BIM Coordinator is one of the most popular professions of recent years in the architecture and construction industry. As you could read in the previous post on BIM Corner, the BIM Coordinator may be identified with many roles, such as educator, planner, innovator or coordinator. These roles interpenetrate each other as well as change depending on the project phase. We may distinguish three main project phases, apart from the tender phase. These are the project initiation phase, the project execution phase as well as the project closure phase. The following text is focused on the initial moments of the project.
The article is based on my work experience as the BIM Coordinator on infrastructure projects.
Table of contents
- Establishing a BIM strategy
- Selection and configuration of tools
- Establishing the project coordinates
- Selecting Data Management System
- Determining the structure of folders
- Defining model and file nomenclature
- Creating a drawing board and print styles
- Input data collection
- Establishing models of the existing situation
- Integration of GIS data with the existing situation model
- Establishing multidisciplinary model
- Defining the date exchanging format
- Determining communication in the project
- Establishing BEP – BIM Execution Plan
1. Establishing a BIM strategy
If at the tender phase, a document specifying how to carry out a project with BIM (EIR) technology has not been created, the level of the BIM ambition should be determined in agreement with the investor. It is crucial to establish at the beginning, among other things, the following points:
Such a discussion protects both parties from potential misunderstandings. Furthermore, the contractor (design company) may determine the internal BIM ambition. Therefore, it is an ideal moment to experiment with new, innovative solutions. It can be for instance:
2. Selection and configuration of tools
The software selection is directly related to the established BIM ambition. In some cases, it may turn out that it is not necessary to implement expensive software. A system generating 3D models, capable of saving files e.g. to DWG format, will be enough. BIM Coordinator is required to know the number of licenses and the level of software knowledge among co-workers. It is essential to maximize the company’s resources and identify areas for improvement, to establish a data flow system in the project, adjusted to the company’s situation. Such improvements may include a training course for employees or the implementation of a new design tool.
Furthermore, the BIM Coordinator is responsible for establishing the configuration files. A configuration file is nothing but a template of preferred program settings, which determines the uniform way to use it. In such a way the risk of errors resulting from the tool misuse is reduced. For example, it could be a configuration file for Navisworks, Revit, Civila 3D, etc. It is also important to list common procedures for software implementation. The procedures include:
Finally, the BIM Coordinator is supposed to train the people involved in the project to operate the software for managing the multidisciplinary model and the established BIM procedures.
3. Establishing the project coordinates
The fundamental difference between a cubature project and an infrastructure project is the coordinate reference system (CRS). A cubature project is based on a local coordinate system, while a global infrastructure project relies on a global coordinate system. In an infrastructural project, the coordinates should be established according to the geographical zone. The most common systems in Norway are EUREF89 NTM (Norwegian Transverse Mercator) and UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator). A cubature project has a fixed zero point, which is also reflected in the global coordinate system. While importing e.g. a building into the program where the road is designed, the files should be transformed from the local system to the global system. In such cases, it is necessary to ensure that the initially set system is valid throughout the entire project.
4. Selecting Data Management System
BIM Coordinator decides on the digital data management platform (DMS – Data Management System, also called CDE – Common Data Environment). It is the place where the files used in the project are stored. Typically, it is a platform accessible to all stakeholders in the project, i.e. the investor, the designer, the contractor. It may be a cloud service or space localized on the investor’s server. Some examples of such platforms are Project Wise, Trimble Connect, Sharepoint, Dropbox.
5. Determining the structure of folders
The nomenclature of the folders is an individual project matter. It frequently happens that a design company has its own template describing the structure of folders storing data. In such a case BIM Coordinator should reconsider the template, remove unnecessary or add missing folders, e.g. depending on the industries in the project. It is good practice to determine the structure of folders in consultation with the ordering party. It simplifies the subsequent documentation transfer.
6. Defining model and file nomenclature
Naming models/files is as important as folder structure. Of course, it depends on the type of project and the number of created models. BIM Coordinator establishes a document containing a list of all models with information on who is responsible for delivering the model (usually discipline’s designers). The naming of the models should be logical and the record form should reflect the different possible alternatives (e.g. variant 3, old model). In general, letters and numbers are used in a particular sequence. The name of the model may also include a lot of information such as type of discipline, type of object, localization.
7. Creating a drawing tables and print styles
BIM Coordinator is responsible for creating the drawing table needed for the paper documentation. The table should have dynamic blocks allowing easy updates of the names used in the project and adapt to the scale of the drawing. The table contains basic information on the project. It is also necessary to create the same print style for all drawings, based on e.g. layer color, layer name, line thickness. The printout style should be consistent with the ordering party’s guidelines.
8. Intput data collection
After performing the above mentioned activities in the project, the next step involves collecting the input data. Such data may include measurement data, elevation data, digital maps or thematic data. Assessment of the quality of the received files is significant here. It is required to check if the files have been delivered in a readable format, appropriate scale and coordinate system. In some cases, it is necessary to transform the files to the coordinate reference system adopted in the project, for instance from UTM to NTM. It should be remembered here that the BIM Coordinator supports the visual presentation of the data, but the person responsible for the discipline models determines whether, for example, the measurement data is correct and sufficient to start the design. The digital output data is collected in an appropriate folder.
9. Establishing models of the existing situation
Based on the input data, BIM Coordinator should establish models of existing conditions. These are usually terrain models, underground layers models, existing buildings models, etc. The models’ accuracy is crucial as they are used as a starting point for developing discipline models.
10. Integration of GIS data with the existing situation model
In addition to the vector layout plan, the infrastructure project should also have an orthophotomap. An orthophotomap is a set of photographs illustrating the current situation, coming from a drone or plane. The photos are saved in a format defining their location in a coordinate system. The task of the BIM Coordinator is to combine the photos and then overlay them on the DTM model (Digital Terrain Model).
Another important issue is to integrate GIS (Geographic Information System) data with the existing situation model. GIS data includes a set of thematic layers such as land development plans, lay of the land, hydrology, forest areas, agricultural areas, etc. One of the services with such data is WMS (Web Map Service). BIM Coordinator is supposed to connect such data with the model of the existing situation. Currently, many programs offer direct integration of the model with the WMS (e.g. Trimble Quadri).
11. Establishing multidisciplinary model
Depending on the adopted BIM ambition and the amount of data created in the project, it is necessary to select software to store all models (existing and new designed) in a visual form (Model Management System). In the infrastructure industry, common choices include programs such as Infraworks, Navisworks, Trimble Quadri. BIM Coordinator’s task is to configure the program, place a model of the existing situation in it and develop guidelines for providing discipline models. The multidisciplinary model is “the only source of truth”, providing an opportunity to view the information contained in it. The multidisciplinary model is updated on an ongoing basis depending on the work progress.
12. Defining the data exchanging format
The important aspect is to specify which files will be delivered to particular disciplines as a reference as well as which files will be delivered with the final documentation. For example, files describing an existing situation are saved in .las, .kof, .sosi, and discipline models in .dwg, .ifc formats. Whereas construction files are exported to the .landxml format. It is becoming increasingly common in Norway for customers to expect .ifc files along with the final documentation since the .ifc file gives the possibility to attach a lot of non-geometric information to a 3D object.
13. Determining communication in the project
BIM Coordinator is in charge of selecting the communication method in the project between the disicplines. It is worth standardizing the communication between all stakeholders in the project, i.e. between the industries, management, and investor. For this purpose, it is worth selecting one common communication system. A popular file format for exchanging information regarding collisions is BCF. In addition, systems known from the IT world are gaining increasing popularity, replacing e-mail communication. An example of such a solution may be the integration of the JIRA program into the project. It supports the software development process in the IT world, following the AGILE methodology. Due to its functionality, it allows collecting all threads developed in the project and manage them, track the status of the thread on the Kanban board, or even generate reports.
14. Establishing BEP - BIM Execution Plan
Once all the above points have been completed, they should be written and saved in one localization. A document created in the above mentioned way is called BEP (BIM Execution Plan). It is necessary to make it available to all persons involved in the project. BEP is, therefore, nothing more than a list of routines and procedures. It is crucial to keep in mind that the procedures described may evolve during the project. That happens, among others, by discovering new, more effective solutions, e.g. file export. Therefore, BIM Coordinator needs to regularly update and inform people using the document about its modifications.
I hope that the above summary has helped you to take a closer look at the work of BIM Coordinator. All of the above mentioned activities are significant and directly influence the flow of the project. We would like you to note that BEP is a set of best practices and procedures in the project. It is a living document that should be updated on an ongoing basis depending on new experiences. Such an approach will allow you to work more efficiently and effectively on future projects.
In the next article, we will describe the responsibilities of the BIM Coordinator in the latter stages of the project.