Trial highlights need for better consistency of BIM library data

A structured trial by BuildingSMART UK that looked at converting product data downloaded from BIM libraries into COBie outputs has concluded that a lack of standardisation is hindering the smooth flow of data.

The project team has now resolved to extend the project with a view to finding a solution, which could involve the BuildingSMART international Data Dictionary project.

Dave Jellings, a member of the BuildingSMART UK management committee who coordinated the trial, explained to BIM+ that the problem of inconsistency was known and understood within the industry, but a formal trial was a necessary first step to finding a solution.

“We wanted to identify the generic problems that we have with BIM library components – we thought there was a problem, but we wanted to trial it through various systems.

“We came to the conclusion that there is too much inconsistency, and next we will work with the BuildingSMART Data Dictionary to see if we can develop a schema that helps solve the problem.”

Jellings said that the next phase in the process would also involve working with the Construction Products Association and BIM libraries to move the industry on to a consistent data template.

“In practical terms, it’s quite a complex situation, but the BuildingSMART Data Dictionary could be a common thread linking all the [product] vendors and BIM libraries. BuildingSMART will be considering this at their standard summit in Singapore [12-15 Oct].” 

The COBie trial was one of three projects launched by BuildingSmart UK. Trials looking at transferring COBie data into asset management systems and standardisation of Employers’ Information Requirements are still ongoing. 

Four individuals – Gary Scott of Skanska, Julian Jameson of London Gatwick Airport, Carl Ahearne of Sir Robert McAlpine and Martyn Horne of Computers Unlimited – conducted the trial under “controlled” conditions.

Each downloaded equivalent BIM objects from different BIM libraries, representing acoustic ceiling tiles/tiling; fan coil units; furniture items; lighting/emergency lighting units; pump set; switch panel; doors and windows.

The participants added these to a basic BIM model constructed from the modelling software used within their organisations, then used the standard COBie construction programs available within their organisation to create the final output.

This meant that the software needed to pull in data for nine fields: contact; facility; floor; space; type; component; assembly; attribute; and coordinate.

But the trial recorded numerous glitches in the process, including loss of data, blank data fields, and variations on the location and naming of data within individual libraries.

Jellings said that the BuildingSMART Data Dictionary standard could form an international template that manufacturers and national BIM libraries would follow. However, the project, which attempts to remove language barriers from BIM and product terminology, is still evolving.

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  1. Coordinating BIM is like trying to herd cats. As a profession, the construction industry couldn’t even agree on a standard layering convention back in the pure CAD days, and often across the same office! Now the task is so much harder given the additional functionality that BIM offers and the input from other 3rd parties, plus the plethora of BIM software available using different drawing/model formats. ISO standardisation is required, but even then, how would you get people to sign up to it or enforce it?

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