Using OpenBIM for 5D: Working Collaboratively is a Catalyst for Software Changes

The $1.8 billion Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital (SCPUH) project is a State Government initiative to address the growing health service needs of the Sunshine Coast community. The public hospital will open with approximately 450 beds in 2016, growing to a 738 bed facility by 2021. At construction peak it is expected to have created 1800 jobs created across all facets of the building and construction industry.

Out of a project of this magnitude, opportunity to innovate and instigate process improvements can resonate quickly within project teams and when taken a step further can have a significant impact not just industry wide but globally.

The project, like others of its scale and nature, contracts with more than one design team and often consultants to the project are required to be across the range of 3D authoring tools. Part of Mitchell Brandtman’s work on the project involved 5D quantities for the ceilings and partitions package authored by HDR Rice Daubney in joint venture with Architectus, known as Sunshine Coast Architects (SCA).

Reliability of IFC:

One of the key industry issues associated with BIM is the accurate data transfer relating to Industry Foundation Class (IFC) exports. This is a facility that allows information to transfer across software platforms so that designers, programmers, quantity surveyors, project managers and ultimately the sub-contractors can utilise the data for their part of the job.

A key focus of the collaborative work between Mitchell Brandtman’s 5D QS team and Lendlease’s cost planning team was to revision all of the quantities against the latest design. The reason for this was so that subcontract letting could be completed on the latest designs.

When CostX is the 5D platform this is a relatively simple task for Revit but it can be more difficult with ArchiCAD – simply because the interface between CostX and ArchiCAD is less common. The prototype workflow developed through the MB and Lendlease collaborative work was smooth for most objects with the exception of ceilings. Ceilings required special attention and a number of manual copy paste steps which were prone to errors if not manually checked and rechecked with every revision.

HDR Rice Daubney (part of the SCA joint venture) authored the ceilings and partitions package in ArchiCAD, Graphisoft’s globally utilised BIM software. Once exported to IFC, it became apparent that only a selection of the depth of information created in ArchiCAD was available within the exported IFC file and so was insufficient for transferring into CostX, the 5D authoring tool that facilitates estimating for the total trade package in its default form.

Scott Beazley, Mitchell Brandtman’s Digital Technologies Manager said that upon receiving the file the standard settings for the IFC export from ArchiCAD provided the right information but not the detail needed to support a fully measured, accurate estimate that could be revised quickly as the design models developed. ôThe information was visible within the IFC file and could be accessed for estimating use but was in a form that it could be retrieved only in a very manual and tedious way that would certainly also slow down revisioningö said Scott.

Due to the nature of the way this project in particular is managed and the collaborative culture across the project consultants, Mitchell Brandtman and HDR Rice Daubney (part of the SCA joint venture) teams met to discuss the data transfer issue and demonstrate the importance of having access to all the necessary data created within the native ArchiCAD file in the exported IFC file

Paul Brodala – Project BIM Model Manager, agreed that there was an immediate need to discuss enlarging the data export directly with the software developers, Graphisoft and ask their help to alter the way ArchiCAD exports data.

ôThe SCPUH project is the largest ArchiCAD project underway in Australia at the moment. It was very clear to us the importance of exposing all of the data and the benefits this would have on time and cost not just for the ceilings and partitions but more widely across other project packages and potentially other ArchiCAD modelled projectsö said Paul.

Ahead of the curve:

The HDR Rice Daubney (part of the SCA joint venture) team met with Graphisoft in Hungary to demonstrate the requirements of the software change to better support the collaboration workflow with quantity surveyors (watch video here). Whilst often software developers are not immediately in touch with what the users require due to the lag from project issues to user group discussions and proposals to the software developers, the immediacy applied to this data shortfall was very apparent. Graphisoft readily agreed to change the way ArchiCAD exports data to help.

Graphisoft software development Vice President, Mr Laszlo Vertesi, quickly welcomed the opportunity to innovate the product in relation to real project requirements, especially of such scale. “It required a simple change to the mapping of the parameters in ArchiCAD to expose more of the data regardless of the object being exported. This now puts the interrogation of the data in the hands of consultants with the experience to utilise it at a very detailed level” he said.

The software change was tested and implemented within two weeks. The collaboration with HDR Rice Daubney (part of the SCA joint venture) and Graphisoft meant that the manual steps relating to the ceilings were removed because the MB and Lendlease team had access to more information within the .ifc export and could write maps directly from the .ifc model. The complete ceiling and partition BoQ could then be revisioned quickly and the quantities could be dissected by location into much greater detail ie zone, department or even room by room. For Lendlease this meant increased speed but also much more flexibility in the way the quantities are presented.

The change implemented within ArchiCAD has already proved beneficial to other projects and where the quantities can be delivered in a way that the 5D QS can control the data required for CostX. This process improvement has a significant impact on revisioning time, an area that relies on the detail and accuracy of the data and the skills of the 5D QS to build on the new information and update the cost estimate quickly. On a project such as SCPUH this can be necessary sometimes daily and often weekly.

An additional important outcome of this initiative is that the software change will go on to benefit all designers and estimators working with ArchiCAD globally. It will ensure that other projects aren’t stuck with the time consuming work of having to manually import data at each model stage through to construction. This is a significant but often unrecognised saving as a direct result of a project environment built around a culture of whole team collaboration.

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