For owners, the Rubik’s Cube of construction is reducing, repurposing and augmenting design and construction data into accurate and useful facilities models for operations and maintenance. Now, owners, designers, builders, facilities managers and vendors are working together on projects around the country to solve the puzzle. They say they are not only succeeding, but the payoff is significant.
“It’s really catching on. Owners are starting to realize the value of it,” says Hyde Griffith, vice president for BIM services at Broaddus & Associates Inc., Austin, Texas. Broaddus is the owner’s rep and project manager for construction and data capture on a $110-million health sciences center at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. “When it came up a couple of years ago, I didn’t know how I was going to get it done, but I knew it was possible,” Griffith says.
As it turns out, delivering data from the construction phase into the life-cycle model is not as challenging as Griffith once feared. The introduction of relatively easy-to-use tools and process adjustments are the key. And the discipline the process imposes is improving construction quality and speeding delivery.
“It’s really valuable,” says Andy Deschenes, regional director of virtual design and construction at Skanska USA Building Inc., Parsippany, N.J. “It’s on the front edge of where design and construction are going.”
On a recent project to expand a co-generation facility serving the University of Massachusetts Hospital, Skanska coordinated with the owner’s facilities management (FM) team and field-data-collection software vendor Vela Systems to devise a system using mobile devices, including iPads and tablet PCs, to pull asset information into a life-cycle database during construction. The process required analysis of need and planning, but it paid dividends by smoothing out the execution. “The extensive planning helps us be more efficient as we go along,” Deschenes says.
“The great thing is that we are doing a lot of this out in the field. Supervisors have iPads slung over their shoulders—they don’t have to shuttle between the jobsite and the trailer. A lot of this info gets grabbed out there when it’s hot. [Workers] are synching right into the database with field reports as things get put in place,” Deschenes says. “That’s where you are going to see BIM continue to grow—with more applications in the field.”
The shift to life-cycle facilities modeling is more like a movement with many interlocking components than a trend. Forward-thinking owners who want FM models, such as the General Services Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are playing leadership roles, as are corporate owners such as Eli Lilly and Co. and numerous health-care organizations. City and state governments, colleges and universities also are driving demand.
The owners all are after the same thing: to improve the quality of construction and make the data handed over to facilities truly useful, rather than being either a paper or digital landfill as in the past.
Playing supporting roles are the designers, contractors and subs who must adjust their ways of capturing component data and accurate as-builts through the building phase. Also supporting are the equipment manufacturers who are the sources for the specifications, warranties and maintenance data that FM modelers need. Beneath all that is an array of blue-sky thinkers and technology vendors testing and coordinating ideas and standards, delivering field-data collection hardware and creating systems and data management platforms to bring it together (see p. 29).
Texas A&M’s Intelligent Handover
At Texas A&M University, a two-building Health Sciences Center has become a proving ground for intelligent handover. The center consists of a $68-million health education building, a $60-million medical research and education building as well as a central utility plant. Construction on the first building is finished, and the second building will be completed in April.
The university faced data challenges. The school wanted to end up with a complete set of building information data for facility management, although it had not yet chosen a facilities management software vendor—what FM teams call a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Thus, the university wanted the data in a neutral format that could be used by any CMMS they settled on.
Broaddus’ Griffith says he came into the project when it was already halfway through design. BIM had been specified but not adequately defined. He makes a clear distinction between doing 3D coordination, which he calls “a geometric exercise,” and BIM. He says the project needed to “switch to the world of BIM” with the emphasis on the “I” for information.
“If we can’t get the information out of the model, its really not a BIM, it’s just a 3D model,” Griffith says. However, 3D models, structured in a prescribed way, were the first deliverable the team required of the contractors. “And we specifically called them 3D models, not BIM,” he says.
But the university ultimately wanted its CMMS built on an intelligent 3D model. Consulting with Kimon Onuma, president of Onuma Systems, Pasadena, Calif., Broaddus turned to open standards—the Construction Operations Building Exchange (COBie) framework for data structure and OmniClass for classifying spaces—to gather and integrate data during design and construction.
Onuma says COBie lowers the bar for adding data to BIM and FM databases. The interface consists of standard role-based templates for entering information or importing it. The key, however, is that COBie forces projects to adopt a consistent data structure that gives each object or piece of equipment a unique identifier and locates it in a uniquely named space. Data sources can be imports of COBie-compliant data, spreadsheets or manual entry. “COBie forces normalization. We are not imposing the need to understand BIM. You just have to be sure [entries have] a relationship to the database,” Onuma says.
The adoption and enforcement of a data structure and inputting information with a simple interface eases adoption and use, Onuma says. His firm now is working with Broaddus on three projects for the GSA to develop construction-to-FM model handover standards and systems.
What’s Important for That Facility?
“In our GSA work we are asking our [facilities managers] what’s important to them for that facility,” and then those factors become a higher priority, Onuma says. “Then you look at the full construction model and find out that maybe only 5% of that is relevant.” He says it’s easy to strip things out of the construction model to develop the 3D base that the facility management model needs. “You can still park the design and construction model in the database as an as-built, but you wouldn’t expect the FM team to have to open the construction model. You identify those pieces they need and put them into a COBie format, and you are basically harvesting information.”
The health-care center was the first large project in the world to use COBie, Onuma confirms. Broaddus used software from EcoDomus Inc., Reston, Va., as the database platform. Igor Starkov, EcoDomus co-founder, says that building the FM database requires each project participant to enter the data on only the parts of the process they touch. The architect assigns the space nomenclature, and the contractors and subs identify the components they place, importing manufacturers’ cut sheets, or attaching pdfs, photos or even sketches to items at locations. “It’s an additive layering process. Models should be updated as the construction project goes along, not at the end when the project is almost done,” Starkov says.
Evaluating the cost and value of the effort for owners and contractors means comparing the new process to traditional ways of manually collecting handover data at project end, adds Griffith. At handover on the first building of the health center,...