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AGS data format means many ground investigation companies are already BIM Level 2 compliant: Len Threadgold

Companies working on government contracts from 2016 are mandated to be BIM Level 2 compliant but the AGS believes that use of its data format means that many businesses have achieved this target already.

The ground - its nature and properties - is fundamental in all respects to construction and hence knowledge of its characteristics is key to safe, efficient and economic design.

Construction materials, structures and layouts are typically well specified, analysed and controlled; yet their partner, the ground, has to be accepted for what and where it is. Usually, it is the least known component of this partnership and hence, its investigation is essential to the process of interactive design so it must be well designed and structured to give the details required.

In view of its importance, the data from site investigation must be available to all in a form which designers and contractors can use and clients can store in their internal software systems.

In 1991, the problem of supplying data electronically in a standard way was recognised by the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS). In the spirit of collaboration the AGS set up a group drawn from across the industry to establish a software-independent data transfer format which would enable producers, engineers, designers and clients to use and archive ground investigation data. It has the additional benefit of allowing future investigation data to be used to augment the original work.

This initiative, known as the “AGS Format”, has been successful nationally and internationally and has matured through use in the UK and overseas from AGS 1 in 1992 to the current AGS4 which was published in October 2011. On the basis of this industry standard, application software has been able to develop and blossom.

Despite the availability of data in this format over many years, specialist contractors and main contractors still complain that data are not provided to them in this form. Maybe this is due to a lack of awareness by all parties, including those responsible for procurement, as well as the designers, clients and contractors?

The AGS objective was to ensure that data entered into a software system once can be re-used many times, transferred to others and archived independently of the software which created it. The AGS also recognised that in addition to transfer, a method was required to formalise internal data management processes and, based on the working group’s experience, and in conjunction with British Standards, BS8574 Code of practice for the management of geotechnical data for ground engineering projects was published in March 2014.

Major consultancies and client bodies in the UK have long recognised the benefits of using the AGS Format and the government demands for BIM and BS1192 have virtually mandated its use and adherence to BS8574. For example, its use on UK projects such as the HS2 is refreshingly mandatory.

The AGS believes that the combination of BS8574 compliance and use of the AGS Data Format mean that a ground investigation company is already BIM Level 2 compliant.

The group’s latest work-in-hand is the creation of a facility to transfer the ground modelling information required by British Standards which have emanated from the introduction of Eurocodes and identified in what has been defined as the Ground Investigation Report (GIR). This includes layer and boundary parameters and cross-sections. Code-named “AGSi”, the data management committee is working closely with the British Geological Survey to release a beta version as soon as possible.

Len Threadgold is a director with Geotechnics

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