BIM King For A Day: Part 2 - The Duck Test

 Bill East
 Lean Handover Production and Consulting

Even the most well-meaning changes to design and construction contracts and policies have unintended consequences. Regular readers may have seen me point out some of these issues. Given that it is easier to be the critic than the policy maker, this series of articles turns the table to answer the question, “What if I were BIM King for a day?”

This second in a series of articles outlining my views on achievable, contractible policy goals that recognize the reality of daily design and construction practice. In the previous article, I show how owners can achieve design quality without requiring any technology at all!

The Duck Test

What is the "Duck Test"? For the answer to this question, we turn to the poet James Whitcomb Riley who once quipped, “When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.” (wikipedia)

When we look at building design today and ask, “Where is the data?” Why not simply apply the Duck Test by asking, “What design deliverables walk and talk like the data we need to run our buildings?

3D Models?

When we look at a 3D model and apply the data Duck Test, the answer is not clear. Peering into these files we see a tremendous amount of information of one specific type, “geometric information.”

Geometric information is, of course, very helpful to reduce the cost of producing design drawings and identify physical collisions among building elements. Beyond geometry, there is wide variation in content due to differences in the expertise and workflows of individual designers and companies, local/regional practices, and software capabilities.

Design Drawings?

If we cannot be sure about the non-geometric content of a 3D building design, what about information on the drawings produced from those designs. The design drawing is where we hit the information jackpot! Why? Because we have something on design and construction drawings that when we apply the Duck Test, “walks and talks like information.” That something is the drawing schedule.

There are three types of schedules on design drawings. The first are schedules defining individual elements -- examples here are equipment schedules such as fans and pumps and room finish schedules. The second are schedules for types of building elements – examples here are fixture schedules. The third type are schedules where some of the element properties are properties of the type of item and other properties are properties of the individual element – examples here are door and window schedules. This third type of schedule, since it lists each element individually, is but a special case of the first type of schedule.

While virtually everyone who sees the picture of the facility manager in the boiler room recognizes the value of COBie, most designers feel that it is not their job to deliver that information. And, in fact, it is not their job to provide that whole set of information, However, it is a designer’s job to provide a description of the building that an owner will pay to construct. That description includes the list of products and equipment in the building and the criteria needed for their selection. That information is primarily found on the design drawing schedules.

Recommendation #2

By the power invested in me as BIM King for a Day I now pronounce Recommendation #2 -- All design contracts shall require designers provide one complete and consistent set of spreadsheets that match design drawing schedules.

Expected Result

Information contained design schedules can yield contractible information for the client without specifying design technology or practice.

While automated export of COBie-compliant data is preferred, industry understanding of COBie is not yet widespread. Requiring schedules is an effective, contractable, and intermediate step toward COBie. Designers using BIM be forced to begin capturing design data beyond geometry. If the data is on the drawings, then it won't be long before the data is in the model itself.

There you have it. Hip, Hip, Hooray for the BIM King for a Day!

What's Next?

Next, we look at what types of conventions could be added to the requirement to deliver spreadsheets for drawing schedules to simplify the quality control process and ensure downstream compatibility with building information standards, such as COBie.

Published April 2017