Bridging the CAD Deliverables Gap with Your Client

24 Sep, 2008 By: Melanie Stone

Electronic documentation must serve different purposes for building owners and CAD contractors.

In this issue, rather than discussing client requirements for design, I want to discuss client requirements for electronic deliverables. For the sake of this topic, let's make an assumption that a building owner/operator has contracted out some work and part of that contract provides for the delivery of AutoCAD (.DWG) documentation. Let's also assume that the facility owner has given the outside firms some requirements for those files.

Ideally, a building owner should have some understanding of how an outside firm creates and uses files during design and construction, and those firms should understand how a building owner uses them during the lifecycle of the building(s). The sites could be retail or recreation centers, educational or medical facilities, or generally any building or complex large enough to require record-keeping for maintenance and renovation by a team of professionals.

When first reviewing a client's CAD standards, some of the rules might not make sense to everyone involved. Yet both parties need to acknowledge that they're using the same documents for two very different purposes.

The general contractors, architects, and subcontractors on a project could all be using different software — possibly AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, or AutoCAD R14 to design and build. The firms may even be using the Revit series or other BIM-capable products.

The building owner also could be using any of the above software. Chances are, however, if the organization is complex enough to warrant employing someone with CAD knowledge and an electronics documentation system, it's going to have other uses for this information. Its users could be accessing the files with anything from AutoCAD LT to a simple drawing viewer such as DWG TrueView, Bentley Viewer, or any other combination of DWG CAD or viewing software.

So, when clients complain about 3D entities (AEC objects or MVParts) in the files that they've specified be only 2D for their deliverables, a consultant has to understand that the obvious solution for them (downloading an object enabler) may not work for all of the stakeholders in the organization. This case is one of many in which communication will ease the frustration, because results tend to be better when people understand why they're being asked to do something weird or nonstandard. For example, a client may prefer that the firm use a command like Export to AutoCAD rather than Flatten (which will introduce nonstandard block names), and could communicate that during a quick phone call or email. Or the client may not care how he or she gets to the end result but just wants to be able to snap to objects, which all reside at 0 elevation.

The CAFM Connection
Some larger facilities will be using a computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) program to manage their spaces and assets. Whether they're using Archibus, FMDesktop, or another system, they're going to have some ideas about how best to prepare the files they're using to update their plans. Most systems will require polylining of areas to link spaces, which means every corner should meet precisely, all lines should be at the same elevation (0), and layer names should be consistent across all drawings. Other CAFM products can make use of AutoCAD Architecture/MEP's Space objects or Revit Room objects, which is a whole different ball game.

File Usage and Distribution
Most facility managers will be using CAD as-builts primarily for two purposes. The first, and most urgent, is the maintenance of their buildings, such as making wayfinding or evacuation maps for visitors and occupants, tying in new or renovated spaces to a fire alarm or building automation system (BAS), adding new pieces of mechanical/electrical/plumbing and fire protection (MEPFP) equipment to a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS or work order system), or just basic building systems maintenance by skilled workers keeping their occupants safe and comfortable.

The second purpose for CAD as-builts is for future renovations. Obviously, a lot of time and effort during planning and construction can be saved when a facility manager has information readily available to contractors and doesn't have to interrupt the occupants by knocking through walls and opening up ceilings unnecessarily.

Many times the clients will be happy to keep external reference (xref) file structures in place for smaller file sizes and faster loading, etc. But other times, such as when clients have to follow a certain procedure with file management (and may not have access to handy repathing tools such as the Reference Manager if they are using LT or drawing viewers) or if they have to distribute files frequently via email, they'll prefer having the background files bound.

Another irritating requirement could be specific naming of files or requirements on layout tabs. The client and contractor may have wildly disparate methods and tools for managing their documents, and file setup might need to be changed before information moves from one to the other.

Getting There Is Half the Fun
As usual, communication is vital. Owners should communicate their needs, and if they believe it is necessary, should explain how files will be used so that contractors don't feel as though they're being asked to jump through hoops for no reason. Once that understanding is reached, the contractor will be able to start looking at things from the owner's point of view and can form ideas on how to best reach common ground where the owner's needs are met.

To conclude, as long as the lines of communication are open and both perspectives are being respected, things will run much more smoothly. It may not matter exactly how you get there (ScriptPro, Flatten, Export to AutoCAD, Layer Translate, Export to Layout, or any custom programming), but remember that communication is the key to a safe arrival.

About the Author: Melanie Stone

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