Building Content: Why Do We (Or Should We?) *Trust* Manufacturers Content Implicitly?

It’s a pretty common story line, about how BIM Content gets in to a Project Model: Design Starts… Eventually detail starts getting added…  Something gets put in as a placeholder… Once we know what the object is*- we go looking for BIM content that accurately represents that object.  Often times, that means we hit up the Manufacturers website, to see if they have a component for our BIM software of choice. If they do, we download it.  If we are VIGILANT we review it for all sorts of things… But let’s be honest, that doesn’t always happen. A lot of project teams say “well it’s from the manufacturer, and they know their product better than I do!”

But… Is the content you got from them an accurate representation of their product?

Recently, I came across some Plumbing Fixtures on a manufacturers website. I opened them and did my normal “Content Check,” consisting of: Any CAD geometry (nope), all native editable geometry (yep), model on in all views (no, but fixable), any symbolic lines hanging out in all views (yes, and deleted).  Then, I went and started running an API app to add some of my company standards Parameters in to the Plumbing Fixture families… And Revit started crashing. A lot. On specific fixtures. I couldn’t figure out why adding Identity Data parameters (not tied to any geometry) would cause something to go bonkers, so I started tearing apart the components:

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As I nosed around, the first thing I found was… Geometry issues. It was “native” to the platform (one of my requirements), but it was all a bunch of dimensions that were really ugly numbers, and slightly non-coincident planes, making nothing clean up and join correctly. The result was a BUNCH of extra facets, faces, planes, and Z-fighting in the views. So, I dove in to fix it. I muttered to myself “That’s what I get for downloading manufacturers content….”  But, I keep rationalizing to myself “Well, it made sense.  These fixtures from THIS manufacturer should obviously represent their product very closely…”

That was when (curiously), I found another manufacturers logo, buried (unused) in the content. Well that’s odd, I thought to myself. Curious, I went to THAT manufacturers website… And found the exact same Content. Perplexed, I started comparing dimensions (down to the 256th of an inch…) and they are identical pieces of content, except for the names, and the company logos. Now, a little more digging around shows that one company is the parent company of the other, so it’s very probable that they are indeed- pretty close to accurate. But before I knew that, it got me to thinking:

Why do we inherently trust content from manufacturers as gospel, in terms of accurately representing the components they represent?

The more I dug around, I discovered that some of the Water Cooler variants showed the Louvers for the Chillers, but didn’t actually show the Chiller, where others had a modeled chiller that would appear in the wall. Inconsistencies. Not a big deal (and solvable), but what if you don’t know to look?

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A few days later, I had finished my expanded due diligence on the Plumbing Fixture Content, and I was back on track. But it made me think: Given an opportunity, I would want to clue the manufacturer in that: 1. Their content actually sacked a project model (well, a test project model, to be fair) several times, causing work loss. 2. It needed corrections to work “well” without graphical issues. 3. Some of the items with physical bulky Chillers, are missing the chillers. All fixable issues. Then, I would want to talk to them about what it means to us (in the AEC space) to have these things corrected by the manufacturer. Would they listen, or care?  I’m not sure.

These are the conversations we hope to start (and finish?) at the Building Content Summit events, the next of which is in 16 short days. October 19th, in Porto, Portugal. The Building Content Summit will have its first European event on that date, preceding the RTC Europe event.

If you will be in Porto for RTC, (even if you wont be!) I would encourage you to come early and register for the Building Content Summit.  Lets get manufacturers together with the folks that need to use their content, and strategize making things better!

www.BuildConSum.com

-A

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