Good Content is…
One thing that sets Building Content Summit (BCS) apart from the other industry events that revolve around BIM, digital construction and construction R&D, is that in BCS we have a collaborative and practical approach to the topic. We could even call the event Building Collaborative Solutions and then we would not need to even touch the TLA. Three Letter Acronym, that is.
On Day Two, we started the program with a discussion session about “What is good content for me, and why you should care?”, where 10 summit attendees / industry professionals had three minutes and a single slide to pitch their opinion and then everyone else was invited to challenge, support or tear it apart in the following five minutes. The goal for the session was to introduce 10 different viewpoints to digital content and kick-start the discussion in the workshops that followed this session. The lesson learned was that this is a good format and in the upcoming years we should probably consider to book even more time for the debate.
Going through the viewpoints in the order they we’re presented:
- Ville Kyytsönen @ Uponor – manufacturers view
Manufacturers content should be the “single source of truth”. The content should be current, relevant, not-just-Revit and easy to access. When this is accomplished we will have better buildings, we can optimise construction processes and reduce waste. However, getting to the single source is not that easy. There are multiple delivery channels where the information needs to be published, it needs to support historical data as well and there is a big price tag on the optimal system.
Megan addressed the topic from a more technical point of view – content should be clear & clean to reduce file sizes, it needs to be functional and include all the relevant data & accuracy. This leads to High Quality. When content is vetted by the provider it can be trusted, it is easy to find and gives you what you need when you need it.
The rebate questioned “what is relevant” – as this is often project specific. For this reason, the source needs to be data rich and be able to update and enrich the project with the needed data along the project lifecycle. The technology development will probably reduce the need to clean geometries and data as computers are able to handle more and more detail in models.
- Tore Hvidegaard @ 3dbyggeri
Tore pitched an idea where content is good when it works better for the customer, than for the content creator. Content is great when is guides and steers the customers work to the right direction. Often designers have problems that need to be solved, good content will provide solutions faster than “dumb” content.
When this is accomplished then there is business value as those products will stay in the projects, ultimately leading to sale of goods. The link between great content and making a sale is not 1:1, but at least the providers of great content will have a head start on the competition as they are preferred by the engineers.
Sometimes all it takes is a great visualisation to impress the decision maker who is not deep in virtual construction or use of BIM. Defining a single “unique selling point” is very tricky
Adam focused on the importance of understanding the various roles people have in construction. What does an Architect want? What does the Contractor need? How about the Facility Manager? The different viewpoints have different weight on their need for geometry, data, locations and standards.
Content could be more intelligent than it is today. Making sure that the physical product is actually used correctly starts from the design phase to drive selection process correctly. As an example, great content could make manuals irrelevant. The content should show solutions. Currently the focus is on small details which may blur the big-picture. It is not about objects, it is about the construction in whole.
- Emil Edvardsen @ Ingenior’ne
Emil was looking at the topic from an engineering point of view – how to be more productive and create better solutions for the customer. Ultimately construction is about managing space and it is critical that the content addresses the space need of various solutions.
As a challenge, the terminology is not standard. This makes using information from many sources difficult – a vision would be that information would be available as “PDF”. Everyone can open it, everyone can get the information, but you don’t need to convert or translate the information to use it. Overall it was agreed, that the technology is already there but the focus should be on improving the processes.
Engineers often prefer generic content over manufacturer specific. It would be great to be able to go from spatial to generic to actual product easily and without re-doing designs.
- Nicolas Petitmaire @ 3dbyggeri
Nicolas brought the Architects view into the discussion, seeking to keep the solution as simple as possible, but no more simple. He sees much of the business value in enabling the Architect to be the ambassador for the products. The content should be developed with the end-user in mind; improvements should be based in the market feedback. Quite often the Architect needs information about a product and he/she has very limited time to seek for it. This stresses the importance of either good content or great customer service. The information is either in the content data or available with a phone call. If you can’t answer the call then there is a good chance that the project will use your competitors products.
Richard opened the discussion from an Asian market point of view. It is very important to have brand specific, accurate geometries. If the content is generic, then make it parametric so it can be scaled. There are too many parameters, for example in COBie, and that is not useful. For their uses, all content needs to be metric. Converting from imperial is not a real workflow. For Architects it is important to have as realistic components as possible. The more usable the content is, the more business there will be for both content providers and manufacturers. It was discussed that the content should not be limited to construction “end-products”, but also to temporary structures and equipment. Contractors have data templates – manufacturers aren’t generally aware of them. There were great examples of why specifications and dimensions need to be correct – for example, in hospital projects it is imperative that the equipment, like MRI-machines, are accurate so that the spaces can be designed. There were also ideas about how to make models more intelligent to get more information from them – like automatic clash checking and functionality checks.
- Andrew Milburn @ GAJ Architects
Andy summarised the whole discussion by going back to basics. Smarter content enhances communication and decision-making. For this reason, the content should drive people to connect with others in the project and interact with the reps of manufacturers for their information needs. Simple apps are better than complicated systems. There is a problem with BIM that it is very specific talent and thus isolated from the big-picture – too much geek speak & technology worshipping.
- Ralph Schoch @ Victaulic
Ralph was flying the flag for smarter tools rather than dump content. There are issues of content aging, stuff that was okay five years ago is not valid anymore. Generic content is fine, as long as it fits the actual products as well. The goal should be to reduce RFI / CO’s in projects. Content doesn’t solve everything, often service is needed as well. Focus should be in the standard solutions, not _all_. When smart tools are created to design tools like Revit, then it would be good to support an open approach where competitor products are also presented. Content and tools should not be seen as extensions to sales people, but as extensions to customer service.
- Paul Woddy @ White Frog Publising
Ultimately, the best view on content is from Facility Management (had to stop here for applause). Often the life-cycle of the building, after design and construction, is forgotten. The FM needs to live and use the data – they should be able to define what is required. The creators of BIM content should also collaborate when creating content. The result would be more usable for customers. Currently some good examples of bad content use cases are when an architect adds a very specific door handle on a generic door – what is the benefit from this?
To sum it all together we can take away five key findings:
- The pace of change in Digital Construction is increasing
- Technology is no longer the key – it’s the people and processes
- Facility Management and data needs in building life-cycle are taking a driver’s seat
- Openness is the new black
- Manufacturers should invest in services
The first point is addressing the point that BIM and VDC is becoming more mainstream, it is certainly past the “chasm” and no-one makes it into the headlines anymore by just saying that they do BIM. As the smoke clears and mirrors are broken, there has to be more concrete benefit to show from the technology, and this is making the acceptable level harder and harder to reach. What was good BIM in 2012, is no longer valid. The forecast is that in order to stay relevant, all parties need to keep refreshing their skills and content not as a project, but as a process.
Second – the BIM technology is no longer exciting on its own. It is becoming the new CAD – when is the last time you heard someone say “wow, that is a really nice drawing”? In kindergarten when picking up your kids, maybe, but in work? We are past the point where a Model is exiting in its own right, now the questions are more about “what can I use the model for?” The use cases and casual using of the technology is still somewhat behind the technology capability.
Third – if you find yourself in a BIM conference and you suddenly want to hear some spontaneous applause then you can always mention the use of Models in FM. I think we had a huge alignment with everyone in BCS that FM needs a digital twin of the building and that twin should be created together with (or prior to!) the physical one. The FM model differs from the Project or Construction model as there is natural focus to Assets (like pumps, spaces…), but ultimately it is just a different viewpoint to the same building and information.
Fourth – we discussed a lot about Open. Open data, open business models, open sharing and look, the bar is open. Cloud services and sharing data from one service to another areonly possible when software vendors enable open communication and exchange between their services.
Last but not least, many of the presentations touched on more traditional information needs. An architect, dressed in black, is seeking product information to fulfill the perfect design. If that information is not readily available then he or she may reach out to the local vendor to ask the few key questions. If you are not able to answer then they will change to your competitor, and you can kiss the project goodbye. Product information can be pushed to engineers and architects through many service providers, but is the information so easy to use that it can replace a simple phone call? There was some debate about the information needs of project parties. For example, some architects, dressed in black, had the opinion that they get overloaded with non-relevant data and that they don’t want to be the ones making product selections for engineers and contractors. This is also valid argument and shows the importance of being able to offer the right information, at the right time and in the right format.