Classification has been used in construction for many years, often without the users knowing it. For example, many mechanical engineers will recognise that a heading of ‘T31’ in their specification relates to ‘low temperature hot water heating’. This in fact came from a classification system called The Common Arrangement of Work Sections (CAWS) which covered architectural and MEP elements for construction projects. Using a system such as CAWS is to adopt classification – a structured way of naming or arranging information.
If there isn’t an agreed approach to naming things, it will be very difficult to find something again. One person may be using a naming strategy which is very obvious to them, but unfortunately it may not be as obvious to others.
The adoption of a classification structure or system enables information to be labelled systematically and provides a common language for all parties to use. This is becoming ever more important with information management as the key focus of BIM (building information modelling).
Examples of the types of information to be classified are:
- Product information/libraries
- Schedules of rates/quantities
- Information management systems
- Operation and maintenance information
Classification can also be used for applications other than physical attributes about a built environment asset. As well as classifying the various systems installed and the individual items of plant and equipment which form those systems, there can be benefits to classifying other aspects of the buildings such as spaces and activities.
What does Classification look like?
The most recognisable classification system used in construction in the UK is the Common Arrangement of Work Sections, generally known as CAWS. This is still widely used to identify various engineering systems and equipment within specifications and in drawing numbers.