5D Round-Tripping and Model Validation

Scott Beazley discusses current initiatives on defining 5D technology workflows and guidelines to support BIM.

There is no denying that the construction industry is rapidly advancing in the area of BIM and integrated project delivery. We see progression of the technology in the space at a pace that far exceeds our ability to adapt our more traditional approach to design and construction. Change is happening within weeks and months and everyone within the industry faces the challenge of bringing technology best practice together to benchmark standards in project delivery for leaner, better buildings.

My belief in the current capabilities of the technology stems firstly from my QUT research and development of the ôNational Digital Modelling Guidelinesö in 2008. Seconded to the then, CRC Construction Innovation, now the Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (SBEnrc), I was tasked to investigate the multi-disciplinary use and collaboration issues in the construction of integrated models, under the leadership of Tom Fussell and Robin Drogemuller.

My research reviewed current overseas initiatives and projects along-side six major Australian projects where BIM technologies had been applied. In addition to the project analysis the research was supported by consultations with project partners and industry forums in five capital cities to help formulate a document that provides a ground breaking understanding of the implications of these new technologies.

What’s important to note here is that more than four years ago the research pointed to the applicability of digital modelling to the whole lifecycle of buildings and the greatest possibility to integrate data at the earliest stages of design and development through to off-site fabrications and finally the operation and management of the building.

Game Changers:

It is certainly clear that governments have a critical role as the game changer in the take up of BIM. We have already seen examples of this in Norway, Finland, Denmark, USA and now in the UK, where the Government’s intention to require collaborative 3D BIM has resulted in significant progress being made in a very short time.

As governments own assets and invest in buildings over much longer periods, the motivation to extract greater value and longevity is of far greater importance. In order to move an initiative forward the business case for industry needs to be very clear. Governments can make the case for change and industry will listen. In addition we can also see the shift coming from other building custodians, such as superannuation funds who want assets within their portfolios that perform better and cost less to maintain. The evidence of lifecycle costing for the better maintenance and management over the full life of the asset equates to a strong business case to invest in the BIM process.

The Federal Government and buildingSMART released the National Building Information Modelling Initiative (NBI) Report late in 2012, which champions the ôstrategy for the focussed adoption of building information modelling, and related digital technologies and processes, for the Australian built environment sector.”

As the Queensland Department of Public Works representative and visiting lecturer for QUT over the last 12 months I have been able to work as a domain expert on the research team developing a National Object Library (NOL) for the SBEnrc. The main objective of the development of the NOL is to bridge a significant gap in BIM adoption in Australia, as identified by the NBI Report, by providing high quality, reliable, data rich product information from manufacturers to industry.

The work in this area has ensured that property set definitions and object classifications, IFC Schema compatibility, local metadata requirements and the creation of BIM objects in a non-proprietary format, can be loaded directly into authoring BIM software. This means we don’t need multiple versions of every object to accommodate different software formats or versions. This will result in significant cost reductions for manufacturers when creating library objects and reduces the on-going maintenance of these objects. The NOL is also able to support the upgrading of the properties and the values of existing BIM objects to suit project requirements and ensure consistent quality data for downstream use ie. they apply throughout the building’s design, construction, operation and management.

NOL addresses the two elements û the geometry of the object and the properties of the object. Connecting both into a single source file within the NOL will save manufacturers as well as the supply chain throughout the entire life of a building and not just at design and development phase. The difficulty at present is that object properties are not well defined in Australia, requiring local customisation to varying standards. The NOL project is to address this lack of standards.

Stage 2 of the QUT project is about to commence with the aim to install local implementations of the NOL interface for project partners, and develop the content to include both the geometry and data properties of the objects. Product manufacturers will be involved in the engagement of their information to generate the geometry and populate the data parameters.

Validation and Round-Tripping

Joining Mitchell Brandtman allows me the opportunity to work from within and focus on streamlining the process of coding and making the concept of ôround-trippingö data a daily routine.

Currently, software limitations and disparate workflow processes across different project partners often form barriers to sharing common data. To overcome this Mitchell Brandtman has developed model validation techniques within its 5D workflow that allows data to become an integrated part of the designer’s model and is round-tripped to the native files and added to the BIM. This is achieved by working with incomplete models in the early phase of design û the round-tripping continually improves the BIM. This unique methodology also alleviates the need for the designer to input codes like QSID. In my role I am automating and strengthening these systems so that as the model reliance increases during design the 5DQS is confident of the completeness and correctness of each model.

For Mitchell Brandtman’s clients and project partners this will create more robust efficiencies when running models through functional benchmarking, continual revisioning and quantity take-off at tender and for subcontractor pricing.

Greater integration and transparency of the data as a model develops can be achieved through collaborative workflows and preservation of the coding. Initially it will depend on the scale and type of project and the stage of development of the model. Ultimately it should be the objective at the outset if the goal is to build better and save costs throughout the project as well as the life of the asset.

Fast Forward

Collaboration across government and private sector construction will ensure a fast forward and efficient approach to lean construction and effective lifecycle costing. The objectives continue to focus on clarity around project delivery. The development of national standards and guidelines, effective workflows for defined technologies and processes will greatly contribute to the success of BIM adoption and advancement.

All stakeholders in the industry need to invest in the development of the technologies that support our services and how they can be improved to generate greater savings and efficiencies in design and construction. My work with Mitchell Brandtman and continuing research with government and university sectors will focus keenly on these opportunities and delivering greater confidence and better outcomes within the digital context.

For more information contact Scott Beazley, Mitchell Brandtman, 07 3327 5000.