Friday, May 15, 2015

Guess what, when Paperless Construction does happen, it will not be put in place to please you*!

As an aging BIM enthusiast writing on any topic mildly related to BIM and doing it from the standpoint of a self-imposed BIM-abstinence, I tend to offend people on both sides of the BIM fence in roughly equal numbers.

The one topic though they all seem to agree on, is the concept of a ‘Paperless Construction Approach’ to delivering projects.
Both as a means to improve an individual party’s outcome on a project or a road to a universal betterment of the global industry.
Something I believe in and promote from time to time.
Never mind about trying to understand the details of ‘my theories’, nor the reasons I may occasionally present to prove them being viable concepts for achieving ‘certain’ results for ‘certain’ parties under ‘certain’ conditions.

Here is what they do instead: They dismiss it, of course, totally off-hand:

Don’t bother with explaining the subtleties of historical trends and nuances of behavioural changes and notions of the whats and whys of other industries having gone down that track…   
let me say what “I” (the quintessential construction ‘know it all’)  think about any Paperless Construction Thing (as in a project, site, office, anything):

Not gonna happen. Ever. Paper is here to stay.
Don’t believe me? Look at me now!
Yep, have the best I-phone available on the market, (yeah the one that is a limited version and its glass breaks even faster than any other ones’ before) yet I still do all my work scribbling on post-it-notes.
Yep! Does it stop me being a Project Director on a high profile multi-billion dollar construction project?
Nope. Never has. Never will.

And look: I have a cool laptop too.
It is the slimmest possible version – you can hardly call it three dimensional so slim it is.
And light. And fast. It is so fast I can sometimes forget what I was going to write as it finishes my sentences for me. When I write my reports for the Board.
Yet, do I use it for my business deals in any way?

I go to exclusive clubs and meet my equally capable counterparts and we do deals on napkins.
Yep, here is ‘the’ paper for you again. Critical to major deals.
True, the types of establishments we like to frequent rarely have a holder with triangularly folded stacks of paper serviettes on hand, but their ever-helpful personnel is usually quick in slipping us a gold embossed (paper) notebook to scribble on just before we would even consider using our branded pens on their satin tablecloths or napkins.

We make huge deals without even looking at our electronic gadgets, just by a bit of finger work: the counterpart lifts 2 fingers (I want 2 mills for variations) – I raise one. Deal done.
If more detail is needed, there is the faithful notebook to figure it out on.
And we always work with rounded, simple numbers. You want a 2 year extension of time? That will cost you 4 out of 5 of those mega government projects you currently tendering. Or something similar, don’t get too bogged down on the numbers, the idea is to keep it simple….

Other good thing about paper: still quite easy to dispose – scrap it down the rubbish chute with the leftovers of the lobster.

Anyway, satirical musings of these more than real creatures doing more than real deals over more than real pieces of paper aside, the rest of the industry, when quizzed on the topic is unfortunately  just as ignorant and cocky.

When it comes to doing their day-to-day job in a possibly less ‘paper-driven’ – way, God ‘forbid, totally paperless, they are just as staunch in their stand of a ‘never-gonna-happen-thank-goodness’ flavour.

As I indicated in the intro to this post, this IS a topic almost everyone agrees on, from concrete-mixer drivers, through CAD drafters to engineering managers and all the way to the CEO’s of the top shakers and movers of global AEC giants.

They love paper.
 So much so, that they always print their plane tickets out in the largely digitally run travel industry. They always press the ‘yes’ button on the ATM’s even though the slips the machine will spit out will end within seconds in the built-in rubbish bin.
They read their emails on their smart phones but print out the critical ones (attachments and all) and file in long (hardly ever again touched) rows of lever-arch boxes.
They plot out thousands of sheets of mindlessly CAD-ded construction drawings to drag over dusty construction sites offering little useful data but making the carriers look purposeful.
“That’s a pretty hefty stack of A0s you have there John!” – “Yep, these are our shop-drawings, our CAD guys worked on them all month and it took us a week just to print them!”
“That’s a pretty nice glossy brochure on the board table Mr (whoever is BB’s or Leighton’s current leader) never mind the huge losses hidden somewhere inside.”

Being an ‘aging professional’ that has probably seen too much of this industry for my own sanity, I know better than try to convince anyone any longer that the concept of Paperless Construction is a good idea.
Done for the right reasons and in the right way.
Not a fantastic notion or vain hope, but a carefully engineered set of artificial barriers put up to force a desired behaviour…
And not necessarily to please the ones doing the work but for the benefit of the clients the same ones are supposed to be serving.

I may write about these ideas in the future, just as I have been in the past, mostly because I can, gives me some sort of a pleasure and fills a gap for those that are sick of the same-same arguments of the industry and want to read something a bit ‘alternative’.
I also wish to make a little mark on the ‘book’ of history for those that will come in the future, reclaim Global Construction and make it smart again.
When they wonder, were we (as an industry ) all really that stupid not to see that the prolonged use of ‘paper’ let the crooks get away with keeping the industry broken for so long, they may find this entry .

Nope we aren’t, just the great majority.

* the quintessential construction ‘know it all’ making it big (or even not so big) in the global AEC at the moment.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Project Schedulers and BIM Managers: Unite! Could the two sectors make one another stronger while helping the concept of the Paperless Construction?

I have a lot of sympathy for the Scheduling sector within the AEC. On one hand they seem to have it easy, any project nowadays will need a Program Manager by default.
For a ‘Regular’ Engineer to become a ‘Planning Engineer’ they need to be fluent in one of the (for most in the industry) extremely complicated tools like Primavera or the somewhat dumber MS Project.
Relatively small numbers within this industry unusually flushed with ‘super talent’ can be bothered with going beyond anything more complex than the basic tools of Excel, so the numbers of qualified schedulers are limited.
Job security is more or less guaranteed.

On the other hand though – being a Planner (as in the ‘time scheduler’ type) on an AEC project is generally a pretty thankless role to be in. I’ve seen many times through my career these poor souls getting seriously roasted over any/all failures of the project by people that should know better, like project directors and the ones above them.

In fact, having spent a good quarter of a century working in close proximity with Planners, I’ve seen their fortunes shape in very similar ways to those of us practicing the similarly ‘black art’ of BIM.
Apart from the obvious similarities, like the necessity of knowing at least one mystical (un-learnable?) software to operate within either of these sectors, there are many other likenesses between the two sub-species.

Like, expectations.
Others on the projects generally expect ‘unreasonably high’ or ‘ridiculously low’ results from both Planners and BIM-mers. Few understand what exactly are these specialist team members supposed to be doing, in turn their efforts and outputs get either shrugged off as ‘meaningless’ or they are expected to press the magic button on their ‘super-tools’ that will instantaneously save the project from all upcoming dooms, whenever the PD asks or directs.
They are mistrusted and secretly admired, simultaneously hated and worshipped.

Then, there are the officially promoted ‘supposed synergies’, of the ‘D’s type, BIM-mers theoretically are the guardians of all ‘D’s on BIM enabled projects (anything from 3 up) with Schedulers the official custodians of the 4th or 5th D, depending on their pecking order with the QS-s on the team. Since D’s should stick together, for high level strategist in charge of mega projects and companies it usually  ‘makes sense’ for BIM and Planning Departments to work hand-in-hand, in fact for many companies the first step towards doing anything BIMish is to charge their existing Planning Departments with rolling out the BIM implementation. (a big mistake on its own, often preceded by an in-sourcing/outsourcing fiasco  but let’s not digress from the main line of the story).

In practical terms, working closer for the two sectors is not easy.
Being the despised (or often only just tolerated) nerds of AEC projects is not necessarily a strong enough reason to seek out the other for cooperation or even just for company. The two groups, unless forcefully lumped together often are happy to eye the other camp with the same level of ‘no one understands us’ rhetoric they cultivate for the general project staff.

For a meaningful (technical) collaboration a significant effort would be required from both sides, understanding what the others are really about, learning about their tools and finding ways to support the others without hindering the progress of one’s own ‘specie’.
Too much effort needed for likely little gain.

Yet, I do see some opportunities in the future for both of these sectors to truly prosper in forming a stronger alliance with the other.
For a start, collectively they do have the smartest, most ambitious and adventurous part of the industry’s intellectual resource, forging an internal army of thinkers is only a step away.
Individually, they both have battled for decades the negative forces of the industry wanting to remain led by the bullies as opposed to the smart ones.
And managed to survive over a significant timeframe and often against the odds of the immense bully-power.
Admittedly weak, marginalised and hardly taken seriously still they together also own some core values and qualities, that normally take decades to develop and will take decades for those that start from scratch now.

‘Paperless Construction’ is my bet for the ‘idea’ over what these two groups could meaningfully cooperate and simultaneously give the industry a good jolt where it is desperately needed to be kicked in.
Surely, quite a number of stars would need to align favourably for this to happen any time soon especially at any meaningful scale, but who knows – with a little help here and there to nudge those stars to the right positions; there is a chance for real progress for the entire industry.

And for those that still think Paperless Construction is a naïve utopia – let’s just state for the record, it is not.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Give ‘Real BIM’ a chance to be a Game-changer in AEC! ‘Real BIM’ could be the weapon for changing the game in the global AEC. There still are small fish with professional integrity surviving within the global waters of the AEC consultancy market wanting to strike back against the over-franchisers, purely business oriented BIG fish practising ‘Pretend BIM’ and redefine how the AEC is run; Real BIM could be the answer.

That’s a hell of a long title, I know.
And I like it like that. The post will be longish too – it is a complicated subject.
Yet, I will not spend much time on explaining the difference between Real and Pretend BIM.
Call me arrogant. Those that know the difference will understand my point.

I have long given up on BIM and on the professional integrity of the global AEC.
Sad, but true.
Not that the ‘Pretend BIM’, alive and kicking and moving from strength to strength is much worried about me not supporting it.
It has plenty of followers prepared to daily swallow the dogma with no questions asked.
The Global AEC seems unflustered too, on how low the professional integrity and technical capability of those that run it have sunk to, in general.

I said it before, I am noting it again: what is seen nowadays as a thriving ‘new’ approach to give the AEC a big kick to reinvigorate itself is still only a ‘Pretend BIM’.
The real thing, born sometime in the 1980s is these days surviving only in little isolated pockets of the global AEC industry, practiced by local firms or individuals.
The fact that it is still surviving here and there is of course good news and gives hope to another seemingly unstoppable trend getting challenged at some point in the future.
The trend, that originated somewhere in the 1980s too – and my term for it is, ‘The Global Takeover of the AEC consultancy Market by a Controlling Few’.  

I’m of course, talking about the AECOMs, Atkinses, and other ‘Top 100 Engineering Consultancies’ that for years have been gobbling up small local engineering firms East to West, North to South.

First there were doing local mergers, with the goal of becoming the biggest in the block and then came the acquisitions of often family firms with long history of practicing – to reach the obvious climax when the big fish turned onto one another and nowadays are only a handful of names ever considered for providing consultancy services at big, global construction projects.

There truly are very few fish circling the BIG waters of the Global AEC industry.

Infrastructure projects are the worst, but general building is not far behind, look at the participant’s names on almost any newly built hospital, airport, school or community centre, almost anywhere in the world. And the lists get pretty reparative.

There is hardly anything surprising in this trend. Other industries had done it, some quite a long time ago, financial institutions, banks, the transportation, hospitality even the educational industry.
So, why should not Engineering Consulting too?

Climb down from the flashy promotional movies of these giant organisations citing thousands of employees spread over the entire globe with an equal number of expertise on offer from any conceivable sub-subject within the art and craft of construction (the Atkinses, AECOMs and the like) and crawl into the real world of making projects work by utilising these – overblown, almost exclusively profit oriented, faceless organisations with mostly questionable professional capabilities.

It is not necessary the individuals that they employ that one finds difficult and/or underqualified for the job, many of the old school engineers have survived in the new environment to flash up a bit of genuine professional work here and there – but their ability to do so is highly limited by the machinery they are locked in.
There are never enough hours to do the job properly, never enough resources to support them well and timesheets and utilisation percentages hanging forever over their heads are ready to sabotage their KPIs, annual performance reviews and long term career prospects.

So, the ‘old’ often compromise on their professional values forever just to earn a living. The ‘young’ have never had the opportunity to learn to act technically/professionally due to such hard-core business driven environments, so they do what is best for their careers and adopt.

Leaving end-clients, governments, and the entire global industry to pick up the’ tab’ (financial, professional, moral etc.) of trying to pull off larger-and-larger engineering projects with thinner and thinner professional supports.

Some of the more speculative parts of the global AEC client segment (developers for example) know very well this phenomenon to be true but are also benefiting from it when the gamble works right for them – so why even consider changing it?
As long the hot potatoes of risk are passed onto others, the wheels keep turning, who cares if the big name engineers do not know what they are doing?

This topic is worthy enough to be explored on its own – my previous attempts have made little impacts on the forums I tried to raise it – it is a ‘hot potato’ on its own, something few are prepared to acknowledge, it impacts too deeply on most of the people that make up the industry they should by default be needing to also clean up, if for nothing else for the survival of the basic engineering skills that were built up over centuries.
Add to it the big (or pretend to be big) global drive to have (the pretend) BIM as a solution for the improvement of the industry infused into construction projects and the end results are disastrous.

I daily meet representatives of these giant organisations claiming to be absolute leaders in BIM (as well as everything else, of course) while producing non-BIM documentation that would miss basic QA tests of old hand-drawn drawings by a mile and turn many-a good masters of the art and craft in their respected graves.

These big name practitioners hide behind scopes, roles and responsibilities to produce rubbish and rely on the ignorance of those that are supposed to take them to the task of delivering something worthwhile for the end user.

Of course they are rarely questioned, the representatives of the other side (the end user) are staffed from the same pool – these quasi engineers/business/project managers move seamlessly between the various monsters of the ‘A list consultancies’. In fact the monsters themselves often act in multiple, conflicting roles on projects that a healthy industry should never tolerate.

The AEC is doomed as long as these A-listers keep growing and taking up more of the market share and BIM with it too.

But, as indicated in the beginning of the article, I see some hope too.
Eventually, of course nature will take its course and small, specialist, technically capable consultancies will start reclaiming ground and they will be the ones to push REAL BIM (or other future approaches that have fundamentals in engineering and working better) to become more mainstream and the norm.
In turn the entire industry may find its need rise for professional integrity and technical proficiency across the board.

Give BIM a chance?
Spare the little fish that still have professional integrity, technical capability and the willingness to change the game and they may find the way to use it for the betterment of all….(in spite the odds stacked heavily against them).

Friday, April 17, 2015

Is force-feeding BIM really a good idea? How about looking at the real cause of the Construction Industry being so sick?

I kind of hung up my official BIM – boots some 18 months ago, though I still respond to the occasional BIM head-hunter enquiring about the status of my employment.
Just to get a reality check, that the global BIM lobbyist and their foot soldiers have not come to see the real light while I was asleep and missed it. (no they have not).

I also use my ‘world class BIM expertise’ daily under the disguise of doing a job of a Design/Project Manager but consider myself to not be an active promoter of the misunderstood art of BIM (real-or made up).
In fact – I am happy to be known as an avid cynic of prescribed BIM approaches, Government and/or other type of large scale mandating of BIM as solutions to the global demise of a deeply sick and hopelessly out of touch Construction Industry.

I have very few people that officially agree with me this question – that keeping ramming down a supposed medicine for a misdiagnosed illness is futile – or saying it plainly, what we know of as a mainstream BIM is really no solution for anything at all and this BIM will not fix the problem of the industry where most people (managers of any type) above those at working the straight ‘coal-face’ (i.e. the doers) are largely incompetent.
The higher you go up the food-chain, the bigger the projects and stakes and the level of incompetence rises too. So increases the arrogance cultivated to hide that incompetence from those that (miraculously) have yet not compromised themselves (like genuinely good clients or sincerely ambitious smart young people early in their AEC careers).
Can’t be that bad. Oh, yes – it can. It is.

But never mind me winging and whining.
Anyone in the ownership of any common sense can see that buildings and other construction related artefacts are regularly produced by the same industry I’m accusing of being terminally ill, instrumented by the people I call incompetent and this magic occurring all over the world, so I must be deeply misguided, naively mistaken or simply mad.

Most likely the last one.
But, never mind me being mad.

I want to use this pair of (admittedly rhetorical) questions from the title of today’s blogpost to publicly put on record, that I will only ever again apply ‘BIM’ as a title to a professional role, attach it to a role description or print it on a business card/digital signature related to my persona when I am especially asked to do it ‘my’ way, pleaded for, almost begged to apply the magic that I (claim to) have to fix parts of construction related projects.
Should not hold my breath for this happening any time soon?

No worries – I can wait.
In the meantime I will carry on with various roles of regular PM/DM (even Architect) jobs and occasionally sprinkle some of ‘my type of BIM magic’ around for (let’s face it), those not really deserving of it.
Just for the fun of it.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

“BIM 2016… Are you REALLY Ready?” Heck, yeah!

Scoring imaginary BIM points by mocking the UK BIM mandate is a waste of time, I know.
It is extremely tempting to indulge in it regularly too, considering what is going on in the field and the overall AEC industry.
The state of the Global Industry’s BIM understanding is so bad – and what the UK ‘leaders’ are doing about it is so ridiculously funny that altogether the situation is really rather sad.

So, when I get yet another invitation to line up obediently and get taught by the high and mighty
David Philp Head of Government's UK BIM TASK GROUP, Director of BIM AECOM on (quote):

How to become Level 2 BIM Ready for 2016
How will Level 2 BIM effect your company?
How will Level 2 BIM be assessed
How BIM will increase your profits.
As I did, this morning….The ears prickle, the fingers tingle and another totally useless blogpost is in the writing, while all other useful things one should do on a weekend (cleaning, ironing, mosaicking…) are put on hold.

Hey world, wake up!
UK Government and UK Construction Industry too!  
You are paying a ‘make-believe game’ and many of us can see through this.
 Yes, there is only a handful of us, we are weak, and small and scattered around the industry doing grudgingly what we are told to do to make a living, but please don’t try to rub it in by making it look ‘oh so sophisticated’, clever and innovative.
And real.

For the record: Am I REALLY ready? (you’ve been asking me repeatedly) – am I ready?
I was born ready. But you….well I’d be a bit worried there... if I was you.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I wonder, how does HM the Queen feel about Britain’s impending BIM supremacy?

She must be fully aware of it coming, after all it’s been some time since the UK Government BIM Mandate has been dreamed up and sold successfully to both the practicing and the ‘not quite convinced yet but getting there’, BIM world.

It has been a while since her 2013 New Year Honours List awarded Mervyn Richards OBE for services to BIM and the Construction Industry. She must have cast her eye at the time over the list and dutifully asked the question ‘What the … is the BIM thing? .
I can just imagine the solemn advisors quietly whispering to her something on the line of ‘BIM being to Construction what the full cure for Cancer to medicine could be’? Quite possibly.

Then, there is her son Charles, Prince of Wales who tends to faithfully keep up with what is happening in the industry, so she must get first-hand reports on the progress of this worthwhile initiative especially as the Prince’s favourite UK architects are again the first in enthusiastically embracing the UK BIM mandate.

By the way, what mandate?
Soon enough it will be apparent that it was going to happen naturally in the UK first and in the bestest form, the mandating was just there to speed it is up bit. The UK elite (including the part that reigns over the construction) would never have let such a great opportunity of a ‘hot-air-balloon idea’ be passed onto someone else to claim pre-eminence over.

The Americans? With their claim to have invented the acronym? Or the North Europeans, with their various BIM-ish toolsets successfully operating for decades (like Tekla for example – oh, sorry no longer Finnish)?
Not even the Singaporeans who’ve been parading with their supposedly sophisticated building consenting systems for a while, let alone the little Hungarians that claim to have come up with the concept roughly at the same time as Rubik of his cube?
Nope, this one has been destined for the Brits to control.

As well as quantified positive impacts on the local and global economy of the BIM-UK-storm, HM the Queen is likely to be receiving regular updates from each BIM user-group meeting and every BIM conference held in even the remotest part of the world.
She must be feeling the long forgotten pride of the truly magnificent, learning that these forums dutifully acknowledge UK having gotten ‘there’ first with BIM – even before they look at the serious tasks of labouring on their own, local standards for this non-existent set of activities the group (conference) has been set up to nurture.
Almost like the forming of a new BIM Common world, ignorant of political, economic and other boundaries, after all you can buy I-phones almost anywhere and find Autodesk resellers in the remotest of parts of the globe.

She is probably pretty pleased with this unexpected gift of good news for the nation, even if a bit worried for the time passing by.
Does she wake up in the morning looking at the calendar, hoping 2015 would go faster and we’d get into 2016 just a tiny bit earlier? Or kicking herself for not setting  an earlier deadline for this UK BIM Heaven on Earth and UK’s return to true global dominance?

Picture from here:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tomorrow marks a BIG BIM event in the neighborhood that I will not be attending.

Following the success of the first two BIM conferences in the Middle East, CIFE is co-organizing the 3rd BIM conference with CCC and Projacs in Dubai on Feb. 25 and 26. 2015.

I love how they are doggedly sticking to calling their events ‘annual’ – when this is the 3rd one in the 5th calendar year since the first was held in 2011.
Hairsplitting over semantics from me or just a bit of stretching the definition of the ‘annual’ from their side? A question of a viewpoint, I guess.

I did attend the first one of the three, still have the book that came with it. Nowadays it is gathering dust on my bookshelf though it had accompanied me on my journey from Abu Dhabi to Hong Kong and back to Dubai almost two years ago.
Not that it was a lot of help when  I had to fight my war with the BIM-Mafia over in the East, but admittedly there is only so much useful advice authors can include in a volume like this.
Maybe I should have used its physical properties for the close quarter battles I had to fight through (it is a hefty piece of a hardback – Gammon take note) rather than looking for answers between the lines on how to survive in the ‘Manipulative BIM world’ of the Global AEC.

Aside from the above mentioned publication and conference, there are regularly numerous handbooks published and happenings organized within the global AEC market on how to ‘DO’ BIM, yet not much literature or events on offer to assist those that need to brace themselves against BIM malpractitioners or want to dodge the subject altogether.

Since some of the organizers of these events are obviously struggling to find enough good news in their BIM-backyards for the conference to happen within true 12 month intervals, here is a suggestion: Why not make it a ‘Pro BIM Biennale’? It has quite a good ring to it and the commitment that comes with the title will oblige the organizers to only hold it every second year.

Then, the alternative years could serve up the ‘Protect From BIM Biennale’, a series of events aimed at the growing number of BIM-affected that would welcome a forum to discuss and learn about the dark side of BIM too.

A kind of a yin-yang of BIM-happenings to cater for varying needs and keep it all in balance without hindering innovation and/or the emergence of a better global AEC industry. Talking about balance – not much gender balance in the speaker list of tomorrow’s even.
The topic obviously got even more masculine since the first conference, where they had their token woman speaker.
Just observing the facts.

Friday, February 20, 2015

BIMobject: a concept with a little R and a large E

Obviously, it would have been highly pretentious from me to expect some recognition on his face as I introduced myself – let alone true appreciation for the fact that I temporarily suspended my self-imposed BIM exile to attend the BIMobject’s CEO little presentation in Dubai last week, but hey, that just shows how miles apart are we in our understanding of what makes the AEC-BIM world tick.
Or maybe not far at all, just dealing with it in a different way.

He probably did not even notice that I left within 10 minutes into the time he was personally speaking (the presentation movies he started with, I will not count this time).
It was likely that it did occurred to him that the tiny audience he was addressing (the things we still have to do, even as CEOs of BIMobject AB - a public company listed on NASDAQ OMX First North: Share Ticker: BIM) could have show a bit more respect than half of it upping and going after only a couple of words into his monologue, but maybe he did not see either.

Oh, the benefits of being confident in oneself.
Did I write confident? I’m sure I meant cocky, at the time anyway.

It has taken me almost a week to figure out if I was just jealous of his success.
If my leaving in a hurry, driving home in tears and swearing against ever saying the acronym  BIM aloud again, was due to poor, basic envy?
Admittedly, the guy had been hugely successful in something I can only (even in my better days) consider myself to have been mildly profitable in. Comparing time and effort likely put into the subject, over the last 3 decades from either of us, he has definitely done significantly better than I have and am likely to do in the future.

Was it envy? Bitterness, resentment or spite?
Was it upsetting to hear someone simultaneously insult all participants of the industry and still get away with it, something I usually have to pay some sort of a price for – often quite high?
Was it him claiming things that just simply were not true?
Was it him manipulating the facts and trends and doing it without flinching?
The past and the present and predicting the future (like Autodesk and Graphisoft and Bentley or going down the drain hole in unison?
Was it the way he pronounced BIMobject with a ‘y’ – knowing that it kind of sounded cute?
Or was it the jeans  he was wearing and the plastic bag he walked in with at the first place?

None of the above, or not on their own, anyway.

I think it was the combination of ignorance and arrogance with what he dismissed everyone and everything that ever tried anything similar before that really threw me off balance. The stick on the proverbial camel’s back – or my tendency to suffer from flashbacks of my own BIM battles? (thanks, M)

How dare he belittle all the ones that have contributed to where he is now, even more, he now is also milking for own gain?
Velux, intelligent, branded 3D windows existed, like forever – IKEA had fully functioning libraries for decades, Eptar was a beautiful invention dreamed up probably 20 years ago? (or thereabouts).
And these are only the ones I personally know and like, there were hundreds of others that attempted something in a similarly confident way but stayed local or regional (for New Zealand readers: Eboss, Productspec….).

What happened to the old, humble ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ attitude where one can  claim personal achievements but still give credit where it is due?

On the other hand if he was being so smug because he truly believed to have ‘invented’ the business model that is able to rip off everyone within the AEC industry without them even being aware of it, after all the investors fell for it – maybe I should not be as upset as I got.
The world (even the global AEC) works in some mysterious ways and things tend to get balanced out sooner or later.

Sorry Stefan, your concept is an old story, even the clever-business one you believe to be such a unique invention, which sits behind the glossy-techy façade.
The entity you are representing is one that even with the pompous little R at its right shoulder is only oozing of a patronising Ego.

As for this little storm in the teacup I attempted to get off my chest with this blogpost that enjoys a very limited readership  – write it off to an attempt of self-preservation through blog-writing (mine) and an unusually gloomy Dubai day we are having today.

I’m sure NASDAQ has not heard about Zolna Murray, either, so you’re cool, for now anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is Two D from Two D still cheaper than Two D from Three D?

Should documentation that is based on a coordinated 3D digital model be charged at a higher price than straight CAD-ed  one is?
Should a client have the right to choose one over the other without wanting to pay for a full blown BIM?

One would think that in the time of advanced ‘BIM maturity’ we are enjoying these days, fundamental steps of information management within the industry, like documenting buildings for the purpose of construction would be done in 3D, as a default.

Sure, drawings are necessary outputs (others say) and orthogonal projections are the most widely understood representations of yet to be built objects, but marry this with the aggressive introduction of BIM for some higher purposes (and dimensions) and logic says, everyone should be using the 3D environment by now to create the simplest of drawings for construction.

Again, there are people arguing the exact level of detail one should model to before the button is pressed to strip the drawings off it, or how much metadata should be attached to a dumb model, but there is little frank discussion out there if traditional, CAD based services should be cheaper (or in fact more expensive) than 3D digital model based ones.
Not to talk about if the practice (2D based 2D) should still exist, at all.

Yet, it is an issue that I see often and raises interesting questions.
For example, an international consultancy I’ve been working with for a while now (7000+ people employed worldwide) likes to claim to be at the forefront of BIM application within its core services.
On the other hand the project we are involved with them has been ‘priced and structured’ to be done in 2D for the supposed benefit of the client.
I.e. it is cheaper this way.
Is it also slower? They claim not to be, though the day-to-day results show otherwise, it is definitely not faster than if done by competent 3D modellers/documenters.

Had the client insisted on wanting a fully integrated 2D-3D process, they’d have to pay a premium, the argument (and the consultancy) say.
Even though the time taken to prepare and the outputs would have been the same (supposedly), i.e. 2D drawings.

So, how does this phenomenon fit within the laws of common economics? The consultancy can argue that their services are exceptionally and equally good, no matter if the drawings were done via traditional CAD or by peeling them off 3D digital models.
And because the client is interested in the end results only, the ‘how they are done’ should not be of their concern, i.e. it is a question of the ‘means to the end’.
They could also argue that the extra charge is due to the higher (or different) skillsets the modellers must have from their CAD colleagues and possibly their availability.

But if the end results are the same, shouldn’t the client have the right to choose at no extra cost?
Now, let’s say we accept that this consultancy has a valid reason to offer the two services at different costs, after all it employs over 7000 people worldwide, that would include one or two old fashioned CAD-dies needing to be kept busy.

What then, if the client asked for visualisation material throughout the project development?
Asked and been offered, but at an extra cost.
Logically, one could say, that since the client is now paying extra for the visualisation material, the consultant should be offering a basic BIM-ish package instead that fulfils all the client’s needs at this extended cost?
Yet, the other side can argue just as logically, that visualisation 3D is not the same as documentation 3D (and I’d agree with that, funnily enough) so traditional 2D + visualisation 3D cannot be easily substituted by a ‘do it all 3D’.
A level headed approach to this question would be the ‘horses for course’ theory, have we not have been (as an industry) around this issue so many times before.

On one side, big names claim (and mandate wholesale) BIM because it is the only way to go to save money and work better. On the other side big names (like this consultancy) sell their clients ‘just as good 2D based documentation’ as well as the ‘higher cost 3Ds’?

Is this the case of some wires being crossed or is someone being seriously taken for a ride?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Balfour’s troubles nearing end, despite the latest £70m profit warning

“An expected cut in dividend also won’t please shareholders, with more details to come in the firm’s full-year results in March, when it will reveal its second successive pre-tax loss.
On the other hand, Balfour Beatty doesn’t seem to be struggling to win clients’ faith. Its appointment to Scape’s latest framework, worth up to £1.5bn, is proof of that.”

Writes one of the army of analyst that tries keeping up with Balfour Beatty’s shenanigans.

I parted with BB in mid-2013 and by the end of 2014 I almost totally lost interest in the largest UK construction contractor. I have since also stopped expecting for it to fatally fall on its own sward of historic dodgy activities and I got on with my own mundane life instead.

Yet, BB keeps on popping up in headlines of Construction related news, daily alternating between the good and the bad.

Today, a ‘what if’ thought crossed my mind as I rolled over the multitude of BB banners.
What if one of them said something like this:

Balfour Beatty figured out a way to end all its troubles!
The reconditioned management of the deeply troubled Construction Company has unveiled its revolutionary idea that will fix all its historic and more recent difficulties.
BB are going Paper Free in all their activities. This approach has benefitted many other industries before and BB is pleased to be the true pioneer of the industry to recognise and first implement it within construction.

Starting immediately. Including all of their construction sites and involving every staff member, all the employees of the company.
To ensure this approach – destined to revolutionise the global construction industry is trademark protected all the legal work has already been completed in the critical geographical markets including registering its name with the relevant authorities:
BB Paper Free by Decree, BB-PF-BD in short.
The historic moment of the Decree becoming live is being celebrated by simultaneous public burning of all remaining paper-matter on 100 BB construction sites located all over the globe, involving the highest of local dignitaries as first-match-lighters.

… and the story could go on – mentioning hard hats and wiz-wests and an array of digital gizmos that BB had already granted with compatibility certificates. A subheading could describe how the BB-PF-BD academy has been churning out PF-enabled graduates by the hundreds since its inception a couple of months ago, biggest campus being currently established in the UAE (why not?).
Of course I know there is a fat chance for anything like this to happen any time soon, even on a relatively, small scale – let alone under the sponsorship of a big beast like BB.

To keep up a bit of hope, of a better (paper free?) construction industry at least for the sake of future generations, I re-watched the video my daughter made for me when I had my pretend –‘show down’ with the mischievous Balfour Beatty some year and a half ago: