Spaced out (a BIM app)

Thematic plans are a remarkably productive way of visualising data about rooms in a building. Producing those thematic plans requires drawings with spaces clearly defined so that the enclosed area can be easily coloured / hatched usually in a CAD system. The process for many projects has surveyors going out to each building recording a set of measures for each space and storing these in some type of system usually a spread sheet. The spread sheets have columns for floor and space reference. These are then passed over to CAD technicians who then prepare a set of plans with a key of the used measure. The plan then goes back and forth between the technicians and surveyors to make sure the correct measure is against the right space and all the building plans are using the same key. Finally the plans are printed out and used in the client presentation meetings for interpretation.

So what’s the issue?

  • Cost
  • Time scale
  • Usability

Take a project of 160+ buildings varying in floors from 1 to 30 stories, number of spaces per floor varying from 10 to 100’s. That is a lot of work.

We got involved in such a project because cost and timescale for the thematic output were completely incompatible. Even if the budget was increased the time scale was far too short. I will be upfront here in that I did not want our company to get involved because I couldn’t believe a project was started without a realistic assessment of work involved. However I was persuaded as this was in our market sector; we could enhance our standing and save a project that did have wider benefits other than commercial considerations.

I know this sounds like bravado but I felt we were probably the only people who could pull this round with in the time scale. We could end up with a really efficient process and, serendipitously, produced an output that was far more usable than large pieces of paper as specified in the client’s project.

I proposed that we run too lines of the process.

  1. Get the entire building plans poly lined with the spaces and each space referenced.
  2. Ensure the surveyors used these space references in their spread sheets.

The building plans started arriving and we started importing them into our database. Then the surveyor spread sheets started arriving and we started seeing miss matches with the plans and different measurements variations in language used. For example “True” instead of “Yes” or “80” instead of “80%” small variations of language computers just don’t like. However we were able to swap out and rationalise the results from within the system.

As soon as the surveys started being imported and colours assigned to the measurement values our client could see the coloured thematic plans online. They could also adjust the data such extend the measures surveyors had shorthanded such as extending values through linked corridors.

When it came to the output we devised a batch process that allowed users to select a building, the floors and the measures. The resultant PDF was a multipage printable A4 document which the client then used as a flip book with their client meetings to great effect.

We also provided the ability to output all the buildings or a selection of buildings, and produced some cross estate reports in spread sheets.

Lastly we delivered the CAD plans originally specified in client’s project to complete their contract, but I doubt that these would ever be used.

I am sceptical about these types of surveys which are snap shots when assessing space utilisation, they are fine for condition surveys. When you are doing space utilisation you need space usage data and this sparked a lot of interest in what we have been developing over the years with space booking data and thematic views of building plans.

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