C4C - Clouds for Coordination
C4C is a research collaboration between AEC3, BRE, Cardiff University, Costain, IBM, Lee Wakemans and RIBA Enterprises with funding support from the Technology Strategy Board matched by funding from the partners. The project runs for 2 years from January 2014, and has a total value in excess of £1m.
The C4C project aims to address some of the core challenges arising for the construction industry from the increasingly widespread adoption of computerised Building Information Modelling (BIM). In principle, BIM presents the possibility of shared information throughout the construction and property management sectors enabling efficiencies and benefits throughout. However, BIM has also emphasised the challenges around data ownership, especially with early BIM approaches being a large, single data model, raising the question “who owns the model?” (and, perhaps the more important question behind this, “who is liable if part of the model is/goes wrong?”). Alongside the issue of ownership, the rapid sharing of data also raises the question of trust in the data – more commonly recognised in the construction industry through the use of ‘Issue Status’ for physical documents (where documents are given statuses that equate to what they can be reliably used for, and therefore what the issuing party accepts responsibility and/or liability for such a reliance). The potential for the widespread benefits of BIM could therefore be impacted by uncertainty over “Ownership” and “Trust”.
The C4C project addresses the issue of BIM “Ownership” by adopting the approach that each party involved creates and stores (and is responsible for) their own BIM information themselves, rather than ‘uploading’ it to a central BIM dataset. In essence, each party stores their data on either their own business computer servers, or their choice of extranet and/or ‘Cloud’ storage in accordance with their own business requirements and protocols.
The project outcome will map these individual ‘nodes’ of stored BIM data between the parties with a technology that will be deployed “in the background” of each party’s computer systems. In essence, C4C will allow a complete BIM dataset to be visualised, sourced from the information stored in the multiple locations (‘Clouds’), without changing how or where the original source material is kept, or who is responsible for that data.
The C4C project addresses the issue of BIM “Trust” by creating a mechanism for determining the information’s issue status as a ‘two way’ process, and applying this at a finer scale than the industry currently utilises. The project goal is to create a framework for construction information Issue Status which recognises both the issuing party’s status (and consequentially the responsibility/liability associated), as well as acknowledging the receiving party’s need or reliance on the data. The C4C model for this does not override the issuing party’s Issue Status liability, but does allow other construction parties involved in the project to choose the level of “Trust” in the information, and thereby in effect what they ‘see’ in the BIM dataset. For example, Party A may issue some information as “For Costing”, the level of reliance they accept liability for. Party B and C receive this, however Party B knows Party A’s information has only limited impact on their work, which they are under pressure to progress. Party B may therefore progress their work based on “For Costing” information, whereas Party C may wait for more reliable data before proceeding.
The C4C project applies this two-way “Trust” approach for Issue Status in finer detail than is currently used by the industry, which typically assigns Issue Status to whole documents. Instead, C4C seeks to create a system with the capacity to apply levels of “Trust” (Issue Status) to individual objects within the BIM dataset (these may be computer representations of physical items, parts of the building specification or any other trackable element of information). This finer level of detail allows all parties to make large BIM datasets available (i.e. whole building designs) which contain differing “Issue Status” information for individual elements within it. These elements can then be filtered by other party’s dependent upon the level of reliability they require for their work to progress.