The U.K. Wants BIM Standards. Here’s How You Can Start
These 10 steps will help standardize your data, design and build processes around PDFs
There is a growing interest in the U.K. design and construction fields for national standards that every contractor and subcontractor can understand and follow.
National standards are already in place in the U.S. and, more recently, Sweden, both thanks to grassroots efforts by and for contractors, designers and other industry professionals who agreed they had more to gain by sharing standards than protecting their own internal methods.
Bluebeam Revu is among the prevalent PDF design platforms in the industry, so we have an interest in common standards for design and BIM. As a result, in recent years we have been helping to drive standardized approaches to design and construction technology in the U.S., Sweden and the U.K.
Meanwhile, in the U.K., The B1M, a global construction-industry YouTube channel, has a goal of inspiring and educating design and construction professionals—and changing the perception of the industry.
The B1M has created a working group of the U.K.’s six top contractors to collaborate on new U.K. PDF Guidelines for BIM professionals. This is an ongoing process, with a goal of accreditation with buildingSMART international and ISO standards.
Standardization is important, because when standards are shared across nations, BIM deliverables become even more efficient and cost-effective as redundancies in communication and training are eliminated. Standards optimize processes and create new efficiencies by increasing cooperation and accelerating workflow.
Quite simply, when everyone uses the same standards for any measurements or tools—including PDF files—everyone is already fluent in the same language.
This is particularly important for subcontractors operating in the field, but there are numerous other benefits to standardizing PDF usage for contractors and other design and construction professionals.
Standards you can create
There are steps and goals that every general contractor should consider in the discussion of standards for PDF files—whether they do so independently or in collaboration with industry partners.
Here are 10 steps toward standardizing your data, design and build processes around PDFs:
- Choose a Data and/or Digital Manager: Every step ultimately comes down to human initiative and instruction. Choose someone who understands and values standardization in the design and build processes and empower them to track compliance both internally and externally.
- Use a True Type Font: By using a true type font, you’ll be able to read any material on any platform or operating system.
- Consistent Line Style: Use the same type of line for every feature of design. Windows are always dashed lines; walls are always 12-point solid lines, and so forth.
- Consistent Naming and Labeling: Every PDF design should be named or labeled according to a consistent standard and have a name or label in the same place of the PDF itself that indicates exactly what design it is, with project numbers or IDs so anyone looking for that PDF can find it quickly.
- Consistent Placement of Design and Labels on the PDF: Designs should be placed at the same point with the same margins and labels at the same point on every design.
- Design Data Minimums and Maximums: Contractors and subcontractors are in the field; when they need their designs, they need them immediately. That means if they’re retrieving data from the cloud, they need the smallest amount of data possible. Design standards for data hog design tools such as hatch fill can reduce document size, saving workers’ time.
- Machine Readable PDFs: Always make your PDFs machine readable to ensure that you can share and collaborate over working documents instead of simply images.
- Create and Use Custom Markups: There are many custom markups available in PDF software like Bluebeam Revu, but a standardized toolset for markups has numerous advantages. First, team members always know a cloud means something different from a callout or a check. Second, standard markups allow for clean data captured in a PDF to be outputted and used by project team members down or up stream.
- Standardized Workflow: Make and keep smart document traffic standards. Anytime a document is marked up, changed or updated, there should be a record. This is particularly important for QA/QC, where documents can face hundreds of hours of review and a single error of accounting can require a costly correction in the future.
- Standards in the Contracts: To ensure compliance with the standards you’ve created, make following the standards for subcontractors and partners part of their contractual obligations.
Individual and industrywide benefits
While individual contractors can benefit from standards for PDFs, BIM and every important process from design to build, it’s when an entire nation or industry shares standards that the benefits become systemic. Still, there are benefits for individual U.K. contractors to pursue standards now.
Here are seven benefits to consider and goals to aim for:
- Fewer Redundancies in Mundane Tasks: How many hours are taken by simply having to search documents for pertinent information? How many jobs are done twice by team members who were literally not on the same page, when they could be? Streamlined and standardised data management means reducing mundane tasks in sorting through information such as notes, revisions, purchase orders and instructions.
- The Pertinent Data Is Available and Findable: You need the right information at the right time, particularly in the field, but if everything is simply in the cloud and isn’t well tagged and searchable, valuable time can be wasted just looking for that one file or plan. Use standards to make data management an asset, not a problem.
- Uniform Quality: Standards raise the quality of work, partially by streamlining team members’ and managers’ efforts, but also by pushing a uniformity of digital material. Team members tend to raise quality to meet standards; understanding the rules and limits of design or BIM frees them to make the important decisions instead of worrying over presentation or style. A simple standard often creates a ripple effect of adoption and repeated steps.
- Better Planning: Standards make planning simpler. When you already know that every document created is created the same way; when every design has the project numbers and ISO codes in the same place; and when you can trust that your documents are properly managed, there’s more time to spend working on contracts or pursuing better purchasing deals. Once subcontractors are in the field, you can trust that complex issues have been simulated ahead of time and predicted in the plan.
- Better Design Management: Designs change. Plans have to be altered, sometimes quickly. A strong and cohesive set of standards make the last-minute changes much more manageable, so you can quickly make the changes you need knowing that everyone is on the same page. Any changes that are made are in the context of the complete build, so there won’t be any unforeseen consequences.
- Digital Skills: The future of building design, review and communication is increasingly digital. If you’re not already investing in those abilities and skills now, it’s time to start. By creating and refining standards, you’re keeping your digital toolbox and skills up to date and competitive. It’s no accident that government contracts require BIM Level 2. Large private contracts are won on virtual models that demonstrate the design, predict the build and the performance of the building.
- Mine Your Metadata: If you are consistently using labels and titles according to well-crafted standards, you can export all kinds of data into different file formats such as CSV or XML and gain new insights into your processes. For example, if you aggregate changes to documents over QC using custom markups, you can audit your work for compliance to QC standards in moments rather than hours or days.