Alex Small, BIM and Digital Platforms Manager at Tata Steel outlines the importance of standardised product data for the continued progression of the sector.
The emergence and rapid development of the smartphone, transformed the mobile phone sector as well as our society. It brought together separate technologies to produce a powerful and distinctly modern device. Integrating a telephone, camera, Internet browser and more, the smartphone has irrevocably changed how we communicate, consume information and conduct business.
This type of evolution is now transforming the construction industry, with the use of drones to complete topographical surveying, augmented reality onsite and robotic brick-laying. Although it’s currently within its infancy, the transformation of the construction industry will result in a more modern, efficient and data driven sector.
Carving the way with the use of technology for the design and construction of buildings is BIM. However, without having the correct product information at the heart of our BIM construction models, the future of the industry risks being built upon uneven foundations.
Product Data Templates (PDTs) currently vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, with few common naming conventions. This makes it complicated for architects and contractors to easily compare products. For example, the length of a steel beam could be under a field entitled ‘length’ from one supplier and ‘total length’ from another. This discrepancy in parameter naming may mean that a computer is unable to compare like with like or to identify, automatically, certain product characteristics.
Standardised product data is therefore of paramount importance, especially when PDTs include a product’s legislative compliance. Within the UK several layers of information are required, these include:
- European legislation
- National legislation
- Specific market requirements (for example NBS)
- Warranty and maintenance information.
- Manufacturer and product characteristics
Without a common naming convention in place, this vital information cannot be compared from one manufacturer to another or be relied upon for the future development of models, tools and other purposes.
In order to address this issue, the CPA, BRE, BIM4M2 and coBuilder have been working on the development of LEXiCON. A web-based tool that will enable PDTs to be accessible to all manufacturers for their products, LEXiCON will ensure that the industry has one common, agreed, PDT for each product type using an agreed parameter naming convention and managed by the CPA and relevant trade associations.
Where LEXiCON becomes particularly important though is in the mapping of parameters. LEXiCON is being aligned with the buildingSMART Data Dictionary (bSDD) and other, similar, initiatives in different countries such as PPBIM in France. This will enable product data registered on LEXiCON to be easily exchangeable and translatable across the continent – a significant benefit for large multinational companies such as Tata Steel.
To ensure that the construction supply chain is ready for the launch of LEXiCON, manufacturers, architects and contractors should look to leading working groups and associations involved in the development of the tool, such as BIM4M2, for guidance and support when considering their PDTs. Aiding this process, Tata Steel is happy to share its PDTs with the industry, to enhance and support the adoption of BIM technology.