Design of a BIM Project Template


    Implementation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) can have many interpretations. To some, its a 3D digital model that represents the design of a building or asset. However, a fuller interpretation is that it encompasses the whole process of commissioning, designing, constructing, operating, and ultimately decommissioning of an asset, and doing this digitally throughout the whole life cycle process. Its this latter explanation that is the way forward when a project says its applying BIM.

    The UK Government has been a strong proponent of moving the industry forward in BIM. In 2011, it published its BIM strategy to increase the efficiency of the construction industry with an overall target of a 20 percent reduction in costs. This was backed up with a clear requirement that by April 2016, all UK government contracts must operate BIM processes. Public standards such as the BS1192 and the PAS1192 series of documents have assisted the process by clearly documenting the standards and processes involved in BIM.

    Arup has always been at the leading edge of the industry. As such, the adoption of BIM processes within the organization was seen as essential. The use of Bentley Systems ProjectWise to host large projects that involved multiple collaborative partners had already been implemented for some time. The adaptation and development of ProjectWise to adopt BIM processes was therefore a natural evolution. To this end, a BIM Project Template was developed that would easily be adopted on new projects.

    Design of the template addressed many goals including:

    • applying consistent information management processes to all projects;
    • adhering to public standards and processes such as BS1192;
    • flexibility to host multiple organizations to truly support project collaboration;
    • applying consistent CAD standards across the whole project team;
    • improving efficiency;
    • reducing project risk by better management of information and data;
    • resourcing people and their skills from anywhere in the world;
    • adhering to Quality Assurance (QA) procedures; and
    • allowing flexibility in the project security setup to match project requirements.
    Figure 2: Document workflow forms the basis for defining the BIM template design.

    Before work started on configuring ProjectWise, it was essential to define all the business processes and technical standards that needed to be addressed by the BIM Project Template. As this initial work was for the UK, the BIM template design was based on BS1192 and the principles of a Common Data Environment (CDE). A document workflow was mapped out, which formed the basis for defining the BIM template design (see Figure 2). It describes the workflow a document journeys through and how each contractual party interacts with it. It included the QA checking and approval steps, along with the revision and document “State” required by the British Standard.

    The CDE process map then formed the basis of how to address the technical implementation within ProjectWise. This included addressing the following:

    • Project storage How to manage project data storage from initial setup, backup, and ultimate archive of data at project completion.
    • Design of the project folder system How to manage multiple organizations, security of documents linked to BIM workflow and relevant access rights, automation of document naming via the ProjectWise environment (i.e., project folders help drive elements of the document name, like Role and Type), etc.
    • ProjectWise environment Document attributes that cover both naming requirements, but also attributes for QA (Checking and Approval), Titles, Revisions, etc. Many of these are “live” mapped into CAD and Office documents through automated attribute exchange. They also support the searching capability of ProjectWise to target the search for documents.
    • Workflow, States, and the Rules Engine This is the real power horse of the template and governs how a document journeys through the BIM process and controls document State (i.e., WIP, SHARED, PUBLISHED, ARCHIVE), revision process and syntax, conditional attribute checks (i.e., has a document a title, for example), process journey (i.e., advance, reject), versioning of documents, etc. It is linked to security and who has rights to interact with a document at a particular point in the workflow journey.
    • Quality Assurance (QA) The BIM workflow requires documents to be checked and approved at various stages. As documents advance through the workflow, ProjectWise is trapping the user performing the task and is populating Initials and Full Name in document attributes. These in turn are live updating fields in Office and CAD files. The attributes, in combination with the full document audit history, electronically record the checking and approval process.
    • Security This is highly complex as it addresses the internal business and QA processes within each organization, while at the same time controlling visibility and interaction by others as a document journeys through the different document states and workflow in the CDE. ProjectWise User Lists have been employed to establish defined security for general project access, document checking and approval rights, etc. Special elevated rights have also been employed for the likes of document controllers to manage transmittals and for BIM/CAD managers to customize the project CAD workspace. The User Lists are applied to both the folder and workflow by spreadsheets that are imported into ProjectWise.
    • Managed Workspaces Deployment of company or project CAD workspaces is handled by ProjectWise. The relevant workspace files are stored within ProjectWise and configured by a Managed Workspace environment. The environment is then applied to the project, which allows the right standards to be deployed to all desktops, irrespective of whether a user is located within your own organization or not. This allows the delivery of consistent project standards to all persons working on a project.
    Figure 3: Document attributes include naming requirements, attributes for QA (Checking and Approval), Titles, and Revisions. Many of these are “live” mapped into CAD and Office documents through automated attribute exchange.

    The configuration of the Managed Workspace has also been designed to be adaptive to the application being launched. The application and its version is detected on program launch and the correct workspace files and configuration then delivered to the PC. Currently we are supporting MicroStation, PowerCivil OpenRoads, Navigator, and AECOsim via a single workspace. Projects can easily be configured project by project to set the units (i.e., metric or imperial) and in the case of AECOsim, which dataset needs to be deployed (i.e., GB, NM, US, etc.).

    • Renditions ProjectWise servers automate production of PDF and i-models. PDF production includes full mapping of attributes from the source document so the PDF has a fully read-only replication of the information at the time of PDF creation. Rendition profiles for Office documents, drawings, and models have been established and applied to relevant folders to minimize user interaction.
    • Transmittals and Submittals The processes of issuing and receiving information have been designed into the BIM template. Automated PDF renditions can be easily directed either into a general renditions dated folder or into a dated transmittal folder ready for a Document Controller to issue externally via the Bentley Transmittal Service (BTS). We are currently updating the template to accommodate the replacement Deliverables Management CONNECT service that replaces BTS. QA “Review for adequacy” procedures have also been deployed for submittals received; documents can be easily classified as being approved for use or not by the project team.
    • Project Types This has been employed to define generic project attributes, for example Project Code (i.e., part of the file name), Project Title, Client Name, etc. These in turn drive the project document creation tool and attribute exchange into Office and CAD documents. The Project Type definitions have also been used to control the behavior of the project; for example, defined switches are read by the environment to control whether drop down attribute values are referenced from a general or project custom set of values. The BIM template can also be adapted to work either as a small or large project. This makes the BIM template adaptable to different flavors of setup and minimizes or eliminates the need to spend time preforming custom setups.
    • Saved Searches A library of standard searches forms part of the template delivery. These use the extensive library of environment attributes to allow users to search for documents across the project.
    • Dashboards The environment has a dedicated attribute to record percentage complete. Its value is automatically controlled by a documents progression through the BIM workflow, which in turn feeds into the Bentley CONNECT Project Dashboard. This allows a project manager to have a high-level view of project progress. Other attributes like document STATE are also fed into the dashboard.
    • Project Library The BIM template folder design also includes a Project Library folder to accommodate the need to store generic project documentation. Within this, we have folders for photos that can be directly uploaded via mobile devices into ProjectWise. It also includes a Project Explorer folder that surfaces any document automatically into MicroStation via the Managed Workspace. This allows such items as User Manuals to be attached to elements in MicroStation, which in turn can be distributed within any generated i-models.

    The design and implementation of the ProjectWise datacenter is of equal importance to the BIM template in order to properly service the projects being hosted. This includes:

    • File Store Each project has its own Storage Area that forms a unique self-contained repository for project documentation, which brings benefits when archiving a project on completion. The data backup regime is set to snap the data every two hours during work hours during the first week, daily snaps for one month, and weekly snaps kept for six months. This forms a robust data retrieve setup.
    • SQL Live mirroring of the SQL database to a remote server for disaster recovery purposes.
    • Virtual Servers All the ProjectWise servers are virtual and duplicated to a remote location for disaster recovery purposes.
    • DMZ servers Servers in the DMZ service in-bound connections; they consist of Gateway, Web Server, Mobile Access, and BTS servers. These support external access via ProjectWise Explorer, Web browser access, apps on iPhones/iPads, and finally the BTS Web portal.
    • iCS servers iComposition Servers for PDF and i-model production.
    • Server optimization The performance of the system is directly influenced by the hardware setup of all the ProjectWise servers; optimizing CPUs, RAM, and disk space all affect the performance of the setup.

    By designing and implementing a standard ProjectWise BIM Project Template, simple or complex projects can be quickly and efficiently setup. By adopting public standards such as BS1192 as the basis for the template, implementation becomes easier, as the standardized processes and protocols are known across organizations, which reduce training and support costs. Previously, projects deployed custom project setups; now, Arup can mobilize a BIM project in approximately three hours, saving at least 1,000 per project in setup costs.

    Will Sims is an associate director at Arup. He leads ProjectWise in the UK, hosting collaborative projects in the UK, Europe, and U.S. since 2008. The BIM Project Template was recognized as a finalist in the Innovation in Project Delivery category in Bentley Systems 2015 Be Inspired Awards.