COBie Field Trials a ‘brief’ summary

First of all a big thank you to everyone who has been involved in the trials (too many to mention them all). To have a high level client like Gatwick Airport and the countries top lead contractors testing and reporting on such important issues is a really positive sign for the future attitudes of the UK construction industry.

Obviously as a manufacturer my interest is mainly in how we get our content compliant and at the right level of detail so it can be used on actual buildings. However I couldn’t help but be enthused and exited by all the issues being discussed whether it be the need for PLQ’s (Plain Language Questions) from clients or choice of CDE’s (Collaborative Data Environments). I know more acronyms, there is definitely a Santa’s Grotto style workshop somewhere churning them out.

There were a number of key points made throughout the afternoon and as much as anything to help me make sense of them I have made a list, you’ve gotta love a list.

-Consistent, open, accurate and shareable information is essential. This may seem obvious but when there are reports of those involved on BIM projects still not wanting to share the model it seems not everyone is getting it.
-Project Information Model and Asset Information Model are one and the same.
-BIM does not mean ‘correct data’ COBie is there to allow the client to check what is happening. It allows everyone to take responsibility (not just the client) because everyone no matter what the software platform can share the digital information.
-8000 COBie errors is not unusual on a project, with the big question being how do we improve this. Is it realistic to create standardised links for different categories across software platforms?
-PLQ’s between clients, lead contractors, consultants, manufacturers and specialist contractors. There is not enough of this in real life let alone the BIM world!
-Clients should be clear about what they want in terms of information and not just ask for everything, and this comment was made by a client, brilliant!
-Coordinates and positioning is a real problem when federating models. Surely this is one of the easier things to sort out, come on Vendors, finger out time.
-Classification needs to be stable so it can be used by future generations and may be complicating issues. Can classification be simplified? I don’t see why not, more generic groups of products doesn’t have to be a negative step as long as the detailed performance information can be linked to the model.

There were a couple of comments that were more relevant to manufacturers detail. One from a lead contractor questioning how they ensure that they have the correct information from their supply chain. And secondly from those organising the trial in a way answering this by saying that manufacturers need more guidance on what level of detail is required. I couldn’t agree more with the need for guidance but I think the guidance needs to come from consultation not just be dictated down the supply chain. There are a number of manufacturers with the knowledge and enthusiasm to get involved in trials like this one and that is ultimately the best way to discuss what is needed from the client end and what is practical and deliverable form the suppliers end.

Hopefully the above will serve as a bit of an insight into my views of what was a thoroughly interesting afternoon, it is however a bit of a heavy topic for some. I thought David Philp made an excellent analogy towards the end of the Q & A session that helped communicate the underlying issue, it went something like this.

“A construction project is a bit like taking a taxi when on a weekend break to a foreign city (bear with us!). The client is the holidaymaker getting into the taxi, they know where they want to go but rely on the taxi driver (lead contractor) to get them there on time and for a reasonable price.”

Great analogy and demonstrates the need for a relationship based on trust, I’m sure there are plenty of tourists that come to London and feel they are being driven round in circles by some black cabs.

In conclusion I would like to expand on this analogy and introduce the tools that the lead contractor (taxi driver) uses to get from A to B. First there is ‘the knowledge’ or their experience of the local roads (building regs and supply chain) then to help out is the SatNav (specialist sub-contractor) and live traffic updates (manufacturers technical support).

I would like to expand this further but you will start to drop off and I will no doubt get lost in it, so I will finish by saying this. For COBie, BIM and construction in general to progress, get us involved we want to help and learn and by us I mean everyone.

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