Pick Up the Pieces

 Bill East
 AOH-BSEM Technical Team Lead

The latest example of our industry’s obsession with chasing buzzwords instead of making real change can be seen in the near unanimous embrace of “Digital Twin.” If you disagree, let me simply ask, “Where is the testable definition of a Digital Twin deliverable?” Sorry, this does not exist. Digital Twin is an aspirational vision for an industry that goes from topic to topic without solving root causes.

For those that have been breathing during the last decade, does the current vision smell like the introduction of “Building Information Modeling,” “Level of Development,” and “Soft Landings”? Each requiring a specialized document alphabet (AIR, EIR, BxP, etc…) whose ill-defined content is dependent on the people doing the documentation.

The realized value of BIM for projects (whose team never posts on social media) is (a) ability of designers to create construction drawings and renderings with fewer draftsmen, and (b) improvements in measurement precision that allows pipe spool prefabrication. What is the actual innovation allowing these changes? Graphic processers able to produce isometric projections faster than 60 frames per second.

Let’s do a thought experiment… What if the construction of every project depended on the skills of the people doing the work and not standards? How many buildings built 20 years ago would still be standing?

Without standards that define quality, the question of how many buildings would still be standing is not obvious. To see this in history, we only need to look back to the first uses of concrete in buildings. In the early 20th century, each concrete contractor had their own proprietary concrete mix designs. Owners needing to find a way to determine if concrete buildings were safe assessed each building by number of post-project insurance claims. For many years concreting contractors resisted any attempt to impose objective standards to measuring concrete construction quality.

We have a similar situation when information delivered on a project depends on those delivering the information.

What the case of concrete quality teaches us is that the quality of a product, either physical or informational, must be based on implementation and enforcement of objective testable standards whose inclusion in contracts ensures non-payment for non-performance. We cannot expect those who operate our facilities to articulate what they need, any more than we could ask a building occupant what strength of materials should be used in their building. We cannot wait until years after the end of the project to find out that we can’t enforce warranty provisions or don’t have the information we need to run facilities efficiently.

Today, no project would stand for poor quality concrete in our foundations. Why would we stand for poor quality foundations for the information needed to deliver our engineered environment?

Not to mix a metaphor, I am pleased to announce that concrete progress has been made toward a process to rapidly create and implement objectively testable, contractible information deliverable standards.

buildingSMART International has begun to outline a roadmap to capture and deliver of contractable project data regardless of the type of project or subject. I have had the honor to lead a technical team supporting this project over the last three years and can, for the first time, present what we have achieved.

In my next post, I will describe the new buildingSMART International’s Asset Operations Handover (AOH). For now, let me help you frame your thinking about Asset Operations Handover (AOH).

AOH defines a complete informational picture of all parts of a project. Like the jig-saw picture above, the complete picture is comprised of different pieces. Specialists, over time, create content that must be integrated. Missing or out-of-shape pieces can quickly be identified and defined. To accomplish this, AOH defines the rules by which each information puzzle piece can be quickly scoped, defined, specified, and enforced.

In future posts, I will describe how the AOH framework and its application -- an ISO-based alternative to prior national construction handover specifications that will support the delivery of building equipment maintenance data.

The ultimate purpose of this series of posts is to help policy makers and corporate owners to find a way out of the endless cycle of market offerings that eat time and profit. Contractors who eliminate these previously hidden overhead costs allows those who participate to gain first-mover advantages over their competitors. Owners who enforce these specifications can be expected to add one free effective workday per week to their maintenance staff.

Published September 2022