Information Interoperability

Information overload

What makes construction management so challenging is the sheer amount of information available, the volume of the data means that we are often not able to extract or analyse the information quickly to make good project management decisions.

The difficulty is not only the volume but also the format of the information.

While we can control the information format within our own organisation, often we have less control over the information received from clients and other project members. We process pdf documents, images, audio, video word, emails, which cannot be displayed in rows and columns and relational databases.

Construction projects often do not have access or expertise in the use of cloud-based unstructured data processing tools and therefore it would be much more productive if the project information standards were set and followed.

In manufacturing, if product documentation is structured according to product data standards, the information about manufactured products can be, integrated into 3D models, and exchanged between different users in digital formats.

Adherence to the standards allows organisation and coordination of information and creation of Product Data Templates (PDT)

Standards

In June 2011 the UK Government announced the requirement of collaborative BIM, with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic on its projects by 2016 ‘Government BIM Mandate’ (The Infrastructure and Projects Authority, 2016), detailing the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) as the data requirements.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the government represented by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid commissioned an independent review of the building regulations and fire safety. The review led by Dame Judith Hackitt explicitly focussed on issues related to high-rise residential buildings.

The review concludes lack of general guidance and standards related to the creation, maintenance and handover of building and fire safety information. The report suggests that the building information if is present, it is often incomplete or held in paper form and is not accessible to the people who need to access it. The review recommends the use of a Building Information Modelling (BIM) approach and acknowledges the need for a Golden thread of building information. (Hackitt and Freng, 2018)

In 2018 the UK BIM Alliance created Product Data Working Group and after four months of extensive collaboration produced a report which concludes on seven areas: 

  1. STRUCTURED DATA – lack of definition for structured product data
  2. PRODUCT DATA STANDARDS – Deficiency in a standard for digital product data in the UK or Europe
  3. THE DATA JOURNEY – the absence of ‘golden thread’ of product information
  4. PRODUCT DATA NAMING AND PRODUCT IDENTIFICATION – Europe supersedes the UK in Product Data Templates
  5. PRODUCT DATA HOSTING – Cause coordination issues between manufacturers, designers and the supply chain.
  6. PRODUCT DATA SECURITY – Asset information security is inadequate to deal with the issues arising.
  7. A PRODUCT DATA STEERING COMMITTEE – Shortfall in coordination and leadership in the field of product information in the built environment.

(PRODUCT DATA WORKING GROUP, 2018)

 In 2019 Digital Built Britain (CDBB), part of the Construction Innovation Hub (CIH), with oversight from both The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS),

Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA) and support from the UK BIM Alliance, has undertaken a far-reaching data gathering exercise and examined the issues around information exchanges and the interoperability issues encountered during information management.

Their work contributed to the BIM Interoperability Expert Group (BIEG) Report, which provides evidence on what are the barriers for interoperable exchange and proposals for improvement.

The report establishes that information exchange forms part of the information management and modelling process, the interoperability by the provision of means of information transfer between different proprietary technologies is required. (BIM Interoperability Expert Group (BIEG), 2020).

One of the enablers of Golden thread of building information is COBie; the requirements are included in the UK National Annex published in January 2019 within BS EN ISO 19650-2:2018 (British Standards Institution, 2018)

The standard declares that non-geometric information exchanges in open data formats should be structured to COBie format and recommends Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) as the open data format for the geometrical information.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are developing solutions based on the following standards:

  • Construction Products Regulation (CPR) (The Directorate-General (DG) for Internal Market, n.d.), sets harmonised rules for the performance of construction products and regulates CEN standards.
  • ISO/CEN standards which organise information on construction products and contain information on the quality, performance and safety of the product, as well as the safety and quality of its components. (CEN, 2020)
  • ISO/TC 59/SC 13 “Organization of information concerning construction works” and European CEN / TC 442 “Building Information Modeling (BIM)”

Figure 2 – BIM Standardisation BIG Picture (AFNOR PPBIM) (de LOYNES, 2018)

The work of Technical Committee 59 (TC 59), who develops standards in Buildings and civil engineering working with a Subcommittee 13 (SC 13), who addresses an organisation of information,  in collaboration with European Committee for Standardization (CEN) Technical Committee 442 Building Information Modelling (BIM) standardisation resulted in the publication of significant standards (Ford, 2020)

  • governance of a data dictionary
  • Regulation of Product Data Template (PDT) structure, and relation to IFC structure
  • ‑1:2019 – Data structures for electronic product catalogues for building services
    • linked to IFC
  • – Management and operation of interconnected construction data dictionaries – Specification
    • compliments BS EN ISO 23386 through the specification of additional national requirements.

(British Standards Institution, 2020a, 2020b, 2020c, 2019)

The publication of standards has been enabled by the collaborative work of many working groups depicted in Figure 3 and Figure 4

Figure 3 – ISO TC 59 Standard (AFNOR) (de LOYNES, 2018)

Figure 4 – CEN 442 Standard AFNOR  (de LOYNES, 2018)

Conclusion

An enormous amount of work has been put into standardisation of the information exchange management.

The recent publication of ISO 23386 & ISO 23387 amplifies the shortcomings within the industry but also provides guidance. Furthermore, ISO/CD 19650-4 is underway with the committee draft study already initiated seems like the digital construction standardisation and interoperability peaked. The momentum should continue, especially if backed by continued Government support will bring significant positive changes.

The results of the reports and standards mentioned above can be summarised as follow:

There is a need for:

  • Further standardisation to open interoperability
  • Product Data standardisation and development of PDTs to make sure the data properties are non-ambiguous, machine-readable as well as human-understandable,
  • Government leadership
  • Development of the UK Government existing BIM policy (often referred to as the ‘BIM Mandate’)
  • Education and upskilling of all involved
  • Further development of IFC schema to support all asset types, including the specific Model View Definition COBie.
  • Uniclass 2015 seems to be the preferred classification system, but alignment to other conventions, such as CoClass and other, such as NRM and SFG20 is required

Bibliography

BIM Interoperability Expert Group (BIEG), 2020. BIM Interoperability Expert Group (BIEG) Report.

British Standards Institution, 2018. BS EN ISO 19650‑2:2018. BSI.

British Standards Institution, 2019. BS EN ISO 16757-1:2019.

British Standards Institution, 2020a. PAS 14191:2020.

British Standards Institution, 2020b. BS EN ISO 23387:2020.

British Standards Institution, 2020c. BS EN ISO 23386:2020.

CEN, 2020. CEN – Technical Bodies – CEN/TC 442 [WWW Document]. URL https://standards.cen.eu/dyn/www/f?p=204:29:0::::FSP_ORG_ID,FSP_LANG_ID:1991542,25&cs=1085D2CA41E34A1C2DA860E5234AA5A97#1 (accessed 9.12.20).

Ford, J., 2020. The future of the IFC-COBie saga [WWW Document]. URL https://www.bimplus.co.uk/analysis/future-ifc-cobie-saga/ (accessed 9.6.20).

Goodwin, A., n.d. Optimised Building Solutions.

Hackitt, J., Freng, D., 2018. Building a Safer Future Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report.

ISO, n.d. ISO – ISO/TC 59/SC 13 – Organization and digitization of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including building information modelling (BIM) [WWW Document]. URL https://www.iso.org/committee/49180/x/catalogue/p/1/u/0/w/0/d/0 (accessed 9.12.20).

de LOYNES, T., 2018. 10–18.

PRODUCT DATA WORKING GROUP, 2018. UK BIM ALLIANCE.

The Directorate-General (DG) for Internal Market, I.E. and Sme., n.d. Construction Products Regulation (CPR) [WWW Document]. URL https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/construction/product-regulation_en (accessed 9.15.20).

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority, 2016. 16.

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