Measure building surveys in London

The BIM generation

BIM (Building information modeling) has transformed digital data, but believe it or not been with us since the late 1980’s.  So, with nearly 70% of today’s UK workforce having grown up with computers and digital technology I am often astonished that we are still debating the how, why and who has the ownership to our digital data resources.

Let’s look at the ideal BIM utopia.  A global database of information relating to every items production, maintenance, energy consumption and carbon count. However, in reality, there are many factors that make the prospect of total data transparency a distant pipe dream.  The issues are not in the digital data itself, who would have a problem with a one or a zero, but in the value to the organisation that defines and controls it.  So, whether on a global, national, corporate or personal level withholding data maintains security and provides a far greater benefit both financially and commercially to those that have it as opposed to if it was shared and freely available.

Who has ownership of BIM project data?

So, the next step back from global BIM domination would be at a national level.  Can a country maintain data complete data transparency? Well currently, as we head towards the 1st quarter of the 21st century the answer still has to be NO it cannot.  Even at a corporate and personal level we value the data we hold and in a capitalist society that value relates to pound in the pocket.  There is and will continue to be for the foreseeable future a cost associated with obtaining information. Having more or better information than someone else can define how individuals, organisations or countries can succeeds or fail.

So by determining that data has in one form or another a monetary value there has to be a mechanism that can allow data to be traded.  This is normally completed under some form of contract for a pre-agreed sum.  

The client usually has the greatest financial stake holding to a project, after all they would be the one receiving the final outcome. It would therefore be reasonable to assume that all the data acquired during the course of a projects delivery also comes under their ownership.  This is not always the case and throughout a supply chain information is being obtained and not passed on.  The reasons behind this are many but having established that the final stakeholder is the owner, shouldn’t it be for them to decide?

BIM Measured building survey by PointSCAN 3D laser survey

Do you really need to know?

With information being accumulated from the beginning of a project you must look to a project’s completion to understand who has benefited the most.  What reasons are there for withholding information and why when working on the same project are we still finding individual teams within that are working on a need to know basis.

As a company PointSCAN can apply its 3D laser scanning services at multiple stage throughout a project’s lifecycle starting with initial site surveys followed by construction and fabrication data and applying as-built verification and documentation for project handover.  In a large percentage of our projects we obtain 3D scan data which is converted into CAD drawings and models.  

In many cases our client’s do not have the facilities to convert scan data and it may seem irrelevant therefore if it is not provided.  However, it would become costly and impractical to provide our clients with documentation showing the highest level of detail.  So, drawings and models are provided which can easily be read and understood.  This provides a balance between cost and practicality safe in the knowledge that the provision of the original data source provides additional information should it be required.

There may be some who believe that if they provide all the data the client you may not have an opportunity to generate additional any income.  Although for the sake of this argument the benefits of a good customer relationship may be far better income generator.   

The following diagram, taken from a recent BIM4Water event demonstrates how the dilution of digital data influences different stages of a projects progress. 

Can data transparency create efficiencies?

In a recent case PointSCAN were asked to attend a site by a sub-contractor who needed verification of some measurement data. Nothing out of the ordinary there apart from the fact that it was clear the site had already been surveyed.  The sub-contractor had been provided a CAD model and drawings, but they did not achieve the level of detail required to complete the specific task.  This would not normally be an issue as the original point cloud data would contain all the original site measurement data. Had the original point cloud been available the cost of producing the additional work would be significantly reduced.  There are some fundamental principles to project management to which inefficiency isn’t one.

A similar scenario relates to multiple supply chain partners all needing their particular information streams and completing their own assessments with undoubtedly produce pockets of data with multiple overlaps, perhaps with conflicting information created by different sources favouring preferred methods etc. and increasing the risk of gaps in data. 

These scenario can be reproduced in a variety of formulations and are still common across projects.  It can also be demonstrated that data is inherently diluted as the financial stakeholding costs increase.  Yes, projects have a tendency to change and develop over a period of time meaning that some information is no longer relevant, but what happens to the archive information?  Information only becomes important when it is relevant to the user and who is to say what is unimportant to one may be important to another.

Continuing to our 3D laser surveys as an example of raw data.  They often containing far more information than the user may require. Some of which is discarded or diluted for simpler easier to manage data sets. This is then communicated to a further project stage which may again be diluted as the final output becomes more defined ultimately cumulating with the client receiving the minimum amount of data that will be required to meet their specifications. 

You don't know what you don't know?

It may also be appropriate at this point to demonstrate that at the completion of a project many members of a supply chain, holding all the data between them, are accessible.  Just how quickly can that information be lost as project teams disperse.   Referring back to a previous comment “information is only relevant when you need it”.

So, If by establishing that those that hold the data have the upper hand the importance of sharing and archiving raw data, such as point clouds, should be the ultimate responsibility of the final stakeholder. Needless to say, this responsibility can be delegated but allowing the distribution of identical verified information to all parties and reducing any dilution and misinterpretation across departments and trades can be seen to reduce a projects overall risk.  On the other hand, there would need for a change in culture in the way in which parties accept data from a “trusted source”, and does the risk therefore fall back on the data supplier?  Creating a successful and efficient BIM programme surly cannot be achieved by doing thing twice?

The one overriding factor is that BIM in whatever form will continue to deliver project efficiencies. Making data more accessible and transparent for future project generations. But I can’t help but feel that there will always be an element of allowing them to reinvent the wheel because we know something they don’t know.

In the meantime, PointSCAN shall continue to make available and provide raw and or processed survey data to all our client as a matter principle.  After all you pay for it!

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Many thanks to Ludmila Fadejeva at Bentley for providing some additional information

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