I Can Trust This Family Can’t I?

I ran into an issue a couple months ago while going through some casework submittals for a project.  This particular job has had a lot of field changes for a variety of reasons but the end result is that there have been a number of issues that have required extra attention. While reviewing the submittals the PM for the contractor mentioned that there might be a clearance issue with some under-mount lavatories in the patient rooms. No problem – I can cut a section, drop in a clearance check jig, and everything will be fine.  So I do just that, send the section to the PM and think everything is OK.

Well…  it turns out that the family that I got from the manufacturer had omitted the overflow drain located at the front of the sink (it was indicated in the cut sheets …).  This is not a big piece, it adds about an inch to the overall dimension to the sink, but due to some issues in the field (the counter tops are a little lower than typically specified) that extra inch meant the difference between passing the accessibility requirements and failing.

Well crap.

Back to the manufacturer to find some other options. I found a few more lavs that are listed as ADA compliant and go through the same exercise as before, this time making sure to compare the family I downloaded with the cut sheets and what do you know – 9 out of 10 families were wrong in some way. Most were missing the drain but what really got me was that in two of them the geometry was completely wrong. The general shape in plan was close enough but in section it was essentially a vertical extrusion. Keep in mind that the front of most sinks slopes towards the drain and that I have some very tight clearances to deal with on this project.

Luckily there was a sink with an integral drain that was actually modeled correctly and that the client found acceptable so we were able to finalize the submittal and move on. Which brings us back to the initial driver behind the post: There is an implicit trust on the part of the end users that content from a manufacturer will be accurate. I don’t expect 100% accuracy (although I certainly hope for it), especially with the complex shapes that tend to occur with plumbing fixtures, but it should be at least close.

I’ve seen and heard a lot of talk about why it is bad to use content from manufacturers and why everything should be created in-house but for a lot of us that isn’t a viable option.  As much as I would love to work with content all day, my job is to produce buildings – BIM management is a small percentage of what I do. I need the ability to find content that is geometrically accurate and includes the data I need with minimal cleanup and effort on my end.

Personally, if it were up to me at this point, I would have completely dropped this product and manufacturer from any of my content and used a different product as a basis of design. The problem with that approach is that the manufacturer involved might not even know that there is an issue. They know that we want BIM content to use in projects and they provide it, but they are not users on a day-to-day basis and a lot of the nuances of content creation and use are overlooked.  At this year’s Building Content Summit we have a number of opportunities for direct interaction between manufacturers, providers and end users. And by direct interaction, I mean sitting down face-to-face and discussing what is really needed in BIM content with the people that can create the change needed. At past events I have been able to speak with not only the marketing and strategic planners but also the people who are creating the content so feedback goes straight to the person who can make the adjustments.

If you want better content you (yes you reading this) need to get involved in the discussion.  If you are a manufacturer and want to deliver better content and user experiences, you need to get involved in the discussion. Registration is open now and you even have a few more days to get that early bird pricing.  If you need help convincing your boss that better content benefits everyone let us know and we can help; we want you at BCS helping to drive the discussion – because at the end of the day, it benefits everyone.

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