Data validation and extraction

30Nov14

The challenge beyond geometry

Counting bricks… or welds?

Cost consultants are often criticised for being late to the BIM party, but it’s important to consider what we actually need to do with BIM data to make it useable in an industry that is still evolving around the idea of data alignment.

Traditionally, as a profession, we apply complex measurement rulesets, such as the RICS new rules of measurement, to design information in order to extract information from data in a format and taxonomy that can be utilised by the supply chain on a consistent basis. Remember, we don’t design anything; we just receive and interpret information from others.

Taken a step further, carbon calculation, value and risk management, waste minimisation, and a myriad of other metrics are then dependant on this reliable, structured information to be effective.

It’s easy to think of this as ‘counting bricks’, but the normalisation of design data through rules of measurement into information has been a cornerstone of QS practice for many decades. Consistent application of rulesets is essential to communicate commercial intent to all levels of the supply chain who make their business-critical decisions based upon the application of their data to our information.

Measuring the welds on the complex pipework of a gas platform in Toronto differs significantly from that of the mass concrete underpinning of a station concourse in Birmingham, but the datasets we interpret could have been authored in the same way, or federated from multiple sources, each with their own idiosyncrasies. Variations in the way authoring platforms treat objects or export neutral formats, such as Industry Foundation Classes, can have a significant effect on our ability to interpret and extract data with the consistency we need to apply for procurement.

Every time a different practice then applies their own ‘standard’ to the upstream data, we have to start from scratch, and often it is this that drives the behaviours of the QS practitioner toward the traditional paper-based outputs.

The use of information to make commercial and operational decisions is a key activity at every project stage. Clients demand predictability of cost and schedule – often a business case or development appraisal depends on certainty of outcomes right from the beginning of the project process. We have had to evolve in the way we handle the ‘big data’ across all our offices, and the application of that, to facilitate the decisions our clients need to make.

Put simply, the inconsistent application of data in the modelling process can negate any benefit we get from the designers’ BIM, as the resource and technical input needed to transform data each time can outweigh the cost and time constraints of traditional process. To compound this, the rulesets we apply are determined by location, sector and taxonomy.

In summary, what has changed is the type of data we are presented with from the designers, and when we get it. Typically this is rich 3D-based data with variable structure, defined earlier in the design process, from which the traditional process outputs of drawings or schedules are generated.

In other words: BIM.

Dave Monswhite.  Associate Director – Building Information Modelling, Turner & Townsend Cost Management

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