Making manuals that work

Digital O&M Manuals

Home User Guides - BREEAM - CIBSE - M&E Technical Authoring

Title: Data supply chain – BIM systems
Project: Luxury House in North London

One of our clients is a company that builds and fits-out high-end, exclusive homes in some of the most exclusive areas of North London. They approached us to create the O&M manual and User Guide for one of their latest luxury homes for a well-known TV personality. 

Projects of this high calibre normally contain many technologies that simply didn’t exist in earlier times. They might include complicated audio/visual technology, under-floor heating, hot tubs, swimming pools, security systems, fire alarms and many other luxury/specialist fittings; and it is absolutely vital that there are comprehensive user guides to help the user work out how to make the most of those facilities and an O&M guide that contains all the technical detail that will enable the facilities to be maintained and repaired by whatever experts are called in to do the work.

All our manuals are built as digital documents which can be navigated just like a website, by clicking on links to open documents and using the normal facilities that we increasingly take for granted to ‘search’ for information within the documents.  

We are very conscious of the future of BIM and the need for our service to play its role in the data supply chain from Architect to end user.  In this instance there were several challenges:

  • Our client has their own SharePoint service and wanted us to provide the manuals in a format that would enable it to be imported directly. This is not too difficult actually, but SharePoint has a restricted set of allowable characters to be included in file names, so it meant checking every file and making the necessary modification to approximately 15% of all links.
  • While our own SharePoint service worked to enable all the necessary parties to view and review the draft manuals, it turned out that it was not suitable for the end User because they wanted to use their own PC which was using a Mac O/S.
  • We did look at the possibility of delivering the manual on an Android tablet and got that working despite the complexity of the Unix style O/S requiring a different structure to its links, but that was not really what was required either.
  • Fortunately we also have a system for converting the manuals into standard HTML websites (see /public/ as an example) and that looks very nice on the Mac and even on the iPad.  There was a minor problem in that the bookmark tag was not initially being recognised – and that is something we are still working on.

The finished user guide contains detailed instructions, photos and everything else required, allowing the owner full control over every gadget and system in the house.

This project was a further example that houses are no longer just bricks and mortar shells.  They are filled with lots of complicated technology that requires good documentation in order to be used correctly and maintained for future use.



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