BIM — it’s all about the classification

Published:  08 May, 2014

Exploiting the full potential of BIM — John Sands.

The whole-life implications of BIM makes desirable a new approach to classification. BSRIA’s John Sands shares his thoughts.

As BIM (building information modelling) experience increases, a number of key issues are becoming apparent. One such example is classification — what ‘things’ are called. If you have a vast quantity of data or information, that can be a very powerful resource. However, all that potential may be difficult to realise if you can’t find the particular piece of information efficiently when you need it.

Classification can be defined as ‘the act or process of dividing things into groups according to their type’.

Classification has been used in the construction world for many years, often without the users knowing it. For example, many engineers would recognise that a section called ‘T10’ in their specification dealt with ‘gas/oil-fired boilers’. This came from a classification system called Common Arrangement of Work Sections (CAWS), which covered architectural and MEP elements for construction projects.

Subsequently, Uniclass was derived from this system and gave the opportunity to classify ‘things’ in different ways, not simply as a system or an object. Uniclass was based on the general structure described in ISO 12006, which promoted the use of classification classes, each of which relates to a classification need. As well as products (or objects), some of the other classes suggested by ISO 12006 are listed below.

• Entity: e.g. a building, a bridge, a tunnel

• Complex: (a group of entities) e.g. airports, hospitals, universities, power station

• Space: e.g. office, canteen, parking area, operating theatre

• Product: e.g. boiler, door, drain pipe

• Facilities: this combines the space with an activity which can be carried out there, e.g. operating theatre.

BRE announces BIM level 2 training and certification

The Government’s BIM strategy requires the delivery of BIM level 2 using set process standards such as PAS1192-2:2013, which identifies specific roles to facilitate the delivery of information — namely an information manager (project or task) and a project delivery manger.

BRE now provides a BIM level 2 training and certification pathway to help construction professionals to meet the BIM challenge and new ways of working.

This training and certification pathway comprises a series of BIM accredited training programmes and examinations.

For information managers they are BIM level 2 task information manager and BIM level 2 project information manager.

For project delivery managers there is BIM level 2 project delivery manager.

These BIM level 2 courses involves two days of training for information managers and three days for project delivery managers — plus an examination. Training is provided by the BRE Academy.

Indeed, other classes can be added to a classification system such as ‘system’, which works very well in an MEP environment. Similarly, an ‘activities’ class would be very helpful to define a range of activities that might be able to be done within a particular space, as an alternative to using the ‘facilities’ class.

Although consultants and contractors have managed well using just a couple of the classes above, other groups have found great benefit in classifying in a number of different ways. For example, it would be very helpful in a hospital FM environment to use the ‘spaces’, ‘activities’, ‘systems’ and ‘products’ classes.

In a hospital, it is useful to classify the ‘spaces’ in the first instance by type, and then to classify each space further by which ‘activities’ can be carried out within them. From this it is possible to classify the ‘systems’ which support the spaces and then the ‘products’ which form the systems.

A practical example would be that if the chilled-water system was taken out of action then you could quickly see which spaces were affected — such as an operating theatre. Once that is known it is simple to determine which activities cannot be carried out — a number of planned operations. Also, other products or equipment can be identified which can now be worked on as the system they belong to is not working — chillers or chilled beams.

In this era of greater collaboration, it is not enough to know what we are calling things, which classification system we are using. We must communicate with those we are working with to make sure that the solution suits all of us and, moreover, that it is suitable for the whole life of the asset — not just the design or construction phase.

It may be that a new classification system is required to satisfy all parties involved in an asset and to make information available throughout its whole life. This is no simple task, and it becomes more complex when the range of assets is considered in both buildings and infrastructure.

It is tempting to try to find solutions to what we do individually, but it is vital that any solution must be suitable for all stages of an asset’s life, for all types of assets and for all those involved in the asset. Once this has been achieved, the full potential of BIM can start to be exploited, and tangible benefits demonstrated in the use of information management processes.

John Sands is BSRIA’s BIM champion and is actively involved in industry discussions on classification structures for BIM, representing the CIBSE at CPIC committee level on this topic. He sits on the CIBSE BIM group and represents BSRIA on the CIC BIM forum.

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