“SOI” – a potential revolution in BIM data management

In my last post I described how the standard LOD/LOI methodology is causing information overload in BIM and slowing workflows. Now I want to outline a new approach which has the potential to resolve these problems and improve life for all BIM participants. I call it the “Set of Information” (SOI) methodology, and it’s something the AEC industry should discuss.

The starting point is the fact that each information recipient requires different information, and a particular set of it, at different points in the BIM process. Each set of information is for a specific use.

An example from everyday life can clarify the SOI notion. Consider a shirt you buy, where there are clear ‘sets of information’ for specific uses and participants. The store needs a tag with the price and bar code. The delivery company just needs shipping information, like weight and recipient address. I, once I buy it, just need product-care details; so I’ll discard the price tag and shipping label.

The same can be done with BIM models: determine in advance who the participants will be and what specifically each needs to know; give them that (and only that) set of information at the right time; and eliminate information from the model when it has no further use. ‘Sets of information’ for BIM users may contain graphical representations, metadata and documentation.

BIM models are used for a variety of tasks as projects pass through their various stages, from planning, design and construction to operation and maintenance. Different users are involved at different times, with “drop points” for timely delivery of the data each one needs.

How do you know what a given user needs, say a window manufacturer? How about asking them: “What set of information do you need to give me a price, or to make me a window?” They’ll easily provide you with the exact ‘set of information’ they need.

The alternative is to check local LOD/LOI standards, give them everything that document lists, and let them search to find the specific items they need. Then maybe they’ll tell you some important details are missing and ask you to provide them. At the very least, there’s a big risk of a delay.

Note that builders at the construction site will need a different SOI for the window – basically just location details and installation instructions. And quality inspectors, facility managers and tenants will also each have their own specific needs. Give each the set of information they need and nothing more.

Each element in a model has a lifecycle. Information requirements not only grow as projects advance, but also sometimes shrink, based on what future users will need. So once you have precast columns built there’s no need for details of the reinforcing bars, which aren’t even separate elements anymore. Maybe keep that in an archive, but not in the model for everyday use!

Sets of Information are also ideal for man-machine and machine-machine BIM data exchanges. CNC machines, robots and management software, for example, tend to need little but very specific information. It’s simple to define a relevant SOI and agree on the export-import file type.

That’s a brief introduction to the SOI concept, which I’m convinced can offer huge benefits for BIM. In my next post, I’ll examine some more details, implications and examples of the SOI methodology.

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