Co-ordinated Project Information

Sir Edwin Lutyens once described production information as “a letter to the builder, telling him exactly what you want him to do”. He was criticising those architects who don’t know when to stop designing or presenting and confuse the contractor with ill-conceived notes. Lutyens didn’t stop the rot.

The Building Research Establishment has blamed designers for a third of all problems on site due to unclear or missing information.

The Construction Project Information Committee (CPIC) of the professions and contractors helped substantially with its work in the seventies and eighties. This has seeped into most offices to some degree, but practices still waste their fees chasing down queries from site and there is significant extra construction cost due to uncertainty and poor co-ordination. Cad practice is often chaotic.

So on May 9 I chaired CPIC’s launch of a new code of procedure for production information, bringing it into the cad era. It really is good stuff and should improve architects’ temper, reputation and profits. It argues that there is a best way to organise drawing and specification and that we should all follow it. It will help us develop and enforce cad standards in the office, get decent document management, use project extranets well, get our specification practice up to speed, move to Uniclass from CISfB (the two key classification systems for construction data), get started on knowledge management and use 3D modelling to improve 2D documentation. It is a mighty blow against entropy, the creeping anarchy that erodes all coherence.

The code is framed for mainstream practice of all sizes, showing ways of doing things for small projects as well as using wisdom from the Terminal 5 team. T5 is one of the industry’s laboratories for the future, practising IT-supported collaboration at the leading edge. Mervyn Richards of Laing O’Rourke is the IT guru on the T5 team and he has all the experience there is. T5 has achieved 10% cost savings by anticipating co-ordination problems, checking intentions in 3D, before signing off the drawings.

IT is well ahead of the mainstream on many fronts, moving towards 3D object modelling where components have virtual reality in the cad model, together with all their characteristics and requirements. Object modelling is still four to five years away from general use in the UK. Meanwhile CPIC 2003 is the thing to use. It will make the eventual transition to object modelling more straightforward. Architectural expertise for CPIC 2003 has come from PRP, Feilden Clegg Bradley, Gensler and the RIBA’s Keith Snook. Specification input has been from the National Building Specification.

There is no dictatorship in the world of architecture. Standardisation is often seen as a threat to creativity and variety. As far as how documents are produced however, a bit of dictatorship would be very helpful. CPIC advises clients to insist on the use of its conventions. Help customers to help you by asking them to make all your fellow consultants comply while you do it too, as fast as you can. Save time, make money, appear far more competent! Irresistible.

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