Mapping ERP “Chart of Accounts” to Building Information Modeling Software

Using Omniclass Coding Structures and Activity Based Costing/Management- A CONTRACTOR’S perspective



Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo, CDT, CCE, MScPM, MRICS

Jakarta, Indonesia




As the world of construction becomes increasingly automated through the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM), particularly during the early design phases, when the opportunity to find errors/omissions is high and the cost to make corrections is low, it is apparent that those responsible to execute the projects- the owners and contractors project managers, cost estimators, schedulers, document controllers, project controllers et al have not yet caught up with our architectural and engineering counterparts to ensure the work we do is consistent with,  complimentary to and supportive of the use of BIM and related evolving technological advances, specifically, the use of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

The inherent problem with “flat file” or single dimension WBS/CBS structures lies with the fact that not all stakeholders need to see the project deliverables shown in the same way.  This led to the evolution of multi-dimensional, “relational” or “object oriented” database coding structures.

The idea or concept of multi-dimensional Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) or Cost Breakdown Structures (CBS) is not new.  After World War II, building construction specifications began to expand, as more advanced materials and choices became available.[1] The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)[2] was founded in 1948 and began to address the organization of specifications using a numbering system like the Dewey Decimal System used by libraries. The purpose or objective of this effort was to ensure that a specification appeared once and only once in any set of contract documents, thus helping to eliminate redundancy or conflicting information in the contract documents, and thus reducing claims and disputes.

In 1963, CSI published a format for construction specifications, with 16 major divisions of work. These 16 divisions were built around work packages normally and customarily sub-contracted by prime contractors to specialty sub-contractors (e.g., Site work, Concrete, HVAC, Electrical) or prime contractors would supply their own workforces (e.g., general building, masonry, finishes, doors, and windows).

This need for multiple ways to sort or view work and their associated costs was reaffirmed by the Norwegian government, who, back in 1992, initiated a project to STANDARDIZE the Cost Coding structures coming from their production sharing contractors drilling for oil in the North Sea. The STANDARIZED Cost Coding structure is known a “Norsok Z-014”[3] has withstood the test of time and is still in use after 26+ years undergoing 2 revisions or updates.

In the early- to mid-1970’s, around the same period that MasterFormat was evolving within CSI, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), in conjunction with the U.S.-based American Institute of Architects (AIA), commissioned Hanscomb Associates, Inc. to create a standardized construction cost-coding structure, originally named ‘Mastercosts.’  The GSA and AIA renamed this ‘UniFormat, which enabled capture and summation of costs by building components.  ASTM[4] International began developing a standard for classifying building elements (1989), based on UNIFORMAT, and renamed to UNIFORMAT II.[5]

When CSI’s “Masterformat” and ASTM’s “Uniformat” were combined, this provided us with a two-dimensional sort capability used to “view” or see our project deliverables.

The OmniClass Construction Classification System (known as OmniClass or OCCS) originated around 2000 as a product of the Construction Specifications Institute. (CSI) It incorporates other extant systems currently in use as the basis of many of its Tables – MasterFormat™ for work results, UniFormat for elements, and EPIC (Electronic Product Information Cooperation) for structuring products[6]

The OmniClass Construction Classification System (OmniClass or OCCS) is a means of organizing and retrieving information specifically designed for the construction industry. OmniClass is useful for many applications for Building Information Modeling (BIM), from organizing reports and object libraries to providing a way to roll up or drill down through data to get the information that meets your needs. OmniClass draws from other extant systems in use to form the basis of its Tables wherever possible — MasterFormat™ for work results, UniFormat™ for elements, and EPIC (Electronic Product Information Cooperation) for products.

OmniClass is designed to provide a standardized basis for classifying information created and used by the North American architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, throughout the full facility life cycle from conception to demolition or reuse, and encompassing all the different types of construction that make up the built environment. OmniClass is intended to be the means for organizing, sorting, and retrieving information and deriving relational computer applications.

OmniClass consists of 15 hierarchical tables, each of which represents a different facet of construction information. Each table can be used independently to classify information, or entries or it can be combined with entries on other tables to classify more complex subjects. This is the basis for the use of multi-dimensional Work and Cost Breakdown Structures.

More (with footnotes and references)

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About the Author

Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo, CDT, CCE, MScPM, MRICS

Jakarta, Indonesia



Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo
, CDT, CCE (#1240), MScPM, MRICS, is Senior Technical Advisor (Project Management) to PT Mitratata Citragraha. (PTMC), Jakarta, Indonesia. www.build-project-management-competency.com.

For 25+ years, he has been providing Project Management training and consulting throughout South and Eastern Asia, the Middle East and Europe.  He is also active in the Global Project Management Community, serving as an Advocate for and on behalf of the global practitioner. He does so by playing an active professional role in the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International, (AACE); Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and the Construction Management Association of America, (CMAA). He previously served on the Board of Directors of the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management (asapm) http://www.asapm.org/ and served previously as the Chair of the Certification Board of the Green Project Management organization. http://www.greenprojectmanagement.org/ He is active as a regional leader and a compensated consultant to the Planning Planet’s Guild of Project Controls. http://www.planningplanet.com/guild

He has spent 18 of the last 45 years working on large, highly complex international projects, including such prestigious projects as the Alyeska Pipeline and the Distant Early Warning Site (DEW Line) upgrades in Alaska.  Most recently, he worked as a Senior Project Cost and Scheduling Consultant for Caltex Minas Field in Sumatra and Project Manager for the Taman Rasuna Apartment Complex for Bakrie Brothers in Jakarta.  His current client list includes AT&T, Ericsson, Nokia, Lucent, General Motors, Siemens, Chevron, Conoco-Philips, BP, Dames and Moore, SNC Lavalin, Freeport McMoran, Petronas, Pertamina, UN Projects Office, World Bank Institute and many other Fortune 500 companies and NGO organizations.

Dr. Giammalvo holds an undergraduate degree in Construction Management, a Master of Science in Project Management through the George Washington University and a PhD in Project and Program Management through the Institute Superieur De Gestion Industrielle (ISGI) and Ecole Superieure De Commerce De Lille (ESC-Lille- now SKEMA School of Management) under the supervision of Dr. Christophe Bredillet, CCE, IPMA A Level.  “Dr. PDG” can be contacted at [email protected].

To view other original work by Paul Giammalvo, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-paul-d-giammalvo/


[1] Construction Specifications Institute History (n.d.) http://www.lacsi.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=59

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construction_Specifications_Institute

[3] Norsok Z-014 (2002 version) http://www.standard.no/pagefiles/951/z-014.pdf

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASTM_International

[5] Charette, R. P.  Uniformat II, retrieved from: www.uniformat.com/index.php/using-uniformat-ii/building-design-management#astme1557

[6] From “About Omniclass” (n.d.) http://www.omniclass.org/about/