Slim BIM: The Middle Ground between Document and Service Part 1
Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 08:47PM
Toby Considine in COBIE, Construction, Decomposition & Disintegration, Intelligent Buildings, Services, Synergies

Engineering information is document oriented. Large documents, even sheaths of documents, are exchanged, specifying in great detail exactly what to do, and how to do it. Modern IT (Information Technology) is based on Services. Service exchanges are minimal, as small as can specify results, and do not specify the means of execution at all. For the last 50 years, IT has moved far faster than have engineered system, the things we can touch, inhabit, or ride around in. For the next 50 years, when engineered systems will need to evolve as fast as IT has for the last 50, we will need a middle ground, between document and service call. This is the challenge of configuration, shared configuration that will enable big systems to interact as nimbly as does IT does today.

Buildings are big systems, composed of big systems, that must interact with the IT-based systems of their occupants. The systems of the occupants will change many times during the life of a building. If we are to meet national and international energy goals, the collection of systems in each building will change frequently as well. These systems will interact with services, simple calls conveying only requests and results. Before they can communicate with each other as services, each must learn about the other. Each system must be configured with the information it needs to request services. This information must be non-specific, to avoid the complexity of details. This information must be specific, cataloguing service entry points and potential performance.

For buildings, designed by architects and engineers, the design and specification uses BIM (Building Information Model). These are traditionally very large and cumbersome files. The National BIM Specification (NBIMS) describes documents based on the International Foundation Classes (IFCs). The IFCs are two cumbersome for exchange, so NBIMS specifies Information Delivery Models (IDMs) for each structured hand-off of information, and a model view for each IDM. These information exchanges are detailed and overly specific. They rely on document-centric notions of XML from long ago, seen as a “replacement” for large the documents in SGML. The IDM for each stage of a project is different, even if the information is essentially the same.

The problem is, no one outside of architecture and construction uses these approaches, and few seem willing to adopt them.

Recently, members of the National Institute of Building Science (NIBS) have worked on the hand-off of information at the end of a construction project to the maintenance management system (CMMS). They have developed the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBIE). COBIE lists the spaces and their fittings, the systems and the spaces they support, and the equipment in each system with its maintenance requirements and spare parts. The market leaders in CMMS each support COBIE import. Maintenance staffs have reported replacing weeks of error-prone hand entry with 15 minutes of COBIE import, and had their Preventive Maintenance (PM) and spare parts management ready to go.

Other systems could benefit by importing COBIE as well. Building owners often run many Line-Of-Business (LOB) systems, often selected by different parts of the company, from different vendors. Asset Management, Capital Renewal, and the Registrar’s Classroom Scheduling, each has its view of the core facility information in COBIE. An owner may outsource maintenance to several different businesses that need to share information. The enterprise scheduling software, used to schedule staff and meetings, has its own view of the same data. If each system is initially configured through the import of the same COBIE data set, if each system uses the same identities for spaces and systems, then these systems will be ready to exchange Service calls sharing expectations and requests.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (http://www.newdaedalus.com/).
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