Given the ability of technology to generate and collate vast amounts of data in relation to large-scale building and construction projects, new solutions may soon be needed to enable stakeholders to better manage and navigate these troves of information.
Dylan Murdey-Green, customer success manager with Newforma, believes that while obtaining and accessing this information is of immense benefit to the development and management of construction projects, it can also produce challenges of its own.
“It’s this proliferation of data and information in relation to a project that can actually cause problems,” Murdey-Green said. “There are terabytes of information for project these days and people don’t know how to manage it and access it.”
Much of this information is generated as a result of building information modelling (BIM), producing data-enriched 3D models of real-world structures in order to abet collaboration between the multiple participants in a project.
While everyone in the AEC sector has long been aware of the advantages BIM confers, Murdey-Green believes a new counterpart process called Project Information Management (PIM) could serve to further enhance BIM usage by enabling project participants to better marshal the information that it generates.
“The concept of PIM was first formulated five or six years ago on the back of BIM, and is a process that supports the overall BIM process,” he said. “It deals specifically with all the information relating to project throughout the full lifecycle of its development.
“That includes the basic design sketches, models, concepts, ideas and feasibility studies that are developed even before a project has officially kicked off – all the material that eventually becomes a part of the project’s final set of information.
“In a nutshell, it’s managing all the information pertaining to a particular project from day one, until after the keys have been handed over and possibly leading into facilities management.”
According to Murdey-Green, while BIM and associated technologies are doing a phenomenal job of amassing data on a project and translating it into models, a method is still required for further refining that information and converting it into other formats that lend themselves better to other disparate purposes.
“There’s a missing link – while we are generating a lot of information in the 3D model, the problem is how to get that information and transform it into other useful formats,” he said. “What PIM can do is extract information from 3D models that have been created a part of BIM, and convert it into text-based information.
Once the information is extracted from BIM software, it can then be managed or manipulated in other ways to abet the management of projects in other areas.
“People can then search or filter through that information, append other information to it, or arrange data for subsequent scheduling,” said Murdey-Green. “We enable that glue between the model and the end user requirements to be extracted, filtered and sorted before presenting in a more manageable and easy to digest way, enabling information to be viewed and accessed beyond software that not everyone can access.”
Murdey-Green claims the enhanced data access made possible by PIM promises to have a paradigm-changing impact on information searches.
“Wherever information that is relevant to a project resides, we can refer to it and index it, enabling very in-depth searching,” he said. “So you can type a search term, and it will search within CAD files, attachments to emails, Excel documents and PDF’s, in order to find exactly what you’re looking for.
“It changes the search paradigm from knowing the name and location for a file, to looking for a concept or a word, and finding every document related to that search term.”
Another important PIM function is further enhancing BIM’s information-sharing capabilities – a role of considerable significance given that one of BIM’s chief selling points is improving the process of collaboration between multiple project stakeholders.
“PIM enables collaboration and sharing of all this information in a far more easy manner,” said Murdey-Green. “Sending emails with a link to download information, we then track who has that information, who has shared it and when. It’s a full log, which is very important in the overall contractual process - knowing who’s issued what to whom and when.”