It’s hard to overestimate the value of good documentation in the right place.
“I would not be surprised if as much as half of the rework we experience is because of poor communication. (…) It only takes one person to miss something or not tell someone what they did or where they put something to cause a problem.”
These are the words of a senior project manager, spoken during a global report from software company PlanGrid in 2018. The report reveals that employees in construction companies spend more than 14 hours a week on “non-optimal activities:”
- 5.5 hours looking up product data and information
- 4.7 hours resolving conflicts
- 3.9 hours handling and fixing construction mistakes
Well, as long as human beings are involved, mistakes are going to be part of the construction process. What we can do is minimize the frequency and severity of mistakes. This requires us to change two things:
- What we do before construction starts
- What we do after construction ends
What does this mean in practice? Read on.
Pleasurable Documenting Equals Good Documentation
Being effective is nice, but not if it leads to more mistakes. The main goal for any construction site should be “constructing well,” rather than merely “finishing construction.”
The key to constructing well is twofold:
- Communicating clearly what should be built;
- Creating a culture where everyone systematically documents that the job is done according to plan.
Open BIM software like StreamBIM makes it easy to document your work wherever you are. While documentation used to be done just to meet control requirements, it’s now become a source of positive confirmation:
“Yes, the job is done. Look at the amazing results!”
The project manager can define concrete workflows, such as: “Floor heating, building 2,” and give instructions about what procedures to follow when executing and documenting the project.
The result may look something like this:
Each yellow dot works like a file folder, which contains images and other documentation of the finished work – in the linked room/area. The green dot is the activated room and to the left we can see documentation that the project has been executed according to the instructions. If you zoom in (down, to the left), you can see a manometer during pressure testing. This way you can also document functionality. It’s easy for everyone involved.
In a building of this size, there’s a definite advantage for quality control when the documentation is always at hand in the open BIM model.
In the past, we walked around with paper sheets, markers, and cameras while we documented construction work. We would put all the pictures in the same folder, and assume “we’ll probably find it” if an error was discovered. These folders might contain thousands of pictures and if anything were to happen you could spend an entire day looking for the right one.
How StreamBIM Makes It Easier to Correct Mistakes
A workflow like the one above provides the tools to cooperate and discover mistakes before they materialize. Just viewing the building in 3D can give you an Aha! moment.
How is everything planned? Does it make sense to put a switch on that wall? Is there room for a bed here? Will air pass through the bends of these heating pipes, or is there a chance of blockage? You can’t get a real impression of these things on a paper drawing, but you’ll notice it during a digital inspection in StreamBIM.
Still: Mistakes happen. In those cases, the important thing is to handle them well. StreamBIM is an excellent platform for communication and the management of mistakes. All you need to do is tag the relevant people in the appropriate location. Just look at the comment section in the image above, and you’ll see it’s like having social media within the 3D model.
When all the information is available, you’ll need a lot less time to correct the mistake – you can really just start fixing it immediately. There’s no need to dig up drawings and descriptions from the physical archive or an intricate web of emails.
Better Information Leads to Better Buildings
Time is always tight, and it’s hard to overestimate the time-saving value of having pictures and documentation available directly in the model and in the right place.
When construction workers can immediately access all the information they need, they work more precisely and more efficiently. By easily accessing the documentation and images in StreamBIM, workers might not have to tear down an entire wall where a small hatch is sufficient. If workers can find pictures of the sewer pipes that are improperly joined, they’ll know exactly where to dig.
And, when the mistake has been corrected, it’s far easier for the construction worker to document the work than it used to be. Just take a picture with a smartphone and upload it directly to the model. From there it’s simple for the design engineers to update the model itself.