Case Studies

Room Data Information Logistics


HOK, the international design firm, is a global leader in programmatically rich projects. It commissioned a buildingSMART Aquarium to improve room data logistics and in particular to combine the owners stated requirements and the initial design, into graphical room data sheets, without manual work.
This case study outlines the process and outcome.

Room Data Information Logistics – the need for project integration.
In the early phase of project programming, it is vital for the owner to define the scope of the project at the space/room/equipment level. The scope is defined in ‘Room Data Sheets’ based on intended occupancy/use and comprises key elements such as space, equipment, utilities and features.

It is also important that this initial scoping of data is accessible so that it can be used downstream in the project, throughout the design phase, as the basis for controlling the project development and final delivery. Different business areas have different requirements depending on use and the resulting data for a multi functional building, can be both comprehensive and complex.

Defining the Problem.
The first step was to build a team comprising HOK and buildingSMART personnel and the preferred software vendors (planning, programming, data base and BIM tools), who would be used on the project. The team defined the problems that traditional processes fail to address. These can be summarised as follows:

  1. Data processing - gathering data is a tedious manual process and prone to error when creating and translating the data into the required design format.
  2. Data consistency - the data is fluid and evolves as part of the design process. Changes do not easily integrate with design drawings.
  3. Data analysis - there is no ability to track revisions, report discrepancies or to compare the design to the initial scope.
  4. User interface - data is not user-friendly and rarely interoperable with software tools used by different disciplines, consultants and clients.
  5. Robustness – standard Microsoft programmes, such as Excel and Access, are commonly used to record and present data, but these have limits in the design environment.
  6. Security - security management (user access and file structure) is difficult, often non-existent.

Developing the Solution.
Having identified the problem, the next stage of the project was to define the required solution.

The buildingSMART Aquarium for the project addressed this with a series of workshops started in quarter four 2008 and completed in January 2009. During this activity, a first draft Information Delivery Manual (IDM) was created defining the process and proof of concept was provided by a data model.

For this particular project, Aquarium recommended that the optimum solution for HOK was to adopt a suite of interoperable products that the project software vendors would develop. The suite would be developed to enable automatic bi-directional exchange of data between the vendor’s products via an Application Programming Interface (API).

Implementing the Solution – Reaping the Benefits.
HOK has already started project evaluation, using tools that were tested as part of the Aquarium, in their Justice and Health Care practices. They have realised a number of business benefits as better quality data flow between the software solutions has improved the efficiency of the process.

Additional benefits include better design co-ordination, reduction of change orders and RFIs and significantly, increased customer satisfaction.

HOK have learnt that given the complexity of their projects, combined with the need for a room data solution ecosystem, no single software tool can provide the overall functionality required. Consequently, the HOK BIM platform needs better compatibility with third party vendors. This requirement was identified by Aquarium and a solution initiated.

Patrick MacLeamy, CEO of HOK, reports on his experience: ‘We commissioned a buildingSMART Aquarium to combine the owner’s stated requirements and the initial design into Room Data Sheets, a process that currently requires a lot of hand-checking of data. The Aquarium demonstrated how architectural programming and design tools can seamlessly exchange core data via open standards and provided us with potential solutions to avoid manual handling and mistakes. I am confident that this will save significant project time in the future and result in a very positive return on investment.’

Additional outputs – Sharing the Benefits.
The aforementioned IDM is an evolving document and in keeping with the Aquarium ethos, when completed, the information will be made available to buildingSMART members, including other software vendors, who can learn from the data to develop similar solutions. Data will include a draft process map, draft exchange requirement, software implementation guidelines and test files.

The solution utilised existing buildingSMART standards, but any new protocols developed will also feed into the buildingSMART Industry Foundation Class (IFC) standards development programme to  benefit all.

The Aquarium case sheet also informs other users of the ‘pain points’, problems and business opportunities identified whilst producing the software solutions and user manual.

BIM Journal would like to thank Lars Chr Christensen, Civil Engineer (sivilingeniør), Senior Advisor multiBIM, Lead Aquarium Facilitator buildingSMART International and former CEO of buildingSMART International for his valuable input into the case study.