In BIM, is there a difference between information and data?

In a twitter thread a participant said they did not distinguish between information and data. I found this profoundly disturbing in relation to the demands for validation which covers completeness and what is required.

Why is it important to understand the difference between data and information?

Information is primarily published documents which are generally immutable (can’t or should not be edited).

If we take cooking as an example lets think of the cake as a product and the information as a recipe in a cook book.

Before we get stuck in to that lovely cake at a small party for 6 people we need to know there are no nuts because one of our guests has an allergy. We need to refer to the recipe book and look at the list of ingredients.

This cake has nuts, so lets look for a cake recipe without nuts. We turn to the index and look in vain to find a cake without nuts but the index does not classify cakes by nut content. Now have to look through each cake recipe to identify a suitable cake that can serve 6 and has no nuts. This would be even harder if some of our guests have other intolerances, gluten, fruit etc…

All recipes in the book are broken done by a description, picture, list of ingredients with quantities, set of instructions on preparation, mixing, cooking, baking, serving suggestions and how many servings or size.

If the recipe is expressed as data then we could have a program where we could quickly search on multiple criteria to find a suitable recipe.

Here is an example of how each recipe might be structured in a simple format known as JSON

{

    “name”: “Mary’s frosted walnut layer cake”,

    “summary”: “Mary Berry’s spectacular walnut cake is perfect for special occasions – with three layers there’s sure to be a slice for everyone!”,

    “preparationTime”: “less than 30 mins”,

    “cookingTime”: “30 mins to 1 hour”,

    “serves”: “Makes 1 large cake”,

    “parts”: [

        {

            “title”: “For the sponges”,

            “ingredients”: [

                {

                    “quantity”: “225g/8oz”,

                    “name”: “self-raising flour”,

                    “processing”: “sifted”,

                    “classification”: “flour”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “1 tsp”,

                    “name”: “baking powder”,

                    “classification”: “powder”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “100g/3½oz”,

                    “name”: “walnuts”,

                    “processing”: “finely chopped”,

                    “classification”: “nuts”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “225g/8oz”,

                    “name”: “butter”,

                    “processing”: “softened, plus extra for greasing”,

                    “classification”: “dairy”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “225g/8oz”,

                    “name”: “caster sugar”,

                    “classification”: “sugar”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “4”,

                    “name”: “large free-range eggs”,

                    “processing”: “beaten”,

                    “classification”: “eggs”

                }

            ]

        },

        {

            “title”: “For the caramelised walnuts”,

            “ingredients”: [

                {

                    “quantity”: “100g/3½oz”,

                    “name”: “caster sugar”,

                    “classification”: “sugar”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “10”,

                    “name”: “walnut halves”,

                    “classification”: “nuts”

                }

            ]

        },

        {

            “title”: “For the buttercream”,

            “ingredients”: [

                {

                    “quantity”: “125g/4½oz”,

                    “name”: “butter”,

                    “processing”: “softened”,

                    “classification”: “dairy”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “½ tsp”,

                    “name”: “vanilla extract”,

                    “classification”: “flavouring”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “2 tbsp”,

                    “name”: “milk”,

                    “classification”: “dairy”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “250g/9oz”,

                    “name”: “icing sugar”,

                    “classification”: “sugar”

                }

            ]

        },

        {

            “title”: “For the boiled icing”,

            “ingredients”: [

                {

                    “quantity”: “2”,

                    “name”: “large egg whites”,

                    “classification”: “eggs”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “350g/12oz”,

                    “name”: “caster sugar”,

                    “classification”: “sugar”

                },

                {

                    “quantity”: “¼ tsp”,

                    “name”: “cream of tartar”,

                    “classification”: “powder”

                }

            ]

        }

    ],

    “steps”: [

        “Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Grease 3 x 20cm/8in sandwich tins and line the base of each tin with baking parchment.”,

        “Mix the flour, baking powder and walnuts together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs a little at a time.”,

        “Fold in the flour mixture using a large metal spoon. Divide the mixture equally between the 3 tins and level the surfaces.”,

        “Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden-brown and springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.”,

        “For the caramelised walnuts, tip the sugar and 2 tablespoons water into a pan and heat over a low heat until the sugar begins to melt. Increase the heat and cook the caramel to a dark golden colour (CAUTION: boiling sugar is extremely hot. Handle very carefully). Remove from the heat, add the walnut halves and swirl to coat in the caramel. Transfer the walnut halves to a silicon sheet and leave to set.”,

        “For the buttercream, put the butter, vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon of the milk and half the icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining icing sugar. Pour in the rest of the milk, if needed to make the buttercream the right consistency.”,

        “Spread half of the buttercream over one of the cooled sponges and place the second sponge on top. Spread the remaining buttercream over the second sponge and top with the third sponge.”,

        “For the boiled icing, measure the egg whites, sugar, 4 tablespoons water and cream of tartar into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of hot water and whisk for 8-10 minutes until thick.”,

        “Working quickly (the icing sets rapidly), cover the top and sides of the cake with the icing, swirling the icing to form softened peaks. Leave to set in a cool place, but not in the fridge. Decorate with the caramelised walnuts.”

    ],

    “imageURL”: “https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/food/ic/food_16x9_1600/recipes/marys_frosted_walnut_15679_16x9.jpg”

}

In a database the query to look for cake recipes would be

You will begin to see that the “information” document , in my illustration a web page, gets all it’s parts from the data model. In the example above I’ve created a relational database and used a program called LINQ pad 6 which generates a data schema model from which we can use LINQ to query the data set for all cakes that don’t have nuts and are gluten free.

I will leave it to your imagination as to how this then relates to buildings, construction materials, equipment and fixtures.

Thanks for reading

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