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Operating room

“It’s all about the data”

Dennis O’Keeffe, infrastructure programme director at the Velindre NHS Trust in Wales, is looking to build a £200M+ specialist cancer treatment centre. He explains why he’ll be writing the transfer of BIM data into the contract, using Velindre’s ‘Enterprise BIM’ initiative that is being developed with Mott MacDonald.

Acres of words have been written about the efficiencies and advantages building information modelling (BIM) brings to design and construction. But, as a public service client, we feel there’s a certain amount of asymmetry in the industry. We haven’t seen the full benefit of BIM, especially in the operational phases of a project.

Public private partnership (PPP) has become a normal way of procuring new health facilities. A substantial part of a PPP service contract is taken up by the 25-year concessional period. During that stretch, the client – usually the NHS in the UK – doesn’t have the full apparatus of data to really monitor the performance of the building.

The construction industry’s at the point where it can create and capture data during design and construction.

The capability exists to monitor operational performance, analyse data, and make decisions based on that. I want access to it all. To get it, we need to lay out the PPP contract with operation and ultimate handover back to the public sector in mind. Access to data will enable us, as client, to truly participate and collaborate in the operational phase, from a position of knowledge.

Enterprise BIM

At the moment it feels like data is owned exclusively by the PPP contractors working for us. As an analogy, we’re like the kid with their nose pressed against the sweet shop window. We, the public sector clients, are looking in, but we can’t touch the sweeties. We want in on it. We need to write it into the contract, because experience shows that if it’s not in the contract it may not get done!

Why does this matter so much? In today’s increasingly digital age, I’m told supermarkets can now tell from shopping habits when couples are going to get divorced. And there’s almost no part of our lives that isn’t touched by the internet. That’s the power of data! The challenge to designers, builders and asset managers is to become digital natives and data scientists – far beyond ‘bricks, mortar and concrete’. We want, in our own modest way, with our new cancer centre project in Cardiff, to make BIM and data work for us.

It’s only when a building goes live that you know if you’re actually achieving the aims you had at the outset and put into the design and construction specifications. As clients we not only want to be able to use data to drive operational efficiencies; we want to learn from our experience as procurers, so that we can make each subsequent project better than the one before. Without data, we’re blind.

Let’s be blunt: without ‘Enterprise BIM’, we will continue to operate at a relative disadvantage in the operational phase of the PPP concession, compared to suppliers who do use BIM effectively. It’s to our advantage – or at least less to theirs – if we know what the energy performance is, when repair and maintenance are required and what the response time to call-outs is. Enterprise BIM also has the potential to make the evaluation of the bidder’s designs and the procurement process more efficient and effective.

Live data would also help us influence better behaviours. One of the big problems in hospitals is energy wastage. From a facilities management perspective, getting people to change their culture and habits is the golden goose. Real-time data would help build consciousness of what’s going on.

Above all other interests, data transparency and transfer is in the interests of those for whom health facilities exist: clinics and hospitals that are designed, built and operated better ultimately benefit people suffering from illness, by enabling better care and the redirection of precious capital from heating bills to treatment.

Operational gains

Hospitals are complicated buildings. I want the best design, and information and control during operation. There’s no point having a sports car if you’re going to drive it like a delivery van. That’s why I’m putting data sharing into the contract for the PPP that will deliver my new facility.

If the industry responds as I hope, by 2022 we will have a fabulous new building, bringing world class cancer treatment, an exemplar not just for healthcare, but the whole public sector. We’ll have a sports car and the ability to drive it.

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