Typical Sources
Stage 0 1 Employer
Stage 1 2 Employer, Project Manager
Stage 2 6 Employer, PM, Main Designers, QS
Stage 3 12 As above plus specialist designers
Stage 4 30 As above plus specialist suppliers and subcontractors
Stage 5 100+ Contractor, subcontractors, suppliers

The above table provides an example of a project’s typical data sources. The individual items of data easily reaches into the 10s of thousands.

Data Management

The multiple sources of data, especially towards the construction phase, makes the management of a data a difficult task. Much of the data will come from one source and require adding to a designers model. A window supplier will need to ensure that installation dates and warranty information is added to the model for each window. And the existing model data will need to be verified to ensure that the data is correct, for example, do the required window u-values match with the u-values of the installed windows?

Data Tools

Model authoring software, which is great for developing detailed three-dimensional designs, are reasonably good at managing data during the early stages of a project when the data sources are limited to a small project team. But, BIM model-authoring software isn’t well suited for managing large data sets. After all, it wasn’t the original purpose of the software, they were only intended to manage data sets directly relevant and beneficial to the development of a 3D design, not the large sets of diverse data now being required.

Exponential Increase in Model Data

If you think the current quantity of model data is becoming a problem, this will only increase in time. The increase in model data will see an exponential increase. I’m currently assessing the rate of doubling of model data, but anecdotally it’s somewhere between every 9 to 18 months that we are seeing a doubling of the quantity of associated model data.

It’s clear that project’s require very clear and efficient processes to manage their data.

At BIMsense we are often required to manage project data, especially when designers either are unwilling to accept the responsibility of managing external data or have insufficient capability to do the task. But, we are having to continually evolve our data management processes to ensure that we can provide effective solutions with the increasing number of data sources.

Data Management Solutions

We started managing data using traditional authoring software. But, the number of sources and the volume of data has made this approach to managing data unsustainable. We are now using specialist data management tools, that allow us to work with the open IFC model format.

We always prefer the open IFC delivery method, for the long-term data security benefits that open file formats offer to clients. Although working directly with IFC files does introduce its own complexity, It’s not an easy file format to understand and directly manipulate.

We never alter the design of a model. The geometric components always remain the same. And any changes to existing data are subject to verification and remain owned by the originators. We just enrich the designed models with useful data. Data that provides benefits during design, construction and operation. This often includes data required to fulfil the delivery requirements of COBie and BIM Level 2, but COBie is just a small subset of what we have and can provide. If you can imagine it we can add it.

The primary source of data for our data management tools generally use excel templates. The templates are made really simple and specific for each individual data originator. Making it very clear what data should be provided and when it is required.

The excel approach works efficiently and provides quality and verified models as required by employers and contractors.

However, we are always pushing forward with better ways of managing data.

The Future of Data Management

Our next evolution will provide an online method of adding model data. A simple web interface will provide a unique experience for each user, providing a method for adding only the data required and enabling instant verification.

Project model data provides massive benefits throughout the design, construction and delivery phases of a project. The amount of data will continue to increase. As an industry, we need to embrace the benefits that model data can provide, but at the same time we need to ensure that we manage the data efficiently and continually improve our methods to ensure that we will cope with the oncoming data tsunami.

If you need any help managing your project BIM data, please let us know.

Ian Yeo, BIMsense,

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