Opinion

BIM for Manufacturers - Setting the Standard

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From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 4

BIM Journal Issue 04 - Article 3: Setting the Standard

It is not news that certain standards have been readily embraced by some and readily misunderstood by others. In light of this it is important to remind ourselves of the critical standards in operation and look at how they impact upon clients, facility operators and of course manufacturers. In this second guest piece from CIBSE, here is Carl Collins again to tell us more...

Well it might sound like a silly question, but it is worth unpacking not just what a standard is, but also what it is for and how it is arrived at. After all, the world of BIM is heavily influenced by standards and many other publications from standards’ bodies.

We should all be familiar with BS 1192:2007 and PAS 1192-2 already, but we need to get back to square one and look at the basics in order to do this subject justice. Indeed, why is one a BS and the other a PAS? The distinction is important.

The British Standards Institution (BSI) defines a standards as being an agreed way of doing something. Which could be about making a product, managing a process, delivering a service or supplying materials[1]. As such, it should not be surprising that the process by which a standard is created is long and complex. It takes years to get through drafts, reviews, comments and editing, but what emerges is a consensus view that a sector of the industry can apply.

The process is described by BSI as being the distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their subject matter, who know the needs of the organisations that they represent. People such as manufacturers, sellers, buyers, customers, trade associations, users or regulators.[1] This describes a British Standard and indeed this is how BS 1192:2007 came into being. Naturally there are similar processes for European and International standards too, but what about the PAS?

In the words of the BSI, a PAS is a Publicly Available Specification that standardises elements of a product, service or process. PASs are usually commissioned by industry leaders, be they individual companies, SMEs, trade associations or government departments.[2]  This is not the same as a standard, it is privately commissioned through BSI to get some standardisation into products and processes quickly. They are not intended to be long lived, but often form the basis of fuller standards that will be developed at some point in the future.

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BIM “Standards”

In the BIM workspace, there have been a large number of documents emerging from several standards bodies: BSI, CEN and ISO. Do all of these standards align to produce a clear and consistent message? No.

How can this be? Surely they were written by the people and organisations that have been applying BIM principles and are subject matter experts? Well again no, they were not. The reason why they were not written by expert practitioners is that these standards were written to define how BIM is done, and not to reflect what people already did.

Some of the principles and processes have been used in real projects, certainly, processes like Avanti[3] have been tried and tested and are now enshrined in these standards. However the UK Government’s BIM mandate required change in a reluctant industry. The solution has been to write standards to drive industry into changing working patterns. This has been largely successful and the move to BIM has been felt throughout the construction industry, but it has also been subject to change, as the processes have been applied in real-life situations, so changes and additions have continually had to be made.

A good example of change has been the introduction of PAS 1192-5, which covers the security aspects of dealing with BIM data. The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) noticed that some of the information that may be exchanged could have security implications, which is now front and centre in all of our lives, so the process had to be refined to accommodate those concerns.

Some parts of the standards have, shock horror, been rather ignored by and large. But which bits are they and why have they been ignored? The most common experience has been clients asking for a BIM project without really understanding what it means. This is not too surprising in intent, as there are many articles and news pieces that tell of large efficiency savings when BIM is applied to projects. However, there is not a great deal that tells the client what they are supposed to do to facilitate this application.

What this results in are swathes of projects that have no client or ‘employer’ inputs upon which to implement BIM wholeheartedly. In short, the client has not provided critical items such as their Employer’s Information Requirements, Asset Information Requirements or Organisation Information Requirements.

Unhelpfully, this leaves the lead designer to produce a BIM Execution Plan, so created as a specific ‘reply’ to the items mentioned above, without ever being told what the full ‘question’ was. Now most BIM-savvy designers can of course cope with this or, if not, they can employ the services of a BIM consultant. This will result in a BIM project for sure, but wholly on the terms of the design team, and not the employer.

So where does this leave Manufacturers? Most designers will have an understanding of what a manufacturer’s requirements will be, but they will certainly not be experts in this regard. Furthermore, they will probably have less of an understanding of the Facility Management requirements of the manufactured products that will be used in the completed asset.

This is where standards can be of real use. They may not provide a holistic solution to all of the BIM requirements of a particular project, but they will point to considerations, workflows and information exchanges that can make the whole process easier, which make the final asset better, more efficient and something that the employer can use effectively.

Reading standards takes a particular sort of approach because they are written in a specific style to ensure that they are clear and unambiguous. This is not the simplest way of communicating, granted, and who actually knows the difference between a standard and a specification, or the exact syntactic difference between ‘shall’, ‘should’ and ‘may’? Indeed knowledgeable interpretation, triple checking and seeking the counsel of others will always be required. But standards themselves, and especially the PAS suite of documents are by far and away the best ‘first base’ when starting out on any project.

CIBSE have produced a series of guides that unpack the requirements of the standards. If you are a Building Services Engineer these may well be of use to you and they can be found here; http://www.cibse.org/knowledge/cibse-publications/cibse-digital-engineering-series.

If you would like to join us in the conversation around BIM and Digital Engineering, you can join the CIBSE Society of Digital Engineering at http://www.cibse.org/sde

For citations, read BIM Journal Issue 04 here.

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Nathan Hudson

Hello - Please feel free to drop me a line (especially if you're in Training or Academia - huge developments going on for you here). I am also the editor of BIM Journal.

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