Custodians of rival BIM product templates agree joint approach

The Construction Products Association (CPA), BIM4M2, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and NBS have agreed to work together to provide manufacturers with standardised forms or templates that they can populate with data on their products to create product data sheets.

These industry-agreed templates have standardised headings and categories for manufacturers to fill out. As the product data is presented in consistent and therefore digitally searchable format, templates will help manufacturers to prepare product information for use in level 2 BIM products.

An explanation posted on the NBS’s website explains: “Presenting product information in a standardised way offers many benefits to the supply chain. Imagine how difficult it would be to search online for a car without being able to compare its fuel efficiency and other characteristics.

“For construction products this is what we currently expect designers and specifiers to do. With standardised product data templates designers will be able to select, compare and analyse product data in a more accurate and efficient way than ever before.” 

Ian Chapman, director of the National BIM Library, told BIM+: “We are collaborating to align the work that we have all been doing. Over the past couple of years things have been disjointed with several different bodies creating different templates [for product data]. Now we have agreed to work together to create unified product data templates for manufacturers.” 

As Chapman mentions, RIBA Enterprises’ NBS and CIBSE have both created sets of templates for product manufacturers, creating a certain amount of confusion – and Chapman believes this has also contributed to manufacturers delaying the creation of BIM-ready product data sheets.

The NBS has created around 5,700 templates for different categories and sub-categories of construction products, which are accessible via its NBS BIM Toolkit. 

According to Chapman these templates contain the minimum requirements of information needed for Level 2 BIM. However, CIBSE has created fewer templates that are much more detailed, for instance covering operational performance.

The templates currently used in the NBS BIM Toolkit will form the basis for the unified templates, and over time the intention is to expand the requirements to include a greater depth of information, such as a product’s lifecycle and operational performance – moving them closer to CIBSE’s approach.

Chapman explained: “In the short-term the focus is on getting manufacturers to focus on the minimum Level 2 requirements, then we can build and expand the parameters in the templates.”

Nick Tune, director of the UK division of Norwegian BIM data services company CoBuilder, welcomed the collaboration, but highlighted the need for the UK industry and product manufacturing sector to take an international perspective, for instance by aligning with the existing BuildingSmart Data Dictionary project and France’s PPBIM dictionary for construction products.

No date has yet been agreed for the publication of the unified templates, and it’s expected that they will gradually become aligned over the next couple of years.

The new unified templates, and common product data parameters, will be available in three different locations: the CPA website; the NBS BIM Toolkit; and the CIBSE website.

Mark Bew, chairman of the BIM Task Group, said: “When the BIM Task Group identified the client data requirements which are now provided in the BIM Toolkit, we were looking for other communities to work together to provide their own common data requirements.

“This initiative from the products and manufacturing sector signals an important collaboration from industry which will add significant value and clarity.”

Peter Caplehorn, deputy chief executive of the Construction Products Association, added: “The CPA welcomes this move forward. We are at a point where clarity and ease of use of product data is vital for everyone to make progress. We are very pleased to be part of the initiative and will be encouraging all manufacturers to take part.”

This initiative from the products and manufacturing sector signals an important collaboration from industry which will add significant value and clarity.– Mark Bew, BIM Task Group

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  1. At last joined up thinking, instead of all going of at tangents! Just hope that it will be followed through into all aspects of BIM in Construction

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