Asset Information and BIM
Blog by Ed Harrison, BIM Manager, Austin-Smith:Lord
One of the fundamentals to the future digital strategy surrounding BIM is the use of asset information to drive the In-Use stage of the process; to enable a Client to better manage their new investment and understand what that investment can return in the future. Instead of pouring money into seemingly bottomless bucket, the right asset information will inform a Client of almost anything they want to know about their building or ‘asset’. At handover of a project they would be in possession of an ‘Asset Information Model’, the AIM as it has become known.
When Austin-Smith:Lord introduced BIM in 2014 we aligned our internal processes to the then recently released PAS1192-2:2013 document. We also began a root and branch change to all the 2D and 3D objects in our libraries to enable asset information to be added as and when needed. We chose Revit as our platform of choice and later versions of the software added the parameters to our objects automatically in a more structured manner.
Because of our forethought in appreciating the importance of asset data and the likelihood that Clients would demand the provision of such information by default, we developed a set of Maintainable Asset Categories in liaison with one of the first Clients we worked with who required an AIM as a deliverable. This placed us in a primary position when we were subsequently appointed on a number of large scale projects, many of which were in the further education sector. The asset categories we had identified were based around the key parts of a building requiring regular maintenance and replacement or which may be subject to excessive use or damage especially within heavily used public areas.
All this groundwork was worth the effort, but we encountered problems when trying to engage a Client who, while requesting BIM Level 2 as a deliverable, didn’t understand their obligations under the PAS suite of documents. We still encounter this today, even after the withdrawal of the PAS documents and the introduction of the ISO BS 19650 BIM standards. Our extensive experience with BIM meant we were sometimes appointed as a BIM consultant and authored Employers Information Requirements (EIRs), BIM Execution Plans (BEP) and for advice on BIM procurement generally.
When a Client has only a small understanding of BIM and especially the concept of asset information and its uses, the lack of clarity for the design team can lead to errors and an over-production of information that the Client doesn’t need or actually can’t even use. The design team may introduce their own set of asset requirements based on their anticipated needs of the Client. The Client may not understand these in any detail and may end up receiving irrelevant or incorrect data. Ultimately this results in wasted time and resource. Early stage Client engagement with the BIM process and a simple set of initial plain language questions can alleviate this. Don’t assume anything that the Client may want from a Level 2 BIM delivery requirement without asking and checking.
In 2014 Austin-Smith:Lord were appointed to design a new digital media building for the University of West England. This was completed in 2017 and coincided with the University’s strategy to have digitised 90% of the 70 hectare estate by mid 2020. The asset information requirement at the time was COBie based via a detailed list of parameters within the most comprehensive EIR documents we had seen up to that point. This meant writing the BIM execution plan was a relatively straight forward process and a Client who completely understood their own requirements made the implementation of BIM a much more fluid process. UWE, who run a BIM MSc program, are ensuring they practice what they preach.
Austin-Smith:Lord were then also appointed to design another building on the university campus, to house the Fabrication Department, Centre for Print Research and Studios, known as Building 2. Asset data was a fundamental deliverable for incorporation into the University’s CAFM software. Information was delivered to the Client who then used Revitzo to check and validate both the asset and graphical data during each stage of the process. The ‘finished’ data was uploaded to their Archbus CAFM platform. We have also recently been appointed for the refurbishment of another building on the campus (B Block), again to BIM Level 2.
One of the key personnel driving this innovative strategy for the University is Mike Ford, the Digital/BIM Manager at UWE. Austin-Smith:Lord asked him for some feedback on how the provision and use of asset information has benefited the University.
Q. WHEN DID THE STRATEGY TO INCLUDE ASSET INFORMATION DATA IN NEW BUILD PROJECTS START?
A. Late stages of construction of the business school building (Faculty of Business and Law). Around 2016/2017.
Q. WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS BEHIND THAT STRATEGY?
A. Streamlining. BIM was already a requirement on that project, in having a separate asset management process we were effectively asking for the same information by two different methods.
Q. WHO FORMULATED THE STRATEGY WITH REGARD TO THE INFORMATION REQUIRED? WAS IT SOLELY UWE DRIVEN?
A. Information strategy was solely UWE driven, at the time the project Architect and BIM lead gave us advice on how to use COBie.
Q. HOW IS THE INFORMATION NOW MANAGED AND USED?
A. Disappointingly our CAFM system (Archibus) was miss-sold as having a working Revit plug-in. It does have a plug in, but it doesn’t work and was passed back to their development team about 6 months ago. In the meantime we’ve developed an Excel based system. Information is extracted from the model using a Rushforth tools add-in. I created an Excel sheet which takes the data and applied validation rules. When the data is cleaned up and validated, the sheet produces input sheets for Archibus and Rushforth. Archibus and the model are then updated using the validated data.
Q. HAVE YOU SEEN TANGIBLE BENEFITS FROM HAVING THE ASSET DATA AVAILABLE?
A. The data has always been a requirement. The things that have changed is the method for acquiring it. The data is business and safety critical. What has changed is the amount of data and the number of assets we collect data on. We’re also more successful at collecting data, as BIM has built data into the ‘business as usual’ workflow, granted not everyone has caught up to this way of thinking yet.”
Q. IN WHAT WAY COULD THE PROCESS BE IMPROVED DURING THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION STAGES?
A. Construction professionals don’t tend to understand the importance of data and the way it is structured and standardized. Terms like data structure, field size, data type, data validation etc are all unfamiliar but all critical for construction data to migrate into a database. COBie does attempt to address this, but in my opinion will always fall short because the data restrictions are dependent on the clients’ system which will be different for each client.
Mike has written & presented across the country on the strategy the University is following.
What Mike’s responses indicate is that firstly, a Client who fully understands the advantages of the BIM process & especially asset data, is the Client who will benefit the most through the lifecycle of the built asset. Post Grenfell, the use of the ‘golden thread’ term has spread & UWE use the information for health & safety purposes as well as for managing the facility & supporting academic purposes. With the right information, structured in the right way, there are number of potential benefits to a Client.
They also demonstrate that to understand the advantages, a Client needs to invest, at the very least, some time in researching the advantages. Those advantages must be aligned to what the Client actually wants from the asset. If, upon analysing the process, a Client doesn’t require asset data, but can see the benefit of coordinated and clash resolved design prior to site start, that basic requirement allows the design team to work to that target more efficiently.
The key to understanding this is education & increasing awareness. That needs to be taken on not just by willing professionals able and competent enough to advise and guide a Client, but also by industry advisory bodies & professional organisations.