Information Exchange Improves Building Engineers

In Colorado Contractor News // on December 13th, 2012 // by // No comment

Building Engineers

This is a general description of the best practices related to the improvements in Building Engineering with standardized information exchanges practices. To determine if your specific software complies with COBie requirements, read more.

1. Construction Documents Design Stage
As the design progresses the material, products, and equipment needed for the building are specified. The types of products are most often displayed as finish, product, and equipment schedules. The use of these schedules for any variety of reasons, including quantity take off, asset management, and of course facility maintenance and operations requires multiple, error-prone manual transcriptions.

The types of equipment are listed along with the specific location of each of these types. Product’s properties are listed as COBie common attributes. With these data structures, COBie transfers schedule information from designers to builders and later to operators. Information within the COBie file allows the designer to identify fixed or movable property.

Components are organized into systems that are also listed in COBie. These systems provide specific building services to building occupants such as alarms, electrical, fire protection, HVAC, plumbing systems, and others. Currently an optional COBie set of data are the connections between equipment. Connections allow the designers to specify how specific pieces of equipment are logically connected. This would allow, for example, a worker to know what other equipment would be effected if a valve closed.

During the design there may be documents of interest pertaining to specific parts of the building. These documents can be linked by reference to the COBie ‘documents’ data. Designers may also specify the requirements for documents in COBie. One of the most common lists of required documents is the submittal register. The submittal register is a key aspect of COBie since it is the approved submittals during construction that comprise the bulk of construction handover data sets.

2. Contractor Quality Control Stage
As the project progresses from design to construction, the next stage of the project that contains COBie data occurs when the contractor provides submittals for the designer specified required documents. COBie information exchange allows electronic copies acknowledged or approved submittals to be directly linked to specific types of materials, products, equipment, and systems within the building.

The majority of these linked documents are provided as PDF files from documents already created by product manufacturers. Shop drawings should be lined in their native CAD/BIM formats as well as in PDF-views. Scanned or photographic images are required for submittals that require physical samples. When the COBIE data is transmitted these files are provided with the COBIE file on a single COBIE data disk.

It is during this stage that construction contractors have a choice about how to implement COBie. They could continue to create facility handover data at the end of the construction process and simply scan and link COBie data. While meeting the COBie requirement, the effort does little to streamline the process or reduce the cost of the submittal process. If, however, the construction contractor and the owner utilize and electronic submittal register, there will be virtually no cost for the collection of submittals at the end of the project since these documents will all be provided in the submittal register software. A not-for-profit eSubmittal program is available through ProjNetSM.

Inquiries to large and small general contractors across the country have indicated that they are ready to provide electronic submittals, if only construction managers and owners would accept such submittals. Unfortunately it is the case that, the ability of contractors to meet the requirements of COBie exceeds the current level of expertise of owners to accept and process electronic submittals. Given the cost and time savings opportunities for contractors, it is possible that the use of eSubmittal programs can significantly speed the delivery of accurate COBie data.

3. Product Installation Stage
Visual chart of COBie data: A ‘common’ grouping is the base with blocks labeled Contacts and Documents as well as blocks labeled Issue, Coordinates, Attributes and Connections; above on the right side is a ‘build’ area with no blocks; to the left is a ‘design’ area with blocks from bottom to top Zones, Space, Floor and Facility; tied into the Space block are blocks System, Component (and Installation) and Type (and Warranty)

Once the construction contractor procures the specified materials, products, and equipment they are installed. The manufacturer and model for all products are listed under Type data. Documentation of manufacturer and model can either be documented at installation or during the prior submittal process. The serial numbers for as-installed equipment and/or tags are documented in the Component data. Since room names change, contractors can also provide the room number tag if that number differs from the room listed on the original design.

While large projects will be able to support the purchase and use commercial software to document installed equipment, the majority of construction in the United States is accomplished by small contractors who may not have access to such software. For these companies direct use of a ‘locked down’ version of the COBie spreadsheet should be very satisfactory. Unlike the manual creation of equipment lists required today, contractors only need to change the room location for equipment if there is a change order related to that equipment.

It is important to note that the requirement of contractors to provide equipment and valve tag lists is already a requirement in virtually all construction contracts. COBie requires nothing new, simply a change of format in existing contract requirements. The Contractor is free to use COBie as part of their traditional process or take the COBie Challenge to eliminate the end of project “job crawl” in lieu of simply typing in the serial numbers of equipment and tags as they are installed.

Warranty information associated with bulk items (such as carpet) or one-of-a-kind products (such as medical equipment) are identified by Type. The component’s installation date provides more detailed warranty start dates if needed.

4. System Commissioning Stage
Once the equipment is installed and tested, the systems are turned on and made operational for O&M staff. In COBie, there are several documents that describe system operations. These documents include Instructions, Tests, and Certifications. As with all other submittals COBie documents are provided in native or PDF format and referenced in the COBie Documents data set.

The final stage of commissioning is to develop scheduled or preventive maintenance and other types of plans that support long-term facility operations. In COBie there is space for the following types of plans: Preventive Maintenance (PM), Safety Plans, Troubleshooting Plans, Start-Up Procedures, Shut-Down Procedures, and Emergency plans. These plans, or the documents containing these plans, are provided through the COBie job data.

Manufacturers often provide job plans and parts diagrams with product data sheets and catalogs. The need of construction contractors reference a consolidated set of manufacturer data in such large documents should be a short-term effort. Once the COBIE format is established in the construction industry, manufacturers will begin to provide COBIE data directly to construction contractors along with PDF catalog cuts. Manufacturer’s suggested maintenance plans, as well as standard warranty and replacement parts are also specified with the product data in the SPie project templates.

To read a more complete summary, follow this link.

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