Geo Week News

December 13, 2011

Building documentation group nears membership launch


USIBD to start with standards, move toward certification

IRVINE, Calif. – What is “building documentation”? How do you write a specification requiring building documentation services? What’s a standard deliverable from someone performing said services?

These are questions the U.S. Institute of Building Documentation hopes to answer in the near future as the group finalizes its by-laws and looks to start signing up members in the new year.

Unlike, say, land survey, there is no licensure or certification requirements, no association body, attached to the existing conditions building documentation profession.

“The biggest thing we’re hoping to bring the members, and the industry,” said John Russo, the organization’s president, and the head of Architectural Resource Consultants, “is going to come out of the standards committee … We have a vision to create some specifications and templates.” These might be used by asset owners looking to put out an RFP, or by service providers looking to outline their service offerings.

“A lot of people are struggling,” Russo said. “They don’t even know what they’re asking for. They don’t know what they want, and it would extremely valuable if they had a source that they could go to with industry standards that have been recognized.”

Already, the group has gathered a long list of supporters and a leadership team that includes people from the AEC community, property owners, and survey and laser scanning providers. Firms represented include Epic Scan, Langan Engineering, Stantec, DGT Survey Group, and many more.

The hardest part, of course, will be developing standards that allow for innovation while at the same time providing guidelines for evaluating the work being done. “We want to be vendor independent and neutral,” Russo said. “We’re looking to create something that doesn’t tell the provider their means and methods, but gives them a guideline to follow that the owners will be able to rely on for vetting the deliverables through a defined process.”

There’s plenty of room for simple education, too. “You’ll see instances where the owner doesn’t know what they’re buying,” Russo said. “I’ve had clients say, ‘I want you to scan my building,’ and my first question is always, ‘Do want it scanned or do you want it documented?’ When you say you want it scanned, that means you want a point cloud. If you just need it documented, then I’ve got more options; maybe this job doesn’t require scanning.”

Eventually, Russo expects this will all lead to some kind of certification process that service providers can use to self-validate and provide assurance to potential customers.

“You don’t have to participate,” Russo reasoned. “You can, but you don’t have to. It’s just another tool for the service providers. I hear a lot of complaining out there. When you talk to licensed professionals, surveyors and engineers, they complain about going up against a ‘disto house’ where they just run out with distos and shoot everything and they’re not even using survey control. Of course the numbers [on the bid]are going to be different. And an owner often doesn’t understand that.”

As for a timeline, the USIBD is planning to be legally formed, with established by-laws, just after the first of the year. At that point, the organization can start officially accepting members as part of its “soft launch” before the initial membership drive begins at SPAR International, in Houston, in April.

Standards, and certification, will follow in methodical fashion after that.

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