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Building Information Modeling: An Owner's Journey

By Michael J. Carrancho, PE, Chief of Engineering & Design, Smithsonian Institution

Building Information Modeling: An Owner's JourneyMichael J. Carrancho, PE, Chief of Engineering & Design, Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest muse­um, education, and research complex. Comprised of 19 museums, nine research centers, three cultural centers and the National Zoo, it hosts over 28 million visitors per year. Founded in 1846 with funds from Englishman James Smithson (1765-1829), the Institution’s mission was, and continues to be, “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”In support of this mission, the Institution maintains 600 buildings, totaling over 13 million square feet. In continuing the best-in-class steward­ship of the Institution’s facilities, the Office of Planning, Design, and Construction’s Engineering and Design Division undertook a building information modeling (BIM) initiative in 2013.

The first phase of the initiative was a comprehensive use case analysis on how BIM might be utilized across Smithsonian’s facilities. Nine candidate use cases were developed for BIM including project support, a BIM Wiki, campus BIM, asset management, BIM Standards, landscape management, requirements, security, and historic preservation. The use cases were developed through interviews of facility stakeholders after a short primer on BIM and its capabilities. Discussions with peer organizations were completed and a review of their documents was included in the analysis.

From the use cases, we began development of the Institution’s BIM documentation, processes, and workflow.

The Smithsonian’s BIM initiative began with the end in mind. The use cases defined when and how the Institution was going to utilize BIM. This has been key to its successful implementation

Early identification of the use cases ensured that any decisions made would mitigate any surprises as the Institution defined its BIM strategy.

One novel aspect of Smithsonian’s BIM initiative was the creation of Revit discipline templates incorporating the institution’s BIM standards and conventions for our design partners to use in creating BIM designs. Revit templates were created for architectural, electrical, mechanical/plumbing, structural, and fire alarm/security designs. The files are used by designers and negates the need for them to create their own template for our projects.

Several more documents followed the creation of the templates including a template user’s guide, a level of development matrix, BIM execution plan template, Smithsonian Facilities BIM Guidelines, and an SI Review Process with Integration of BIM documents. In addition to the guidance documents published, we created a Smithsonian Facilities Custom Model Checker that the designers download to automatically check models for compliance with many of our BIM standards. These tools help drive consistency and compliance with the Institution’s BIM goals.

With the standards and guidance documents in place, Smithsonian embarked upon leveraging the considerable immersive capabilities of BIM. The pilot project was the renovation of the National Air and Space Museum. This $650 million renovation of the US’s most visited museum presented many opportunities to test our workflow. The first was to provide an immersive design review experience for the maintenance staff responsible for maintaining this facility.

During the 35% design review, we employed Revizto software and HTC Vive hardware to immerse staff within the mechanical spaces and equipment that they would be servicing. Within the first few minutes of immersion, they observed that the boilers would need to be rotated 180 degrees to allow for access. This one comment, presented at the 35% design review, recompensed in change order avoidance, the purchase of all the software and hardware to provide this capability.

One noteworthy aspect of the Institution’s BIM initiative has been integration of asset management with our enterprise computerized maintenance management system, Tririga Facility Center. Preliminarily, our plan was to incorporate all trackable assets and attributes within the model itself. However, when our maintenance group decided to utilize the full Master Format asset classification system with custom attributes, we abandoned this strategy and instead created a custom, smart, spreadsheet used along with a detailed workflow to allow batch uploading of asset information into Tririga at regular intervals (typically monthly). The spreadsheet was tested and validated on three completed projects.

The Smithsonian’s BIM initiative began with the end in mind. The use cases defined when and how the Institution was going to utilize BIM. This has been key to its successful implementation. The immersive capabilities of BIM significantly improves the review process for non-technical reviewers and has provided cost savings from change order avoidance. The database aspect of BIM has significantly reduced workload, improved quality, and increased timeliness of asset management. The Institution intends on expanding its use of BIM to all of its future projects and continues to integrate it into its capital improvement and maintenance programs.

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