Standards shape the world we live in. Shoes come in recognized sizes, foods need to adhere to certain safety standards, electrical outlets come in certain types, and so on. By agreeing on how things should be, standards facilitate our day to day life. In construction, it’s no different.
Standards allow users in the construction industry to work together. ISO defines them as “documents that provide requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services are fit for their purpose.” When exchanging files, standards ensure that all parties understand the data the same way. They ensure that when information is passed on, the next party can work with it as well. They ensure a consistent performance, build confidence and enhance the productivity in collaboration processes.
“They project success through structured guidelines. They let your client know that you have a depth of knowledge about your development and delivery beyond others. They make your work go smoother. They make you more productive. They allow you to collaborate with others.” -Mark Kiker about standards in AugiWorld magazine
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
Since they enable successful collaboration, it’s no wonder that standards have received a great deal of attention with BIM on the rise. In BIM projects, there needs to be a common understanding of naming conventions and properties that elements should have. By making sure BIM objects in 3D models are up to standard, files can be interpreted quickly and clearly by all parties, and everyone knows what they can expect from each other.
However, levels of BIM adoption vary across the world, which has led to different public and private standardization initiatives. Initiatives that aim to get construction firms on the same page when managing digital building information processes. Well-known initiatives aiming to provide international standards include ETIM and COBie, but there’s also a wide range of national level norms out there, such as the German VDI 3805 and the Italian UNI 11337.
How to take on the global BIM challenge
The need for a common understanding and uniformity in BIM projects has led to a myriad of public and private initiatives in different countries around the world. But BIM doesn’t stop at national borders - globalization is a major trend. However, the fact that every country has its own norms and regulations, makes it difficult to come to an agreement on European or even global BIM norms, which is a shame. Here’s why:
With globalization on the rise, there’s an increase in international projects and international teams;
BIM objects from one country may be perfectly useful in another;
Something learned in one country can be applicable in another.
In order to work successfully in BIM, we need to make agreements in a language that we all understand. The need for global BIM standards is growing. So how do we make sure that everyone around the world can collaborate successfully in BIM projects?
A global content standard
A good place to start is BIM content. When collaborating in BIM projects, content plays a major role. It’s what puts the ‘I’ in BIM: the information. BIM content is a digital 3D representation of a product, enriched with information such as size, height, weight and article number. It enhances the value of a BIM model in all project stages: it is useful for forecasting, calculating, ordering and building a project. In order to make sure that content is useful to all project partners, uniformity and quality is key. Hence, we need standardisation.
An example of an initiative in the MEP industry to take on the global BIM challenge is the Extended MEP Content Standard. This standard is developed by the MEPcontent team at Trimble in recognition of the need for standardization and uniformity in BIM projects. With the latest release, EMCS 4.0, MEP engineers are provided with a platform independent and global standard for BIM content. It’s a standard that is developed in close cooperation with leading MEP contractors and manufacturers and is matched to existing international standards. It clearly describes how BIM objects are built, ensuring high quality and uniform content that can be used easily across the world.
In an interview about BIM standards, Charles Lekx from the MEPcontent team explains the value of EMCS: “More than a local BIM standard, content that meets the EMCS matches the requirements of MEP engineers globally. It’s the foundation of the content we create for our BIM library MEPcontent.” So the EMCS is not just a document describing how content should be built in an ideal world, it’s already put in practice as the base for content used by more than 50.000 MEP engineers. This content can be accessed for free in the content library.
So in order to work successfully in construction projects, we need to make agreements in a language that we all understand. And with the rise of BIM and globalization, standards are more important than ever before. We need initiatives like the EMCS that cater to the needs of a global MEP community. Indeed, it’s a challenge to come to an understanding of global rules that we can all work with. But it’s a challenge worth to take on.