Friday, July 15, 2016

Want a BIM Manager’s Job in Dubai? Just be very enthusiastic!

Now, this is not a job-ad.
Not even a crafty-title designed to entice into reading the post those that are currently feverishly looking for a new position in BIM field in Dubai or around the region.
Anyone that has lived here for a while knows that jobs come and go – or more precisely roles are gained, held and lost at regular intervals for just about anyone regardless of place of origin, work-type or skillset. So, at any time – a number of people I know, both BIM-mish and not, are looking for work here in the UAE. Therefore, I do not like to make fun of job searchers, I do support those I know and respect in searching for new positions. But, being an enthusiastic BIM practitioner seems to be the winning ticket to those out of work in the GCC these days.

OK, that was an over-simplified statement, but where I was going with it, was setting the scene for the next statement: that even as construction roles are thinning out a bit around me, and many poor souls are left out of work at a short notice, needing to scramble all their strategic connections to secure a new, albeit often just as precarious ‘lilli-pad landing’, BIM Manager jobs seem to be still coming on offer in oodles in the UAE.
Me, not actively on the market, still get approached at least once a week, offering to be put forward for one of those.

And this is the interesting part of the story. While I am still a bit ‘underground’ when it comes to BIM and am mostly impersonating professions in real life where BIM is not part of the core curriculum, I get intrigued but these roles, so I poke into them a bit.

My findings are somewhat odd.
For a start, with these roles, like with most others, the ‘predetermined’ package size (i.e. salary + benefits) is the king.
I was called last week by someone looking for a top BIM person for an X Billion Dirham (even when divided by 3 the budget still comes to billions of dollars of many flavours) project, who was shopping for someone with particular software experience (unquantified) and was prepared to pay a package of a maximum X Dirhams.
When I told him what I was earning now and was looking to earn in the future, should I get interested in his role, his reply was ‘that’s a bit much for a BIMmer, ain’t it?’  (with a smooth British accent, I might add)

Now, let’s analyse this issue a bit. The guy knows nothing about BIM (he told me that) – the project is huge, the role is at the top of the BIM pyramid.
BIM must be a strategic tool of the project (otherwise, why bother) yet the HR person is adamant, that the person, that would be the right fit for that role should only earn ‘x’.

Or, more precisely he is told, that that is his shopping ‘budget’. Someone, even more knowledgeable than him, was able to gauge that the BIM market of the world would spit out someone tailor-made for the top BIM role of this X Billion strategic (BIM) project in the UAE for Y AEDs/month.

Cool. I am impressed.
Oh, yes – did I mention that this ‘just right BIM person’ will be on the job within a short notice period?
Naturally, meaning no one should question that the HR company’s client, the winner of this super-duper high budget project with super-duper BIM requirements has no  ‘ready to plug in’ BIM person on offer to start  the project with.
Roughly in the same time when the above mentioned BIM-HR approached, there was another call to interview for me, this time with a classy consultancy shining in the GCC, BIM oozing out of its pores.

I was no fit for them, thankfully turned out – even though I realize this before I was told – too jaded, realistic – not enthusiastic enough.
I should have known from the start of course, not waste at least 3 people’s time, they talked about a CEO that had magic insights of the industry, he was often quoted of recognising that the ‘AEC was behind other industries in taking on technology’ – (have I heard this one before?) – and their in house BIM manager was just wonderful. He was so full of enthusiasm he could hardly be contained.

What? I claimed to not like Revit? Well, that was just too bad wasn’t it, the super consultancy was soaked in it up to the top….
Could hardly wait to get out, back to my pretend DM job.

And I did.
But the term ‘enthusiastic’ stayed with me longer, I thought a lot about it, for days afterwards.
What does it says about a mature professional of any flavour to be labelled, first and foremost ‘enthusiastic’ about his core subject?
Not experienced, knowledgeable, skilled, proficient  or competent, but enthusiastic?
What does that say about the company? The industry?
When the main characteristics that stick out about a person competing for a role are not any of the above listed, nor even the lesser valued one of software knowledge (i.e Revit), gender, age or nationality but the apparent level of ‘enthusiasm’ that one expresses about a topic.

Little encounters with BIM in action like the snippets  described above these days makes me even more worried about the future of BIM in this industry than I was before taking on my self-imposed BIM abstinency.

But, I can not help coming up with an appropriate looking suggestion to the people I described above:
How about hiring BIM people on weight? Ask your HR people (if you must hire BIM managers) to get the most kgs of BIM for AED (or other currency) that they can.
Could turn out to be quite satisfying approach for all.
I am also rounding up nicely in case someone takes up the idea.
(can’t really ramp up the enthusiasm any more).

Friday, July 1, 2016

The fat controller that knew nothing about trains – BIMmers vs Project Controllers

With the birth and rapid rise of Project Managers within the AEC industry, including an almost full takeover of it by them, over the last 2-3 decades, came also the approach of managing Construction projects the ‘hands-off way’.

The technical knowledge of ‘how buildings are put together’, once an essential tool of architects (the predecessors of PMs as the captains of the industry) has become obsolete for the new stars of the show, in fact any practicing PM worth their salt would go to great lengths hiding any such capability. So, no direct relationships were drawn to their architectural backgrounds (if that was where they were infected by such capabilities) jeopardising their metamorphosis into PMs and rise within the ranks. Those PMs that were once engineers of any other sort were also encouraged to forget what they knew about their first disciplines, lest it clouded their ability to manage projects in a ‘detached’, even handed way.

Training institutions worldwide recognised this trend and jumped on it by producing non-technically contaminated PMs by the thousands. The magical title of the PMP was born too and the rest is really history. Construction Project Delivery Meetings are about tasks, percentages, numbers and completeness of drawings, KPI and MOMs.

I guess as a natural development of this ‘new profession’, an even more peculiar flavour of the PM breed has emerged and is stealing the show nowadays, the ones called ‘Project Controllers’. They seem to have the mandate of the almighty with zero tolerance for the un-measurable or subjective components of the game.

As  a hands-on, practicing BIM-mer and the owner of a ‘Virtual Construction Company’, I once had my own ambitions to build a business around the idea of ‘full control of project information’, providing smart management of project information, with up-to date, intelligent reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs!). We went down the road of developing numerous (first in the world)  tools for nifty 3D-4D-5D information management and invested in ‘multi-headed’ people that could manage project information in true, holistic way.
We were unsuccessful, needless to say.

My husband and partner in the business still maintains his views on how the PM fraternity of our then location conspired to push us out of the business, my take on what happened is much simpler and sadder.
The way construction projects are delivered these days all around the world (apart from very small scale buildings) do not favour those that want to – need to - know things well. It is designed for and run by those that ‘can manage things, aggressively, often with procedural perfection’ but with no interest in what is actually being built, how and by whom.
In fact, they are deeply aware, that any such knowledge would prevent them being the ruthless slave-drivers of projects, deadlines and KPIs. A bit like politicians knowing too much about their constituents day-to-day lives would be unable to pull off tough decisions.

The still current, typical relationship between the PMs and BIM-ers of the industry is a very good indicator of the way the power-struggle between knowledge and ignorance, problem solving and problem managing has been settled already.
Having easily beaten the practitioners of ‘traditional disciplines’ (architects, engineers) in the 80s and 90s, some fragments of the BIM promoting fraternity proved a bit more resilient bunch. Maybe partially due to the fact that the truly good BIMmers, that I admit are few and hard to find, but still exist, have often grown out of those disillusioned architects that were unprepared to just hand over their previously held captaincies to technically illiterate PMs.

Or, those that grudgingly joined the ranks of PMs in order to maintain some presence in the industry but refused to ‘just manage’ half-blindly and continued to employ their other, despised by new PM’s, capabilities of technical nature.

In the course of my work I regularly get supplied a real PM mentor to personally lecture me daily on how I should do things the right PMP way – I often visualise theses lecturers as the Fat Controller from Thomas the Tank Engine giving out illogical orders to the good natured Thomas crew.

This was a figure once quite liked by me.
In the past – when I had my own ambitions of becoming the equivalent of such ‘pulling together everything smartly’ figure of Construction Projects using best of tools BIM can offer – I even contemplated making it the mascot of the business that was the vehicle for delivering this dream. (I did not, so no copyright infringements to worry here – but do check a post from 5 years ago:;

My feelings about the said Gentleman have changed a bit recently, partially due to an article:
(--- Quote from: The Daily Mail ---PC controller gets steamed up over Thomas 'the Sexist' Tank Engine)

“If you thought the television tales about Thomas the Tank Engine were merely light-hearted fun, think again.
In fact, they portray a world blighted by a 'conservative political ideology' and a rigid class system which stifles self-expression. And they are sexist.
That, at least, is the view of a female academic who took the trouble to analyse 23 episodes of the programme inspired by the books of the Rev W V Awdry.
According to Professor Shauna Wilton, women are under-represented in the stories and what few female characters there are tend to have 'secondary' roles or be bossy.
What's more, she has warned that such negative messages about society subconsciously gleaned from the show might even drive its young fans off the rails in later life.
The learned professor was inspired to carry out her study after watching Thomas videos with her three-year-old daughter. While the child was enthralled, her mother was dismayed.
She was left feeling 'uncomfortable' by the way the colourful steam engines are punished if they show initiative or try to change their rank or role.
Her research also highlights the class divide, with Thomas and his fellow engines including Percy and James at the bottom of the social ladder and the Fat Controller, Sir Topham Hatt, at the top.
Any attempt by the downtrodden workers to show initiative or dissent is met with punishment, she found.
In one episode, for example, Thomas whistles impatiently at a police officer and is replaced with a different engine as a punishment for showing dissent

PC aspects of the story aside, this take on the character (especially the underlined part) did make me feel Sir Topham Hatt being much better suited to represent the masses of Project Control Managers that rule this industry then the under-dog BIM-mers I associate myself with.

Maybe he knows nothing about trains after all, and is just managing them anyway.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I stand corrected. Google never really cared about the Global AEC industry.

And that is sad. Even sadder than my initial statement, copied below from my last blogpost. Following it, is the response from an anonymous reader in the know about all things Google.

"After all, even giants like Google once enthusiastically targeting the global AEC industry (buying, then further developing Sketchup) have given up on it as something far too IT-immature and ruled by anti-innovation bigots to be worth spending efforts on."

“The way you are summarizing it here is not quite correct. Google never targeted the global AEC industry. SketchUp was initially designed for designers to help visualizing their ideas by a small company called @last. Google bought it because SketchUp's user interface is very intuitive. Even amateurs were able to pick it up in no time. That is what Google was after: they needed amateurs to contribute 3D models to one of their major projects at that time: Google Earth.
As technology has improved over the years, Google is now able to generate it's 3D models via 3D image capturing, which made SketchUp obsolete for them. That is why they sold it on to Trimble.

Sketchup Pro was more of a side business for Google to maintain it's already established professional user base they inherited from @last.
But claiming that Google once "enthusiastically targeting the global AEC industry" is not right.”

So, let’s accept that I was not correct in claiming that Google had lost interest in (what is one of the biggest of industries in the world) but that they never actually targeted it in any meaningful way. What does that say about Google and what about the industry?
Is it a proof that Google strategist actually saw through all of the fluff that Global BIM really was and could tell from the outset that it was never going to work and as such not worth the trouble embracing it, keeping up with it, integrating with it?

Or was it the industry? So entrenched in its own importance and commitment to the sophistication of its chosen digital future that Google did not even made it to the trusting circles of possible global BIM enablers, of the likes of Autodesk, Trimble and the others?

Not in my court to answer the questions any way – am too small, insignificant, too much on the fringes.
I do wonder though the ‘why’s’ still, maybe no longer in a na├»ve, ‘lost opportunities to do something great’ ways but in more along the lines of ‘surely there is a hell of a lot of potential in that Google treasure box to rattle this stuffy industry out of its smugness’!

A cursory Google search brings up an article that suggest there could be:

“Secret Google Project Could Transform Construction Industry

According to Globes, a report from Genie's development team, addressed to Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, describes the invention as a cloud-based collaboration platform with "planning applications to help architects and engineers in the design process, especially for skyscrapers and large buildings. The platform includes planning tools of expert architects and engineers and advance analytics and simulation tools." 
The report also emphasized Genie's potential to transform the conservative construction industry, one of the most profitable and the most wasteful, by making it more efficient and environmentally friendly at the level of design, construction, and maintenance. The report suggests the invention could save 30-50% in construction costs and 30-50% of the time spent between planning and market; moreover, it could generate $120 billion a year.”

But then, I see the article was written in 2013 – three years on and still not much of an impact from it….Had it really got off the ground, even I would have got a whiff of it by now…

Friday, May 20, 2016

Who am I to tell anyone not to waste time on (anything to do with) BIM?

The picture attached here was taken exactly 3 years ago, or so tells me my FB memory jogger.
Must be right – the moment bidding farewell to a lovely team of HLG BIM-mers, almost fully coincided with the time when I lost all my belief in anything BIM. Not just in the highly idealised airbrushed version of the ‘our way or the highway – mandated’ types but even of the more down to earth, pragmatic – ‘let’s pull together enough parties that genuinely want to make things better’ flavoured BIMs. I just stopped believing BIM functioning on any meaningful scale beyond the involvement of a couple of people on a project.

True, I gave the idea and various strategies to get there, another couple of goes following the captured moment, including taking the family through a 4 month long, tormenting Hong Kong saga – but then, went back to making a living where a living can be made….
This blog too, once very enthusiastic about, I gradually pushed aside, to finally get to a stage a couple of days ago when I made the decision, to close it down.
Then, I did have a look at the stats of the readership and was genuinely surprised to see, how steady it has been, even in the last half of the year, when I published only two entries, both highly cynical, verging on being upfront flippant.
Maybe it is just a sign that anything on the net will get its share of idle browsers these days of constant staring at the little window into the web. Or, that so flat the writings have become on this topic that anything out of the mainstream mantra gets some following… It is hard to say.

While I personally all but stopped following any media on BIM, crazy ideas do emerge still of some alternative BIMs, prompted by reading words in passing like ‘revolution’ and ‘disruptive technology’ in relation to the industry and what BIM is doing or will be doing to it.
Rather than figurative revolutions, my mind conjures pictures of young (or not so young but progressively thinking) people taking literary over the industry with technologies to describe buildings, design and construction processes totally unlike the stuffy and boring AutoCAD, Revit and even my once beloved ArchiCAD.
These revolutions are likely forceful take-overs, as who would expect the generation of stiff, white collar rulers of this lucrative industry to let anyone in on the bounty they so enjoy, but the most obliging and unthreatening of the ‘innovators’ that may make a bit of noise with their ‘modelling’, and ‘technologies’ and ‘disruptions’ but will hardly ‘hurt a mouse’ when it comes to where real powers lie.
Let them have their LOD’s and British BIM standards (whatever their number is) and BIM conferences and BIM pilots and….

As long as these false pioneers exist within the industry preaching and practicing disproven ideas of false improvements, there will be no room for those that may actually come up with something really good.
Sure, you can call me bitter and taunted and generally a ‘has been’ or even a ‘wish to have has been’ but I do get some comfort from ideas that I know could still work if …and when the industry was prepared to embrace them.

But, maybe it is OK like this – this industry is stuck where it wants to be.
Who am I to tell anyone not to waste time on (anything to do with) its BIM?
After all, even giants like Google once enthusiastically targeting the global AEC industry (buying, then further developing Sketchup) have given up on it as something far too IT-immature and ruled by anti-innovation bigots to be worth spending efforts on.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The ‘toothpaste’ highway of the (near) future

I drive to work daily, on the Dubai – Abu Dhabi highway.
On this, ‘one-plus a bit of an hour’ drive, I pass numerous highway constructions, where complex spaghettis of roads, bridges and overpasses grow seemingly in front of my eyes.
One cannot be anything but impressed as the skeletons of delicate supporting structures give way to massive piers with snaking road-structures above them, almost daily.
The disruptions to us commuters are minimal, almost non-existent as various scenarios of keeping the ‘flow-through uninterrupted’ are enacted by those in charge of building these infrastructures.

As impressive as these processes have been to watch, on my long drives to and from work, I have often fantasised about the creation of a ‘toothpaste-type’ machinery, suspended on adjustable legs and fed with feather light material that moulded into the correct shape, self-supported in the air needing minimal scaffolding, to then within minutes harden into a material not-unlike reinforced concrete, ready to take on the traffic.

Optimistic, fanciful? Surely, but also why not?
In the country of the ’Tallest building of the World’ and numerous other engineering feats, I often wish I could myself contribute to something revolutionary like the toothpaste highway technology or even something less ambitions but still cool, like a decent way of using digital technologies in day-to-day, ‘normal’ construction.

A week or so ago, there was an announcement that I caught on my drive to work:

“A quarter of buildings in Dubai will be based on 3D printing technology by 2030 under a new strategy launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.”

Hearing the above statement made me feel good about the career prospect for within the region for the next decade or so.  
As ‘a girl’ with moderate skills in a number of aspects of the industry, including reasonable modelling competency, combined with 2+ decades of project/contract and design management, I am very positive about what HH’s goals and plans will do to the industry.
Add to this, that I work on a VIP Project, with Consultants that boast about their global rankings being in double digits and my craving for the ability to innovate within my daily work is sure to get a bit of a boost.

One would think so.
One would expect international engineering consultancies active within the region to jump onto the opportunity of making this vision happen eagerly, and urgently explore ways to partner up with relevant manufacturing entities to secure a good chunk of this future and likely very lucrative market. After all, they are already, by and large making a decent living on pretty average offerings charged at astronomical international rates, greased with juicy per diems .
So, stretching those expensive engineering brains that are busy making hay while the sun is shining a bit further into creative thinking, i.e. to move beyond the millennia old technologies of ‘sticks and stones’ of creating buildings, should not be too difficult and equally serving self-interest to these elite consultancies.

After all, we know that the rest of the global AEC industry is pretty sluggish, might as well put the cream of the expertise where big ideas have the right backing and likelihood of happening, not just ensure that the visiting engineers have the latest model of cars to drive.
I add my support to the 3D printed construction vision!

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Caterpillar challenge – Make BIM and the global AEC cool!

My friend, DjG shared a promo on FB a couple of days ago (link at the bottom of this post) that made me stop and read it with interest.

Now this is my kind of a phone!

Interesting self-revelation, as everyone knows I’m not much into gadgets, the length I hang onto my old dumb Nokia is probably only rivalled by my dear friends in India. Currently I’m nursing a 3 year old Blackberry, hoping to last the year out without having to learn to get by with a newer version of it.
What tickled my fancy was not the list of unique features this device offered but the fact that it was mothered by Caterpillar and is looking ‘construction cool’.
In spite of the huge amount of money sloshing within the construction field globally, it is not a ‘cool career choice’ and consequently not the ‘sharpest’ of industries. The higher one goes up the food-chain of it, the thinner the ‘air’ gets – as my personal encounters with many heavy hitters of the industry over the last 2 decades have proven.

The whole ‘BIM thing’ has been trying to change this trend, entice the elite of the young thinkers, the cream of the technology developers and together shake the industry through innovation into a new, cool force to reckon with.
Unfortunately, this ‘BIM thing’ has been anything but successful. After good 2 decades of momentous efforts and moneys spent, the industry still is a boring old slog-for daily survival for the most working in it and an easy dirty road to the riches for a very small minority manipulating within it.

Over the years I have written a lot, on why the currently available (and often mandated) mainstream BIM is doomed to fail and will not repeat myself again. I will pull out one factor though to illustrate the hope a possible alternative might show:
The extremely low percentage of hands-on involvement on any working BIM measured across the project (or company claiming to be BIM enabled);

Simply saying – on a ‘BIM project’ how high a percentage of the people involved can claim to be able to make ‘real, hands-on’ use of the employed BIM approach?
10%, 20%, 90%?
The emphasis is on the ‘real’. Not forced, not pretended, not indirect, not….

Like, ‘it is part of my work and I can handle it by myself and it is a meaningful tool for me’.
I am pretty confident, that even the biggest of biggest of BIMmest of projects currently have a percentage in low single figures, especially if you bring in the construction end of those building.

That could be changed with a 4-step process:
Make the project truly paper free, make Caterpillar phones the official phones of the project, put Adobe into charge of all the data outputs (2D, 3D, 4D…) and link everything to a central model built by and on ArchiCAD.

Not only will this model grow into a global industry success, it would make it cool for young and old too!

Monday, November 30, 2015

“Sorry darling, I don’t DO Revit!” Or why is it all but impossible to fine-tune a Binary industry

Had dinner with my HR friend recently. Things aren’t looking that great in the AEC industry at the moment, globally and here. She is considering going back to the UK and catch a bit more of the BIM-Bonanza that still seems to be going on there.
She knows nothing about BIM, but has been successfully recruiting BIMmers for years.
She knows, that I know, that she knows nothing about BIM.
This has no negative impact on our friendship. In fact, she still tries to tempt me with the occasional BIM role in the region.
She knows BIM is Revit around here, she knows I do not do Revit.
In fact it was her that once flattered me with, ‘Making you work on Revit would be like asking a piano maestro to play daily on a child’s toy keyboard’.

Revit aside, we do talk agreeable about BIM and its present and future prospects, here-there-everywhere. We keep a brave face to it but neither of us is quite able to be truly optimistic about it.
See, there is a major problem with BIM, that its ‘host’ industry is Construction.
BIM as an approach supposedly developed to improve (let alone, the well favored ‘revolutionize’) the industry, can do little to an industry that is so ‘binary’ in its nature.
Simply said, it has two modes, off or on. When it is on, things go well, there is lot of work in construction and everyone is making money and not giving a toss to how that money is made (sustainably, efficiently, logically, ethically….).

When the switch is turned off, everyone panics and is regrouping, strategizing and self-preserving but hardly investing into long, tedious, expensive processes of developing working BIM solutions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Keeping your PDF’s in check – an absolute necessity for successful BIM-ming on any scale

The long overdue third instalment of my ‘The role of PDFs in BIM’ trilogy

Let me start with a long-winded explanation on, how this post is not supposed to be an argument based on the question of ‘why would one want to import one (or hundreds) of PDF file(s) into any working BIM model?’.

There are two reasons for me wanting to avoid this argument, one being that, those in the know will fall neatly on either side of the argument, strongly believing that to be totally unnecessary or an essential capability of the BIM toolset they use. And no amount of questioning their stance will likely to move them from it.

The second reason is that, I do have a lot of dear friends and colleagues that are avid Revit users who will feel somewhat personally attacked by the notion that this question could be the absolute key issue of almost anything BIM – considering their beloved toolset’s inability to deal with it. There is little point in undermining those personal relationships of mine and to reinforce my goodwill and intentions it I’ll admit to the Great Truth of BIM, again, and again –
‘Autodesk rules the BIM world. Revit is the King of BIM!’.

Now, can I get on with exploring PDFs in BIM models?

Through my work I build BIM models from other people’s designs, either during the official design process, following it as part of preparing construction tenders, parallel to building the real thing or even post construction for settling residual claims between parties.

I am a hands-on modeller and my speed, accuracy and ability to deduct useful information based on the model is highly reliant on how I can make use of the hundreds and thousands of PDF documents that are available for the stage/project I am working on.
These PDF’s, needless to say are always prepared by others and never with the view to make my life easier, so even before they get into the model, they must be scrutinised, analysed, weeded-out and ordered.
Once that is done I usually end up with still a large number of files wanted to be imported and while it is a tedious process, I like it as it helps me get to know the project.
ArchiCAD is my tool of choice and I really enjoy how it handles PDF’s within its BIM models.

Here are 10 of the features I can list from the top of my head:
(yes I know…why would you want to bring in a PDF, when a DWG will do and it slows down the file and makes it unusable and…. – let’s just for a minute accept, I LIKE bringing PDF’s in my models and just for a minute, let’s  savour these little clever tools);

1.       ArchiCAD imports PDF’s as Drawings (as opposed to images)
2.       While importing one can choose on the fly any page from a hundred (thousand) page document.
3.       Once imported the file can be resized, or shaped any way one likes (i.e. creating nods and curving edges and offsetting and whatnot)
4.       Literally hundreds of sheets can be imported and kept linked up with no noticeable impact on file-speed and/or agility.
5.       ArchiCAD allows one to use the Trace&Reference with PDF’s the same way as with any other drawing element.
6.       One can ghost a plan behind a section (real or PDF-ed) or a detail in-front a relevant section.
7.       One can use colours on the PDF’s
8.       And/or make them transparent (at varying degrees);
9.       One can slide between the ghosted views and the views can be moved within references without physically relocating.
10.   The files stay linked and it is very easy to update even when moving between various media (like memory sticks).

I am sure there are other neat little features that ArchiCAD has for dealing with PDFs that I am missing here, but I really wanted to concentrate on the ones that I use daily.
I sometimes question myself, if I HAD to work on a BIM model and not have these features available would I get by?
I sure would – but man, would I hate it too.
I guess also that I would  only hate it because I have had the experience to model ‘with the features available at hand’ – otherwise, one does not miss what one does not know.

So, to sum it up – this post is to state, that like it or not, PDFs are and will be for a long time part and parcel of any BIM related activity (trust me, I work in the real AEC).
And sure, Revit is still the King.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Suffering from a BIMmer’s-block? Join the club!

I’ve been troubled by a massive BIMmer’s-block for a while.
The equivalent of what is known as the Writer's block, a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. The BIMmer’s block is a condition that similarly ranges in difficulty from coming up with original BIM ideas to being unable to produce any BIM-related work for years.

My symptoms experienced have been varying from mild disinterest to engage in BIM related topics to argumentatively aggressive outburst against good natured BIM promoters.
A heavy cloak of BIM-apathy has permanently set up camp on my shoulders and I’ve been carrying a murky bubble of antagonistic anti BIM-energy everywhere I go, ready to suck in the unaware.

Signs have been there for a while, that I was likely to hit some sort of a BIM-bottom.
That, after 2 decades of meager success achieved at very high personal-price paid, my enthusiasm and willingness to fight for yet-another BIM related pie-in the sky scheme will run out, was somewhat inevitable.

Some people concerned with my wellbeing seeing my difficulties have been trying to get me back into a positive BIM-shape.
They share with me, what they perceive to be signs of things changing for the better. 
The mandating of BIM by various clients, governments, countries. The rise in demand for well-skilled BIM modelers. The improvements felt in overall industry BIM literacy. The financial success of various BIM-related vendors.

I remain unconvinced.
Not only for my deeply set-in cynicism but because what I see out in the ‘real world’.

In my self- forced retirement from BIM evangelism, I make my living in a fairly pedestrian AEC role. One company I engage with regularly claims to be at the forefront of BIM (just as most companies I come across do, interestingly enough).
Regularly, high level managers of this ‘top shelf engineering company’ ensure me (and the world) that they use BIM on everything they do.
Yet, daily I fight my battle with the staff of the same company grumbling about the work necessary to update the ‘date and revision’ of (admittedly and unnecessarily) large number of drawings on the project we share and lament about the time needed to create PDF files from their DWGs.

One might say, these two things, a supposedly very advanced BIM capability and a manual, drawing-date editing system can live side by side in a perfect harmony and within one company.
In line with the ‘horses for courses’ analogy. Or due to the company undergoing an evolutionary process of gradual improvement that caters for various extremes.

I remain unconvinced.
It is like saying, we use super-duper fast vehicles on all our projects, except on yours, there we carry things on foot at large distances, by choice. Or because you did not want to pay for the mark-up that was supposedly a cheaper-faster more efficient way of doing things.

During my 2 decades of swimming upstream in this BIM-resistant, AEC industry river, I floated numerous ideas that never become real – realities.
An online consenting system for building permits, a construction-site located central information pod, the picture book documenting concept, the forensic BIM support for claims and generally risk management, the model of the paper free construction…  just to name some of the numerous incarnations of innovative BIM use I promoted.

Having given up on most of those – time to set up the ‘Hit by the BIM-block club?

A scary thought.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sparkie, Bricky, Drippy, Chippy and all fluent in BIMmy!

I have a lot of respect for the trade-workers within the AEC industry.  
Regardless of whether they are one-man-bands or work for large corporations, they are the ones at the coalfaces of projects, make things happen where the rubber hits the road.
Even though it is ‘well known’ in western societies that their rates are unreasonably high and workmanship mostly shoddy (heard a ‘plumber nightmare story’ recently?) their chargeable hours carry the burden of much more than what it would be reasonably expected to go for overheads.
The small operators lug the costs of working in a volatile industry, expensive tools, taxes and regulations, uneven cash-flow, bad weather. The ones employed by large corporations are burdened by disproportionally large armies of managers with often disproportionally large income expectations.

They do come in all shapes and sizes, of course. Some are better than others, the ‘cowboys’ of the industry often outnumber the ones that just try to make a decent living. Some are innovators, others are not, some are in it for the long haul and others are not.
There is no escape from the fact that there are the foundations of a pretty wobbly industry.

But if they thought en masse, things can’t get much more overwhelming, from what they need to be dealing with daily anyway, they were wrong, of course.

As the lukewarm BIM initiatives of the world are failing to impress with results of their efforts, the BIM spotlights get more and more onto the supply chain.
Many of them may have thought for years, that by occupying the bottom of the food-chain of the AEC they’d be off the hook for a while from needing to fully embrace this ‘BIM-thing’ – after all a painter is a painter, a sparky, a sparky – if they’d wanted to go into IT, they’d probably have chosen a different career path.
But no.

The global initiative of BIM has had a checkered history, having been around for a quarter of a century (I know, the term did not exist then, just the approach) – it has never really gotten a foothold within its host, the global AEC.
A good idea, an enthusiastic minority and relentless missionary activities of those, had little chances to succeed over the speculative – mafia type industry. Rather than accepting failure, and looking for new magic to save the industry, we keep on seeing new BIM activist emerge, paddling the same old scheme of the ‘good idea, enthusiastic minority and relentless missionary activities’, yet still can’t make the failed recipe work.
But new generations of would be AEC-revolutionaries and various government mandating helps the flame stay alive.

And there is now another boost to the campaign: blame the subbies for it not working. (they are too busy making buildings to question the claim for a while anyway)

Or putting it more politically correctly:
“But if we want to get through to a Level 3 BIM, we’ve got to take the whole supply chain with us and at the moment I don’t feel from the feedback I get that we’re doing that very well as an industry.” (ref 1)
The important message of the quoted sentence for me is it implying that ‘we’ have already reached Level 2 BIM (whatever that means) as an industry and for ‘us’ to get to Level 3 BIM those subbies must pull their weight too.

Sure, the same article calls onto the BIG guys to help:
“I think that a lot of the framework was paid for and promoted heavily by the Government. They took the lead which was a brave and right decision. I can’t see it at the minute – and I’m no expert, don’t get me wrong – but I can’t see the same level of commitment and investment coming from the Government, coming down to the supply chain. It’s so fragmented and varied in so many different ways. It’s a difficult way of being able to figure out how to reach out to them – i appreciate that.
That’s where the major contractors have to have such strong relationships, that they’ll say “we’ve educated our own staff, we’ve invested in the technology, worked out the processes, gone through Level 2, started to work out what we’re doing, but have to bite the bullet, sit down with the subcontractors and educate them, nurture them because otherwise they won’t understand, and when it comes to us demanding information and data, the shutters will go back up again.” ” (ref 1)

I have a suggestion:
How about leading by real example? For a start, reformat the goals of Government BIM Mandates to leave the subbies out from anything ‘compulsory’.
Focus on and prove the existence of a genuine, working, Level 2 BIM, led and performed by the Engineers (and other AEC Consultants) and Main Contractors of the world.

Picture from here:

Refs from here: