Analogous to the tip of the iceberg, the building design and construction industry has been focused on what they see above the waterline when it comes to computer-generated construction documents. What most of us don't see are the needs and opportunities below the surface. CAD drawings, developed for use in producing contract documents, are just the tip of the facility management iceberg. These drawings have an almost unlimited use in today's computer-friendly world.

Last month, we revisited the advancement of CAD and how designers of buildings up to the present have organized it for their business use. Now we want to raise the bar in CAD application by sharing what we learned after a series of roundtable discussions on how we can better apply CAD after the designers and builders have turned over the new construction or renovation to a facility manager.

Also, we want to raise awareness to the anticipated new American Institute of Architects (AIA) B281-2003 Standard Form of Architect's Services: Facility Support Services document and more specifically to some of the language in the standard:

" Computer Software Evaluation: Evaluate the implementation of computer maintenance management software, computer aided facility management software, which may include the database, workorders, giving consideration to the workflow process, prioritizing balancing of workload, and computer-aided drafting layering. Assess the efficiency of the application."

Where Do You Go For CAD Standards?

AIA is one of the more obvious resources for CAD standards as is the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) for suggested guidelines. In addition, many institutions, such as Harvard University, have their own CAD standards for the building industry (found on each institution's website) to follow when doing business.

If you dig deep enough, the list of providers of CAD standards will be significant. For Goody Clancy & Associates (GCA, architects) and Richard D. Kimball Company, Inc. (RDK, engineers), both Massachusetts-based firms, each has its own time-tested, office guidelines for providing building design services. So why is there a need to advance these standards to a new plateau?

The answer was provided last month in Part 1 of this discussion; the design and construction community use these documents for their immediate needs that will span an average period of approximately three years. The CAD record drawings then lose most of their value as the building manager takes ownership and begins to operate and maintain the facility for probably the next 30 to 40 years.

We, as an industry, have approached these "high-tech" record drawings the same way we approached record drawings 20 to 40 years ago. We have failed to see the wide range of applications with CAD documents as being any different than record drawing blueprints of past design and construction generations. Today, we simply turn over drawings on a computer disk rather then on paper and go on to our next building project.

The new AIA B281 document will hopefully begin to raise awareness to those who haven't looked below the waterline at the rest of the iceberg that we perceive as the aftermarket of the building industry: facility support services.

With this new guideline, the designers of buildings and building systems and the construction managers and general contractors who oversee the execution of these contract documents will now need to focus on educating themselves on how to provide better CAD for facility management at project closeout.

In parallel with CAD-layering guidelines directly associated with a building program, AIA B281-2003 opens the door to opportunities to assist facility management with establishing a separate CAD-layering standard for facility management when there are no new construction projects on the horizon.

Feedback From Roundtable Discussions

Before an owner and/or consultant can offer facility management and CAD-layering standards, data collection is needed. It is this data collection that can contribute to solutions based on assessing the database. In a joint venture between GCA and RDK, a series of open discussions has begun to help collect and process input from various sources based on roundtable discussions and one-on-one conversations.

Further feedback will be required before there is sufficient information to begin to shape facility management CAD layer standards but the process so far has been rewarding. The resources that GCA/RDK drew upon were:

  • Directors of planning and construction;
  • Directors of engineering and operation;
  • Owner's energy managers;
  • Owner's deferred maintenance managers;
  • Facility managers;
  • General contractors;
  • Construction managers;
  • Architects; and
  • Design engineers.

The institutions that provided input were Tufts University, Simmons College, Harvard Business School, American University, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Maine Medical Center, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, Lee Kennedy Company, and Payton Construction.

We brought the design and construction community together with the college/university and health care industry to make sure we touched on all categories and organizations associated with CAD application. What we found were the following building owner interests, needs, and compliances:

  • Record drawings that can be useful for real estate and planning;
  • Similar documents that focus on assess management;
  • Equipment layers that are integrated with the PM workorder system;
  • Equipment layers that are integrated with deferred maintenance and monitoring "facility condition indexing";
  • Shutoff valves layered on a reflected ceiling plan drawing;
  • Special layered documents for agency monitoring (e.g., Joint Commissioning on Accreditation of Hospital Organizations, and insurance companies);
  • Emergency Plan layering for location of all outdoor air intakes, isolation valves, etc.;
  • Layering for inventory room finishes based on architectural floor plans showing the associated rooms;
  • Hazardous material and encapsulated asbestos layer;
  • Special and/or hazardous material waste lines;
  • Isolated/dedicated emergency power circuits; and
  • Energy meters and temperature-controlled zones.

We found the topics to be endless and agreed that facility management standards should begin with a few basic layers addressing life safety, security, and emergency action plans. The institution, such as a college/university, hospital, government building, or commercial business and/or industry, would also influence the selection.

As Part Of A Building Program

For the design team, placing facility management CAD layer requirements on the agenda at the commencement of a project can be a cost-effective way to target those "select few" management layers the building owner would like to have at the completion of the job.

Certainly life safety, agency compliance/monitoring, and emergency plans (e.g., horizontal egressand smoke barriers) could be mutually agreed upon at the start of a job, so that the CAD operators working on contract documents would layer pertinent information efficiently based on facility management layering compliance/needs.

In the roundtable fact-finding discussions, it was noted that the design team formats its layering standards to organize construction information and to coordinate the infrastructure into the architecture of the building. Builders sometimes complain that these standards don't necessarily address constructability. Instead, they see the layering system concerning itself with the physical fit of the building, not the contractor's critical path schedule.

The design team is in the best position to understand what facility management needs. The design team already understands the capabilities of layering. With the design team inherently skilled with CAD and the concept of layering, accommodating a select few owner requests should be possible without hampering the design team's prime goal; production of complete and coordinated contract documents.

On the other hand, the construction team is probably not as knowledgeable of CAD layering, so accommodating the facility manager's layer requests could be foreign to most of the participants.

In addressing CAD layering with the construction team, the GCA/RDK discussions identified MEC coordination as a weakness. While this early phase of installation coordination may be the optimum time to capture many of the facility management layer requirements, the open forums raise the issue that the construction industry has not adequately addressed the concept of CAD-layering guidelines.

What is truly needed during MEC coordination is for the construction industry to first establish CAD-layering standards for the various trades to comply with while doing their field coordination work. This initial phase will most likely make trade contractors more attentive to the value of CAD layering and managing the drawings, as well as to the benefits the facility manager received when preplanning CAD layers.

With a more educated builder, the MEC coordination phase could be the optimum point in the building program to accommodate additional owner requested computer-aided facility management (CAFM) needs. Trade organizations also owe it to their clients to become proficient with CAD-layering standards so that they are better prepared to contribute to CAFM.

When There Is No Building Program

This is probably the point in time where AIA B281-2003 documents become the tool for an owner to contract out the services needed to enhance existing CAD documents. With this AIA document in place, the question can be asked, "What are special CAD layers, and why would I want to use them?" To answer the "what," there are probably two very important reasons:

  • These documents can be an efficient means to operate, maintain, and manage the building and building assets.
  • Today's handheld computer technology success can now accommodate CAD documents so that the facility manager, technician, security guard, etc., can have important documentation at their fingertips.

Incorporating barcoding and GPS (global positioning system), two proven technologies that have been around a while, and pertinent CAD layers within a handheld computer will become a powerful business tool for the user.

Why would I want special CAD layers? First, information is organized onto a floor plan or a flow diagram so that remedial action can be taken quicker and done so based on valid documentation.

Second, time management is why a building owner would want documentation at his fingertips. Repetitive information reference, such as semiannual check of eye wash stations and spot checking of completed workorders on equipment are two examples of CAD layered documents that are important in efficiently managing one's day-to-day activities.

The concept of layering CAD documents to manage better is still in its infancy. Still, we are well into the computer age and most people in the building industry are already using cell phones, the Internet, palm pilots, digital cameras, laptop computers, and wireless technology. CAD application has been around for more than 20 years, so why not make better use of CAD? Incorporating layered documents is becoming relatively simple with the introduction of startup computer program firms such as,, and more established firms such as CAFM firms (e.g., who are taking advantage of this new business opportunity.

What Are The Obstacles

In the roundtable discussions, several obstacles were identified that get in the way of a building owner or facility manager maximizing CAD application.

The first obstacle is the owner doesn't necessarily have CAD software and/or the appropriate software to accept the design team CAD layered record drawings. Second, there may not be a person on staff who is proficient in CAD software. The building design community has been proficient in CAD application for several years based on need. Building owners have had very little need for day-to-day application like their designer counterparts.

In addition, building owners have a much different CAD agenda than the architects and engineers who use this software on a daily basis. These two obstacles can be overcome and frequently are by outsourcing the CAD documentation management to a consulting firm. The in-house alternative is to hire a person to manage these documents but this owner investment will include the need for:

  • Employment and the costs associated with a full-time employee;
  • Computer hardware;
  • Software and appropriate licenses;
  • Printers and plotters; and
  • Training and policy and procedure standards.

    No matter who ends up responsible for the CAD management, the next step is to overcome the culture change from referencing a paper version of a record drawing to referencing computers for the information. This effort may be hampered by technicians who are not computer literate and/or don't have access to a computer to inspect a drawing. Here is where handheld computers are quickly eliminating this problem.

    "Tribal memory," as one facility person put it, is the wealth of operation information that never gets documented on existing record drawings. Without a means or an operating budget to annually collect pertinent data, owners can be prevented from efficiently maintaining and updating important it.

    When building renovations or equipment replacement/upgrades are budgeted, this existing, missing information can result in a lost opportunity to maximize performance. CAD layering provides a means to minimize this problem by capturing information. Unfortunately, someone will need to be assigned the task of getting operators and technicians to "brain dump" their experience into a database where CAFM application can be enhanced.

    The belief that CAD is not needed or that the process is too cumbersome has been a very high obstacle to surpass until now. Again, handheld computers may hold the answer to this dilemma, as facility staff are familiar with and have been quick to embrace two-way radios and now cell phones, so why not mini-computers? Based on how drawings are loaded into these computers, CAD software and licensing costs may be minimized.

    Instead, a scanned in, read-only drawing can be an easy way for the operation and maintenance staff to apply CAD documents. The results are user-friendly data for quick and easy reference while on-site, and it is a far cry from the paper version of record drawings stored back in the plans and documentation room.


    The design and construction industry needs to recognize that CAD documents have the potential to have a longer life cycle than the building program life span of approximately three years. It is always more cost effective if the process can be implemented the first time around so incorporating some of the "wish list" facility management layers into the design and/or MEC coordination phase documentation is essential. The building industry needs to embrace this philosophy so that building owners don't have to reinvest in CAD a second time because the layering system missed the mark the first time around.

    The AIA B281-2002 document for facility support services should prove to be a useful contractual arrangement, as well as a means to introduce current thinking to current technology. At the same time, more discussions via roundtable sessions are needed to continue to collect data so that facility management CAD-layering standards can begin to be established.

    As these standards are developed, the designers and the builders need to stay abreast of their clients' needs and these needs go well beyond the building program. These needs will be shaped around the useful service life of buildings and their associated infrastructure. It is not correct or practical to simply focus on the program. Builders and their trade contractors must better educate themselves to CAD software use.

    At the same time, the building industry and the building management industry must keep abreast of technology and be more visionary than in the past. With handheld computers, which come with a wide range of capabilities, we need to strive to maximize this technology for the benefit of all.