BIM Innovation: Data Science Applied to Clash Coordination

At BuildingSP, we are reimagining building information modeling (BIM) workflows. Recently, we've been developing a major new innovation which will change how we coordinate mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems using building information modeling (BIM). This innovation is a new, fresh approach to coordination management and we hope you agree that is it transformative. This post will describe what we're doing, why it's important, and what's next.

Let's start by comparing clash detection and Facebook.

Our software development work is often informed by transferring knowledge from other industries. BuildingSP's autorouting work originated in aerospace and our clash prioritization algorithms were influenced by Netflix and grocery coupons. On social media platforms, such as Facebook, connections between users are a key feature. Users are connected to each other in various ways - work, school, hobbies, family - and Facebook's ability to understand these connections gives them the ability to strategically add value. A primary tool to characterize these connections is the network diagram. Here's an example of a network diagram for social media data, with each dot being a person and each line a connection to another person.


These network diagrams very important because they can be filtered, analyzed, and formatted to describe patterns, priority, and exceptions. How can we use network diagrams to better understand our work and enable better management?

In clash coordination, the most difficult areas to coordinate happen when there are large number of clashes that are adjacent and related to each other. Clashes between two elements are very simple to correct. As you add more clashed elements, it becomes more and more difficult to both understand and correct. Systems of clashes are where we need to focus coordination efforts. To understand how clashes are related to each other, we can use network diagrams to map clashes, examine patterns, and triage our coordination efforts. Let's examine network diagrams when they are applied to clash coordination.

The following image was created using the dataset created by ClashMEP, BuildingSP's real-time clash detection tool. ClashMEP for Teams, or C4T, connects to the cloud on every sync or save event, automating project clash reporting. This data is mapped onto the network diagram with every dot, or node, representing a Revit element and every connector between elements representing a clash.

Here's a network diagram of 634 MEP clashes, created using data from ClashMEP for Teams.

This does not look like your typical clash coordination spreadsheet. We can immediately recognize patterns which can inform how we manage the underlying clashes. Let's look at a series of clash examples from our network diagram.

This is a single clash between a pipe and duct. As mentioned above, this would typically be simple clash to correct because the two Revit elements aren't connected to other elements that are also clashed. A condition that would make this clash a higher priority would be if the clash persisted for longer than anticipated or acceptable. Therefore, we can raise the priority of the clash if we relate priority to clash age.

This example is a bit more complicated but quickly yields insight. The clash connectors have arrows, known in data science as "directionality." This tells us that the source node clashed with the target Revit element. In this example, a duct was modeled so it clashed with a pipe. The pipe, before that, was modeled so it clashed with both another pipe and a duct. Using information from ClashMEP, we know the users who modeled these Revit elements. We can, therefore, quickly collaborate with the original modelers to correct this network of clashes.

This group of clashes demonstrates how just one model element can affect many different systems. A conduit is clashing with 20 other Revit elements and, by examining the directionality, we know that the conduit was added after the other elements. Correcting this one conduit, if it is possible, quickly eliminates many clashes. If it isn't possible to correct this single element, the team can quickly create an issue for tracking. For example, you could create a Procore Observation. (BuildingSP is working with Stiles Construction and Kris Lengieza on a Procore integration for Revit. That'll make it even easier.)

In this example, it's clear there is a significant amount of complexity. If this network of clashes weren't characterized by this network diagram, it would be very difficult to understand the extend, connections, or relationships between these connected clashes. By examining the nodes with the most "centrality", or connections to other elements, we can focus coordination efforts to decompose the network of clashes into multiple smaller sets. This decouples the clash network, reduces complexity, and creates a strategy for resolving an area of intense complexity.

Network diagrams of clashes immediately prioritizes clashes because the shape of the clash network characterizes the complexity of the required coordination. Our work is just beginning. We are already working on filtering, adding weights that influence the visual importance of clashes, and integrating these network diagrams into automated, daily clash summaries by email to characterize clashes created in the prior 24 hours.

All of this work is made possible because of the unique dataset created by ClashMEP and C4T. ClashMEP is integrated into Revit and provides access to modeler user names, rooms, levels, system information, and other model environment data. ClashMEP is unique because clashes and geometry data are aggregated as they occur, rather than by querying files like Navisworks or other cloud products. Our near-term development work is focused on continuing to leverage our unique project dataset and extending this thinking to other areas of design management.

The practice of MEP coordination has not changed much in recent years. Clash reports are run, models are updated, issues are logged, and we sit through too many clash coordination meetings. BuildingSP's use of network diagrams to rethink BIM coordination workflows represents a huge step forward and a major innovation.

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To get started integrating network diagrams into your clash management workflows, here's how you can take action:

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