PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog
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The Full Story Matters: Preparing for a Project’s Lifecycle with Better Facility Data

Getting the Right Facility Data for O&M Success

What’s the story of your latest project? Did it go something like:

“Once upon a time, there was a big area of land.
On that land, a big building was constructed.

There were many people who were involved…
…And many processes, changes and tools used.
After it was built, they all lived happily ever skyscraper.
The End.”

We’re assuming you’ve identified some significant gaps in the plot. But we’re not here to tell you a shotty story of a project. We’re here to illustrate the missing information that occurs so frequently in the story of construction. In fact, according to some reports, around 30% of data is lost in design and construction–a lot like cutting out the turning point of your favorite page-turning novel.

However, telling the complete story of your project isn’t just about documenting for the sake of documentation; it’s essential to the future of your project beyond the construction process. Often, construction teams are so focused on completing the work at hand, they forget or improperly document and detail the full story of construction. This leaves owners with an incomplete view of not only construction progress at the moment, but it’s incredibly challenging and costly when it comes to long-term facility management.

Therefore, it’s essential that project teams capture a complete and accurate story of construction with technology and facility data for operations and maintenance (O&M) success. Below, we’ll discuss why capturing the full story of construction matters and how construction teams can improve their storytelling skills.

A Curious (and Dangerous) Case of Missing Facility Data

After the handoff, without a thorough understanding of the entire construction process–from design to closeout–facility management is ill-prepared to manage any potential issues and even routine maintenance. As a result, there can be a great deal of additional and avoidable costs for facility teams to incur from the procurement side. Furthermore, without the right resources, a building’s overall lifecycle could decrease.

Just think about the following situation. A major water pipe bursts in a state of the art on-campus medical facility. Each extra minute it takes technicians to locate the right shut off value on paper as-built drawings, which could be archived in a room that is chalk full of filing cabinets with paper drawings, could potentially cost the owner hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, if not substantially more. However, if technicians have an accurate and organized view of facilities data at their fingertips, they have the right information needed to minimize damage.

Why Teams Should Care

Owners

For owners, the benefits of capturing the full project story are obvious. Their operations teams primarily need the full story to manage costs, streamline preventive maintenance processes, stay prepared for emergencies and extend the total lifecycle of the project. In fact, according to a recent report from FMI, 71% of owners reported that retaining more data during design, construction and closeout would reduce or significantly reduce lifecycle operations costs.

Contractors

Contractors might be thinking, “Well I’m not managing the facility after the handoff. Why is it in my team’s best interest to spend the time and create the processes to record an accurate history of the project?”

For general contractors, being able to provide accurate, detailed as-builts is of immense competitive value. Owners are looking for contractors who prioritize facility data collection and can hand-off the project painlessly. In turn, contractors are more likely to develop better business relationships with their owners leading to coveted repeat business with their clients and even receive referral business down the road.

According to an article from McKinsey & Company, “Clients have higher standards for the collection of full lifecycle data of their assets than ever before. Using technology, contractors can now meet these increasing needs for building asset data with a radically new approach to collecting, retaining, and sharing construction data through the AEC lifecycle.” The post continues, “Better understand your stakeholders, what they care about, and how you can deliver superior data handoffs, enhance the turnover experience and align your practices with the challenges of your clients to become a strategic business partner.”

Beyond happy owners, capturing accurate facility data from design and pre-construction throughout closeout is of personal value to general contractors. Like with all great history lessons, there’s a lot we can learn about the past. The more data available for analysis and review can help optimize future projects down the road.

Subcontractors

For specialty contractors, prioritizing data can be even more lucrative in the immediate future. After closeout, owners may be looking for experienced mechanical and electrical teams as external resources to help manage facilities. With ingrained knowledge, and thorough documentation, specialty contractors who worked on building a project previously are often the best fit to manage certain aspects of it throughout its lifecycle. As a subcontracting firm, when teams have both the insight and data to back up their work, profit potential grows.

How to Plan for Your Project’s Epilogue

How do you not only manage your projects current needs but plan for the aftermath of construction? By building up both data-centric mindsets in staff and creating processes that make capturing and sharing information virtually effortless.

Below, we’ll dive deep into what makes a good project story–and how to achieve it.

Start with an Outline

Just like writing any story, having a predetermined structure or outline sets up a project’s epilogue up for success. Similarly, in order to be able to handoff a complete turnover package to O&M teams, facility data needs to be set up in a way that is translatable and organized starting from project startup. Instead of just handing off all project documents in their entirety, breaking up information and segments that are most useful to the project team like emergency preparedness plans, life safety drawings, warranty issues and asset management data, operations team is fundamental to the success of facilities teams.

In turn, by setting up facility data in broad categories and segmentation in advance, the right data can get in the right hands when it’s needed the most. One useful tool to segment construction data for facilities use is PlanGrid’s Workspaces. Using the software, construction teams can segment data by different departments, areas and needs. Workspaces allows facility data and plans to be split up and distributed to relevant parties, so handover packages are customized and incredibly relevant to serve specific facilities needs.

Provide a Full History

While not every detail of a project will be useful to facilities management, having access to every nitty and gritty project detail can pay off big time. From all design plans to change orders and RFIs, being able to access historical project data and documents can help operator’s problem solve or find the root of an issue. BIM models that have not only been used in design but have been accurately and timely updated throughout construction are also incredibly useful for facilities teams managing costs.

Like the majority of projects, the final build may be completely different from the very first design versions. To be able to service the facility effectively, it’s critical that data doesn’t read like an idealist’s history. Therefore, packaging the true and full history of a project, from schematic design drawings all the way through construction, will allow operators and technicians to truly address the root of an issue.

Create a Connected Storyline

If the chapters of a novel you were reading were disconnected and didn’t share enough of the background information to support the storyline, you would most likely end up feeling lost. Similarly, it’s vital that the O&M team don’t feel disoriented because important documents and information are missing from the handover package.

Creating a connected set of facility data and information, or a smart as-built set is one strategy to ensure technicians have access to everything they need to manage a project for its entire lifecycle. In cloud-based collaboration software like PlanGrid, construction teams can add and hyperlink sheets and documents with critical project information like schedules and product specs that will be available for facilities team, on and offline. With a digital solution, it’s even possible to create and view certain segments of information. Therefore, if an issue or even emergency situation occurs, facility teams can quickly add and remove all extraneous information to find exactly what they need to fix the problem in seconds.

Add Photos

Photos speak a thousand words, and in construction having photographic documentation in as-builts is a critical component when managing facilities. During construction, teams will capture photos to document project progress and where conduit (electrical) or piping (plumbing) is located behind walls or where equipment, values or controls are located above ceilings. When added directly to their plans and included in as-builts, this visual information can provide invaluable context and cues for facilities teams in the finished project.

Even more helpful is when the exact location of those photos can be added to project plans and documents. Certain construction software includes location tagging for photos. Having accurate GPS data available for these images empowers the boots on the ground to make better decisions in maintenance and even emergency situations with real-life visuals at hand.

Get a (Cloud-Based) Publishing House

For any story to sell, a publishing company who helps store, collect and distribute the content is essential to its success. For construction, the best publishing center is mobile and cloud-based software. Nonetheless, to collect the right level of facility data needed for managing a project’s lifecycle, the platform needs to mesh seamlessly with processes that are already second nature to field staff.

According to Tyler Goss, former Innovation Manager at Turner Construction Company, “The key is that data mining efforts are built on top of–not in addition to–existing technologies, processes and workflows. For data gathering, collection and mining to succeed, they have to be perceived by users as an integral part of one’s existing process, not as ‘one more thing.’” Overall, to successfully collect facility data, it means choosing software that is made for the field, easy to use and fits effortlessly with established workflows.

In addition to creating as-builts, construction teams need a fast way to get handover documents into the hands of operations teams at closeout. Cloud-based software is the only option to quickly and efficiently get as-builts to those managing the project after construction. Having this information in a fully digital closeout binder that’s available at any point in the office or the field allows teams to address any issues faster as well as keep a constant pulse on any maintenance needs down the road.

Plan for the Sequel

A pain point for many owners is that after they receive the as-builts from a contractor and before the next major project begins, there could be months, years and even decades in between projects where information is not being collected. However, if mobile software is available for the O&M team to update work on the spot when it comes time for the next rebuild or renovation, owners can save big time because they will not have to do an existing conditions survey. In turn, all this information can be integrated back into project drawings, so the most up to date story is always available to teams.

The Future of O&M is Better Data

It’s no longer enough to capture data and information just to maintain the construction process. Today, it’s becoming essential to start capturing extensive facility data to ensure a building’s long-term usability. By prioritizing data capture throughout construction with the right tools, construction teams can help create smart as-builts to dramatically help owners maintain costs and sustainability of their projects–or plan for the next chapter.

Further Reading:  Building 101: What’s the Difference Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control in Construction?

Grace Ellis

As a Content Marketing Manager at PlanGrid, Grace is the managing editor for the PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog. With over eight years of experience in marketing, communications and PR for technology companies, she is specialized in high-quality content creation across both traditional and digital media platforms.

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