Integrated data systems meeting

On Monday 26th February, Constructing Excellence asset management group held their latest theme group meeting on Integrated data systems. Building on the last meeting’s topic of ‘Big data’, the session focus was on how data is now being used in the industry to improve construction and operation of buildings.

The event was hosted by Westfield and the meeting took place at their Shepherds Bush retail park. The centre is currently undergoing a 740,000 sq. ft., £600m expansion due to open in March 2018 and work has now started on Westfield Milan, a new €1.6m development due to open in 2020.

Chris Ford, Design Technology Manager for Westfield Europe, and his colleague Lucas Cusack, Project BIM Manager, kindly took time out of their busy schedules to talk through how technology and data is being used with the current projects, and how things have moved on since Westfield Stratford opened in 2011.

Whilst BIM has been used on projects since 2008, a much wider range of technologies is now in-use and examples of data integration include the use of drone flights to add new level mapping tools, Field View to collect site data and improve visibility and control, and VR to demonstrate to tenants what developments will look like when completed.

Chris stressed the importance of understanding how the data will be used, and there was a good discussion around how assets are organised to ensure the right information can be found easily when required. The take home message was to make sure you get the basics right, have a good understanding of what is required, and ensure data is organised correctly from the start.

To achieve these aims, Westfield use a number of tools to ensure smooth data transfer and keep everything up to date. For example, Airtable is used to provide updates to keep the EIR (Employee Information Requirements) live, and text files can be pushed into Tableau to present the data more clearly when required.

Lucas explained how getting the right data collected and organised during construction has a big impact on the quality of the digital Operations & Maintenance (O&M) asset information. When the Westfield extension is complete the digital O&M will link with the CAFM and should see a more efficient maintenance process that will reduce time and cost associated with reactive and preventative maintenance.

The second part of the session was led by Gareth Sewell, BIM Associate Director at BRE. Gareth has been working on the BRE digitised campus project, to demonstrate that BIM Level 3 is possible now. The estate has been turned into a 3D model with digital O&Ms and there is an interface where the site can be viewed online.

The project revealed the industry is full of non-standardised unstructured data and how this can limit what is possible with the information collected. BRE have developed Databook, a new tool for asset information that allows product specifications to be held in a consistent format and includes validation tools to ensure data is accurate and complete. There was good discussion around the topic, and clearly value in the tool. Historically getting manufacturers to publish detailed product information has been challenging, but the environment has changed in recent years and the BRE team believe demand from industry is such that there is now an opportunity to create a standardised database that developers will expect manufacturers to be represented on.

The speakers stimulated lively debate particularly around the standardisation of data capture, and the take away points for me were,

  1. We are now starting to harness the power of the data being collected, but there are still many practical challenges that need to be overcome by clever use of existing technologies
  1. There is still a risk that projects can develop in a unique way that may limit the possibilities for how the data can be used in the future, and existing standards are not always adopted.

For further information, please do contact Tom Cudmore, Senior Consultant at LCMB Building Performance Ltd