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Flying the flag for standards

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Dan Rossiter explains why he’s wedded to using standards and the changes he’s made using them.

It’s no secret that I love standards. Since joining the construction industry, I have always tried to look for exemplars. When working for Cardiff City Council, I had access to info4localgov, a subset of IHS, where I could get all the documents I needed.

Through this portal I had access to design guidance, BRE research papers on thermal bridging, building regulations and standards like BS 8300 on how to design buildings for accessibility.

Having constant access to a resource like this allowed me to stand on the shoulders of giants – designing based on expert research, published as good practice. After joining BRE to support their BIM services I was exposed to even more standards and the work of B/555.

B/555 is responsible for the preparation, revision and amendment of British Standards for digital definition, representation, presentation and exchange of information and knowledge within the Construction industry. 

There are around 48 Standards that B/555 is responsible for, including topics around:

  • Drawings;
  • Library objects;
  • Design management;
  • Building information modelling;
  • Technical product documentation;
  • Collaborative production of construction information;
  • Organisation of information about construction works.

These are the standards that I try to abide by.

At the end of January, I presented at the Media 10 Ultimate BIM Summit on this topic. Using several B/555 standards (and a few others too) I explained how there are British, European and international standards available to support the production of almost any information.

My presentation can be accessed here. In this presentation I covered several controversial topics including the value that Comic Sans brings to BIM.

However, the real value I tried to articulate was that these standards could be easily integrated into how we work now, as I have done on my blog There’s No BIM Like Home.

In fact, I don’t seem to be the only person interested in these standards. Last year, two of the most popular blog post I wrote were:

Naming Omnibus, where I discussed what standards provide which naming conventions ranging from directories to lines styles; and

Drawing to Conclusions, where I discussed what standards relate to the production of technical drawings which included drawing borders, annotations and title blocks.

These standards have shaped how I produce information, sometimes in the most unusual of ways. Thanks to these standards I now never put commas in big numbers. After reading ISO 80000 on SI units, I discovered something amazing: half the world doesn’t use a decimal point. 

Shown below is a world map indicating countries that use a period in blue, and use the comma in green and red.

This means that when I write the number 12,345, to billions of people it looks like less than a baker’s dozen. Just imagine the confusion that could cause an International project where you needed over 12,000 bricks and less than 13 arrived.

ISO 80000 allows for either a period or a comma to be used for a decimal point, but says that when writing a large number, commas should be avoided to separate the thousands, using a small space or no punctuation instead.

After reading ISO 8601, I have defaulted to writing my dates as YYYY-MM-DD. This has been mainly for two reasons. The first is that COBie requires it, so having written the dates into my information model for all my assets, it has now become muscle memory.

The second is that if you write dates in this format, everything will appear in chronological order. I believe in this format so much, that I even used it when I had my wedding band engraved.

Don’t tell my wife!

So, the next time you are tempted to review your internal standards, methods and procedures, why not stop and see whether there is already a suitable standard that has already been written. By relying on British, European and international good practice, you can really achieve “simplicity through standardisation”.

Dan Rossiter MCIAT is a senior BIM communicator at BRE, committee member of B/555, Convenor for BIM and construction information at CEN and ISO and the author of There’s No BIM Like Home. He can be found on Twitter @DRossiter87 

Image: Vladimir Kolosov/Dreamstime.com

When I write the number 12,345, to billions of people it looks like less than a baker’s dozen. Imagine the confusion that could cause an International project where you needed over 12,000 bricks and less than 13 arrived.– Dan Rossiter