BSRIA’s Model Format for Building Services Specifications and UniClass 2015

bg-56-2016-model-format-specificationTo reflect the importance of specifications in the construction process, in 2015 BSRIA published its guide BG 56 Model Format for Building Services Specifications.  The guide stressed the need to present specifications in an effective and consistent format, and working groups representing designers and installers co-operated to produce a model format for specification content.

The format developed consisted of the following five parts:

  • A Preliminaries
  • B Project specific requirements
  • C Project specific materials and equipment
  • D Common workmanship and materials requirements
  • E Tender deliverables

Within the project specific parts, the content indexes have been arranged to present the correct level of information in the order it will be required by the specification user.

Classification has been used in construction for many years as a way of grouping similar information together, and identifying content about a particular topic.  This has been particularly effective within the building services sector with the use of CAWS (Common Arrangement of Work Sections), resulting in recognisable codes such as T31(low temperature hot water heating) being used as a form of shorthand to describe particular engineering systems in specifications, design reports and on drawings.

BG 56 has now been updated to include references to the recently resolved classification system for use in BIM Level 2 applications – UniClass 2015.  For most specification instances, the two main UniClass 2015 tables to be used will be Systems (Ss) and Products (Pr).

Additional appendices have been included to provide examples of how UniClass 2015 may be used in specifications to identify particular engineering systems or equipment.  Appendix F shows UniClass 2015 codes for a selection of typical equipment items found in workmanship and materials sections of engineering specifications.  Appendix G contains an example of a complete specification index using the model format, with UniClass 2015 codes included where appropriate.

Nearly there – delivering the Level 2 BIM tools. Will they be what we were expecting?

We are just a few weeks away now from the first deliverables from the Innovate UK’s competition to deliver the last two key components of UK BIM Level 2 – a digital plan of work (dPoW) and an industry-wide classification system.  The ‘soft’ launch is scheduled for the 8th April 2015 at the BIM Show Live event in Manchester, with the ‘hard’ launch planned for some time in June.

With the very short time frame for the work, the opportunities for consultation with the industry have been limited and what will be delivered will largely represent the views of NBS and the other project partners.  There has been some dialogue with a group representing a number of the institutions and institutes, but it is not clear at this point how much influence they have had.  Also, there have been a number of presentations and webinars over the last few months showing progress to date.

As you would expect, there has been a significant amount of feedback from the institutions’ body, including a CIBSE team from its BIM Group.  The CIBSE team has tried to look at how these new tools will work throughout the life of the asset, and has looked wider than just the 3D modelling aspects of the output.

Three key issues have come to light with the classification structure being prepared.  Firstly, it must be capable of classifying multi-services systems or elements.  A good example would be a multi-services co-ordination drawing.  Historically, classification systems such as Uniclass have only classified up to ‘types of systems’ – ventilation and air conditioning services and electrical power and lighting services are two such examples.  Combining services in an application is common and the new classification system needs to be able to accommodate this.

Secondly, it is important to be able to classify things other than those associated with a 3D modelling environment.  A wide variety of documents will be generated throughout the life of an asset and these all need to be classified in order to be stored and subsequently made available for reuse.   Obvious examples are reports, correspondence, drawings and specifications but could equally include EIRs.

The third aspect is the continuity of classification.  It is suggested that the Elements table would be used at the early stages of a project to describe needs – Heating would be an example.  As the project progresses and more detail develops, this might become Low Temperature Hot Water Heating Systems from the Systems table.  Although this looks sensible in theory, there must be a connection between these two tables as a cornerstone of BIM is to build on information and not throw it away and start again.  Therefore, the first part of the Elements table should match the corresponding Systems table entries to achieve this.  The alternative is that the Systems table is used throughout with subsequent pairs of characters being added to reflect the increasing level of information as the project progresses.

We have discussed these issues with NBS recently and it will be interesting to see how the new classification structure accommodates them.  Realistically, it is probably too late to see them reflected in the April or June releases, but more are planned for later in the year.  If these issues are addressed I believe that it will be a significant step towards providing a classification system that works for all those involved.

A key factor in the success of the Innovate UK project will be the way in which the outputs are disseminated.  They could be the best dPoW and classification system in the world but unless they are adequately explained they might not be adopted into common use.  The phrase ‘winning hearts and minds’ seems appropriate in this case and its importance should not be underestimated.

Are they ready yet? – Delivering the Level 2 BIM tools

TSB SBRI Competition – A digital tool for building information modelling

TSB SBRI Competition – A digital tool for building information modelling

As you will no doubt have seen the UK Government has refined its BIM Level 2 requirements over past months and now describes them in terms of compliance with a number of documents and tools (see earlier blog article on 7 pillars).  Most of these are already available and the last ones are currently being prepared.  In September 2014 RIBA Enterprises was awarded the contract by Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) to develop a digital plan of work (dPoW), an accompanying classification structure and a digital interface through which to access it all. The first phase is due for delivery in April this year, with further releases planned for later in the year.  The work is being carried out by NBS, a company wholely owned by RIBA Enterprises and which is best known for producing the NBS specification writing product.

This work is very important and the outcome has the potential to be of benefit to parties throughout the construction and operation markets.  The dPoW will provide assistance for clients in preparing their employer’s information requirements (EIR), and also for the supply chain in preparing BIM execution plans (BEP), their response to the EIRs.  It will also describe the data and information manufacturers need to include with their products to meet BIM requirements.

The classification system being provided needs to enable information and data to be labelled in a consistent manner, making it readily available for reuse. It must be as suitable for infrastructure as it is for buildings, and must be applicable for use throughout the life of the asset.  The solution is based on Uniclass2, a proposed development of the original Uniclass structure.  Uniclass2 was issued for consultation in 2013, and it is hoped that the comments received in response have been considered in developing the new solution.

A number of webinars have been presented by NBS recently, describing progress to date and more are scheduled for next month.  The recent webinars focused on demonstrating the overall arrangement of the tool and showing a little more detail of a number of selected aspects.  Unfortunately, classification wasn’t included in this round but more information on this was promised for future events.

A lot of progress has been made but it was clear that there is still a huge amount of work to be done before the April delivery date.  It is important that the output from RIBA Enterprises and NBS is informed by the need of the industry rather than their commercial links to their existing products,  so take the opportunity to visit the NBS website and look at the work they are doing.  Above all comment on what you see.  It might be the only chance you get.

It’s all about the classification…

John Sands,  Principal Consultant of BSRIA's Sustainable Construction Group

John Sands,
Principal Consultant of BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group

As BIM experience increases, a number of key issues are becoming apparent.  One such example is classification – what ‘things’ are called.  If you have a vast quantity of data or information, that can be a very powerful resource.  However, all that potential may be difficult to realise if you can’t find the particular piece of information efficiently when you need it.

Classification can be defined as:

                    ‘the act or process of dividing things into groups according to their type’

Classification has been used in the construction world for many years, often without the users knowing it.  For example, many engineers would recognise that a section called ‘T10’ in their specification dealt with ‘Gas/oil fired boilers’.  This came from a classification system called Common Arrangement of Work Sections (CAWS) which covered architectural and MEP elements for construction projects.

Subsequently, Uniclass was derived from this system and gave the opportunity to classify ‘things’ in different ways, not simply as a system or an object.  Uniclass was based on the general structure described in ISO 12006, which promoted the use of classification classes, each of which relates to a classification need.  As well as products (or objects), some of the other classes suggested by ISO 12006 are:

  • Entity e.g. a building, a bridge, a tunnel
  • Complex (a group of entities) e.g. airports, hospitals, universities, power station
  • Space e.g. office, canteen, parking area, operating theatre
  • Product e.g. boiler, door, drain pipe
  • Facilities this combines the space with an activity which can be carried out there, eg operating theatre

Indeed, other classes can be added to a classification system such as ‘system’, which works very well in an MEP environment.  Similarly, an ‘activities’ class would be very helpful to define a range of activities which might be able to be done within a particular space, as an alternative to using the ‘facilities’ class.

Uniclass, published in 1997 in UK by the Construction Project Information Committee.

Uniclass, published in 1997 in UK by the Construction Project Information Committee.

Although consultants and contractors have managed well using just a couple of the classes above, other groups have found great benefit in classifying in a number of different ways.  For example, it would be very helpful in a hospital FM environment to use the ‘spaces’, ‘activities’, ‘systems’ and ‘products’ classes.

In a hospital it is useful to classify the ‘spaces’ in the first instance by type, and then to classify each space further by which ‘activities’ can be carried out within them.  From this it is possible to classify the ‘systems’ which support the spaces and then the ‘products’ which form the systems.  A practical example would be if the chilled water system was taken out of action then you could quickly see which spaces were affected – an operating theatre.  Once that’s known it is simple to determine which activities cannot be carried out – a number of planned operations.  Also, other products or equipment can be identified which can now be worked on as the system they belong to is not working – chillers or chilled beams.

In this era of greater collaboration it is not enough to know what we are calling things, which classification system we are using.  We must communicate with those we are working with to make sure that the solution suits all of us, and moreover that it is suitable for the whole life of the asset and not just the design, or the construction phase.

It may be that a new classification system is required to satisfy all parties involved in an asset and to make information available throughout its whole life.  This is no simple task, which becomes more complex when the range of assets is considered in both buildings and infrastructure.

It is tempting to try to find solutions to what we do individually, but it is vital that any solution must be suitable for all stages of an asset’s life, for all types of assets and for all those involved in the asset.  Once this has been achieved, the full potential of BIM can start to be exploited, and tangible benefits demonstrated in the use of information management processes.

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