With manufacturers now chomping at the bit to add digital representations of their products for use in the design and construction/specification marketplace. The importance of getting the process right, and getting the right data to the right people is more important than ever. Here is coBuilder's Nick Tune, a prominent player in the product data realm (and board member of BuildingSMART UK) to tell us more about the how and why, together with several tools and approaches to make the process swifter.
Could you give us a brief introduction to coBuilder overall? Your principal software or toolsets?
Our mission at coBuilder is to help the construction industry to create and exploit data. We do this by helping manufactures lift the data about their products from the unsearchable PDF catalogues and technical documents and to structure it into BIM compatible formats such as COBie, IFC, Revit, ArchiCAD etc. Their data can then be shared to their customers, it is hosted by manufacturers themselves, controlled by them, and available to all, in all BIM formats and its queryable, so you can search for a specific product property such as ‘Fire rating’ etc., and then attach the data to the model. It is like the Internet of things, but for construction products. That's our product goBIM.
ProductXchange then helps the contractors and clients to collect as built product information and data and then to share it with the whole supply chain in interoperable BIM formats. The system also allows the designers and contractors to select product properties that they can then check against when the actual products are uploaded, so as to make sure the products being used meet the design requirements. However the biggest benefit is that the FM receives rich, accurate as built data about their building or infrastructure.
Our solutions are created so that we can truly say that we are the experts when it comes to data within the construction sector. From the manufacturer to the FM, the data that we have BIMified, collected, created and distributed is at the heart of each building, or as we like to say – it is each building’s DNA.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, please provide a quick overview of the GoBIM tool/portal?
goBIM is a cloud-based platform, meaning that you have full access through our website www.gobim.com So how does it work? In the platform’s user-friendly interface manufacturers go on to enter all kinds of information regarding their product, starting with the basic information such as product type, name, their company details, etc. They can also attach photos and documentation. Going further you as a manufacturer can add various data, such as geometric properties, data regarding the operations and maintenance, performance and environmental characteristics. This is where a manufacturer’s product data is stored as a master Product Data Template so that you and your customers can select the properties they are interested in, thus making bespoke Product Data Sheets. goBIM allows them to edit the properties and select which ones they wish to view. Manufacturers can also use goBIM to export the data in different formats such as IFC, Revit, NBS, CIBSE etc. and in different languages.
Specifiers and contractors can then browse and select manufacturers’ information (without being able to edit the values). For example, if a subcontractor is concerned with the environmental characteristics of a product, they can select EPD and the software automatically removes all the irrelevant properties, focusing their attention on the environmental data.
What assumptions, correct or incorrect, do companies and individuals keen to adopt BIM tend to make?
There is a significant number of manufacturers who are determined that having 3D objects has their BIM integration sorted, which is a misconception. Objects and object libraries don't just have 3D geometry, they also have some data about the products. Often, though, the structured data they provide is relatively limited and this has great ramifications down the supply chain. Contractors and FMs who are the main roles at the construction and operation stages of the assets life cycle are rarely concerned with the geometry of products and how they look – what they really want is the essential data about the products.
What is important to them is product properties such as ‘fire rating’ or the ‘U value’ of a window, those specific attributes, that are required to see if a product meets the client’s requirements and to achieve cost efficiencies without compromising with quality. Therefore, manufacturer’s data is at the heart of each building project.
How do you see BIM changing the specification market?
We are here to help specifiers develop a standardized process of communicating their intent to the whole supply chain. After all, a specifier is as good as the specifications he makes. Having manufacturer’s data available in BIM formats allows specifiers to specify products based on their properties efficiently and independently. Through BIM all specifiers can ensure a level playing field for the manufacturers as they can then compete on what really matters – the performance of their products.
Please provide a snapshot of BIM adoption today, as you see it.
At the personal level, I think that every person who is up-to-date with the developments in the industry is now certain that mobilization has to happen in order to achieve a one-in-a-lifetime grand industrial transformation. Within the UK, we are still moving along a huge learning curve in regards to BIM adoption for level 2 within the UK. The main contractors and big architect companies, designers and engineers have done quite a lot to be ready to take the BIM journey in the right direction. There are, however, still quite a lot of smaller SMEs that are not fully prepared for the BIM impact in April. They still need a better grasp of the requirements that BIM level 2 poses upon them.
To what extent, do you feel, are European countries aligning themselves with the UK BIM mandate?
Looking at how Europe is doing with BIM we see that there is a lot of movement going on. The UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Norway already require the use of BIM for publicly funded building projects. In Germany BIM will be mandatory on all transport and infrastructure projects by 2020, the BIM mandate in Spain is expected by March 2018, for France the year is 2017. The European trend is apparent. However, many countries are still at the very beginning of developing and deploying their own BIM strategies and there are looking at the UK for guidance. It is our responsibility (UKBIMcrew) to document and standardize our best practices, so we can share what we have learned and help other countries discover the benefits of BIM.
What is coBuilder’s social BIM strategy?
coBuilder has a vibrant blog that we use as the main channel to familiarize all our prospects and followers with our passion for data. We are active on all social media (even Instagram!) and we are glad to say that we have a YouTube channel that we update every other week with educational videos about topics such as BIM for manufacturers, PDTs, Interoperability – to name a few. Last, but not least we are using focused social media outlets like The BIM Hub to further reach professionals from the sector, to be where the buzz is and to form lasting relationships.
What important events are coming up on the coBuilder BIM calendar?
We were at BIM World in Paris in April and we also presented our work at BRE’s BIM Prospects. DCW in the autumn is also on the calendar, but we are definitely excited to see what other exciting events the industry is about to offer this year.
What projects or similar collaborations are on the horizon?
coBuilder is a buildingSMART International member and thus being part of a row of initiatives going on in Europe in terms of openBIM. coBuilder is an active contributor to Europe’s leading openBIM dictionary – the buildingSMART Data Dictionary. We are involved in the CEN standardization work, which is at the heart of all of our solutions and RnD. It is great that the market understands and needs PDTs (Product Data Templates) but they need to be based on standards and created by experts who are deep into the standardization work. coBuilder is also working to align the bSDD with the recent French PPBIM initiative to document the properties workflow, in order to ensure the highest quality of the data entered in the dictionary.
What is coBuilders strategic plan going forward?
Our strategic plan is to help manufactures set their data free from PDFs so that their clients, Designers, contractors and facilities managers can utilise their data.
How does this strategy position coBuilder in the competitive market?
We are the world leaders in understanding construction product standards and interoperability of data.
The BIM Hub again would like to thank Nick for this engaging and informative insight. If you have something to say on the matter, then please do feel free to comment below.