Whitepaper: 09.10.2011

Achieving the Single Source of Truth

by Chad Dorgan, Ph.D., P.E., LEED AP BD+C, McCarthy Vice President Quality and Sustainability 

In the traditional, paper-based building environment with a number of different people across all facets of the project reviewing and revising hundreds of documents (each with multiple versions), mistakes and omissions are bound to occur. Those can be as simple as a change that was made to some but not all sets of documents to work being put in place using outdated information. Unfortunately that can lead to many issues, not the least of which is costly and time-consuming rework. 

Let’s face it: Rework occurs on many projects. The primary reason for this is due to the individual trades not having the most current documents from which to build. All parties on a project are not working from a Single Source of Truth, which can be relied on at any time as reliable and up-to-date information. The question is, why is the information not reaching the trades? To understand the answer, let’s first understand the evolution of documents on a typical construction project.

The start of documentation is the creation of the design document created by the architects and engineers. These are then taken by the contractors to create the shop drawings of how the intent detailed in the design documents will actually be constructed in the field. While these two sets of documents would ideally be identical, variances of installation fit and finish often means the specific materials do not fit together as intended.

To resolve these variances, contractors submit requests for information to the designers, who then either clarify the solution through the request for information or if there is a change in scope of work, they issue a change order.

From a documentation perspective, this is where the majority of issues occur relative to getting the right information to the tradespeople in the field. Simply put, when dealing with hundreds or thousands of clarifications through a paper process, getting clarity on what changed to each and every project team member is a huge challenge. The reason for this is that each change needs to be communicated to every contractor on the project, and then they need to post them on every set of drawings they have. Ultimately, this is not done perfectly, and the trades doing the work do not access the correct information when they start putting the work in place.

In order to overcome this challenge, we need to create a system that allows us to provide a Single Source of Truth to everyone on the project. Luckily, through technology, we can now manage the posting of all changes to a single location, which can then be accessed by anyone.

There are three primary technologies that we can use to achieve the Single Source of Truth – these being:

1.    Digital Plan Room
2.    Wireless Network
3.    Field Devices

1.    Digital Plan Room

The Digital Plan Room is at the heart of achieving the Single Source of Truth as this is where the documents will be maintained and then be accessed by all other project team members. 

The key to the Digital Plan Room is the use of software that allows for easy mark-up of the documents, updating them through versioning, and the ability to access all documents graphically instead of through a file structure. The reason for this is that you want to mimic the paper set everyone knows how to navigate instead of a file structure.

Within McCarthy, we utilize Bluebeam® PDF Review for this purpose as it has versioning (automatic highlighting of changes), mark-up capability, and quick hyperlinking of files and documents. For example, the following is the cover sheet for the drawings where all blue items are hyperlinks to other sheets, and the red are mark-ups highlighting changes made from the previous design set.

It is important to understand that the hyperlinking is also for all of the details within the documents. This provides very quick navigation of the documents and not having to open and close documents to get to a detail.

2.    Wireless Network

The creation of a wireless network allows you to access the Single Source of Truth from anywhere in the field. For small projects, this can simply be a wireless router located to cover the project site. For large projects, you will likely need multiple repeaters to get complete coverage. One opportunity to get a wireless network early is for the builder to work with the owner on getting parts of the final IT network installed early in construction (i.e., several WiFi spots on each floor) to avoid installing and removing a temporary system.

3.    Field Devices

Finally, field devices allow anyone to access the Digital Plan Room, which includes all current drawings, submittals, requests for information and change orders. Therefore, when any contractor is installing their portion of the work, they can easily access the most current information to verify they are doing it correctly, thus avoiding mistakes and rework.

There are two main field devices – BIM Kiosks and Tablets. The BIM Kiosk is an easy way to allow multiple people to access information in a central location(s) on the project. The BIM Kiosk includes a lockbox with a computer, large screen (or touch screen) and printer. These have been well-used by McCarthy subcontractors and have eliminated hundreds of trips back to the trailer to understand current documentation.

BIM Tablets are devices individuals use as they walk around the project. Through the wireless network, they maintain connection to the Digital Plan Room. Additional software can be added to the BIM Tablets to include documenting and resolving issues and punchlists, thus further improving productivity of the project staff.

Achieving a Single Source of Truth on all construction projects is more possible today than it has ever been.

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