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Product Data Templates

The UK Government is requiring the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM, with ‘Maturity Level 2’) by 2016. All BIM users need product data and many are already demanding it from manufacturers.

There is confusion as to how this can be accomplished without much repeated, wasteful effort from manufacturers creating customised data sets for prospective customers. The Product Data Templates (PDTs) are a resource being developed for the building services industry by CIBSE to solve this problem but it needs your active input now to ensure it meets your needs as well as those of the wider industry.

The following pages help to explain what PDTs are, who they are for, how you can get involved in creating them, and download the first published PDTs. 

More about PDTs

Background

Products featured in Level 2 BIM are described not only by their 3-D geometry, but also accompanying data. It is the addition of data that differentiates Level 2.

A lot of designers already work in Level 2 BIM using libraries of ‘generic’ products that they and the BIM vendors have created.

But, in the Building Services industry particularly, few manufacturers offer models of their products containing data. So a design BIM usually has to be ‘dumbed down’ at product selection, defeating the purpose of Level 2 – progressively to aggregate and refine data in the model.

The products used in building services systems are often complex and ‘dynamic’ –where description can involve technical schedules comprising many data-fields, rather than just textual specifications.  

So, in the absence of a consensus on the scope and content of product data files in BIM, it’s unsurprising that manufacturers have little appetite to engage with Level 2 BIM.   

But the government client requires Level 2 BIM to be the default for public sector projects by 2016. It has indicated the data required in its models through its XML Schema, COBie UK 2012.

The public sector provides 40% of UK industry’s work.  So manufacturers who continue to avoid Level 2 BIM face a loss of business to those that embrace it.

For manufacturers and particularly the first movers, several vital questions remain:

  1. What data are needed in product models to satisfy the public sector client and other players using Level 2 BIM?
  2. Can these data be presented in a way that obviates further queries and the need to complete bespoke data sheets from designers and contractors?
  3. Do products need to be modelled separately for each BIM platform?

The Answer - Product Data Templates!

Questions (1) and (2) above could be answered by adopting standard data formats, scoped for all types of user and project – so manufacturers would only need to prepare a product’s data once to satisfy all purposes.

This is the concept of Product Data Templates (PDTs) devised by the CIBSE BIM Group.

What are Product Data Templates?

A PDT is a standard ‘questionnaire’ for each equipment type. Each PDT aims to anticipate the information sought by every party – from specification through operations to decommissioning and replacement. 

In answer to Question 3 above, PDTs are written in Excel format and are usable with all BIM platforms - so manufacturers do not need to grapple with multiple versions of Level 2 BIM to join the game. Concerns about the Betamax vs VHS syndrome are irrelevant!

When a manufacturer completes a PDT it becomes a PRODUCT DATA SHEET (PDS) – a ‘digital’ description of the product. Subject to respecting the terms of use of the PDT, the manufacturer owns the PDS and is free to use it on its website and in any library it chooses.  The manufacturer remains responsible for the accuracy and completeness of its data on the PDS, in the normal way.     

The standard format of the PDS enables its users to automate their data operations - so each is able to abstract only the information it wants. And answering ‘graduated’ questions posed at different project stages can be done by computers, not people.

PDSs should also simplify life for sales & technical teams – by obviating ‘bespoke’ questionnaires used across the industry and avoiding many supplementary queries. 

If you are willing to be involved in writing templates for any listed building service product please email pdt@cibse.org

  

How the PDTs work

All PDTs follow a standard format as set out in the PDT Master Template.
Their 1st column comprises 3 categories of information:

  • Specification;
  • Sustainability
  • Facilities / Asset Management  

The 2nd column sets out ‘parameters’ to be answered by the manufacturer as ‘values’ in the 3rd column using the ‘units’ given in the 4th column. The 5th column is for prompts and explanations.  Completing the ‘values’ column creates the PDS.

A completed PDT, the PDS,  sets out product-specific answers to most questions posed by ‘output’ data-formats like COBie, Government’s ‘Plain Language Questions’ and by other players involved with the BIM model.  So once a product has been selected, the PDS allows much of an output data-format to be automatically populated.     

The PDT asks only for general product information that applies in any application. It contains no application-specific parameters (e.g., duty point criteria, cost, delivery, placement, etc).  Obtaining such data remains a normal project process of enquiry and quotation. Application-specific fields of ‘output’ data-formats are not answered by the PDS.    
This short video explains how PDTs fit into the bigger picture.