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Why true constructibility starts with data

What is constructibility? Ask five people and you’ll likely get five different answers. Most, however, would tell you that constructibility means you’re able to model all the information that’s needed to build something. That’s the simple explanation. There’s far more to the concept of constructibility – which is why I’m not exactly a fan of the term.

Two sides to constructibility

When something is truly constructible, it means you have all the information you need for construction in a machine-readable model, without drawings or documents. That’s the data aspect of constructibility. 

But then you have another aspect, in which the project is designed in such a way that it’s easy to construct. How are your connections? Do you have room to move? Where is your crane? This aspect of constructibility is especially important because it has a huge impact on automation. In a truly constructible workflow, it’s not just about getting the job done, but getting it done efficiently. For example, the less scaffolding you have to put up the better, because of temporary things like that cut into your efficiency.

In a truly constructible workflow, it’s not just about getting the job done, but getting it done efficiently.

The two aspects of the concept are why I’m not too fond of the term “constructibility”. Using it as a blanket term to cover both muddies the waters and will likely lead to confusion in the future. While the aspects are very much interrelated, they’re different. And in my opinion, it’s best to keep ideas and concepts clean and clear so that everyone can have a good understanding of the topic at hand.

Designing every detail

Traditionally, buildings were not fully designed. Many of the decisions about how to do things were left to the last minute. And even today, most buildings are not designed down to the last detail when construction starts, or even during. In fact, it’s a common sight to see someone going around the site with a tape measure and then fabricating parts right on site.

With constructibility, you can sort these issues out beforehand. The more detailed your planning, the more efficiently you can prefabricate things. Today, for example, you can even fabricate automatically on site with the help of robots. These new machines are much smaller than old machines, so you can have them on site without having to deal with transport.

Data means better automation

Constructibility minimizes nonproductive work and improves automation so that the job can get done faster and more smoothly. These benefits begin with data processing. Once you automate data processing and handling, then and only then can you automate the actual construction.

In the future, I would want data to be processed as automatically as possible so that it can truly support the workflow. Information can flow more efficiently, machine-readable data should be more accessible, and when everything is modeled, we can eliminate last-minute decisions, resulting in faster construction with fewer errors. 

As the use of machine-readable data becomes more common, people will need to think about data less because it will be automated, and the detailed design aspect will, in turn, start to become more important over time. So when we start using machine-readable data all the way, it won’t just completely change how construction is done – it just might change our current concept of constructibility, too.


Read also: 

Why Open Standards Should Be The Gold Standard for BIM

From Blueprint Copier to the Cloud - Communication Is Key in Construction


About the Author

Leif is the BIM Ambassador at Trimble. He is promoting and advocating the application of open standards both within Trimble and in the general market, and participating in developing open standards. Currently, Leif is Trimble's Best Practice Lead for partnerships with standards organizations and represents Trimble in buildingSMART, OGC, ISO, CEN, and others.

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