Standardize for Success!

When working in the AEC industry, it becomes instantly obvious that standards apply to everything. From building codes, to governing agencies, to national AIA guidelines, all aspects of the process is documented and standardized…except one: the standards of drawing. Yes, we have things like the National CAD Standards, but nothing is set in stone within your firm unless they have their act together and understand the importance of these standards.

On top of that, BIM and VDC are sweeping the globe with concepts and products that require an entirely new set of standards and workflow methods. These items need to be addressed as soon as possible and it’s not only your firm that needs to coordinate with these standards. From inner office projects, to multi-industry projects that require models to be taken from design development, to facilities management provisions, these standards can make or break an entire project’s profitability.

These standards are also not something that can be set up or created in a single manual. I have spent the last 10 years working around this topic and I have learned that the sooner these are created and implemented within your firm, the better and more efficient and productive (and profitable) your firm will become. The reason I say “around this” is because that’s exactly what I did. I spent years focusing on specific project needs, running around putting out fires, and working hard to customize items per project managers’ wants, not according to any firm-wide standard. I can save you the time and tell you now the result of this method is chaos, redundant work on my part, redundant work on the part of others, and a huge waste of overall company time, effort, and money.

The conclusion was simple: standardize the workflow. Not only is it important to standardize specific annotations, naming conventions, and file management, but also to really get into the processes involved—from software choices, project structure, to coordination methods, and finally providing deliverables. This cannot be contained in one document since it affects multiple disciplines, multiple levels within the company, and above all, the most important reason: No one will read a 2,000 page manual.

This led me to creating not one, but an entire system of documents—something that would allow for everyone, within their specific workplace and at their specific level, the ability to understand and standardize their specific work and the methods of achieving such work. These documents include:

The initial document, created by my current firm more than 20 years ago, required minimal updates and for the most part still applies to this day. The Production Procedure Manual was created in-house, for all studio members within the firm, to explain the reasons for why we create and produce what we do. This involves methodology, conceptualization, general recommendations, common sense, best practice items, and other forms of thought and reason. This does NOT describe the steps to create drawings, nor does it include specific rules and procedures to follow, but it provides an overall understanding of the beginning stages of what makes our firm’s drawings look the way they do and why we have created these standards and methods.

With a BIM Execution Plan (BEP) created and provided for each new project, client demands, government requirements, and consultant coordination are all addressed for the benefit of all parties involved in the initial meeting. This coordination blueprint, specific to each project, includes best practices and workflows for the owner, architect, engineers, and construction manager to deploy CAD drawings or building information modeling (BIM) technology to its fullest potential. This includes delineated roles and responsibilities of each party, detail and scope of information to be shared, relevant business processes, and supporting hardware and software recommendations—all decided on before a single line is drawn.

This BEP document is typically included within the initial project kickoff meeting and benefits all parties involved, but mostly it gives the owner/client a strong understanding of what we are planning and supports his/her inclusion within the project specifics including timelines, meeting, and contact info. This process also provides maximum unity, understanding, and overall clarity to a CAD/BIM project, allowing a much better workflow from SD through FM.

The Consultant Coordination Manual is created by the architect and intended for the consultants design team and their project manager as an overall coordination guide and reference manual. This document was made to provide detailed and strategic instructions that we require to be standardized for best coordination efforts and workflow methods between the architect and all consultants involved. This documentation includes the following processes:

  • BIM introduction (if applicable)
  • Coordination requirements: xrefs, linking, and worksharing
  • LOD understanding and blocks/components
  • Strategy & best practices

Typically, we do our best to supply each consultant with one of these packets when arriving at the Project Kickoff Meeting to help significantly with efficiency and productivity for the entire project lifespan. Consultants enjoy the clarity, and we enjoy the simplicity.

The firm’s BIM Standards is the last item on the list. This document is the next logical step to creating a uniform look, layout, and to begin organizing the processes for users to follow. These standards are not put in place to restrict, deter, or regulate, but instead to entice organizational thought, provide ways to be as efficient as possible, and allow users to thrive and design, rather than waste time and energy adjusting and revising something that’s already been done 10 times before. These standards are meant to support the individual architect and help the overall company at the same time. Topics include: Drawing and Annotations, Template Information, Project and Infrastructure Organization, Component and File Management, Folder and Network Management, Interoperability, Collaboration, Deliverables, and others.

These documents work in conjunction with one another to provide a clear, understood, and distinct process for taking a project through the appropriate phases required and utilizing the best possible workflow methods in the process. If these are set up in your firm, allowed to be used as a backbone to the processes, and become the standard to how your workflow is done, you will see a level of consistency, reliability, and foundational solidity that would take 10 times longer to provide using any other possible method.

Do your best to make this happen: Work with the architects, meet with the owners, present these ideas to everyone in between and make this standard documentation part of your firm. You will see the benefits I described above. Please take the time to contact me with any feedback, suggestions, additional comments or input, and thank you for your time and support of AUGI!

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