Saturday, October 19, 2019

BIM is dead, please do not resuscitate!

Agricultural experts likely have rules on how long one should persist with a new species once introduced into a field. Also, for recognising the signs to give up if the plants are not taking to the new environment.

If there are similar rules for establishing viable crops of BIM around the global AEC industry, they’re better be longer than 30 years.
Based on personal experience, that is at least as long since it has been trying to take roots, unsuccessfully.

Even a decade or so ago, I could see that BIM was nothing like an emerging success story.
For several years since, I worked on analysing, measuring, reanalysing and remeasuring anything that could reliably assess just how well/badly BIM was doing.
While not employing tactics supported by the mainstream, I genuinely wanted to make it work or at least understand why it does not.

The closest I came to formulate the reasons of this very complex failure, is that BIM is a ‘language’ – a complicated, at some point sophisticated, beautiful language.
A language that its host industry does not speak.
Fluency is probably below 1% of all the people that work in the AEC industry and deal with its information day in and out.

People can and will argue with this assumption.
I am confident that proper scientific studies would reflect similar numbers.
And if I was very wrong in my guess, like tenfold wrong and the number was 10%, that is still terribly low for something that has been trying to take roots for 30 years and is the backbone of a major industry.

One can try being positive, acknowledge that languages historically took millennia to develop, but in this context of a highly digitalised word, the out of synch development of a language of a major industry operating in a global context is a concern.

My gloomy view on BIM’s survival prospects is not universally shared.
May I call them BIM-doom-deniers?

Ask anyone that is personally benefitting from BIM and they’ll tell you everything is going just fine.
Ask others that have managed to stay away from it and depending on their status and position will have similarly rosy-coloured stories to say.
(‘on our last project, we could have not done what we had without BIM, sure it cost a bit’).

BIM is still heralded as something that is ‘the thing to really flourish - soon’ and something everyone knows is important and doing everything to develop it within their own teams/projects/organisations.
And yes, doing their best, and knowing it is important and the future is in BIM and…
you get the picture…

This situation seems to suit everyone in the industry.
It doesn’t and shouldn’t by any logic. But I’d accept it as ‘let it be’ (my time has passed, move on) were it not for the upcoming generations.
The new generation of 20 somethings (and younger) in training or about to enter the AEC, are taught that documenting building is about creating drawings.
Don’t get me wrong, I know they are also encouraged ‘to BIM’ at universities or at least allowed to use various modelling software, but I am yet to come across a programme that will squarely say, ‘forget the drawings (paper based or otherwise – i.e. their digital versions) and figure out a new way to think up/document and share building information’.
Or even if such programs exist and students are let loose to model, render and animate to their heart content, once they enter the industry, they get quickly shown the ‘real’ ropes.

A good modeller will have plenty of opportunities to model, but rule number one is, that the ‘drawings’ are priority, what consultancies get paid for.
(what consents are given on, what building contracts are based on, buildings built from etc etc).

It would be great to be able to state that these two aims are not contradicting, that the drawing is gradually losing its power to the models, after all ‘drawings come from models’, but the sad reality is different.
In fact, what comes out of the process of these ‘in practice BIM’ experiments are very poor drawings and mildly better-but contractually useless models.

And if you think that making BIM models ‘contractual’ will be the answer, think again.
CAD drawings never become universally accepted contractual documents and the risk/liability issues of that ‘language’ are significantly less difficult than what making models ‘real’ would be.

Working for a general contractor I’d consider a challenge put to us from the design consultancies to build exactly what they’d modelled (no drawings or specs) after all isn’t that what they charge principals extra for?
Don’t worry. Not going to happen (unfortunately).

Maybe I should not be worried about the future of new generations, they’ll figure out how to claim their piece of the industry. If the last 30 years are anything to go by, this is not a given.
As scary as it sounds, if we can assume to have a viable AEC industry in 30 years from now, it could still be a similar ‘drawing based mush’ as it is now.

So, BIM is dead, has been, will carry on.
What positive spin can be put on?

If you have missed the boat for BIM, if it has been dead all along, you can carry on working without it.
(make the occasional positive comment to your modeller ‘slaves’ and no one will bother you).

Alternatively, you can rethink the process of Building Information Management and consider it as ‘a story’ disassociated from its medium (the drawing).
A story of ‘an idea’ that goes through many hoops to become a building.

Recognise, that being so badly and deeply conditioned, that the only way to handle building related information is through drawings (AND specs – lots of written specs!) is a weight that can be lifted from the industry.

But if drawing becomes redundant, all of us that associate ourselves with creating/reading/checking/sharing drawings will be also be redundant?
That is an uncomfortable thought for all but the most competent of modellers and is what is paralysing the industry and preventing it of reinventing.

Take the ‘drawing’ out of the process of creating buildings. Eliminate it.
And/or give space for the new generations to do away with the drawings and tell their building stories their way.

The typical response to this motion will be:
‘Ha, they can render and animate these young’uns but do they know how structures work?
How plumbing goes in a bathroom, how to detail a window sill? Nah, no idea’.

You might be right, but you aren’t helping this situation either.
The ‘zombie BIM’ is also encouraging and enabling the status quo.

By pretending progress (we all do BIM!) yet sticking to what is familiar to the oldies we are NOT passing on the industry knowledge to the younger generations bur selfishly holding on to it.

Look at building material giants, what do they do to help this change?
Provide CAD files of their installation details? Revit libraries of their windows? Specification writing apps?
What about mammoth-sized global engineering consultancies? Making hay while the sun is shining they cheaply insource BIM modelling and on-sell mildly useful drawings and specs?

Surely there is an industry wide responsibility to tackle the issue of ‘they can model but don’t know how to put buildings together’ in a better way than parading zombie-BIM examples around endless BIM conferences?

I know. Overwhelming.
Another aspect of our lives that we can’t do much about as individuals.

It is such a clich├ęd saying, that every step in the right direction counts.
Keeping this BIM alive is NOT the right direction.

If you are so keen on drawings, go back to drawings and stay with them but make them work (again).
Yes, they can be created via models, but focus on the drawings and increase the level of literacy (read/write) across the industry. Models are not good if only 1% of the industry can create/modify them (even 10% is too low).

Being such a long post, few will bother to read through it.
Some might not get beyond the title and claim, I am being especially insulting to the good BIMmers of this world that are trying their very best.
Nah, I’m not. I give credit where credit is due.
But if you want to really prove me wrong, go paperfree.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Can one trust a BIM-mer, that is not personally practicing ‘paperfree’?

A provocative question.
Of course, one can.
Why would the good character or even the BIM knowledge of a person be undermined by a paper-notebook and a pen?
Or a stack of A3 drawings?
Or owning bookshelves full of ring binders stuffed with paper?

None of the above should be an embracement to those actively promoting BIM?
Surely, not?
One must keep things in perspective, the industry is in a (forever) transitional stage –
of course paper is needed and allowed for, even in the most sophisticated of operations.

So, why do I feel uneasy to reach for an old-fashioned pen even for the most mundane of tasks?
Am I being overly zealous? Because of my ‘paperfreeconstruction’ movement?
Or a bit hypocritical?
The perfect illustration of the old saying of “people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"?

As recently as a month ago, I had a desk-full of post-it notes alongside my keyboard at work.
I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of multiple note books and kept paper copies of critical documents handy.
I still have a bucket of coloured pens and pencils in front of me as I type this.

Surely using paper is not a capital offence.
Moderate  consumption must be acceptable even in a strong push for digital progress of the AEC industry.
Or, should it?

No, let’s draw the line in the sand! (but not on paper…oh, what a feeble pun)

You BIM? You must be paperfree!
If your title has BIM in it, you ought to go paperfree!

Lead by example.
And the best of all is, that you can start on this journey without big announcements or pledges to make.
Just ditch the paper.
If your date-to-date activities are preventing you to do so, the problem is bigger than the medium.
Start examining those obstructions in detail.
They could be tasks, arcane processes or dealings with particular individuals within your organization.
Regardless, it is likely that you will be able to hit a pretty high percentage mark of paperfree within a month of focused work.

You should try it.
And, if you claim to be any-sort of a BIM professional, you ought to.
For the sake of credibility.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The new trinkets of my paperfree adventure

My 10-year-old nephew Viki communicates with the world through drawings.
His latest masterpiece presents a series of occupations. He is self-thought and copies from various sources, nevertheless the illustrations are uniquely his.
One profession noticeable missing from his line-up, is that of the architect.

The absence of my own ‘calling’ on the drawings reminded me, how in popular representations of the architect, the accessories of the job are still the drawing board and the T square (or parallel square) while I have used neither for over 2 decades.

That though led me to explore my memory for films with architects and I quickly came up with a handful: Liam Neeson in ‘Love Actually’, Pierce Brosnan in ‘Mamma Mia’, Steve Martin in ‘It’s Complicated’ and one of (the very few) women, Michelle Pfeiffer in ‘One Fine Day’.
Then, I searched online and found lots of references to other movies and actors and characters...

But back to me. Naturally.
While I rarely consider myself to be ‘typical’ of anything, I do carry some of the usual characteristic of fifty-something architects, in that, I started off my career on the above-mentioned board with the T and parallel squares and using pencils and pens.
Still, the majority of my career has been spent with a computer mouse in my hand (wired) and tapping at a keyboard.
I kept up with sketching, doodling, scribbling and note-taking, but these latter activities were on paper.

Then, recently I went strictly paper-free.
Joining up the Movement toward paperfreeconstruction, I have committed to do all my work without the use of paper.
Cold turkey, no transition period.

I have been pretty good with the mouse for over two decades, drawing, modelling, manipulating models.
However, I have a way of ‘thinking with my hands’ I was very aware, that I had to find an appropriate digital pencil-pen and become comfortable with using it.

I had two versions to choose from.
The first was an HP pen that accompanied my work HP Elitebook (laptop).
The second, an Apple Pencil that came with an IPad, I inherited from my daughter.

It is early days, and I am getting to know both, but one thing is already obvious, that, there is very limited (or no) compatibility between the various media makes and supporting pens.
The other, that I already have a strong preference for the Apple Pencil if for nothing else, no batteries needed.

I’ll get my nephew to draw me holding an IPad and Apple Pencil, next time I see him.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Same, same but different – My mother is not getting paperfreeconstruction, the concept.

My mother has been a solid supporter of my BIM journey over the last 3 decades. She speaks very little English but has lived with us for long enough and attended enough of my Serbian/Hungarian presentations to get the gist of what I am about.
She has no idea what the ‘BIM’ acronym stands for exactly, but is closely associating it with all my professional ups and downs.
She loyally shares my blog announcements on Facebook and looks over Slideshows, YouTube movies, PP presentations I make. I can say, she is a fan of mine.

Launching the ‘paperfree’ movement, I managed to unsettle her.
She is confused.
Sure, she is happy, that I am again enthusiastic about the BIM-thing, the apathy that was consuming me over the stagnation of its development, worried her.
She is just not following the logic.
Almost thirty years ago, I was first talking about computer modelling of buildings.
I ‘drew’ the first axo chair in AutoCAD 25 years ago and showed it to her.
I documented full houses in 3D ArchiCAD 20 years ago in our design studio, while she looked after our children.
I designed and modelled iconic commercial buildings in Teamwork Architecture when we moved to a bigger town 15 years ago.
I built a business based on super-clever construction modelling some 12 years ago.
I taught how to BIM globally 10 years ago.
I’ve been writing a blog on the topic that is widely read everywhere over the last 5 years.
She could see the technology developing, my ideas maturing, the stakes rising.

And now? My blogposts keep coming up with the same hand-phone logo? And talking about paper?
She is curious, of course.
I tell her this is exciting. It is radical.
What can be more radical that all the ideas I presented over the years, many we pushed through fruition even at high personal price?

She questions, wants to understand.
So I say, this is not really radical.
This is nothing new.
It is the old BIM. The same BIM. The BIM that many have been selling and few doing.
Or not even BIM, at all.

I am just trying to get rid of paper from my working life and am encouraging others to do so.
Just asking people to work paperfree.
Keep doing the same things as always (draw, model, write, read, sketch…) just don’t use the paper.

She understands but remains puzzled.
Same, same – but different?

In time, I will be able to explain to her the logic of going back to basics and eliminating the paper from the processes.
I’ll tell her the theory, that a large portion of the industry, that is by and large ambivalent to BIM-ish changes, I believe would respond to positive development given the push in the right direction.
Rather than ‘forcing’ people through BIM training, modelling courses, even just theoretical seminars,

I’d love to see them ‘just’ go paperfree.

Think before you print! (good for the environment too, but my major objective is different, here).

Can you get by doing everything on a laptop? Or a tablet.
Save to a cloud straight away?
Mark up drawings on screen?
Sort them, check against models?
Is it hard? Why? Is it the tools? Or something else?
Can you get rid of your paper note book?

I’d love to hear what keeps you hanging onto paper?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bullied by BIM? Fight back! Go paperfree!

Despite BIM having been around for 3+ decades, it is by no means embraced by the global AEC.
There is a thin layer of participants that push the idea for various reasons (usually superficial), and there are people (in a very small minority) that practice it wholeheartedly. (my respect is with them).

And then, there is the rest.
Most of the industry is uneasy about the BIM thing, yet there is rarely meaningful discussion about it. It is kind of un-PC to question it, those that do, get often passive-aggressively BIM shamed.

Many, that have at some point jumped into it with enthusiasm had since pulled back and are holding on the non-BIM approach even stronger. They are usually not very vocal about their disillusionment but manage to get by in their daily work without needing to engage in BIM activities.

Often these are the ‘better’ people of the industry, the ones with more technical experience, insight and risk management skills.

As someone that has a lot of affinity with both those that are BIM enthusiast as well as those that are BIM doubters, I feel entitled to offer up an approach that might just counter the indignity of a ‘BIM laggard label’ and fulfil one’s own need for self-development.

Become a self-sustained paperfreemodule!
Ditch the paper in your work no matter if you are pro-or-against BIM.

I believe, that no real progress in the overall construction industry will happen as long as we have ‘the’ paper present in and around our core processes.
I am referring here to the ‘real paper’, in its physical representation, not documents that ‘look like paper documents’ but can just as well function in purely digital forms (letters, contracts, drawings etc);

I have an issue with the ‘medium’ and not the content.
(in fact, I have many issues with the content as well, but here I am focusing on the ‘medium’).

My reasoning goes like this:
For the AEC to modernise itself, (and in fact any type of BIM to succeed), it needs a critical portion of its participants to fully embrace digital information creation and management.
Most will not do it, because they do not have to.
Most will not do it, as ‘they get by’.

Someone else will find the file.
Someone else will print the drawing. (or create a PDF and then print the PDF)
Someone else will CADup a markup.
Someone else will update the model from sketches.

If we take the ‘paper’ out of the industry and out of reach of the ‘average’, non-BIM-literate participants (engineers, contractors) – they will find themselves ever-slightly out of their comfort zones, having to ‘figure out’ doing usual work with unusual tools.

They will not by miracle all start modelling at once or walk around with VR headsets on sketching construction details in the air.
But they will sketch on tablets. And keep their files in the cloud so they are available on all of their devices.
And learn to use flat PDFs in conjunction with models.
And pay attention to models on screens at meetings.

They will in turn also push the ‘supply chain’ to develop meaningful tools that will support everyone, not just the born-and-bred BIMmers from the beginning of this story.

There is much, much more to this concept than what I’ve just described, but for now, let’s assume that the theory has legs.
Let’s also suppose, that even the best breed of self-proclaimed BIM gurus of the industry are only functioning at half speed when they aren’t strictly paperfree.

I’ll have to digress a bit here.
Many, many, many people of the AEC industry will, heaving read my thoughts above jump up and be dismayed on how ‘out of synch with reality I am’ and how old ‘this news is’.
There are many, many, many successful examples of paperfree processes already in place everywhere, they’d state.

I stand by the theory.
Claimed ‘Paperfree processes’ in the AEC are extremely rarely truly paper free.
(or even ‘somewhat’ paperfree)

Look around and the pesky thing is everywhere.

Ring-binder folders of claims.
Marked up (and outdated) drawings.
Printed (and impossible to read) Programmes.

I am an optimist at heart and I believe this reality can be changed.
I am going fully and absolutely paper free in my own working methods and am inviting others to do the same.

The paperfreeconstruction group on LinkedIn is to support the Movement.
Get involved and you might just find this BIM thing much more palatable.
And the best of all, you don’t even have to announce anything publicly, just start doing it.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Why is the absence of paper so important for paperfreeconstruction?

Paperfreeconstruction is a goal, an idea, an ideal to work towards, something to believe in.

The road to it is via building up paperfreemodules, that are self-contained, autonomous and self-sufficient.  

Paperfreemodules can be created at any level within the industry.
A construction site can become a paperfreemodule, an engineering company, a large development or an individual.

I am starting with the individual.

So, what I managed to come is the Manifesto of the Movement.
I do know the ‘why’s too, just find it harder to put it into one sentence.
Am working on it;

In the meantime, if you have 1.5 hours free time look at this youtube video:
This slideshow might add a bit more food for thought:

And of course,… there are 8 years of blog posts here that one way or other lead to the same thing: paperfreeconstruction

Join the freshly set up group on LinkedIn!

Thursday, October 11, 2018


For 8 long years, I’ve been writing this blog.
While its impact on anyone else has been less than miniscule, the act of writing helped me out of some rough patches.
And for the latter, I am thankful.

I stumbled into the industry of creating buildings in my early teens.
First, I just wanted to learn everything I could while working in it.
Gradually though, fixing the small and the big issues that plagued the industry became my mission.
The ‘Big BIM thing’ I’ve been immersing myself in for over 2 decades is one of the manifestations of the urge to make a positive difference.

These days, I am thinking small.

I am starting up a Movement.
A small and slow movement.
A movement of ONE.

The idea behind the movement is a concept I’ve fussed over for years, a theory that survived many a crash I endured through my roller-coaster-ride like career.
It is simpler and, on the surface, less compelling than any of my other ideas, theories and models.
But, it is a beauty.

It is a Movement towards a World of paperfreeconstruction.
A World where buildings are designed, documented, constructed, occupied and maintained without any use of paper.

I haven’t been able to change the industry.
I worked hard, yet I could not get ONE paperless project off the ground.

Nevertheless, I am still working in the industry.
I have a job, so I can live and work by my own mantra.
I am setting out to become totally paperfree in my daily work.

I will keep using this blog to share my ‘journey’ (a cheesy habit, my apologies).

I also set up a LinkedIn platform for the likeminded, individuals and companies to join in and share their own experiences in working towards a paperfreeconstruction.
But only if they want to, I am quite happy paperfreeing on my own.

This is not a business idea, not a commercial venture.
Just a Movement.

For updates on how I am doing, join up here or follow the blog.
It Only Takes One Person to Start a Movement, people say.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Forget BIM, ECI, drones and 3D printing, move the capital to Timaru! (a placeholder for an unpublishable blogpost)

One day, I will publish the post I wrote in my head yesterday, when I read the article, referenced below.
No, I am not chickening out of tackling difficult topics, it is just not in the interest of my self-preservation to do it, right now.
Still, considering the relatively loyal and global readership of this blog, I think it is in the interest of the worldwide participants of the AEC industry, to at least give the article a bit of a focused boost.

So, read it!
While NZ may think that their troubles are local – there are many critical elements of its troubles that are very much global and also relevant to others.

In a vice-grip: Construction sector grasped by turmoil

Image from here:

Friday, May 18, 2018

There is ONE critical thing every building-project owner should know about BIM!

When it comes to BIM, the industry seems to split neatly over two groups:
One, a tiny one is made up of those that publicly accept to know absolutely nothing about BIM and are happy to stay as such.
The other, a significantly larger group consist of almost everyone else and they are the ones that know ‘everything’ about BIM.

This state of affairs has its amusing side, mostly for those that truly know ‘something’ about BIM (but are of course in the ‘know everything’ assemblage) – at every opportunity when the ones that ‘know very little’, expose their BIM ignorance lavishly, through stating/discussing/teaching ‘facts about BIM’.

I’ve spent many-many years patiently (or less so) debunking some of those ‘facts’, with very little impact on their ability to grow and flourish and reach incredible levels of fiction by now.

Not surprisingly though gradually, self-preservation has triumphed over my altruistic tendencies to create a ‘well informed – BIM literate industry’ and I stopped trying to put right every BIM-mislead soul I come across in my day-to-day work.
Let them eat their make-believe BIM cake, what do I care?

But even with my newly found ‘better bend than break’ attitude, I can’t help having this misplaced feeling of responsibility to ‘do the right thing’, from time to time.

Like now.
So, here we are, a quick and easy takeaway for all that work in the AEC industry and can be defined as, building-project owners.
This term (for me) includes everybody that purchases from the AEC industry, from small house-renovators that rely on small scale designers-documenters and builders, through groups of people making up boards of trustees of schools, hospitals and other organizations that procure building works from the industry, all the way to unscrupulous developers that get their millions and emotional kicks from screwing anyone that comes across them.

All of you building-project owners, through your journey in realizing some sort of a building-related goal/dream will come across people ‘selling you BIM services’.

They will be wearing the uniforms of architects telling you that you must pay extra, so they can produce their drawings by ‘drawing in 3D’.
They will be kitchen designers that will argue, that you should consider giving them a bit extra for your joinery to be documented in 3D.
They might also be respectable, large contractors claiming to give you a better process (and less variations?) if their P&Gs were expanded to cover some BIM offerings too.
They might be specialist BIM consultants wanting your dollars to check on the design consultants work, or they may be QS’s claiming to calculate quantities better when paid for a BIM-enabled service.

Whoever they are and as much as they are respectable, trustworthy and genuinely nice people, don’t fall for this ploy!

Standard BIM should not cost extra.
iIn fact, the cost of ‘standard services’ of document manipulation within the industry (this includes everything to do with ‘drawings and design’) should be priced to deliver a fit-for-purpose product (usually a building) at an agreed level of quality and at an agreed cost within and agreed time, regardless of how the documents are produced.
Whether done on butter paper in pencil, by flatCAD or full-blown BIM, should have no impact on the services’ cost.

True, each of the three types of media I just mentioned would give the end-users (i.e. the paying client) a different level of ‘enjoyment’ through the process, nevertheless for any of them to be worth paying for, they must be fit-for-purpose.
Building design, at any scale or discipline flavor is not a hamburger meal that can be up or down sized.
It is pretty much a one-size fits all.

So, again, if you are a building-project client – as an individual or part of an organization, you should not be asked (or forced) to pay extra for ‘standard BIM’ even when you are burdened by a government mandated (dog’s breakfast of a) BIM.

BIM, standard BIM. What is (a) STANDARD BIM?
Now, the definition of “standard BIM’ will unlikely to be in any official BIM standard.
Though, I have not checked – reading those makes me depressed.

According to my own, unofficial understanding of everything BIM, the meaning of “Standard BIM’ is everything that is BIM but is not ‘value added’.
Clear as mud?

Think of it like this, if the argument for BIM is that it will foster better communication and co-ordination, identify errors early, reduce rework, reduce costs and overall improve quality of deliverables – then you’d have the right to ask if the pre-BIM delivery of the said service provider was in fact poorly coordinated, full of errors, costlier and of questionable quality?

Unless the BIM enabled deliverer is going for its very first gig, it is unlikely anyone working in pre-BIM era would admit to having produced less than perfect services before they got all BIMmed up, even though we all know, that they all have been and still are, BIM or no BIM.

If you want to easily clarify if something is (or is not) a value-added BIM, here is a tip: was this part of the ‘standard services’ (of the architect, other consultant, contractor etc) before BIM came on board?
If yes, then it is not a value-added BIM (i.e. fully coordinated and buildable drawings, fully accurate as built documents or reliable quantities).

One that is a value-added BIM, addition of FM data into the model (and making the model fully available to the client). Another is providing a ‘buildable’ model, something the contractor can really build off. (very risky and not for BIM amateurs).

Internationally, the role of BIM (Building Information Modelling) is growing exponentially within the construction design and build industry and there is strong momentum to implement and realise its benefits.
Building project owners are responsible for supporting the ‘good intentions’ of this approach as much as the other industry participants. However, it can not become a simple ‘tax’ where any and all costs of BIM-enablement is passed onto these owners.

Unless, of course there is an industry-wide admission that the last 20-30 years of pre-BIM offerings of the industry were less than adequate, i.e. not fit for purpose.

Picture borrowed from here:

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Here is why Autodesk’s monopoly over the Global AEC is not good, not even for Autodesk:

The fact, that Autodesk rules over the Global AEC is not new, it has been in the making for several decades. It started off with CAD, then, when BIM was getting strong enough to stay – it extended over almost anything to do with Construction Information Management.

Almost, I state – as the non-graphical data management is still somewhat outside its claws, i.e. project, people and time document management.
Not that it is not trying to move into those fields too, since there is only so many BIM-CAD licenses the industry can absorb (pay for) at any time and the money-making machinery must keep growing.

Autodesk (and its supporters) will argue, that their supremacy is well deserved, funded on industry-best products and support, but we all know this not to be true, and some of us will even admit to it.
Ever since the first CAD hit the market, there had been viable alternatives for users to chose from and by doing so keep competition live and the suppliers honest.
Almost miraculously, some competition survived over decades and even in the more complex field of BIM, a couple of real contenders for big accounts still exist.

However, this competition is of little use for the industry’s ‘everyday man or company’ as it provides little real choice, in fact by pretending to be there yet having ‘no teeth’, competing companies strengthen Autodesk’s monopoly.

I’ve been known for criticizing Autodesk for many years and people tend to brush it off as ‘sour grapes’ – me being jealous that they’ve beaten Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD into ground – the current software of my choice.
But this is a stand too easy to take and misleading again, as I have been an Autodesk product user (as well) for a long time (longer than ArchiCAD) and at some time or other I used Vico, Sketchup, Tekla, Microstation and numerous high-performance parametric design offerings.

I am a self-confessed ArchiCAD lover but I have also been critical of its owners/developers/promoters for years and have only given up lately on this hobby, given their defeat being so obvious, that is no longer fun trying to cajole them into better performance by public shaming.

So, by all logic, I should also declare defeat and unconditionally succumb to the Autodesk Church, but – no surprises there – I just cannot.
We are being manipulated in every aspect of our lives, pushed towards single choice (or no choice) options where ever that is possible. So, accepting to have a sole source toolset in my everyday work should be easy to do. Yet, I can’t help thinking, that it is in every industry participant’s interest for this to stop happening, in a bizarre way even Autodesk’s followers and Autodesk itself.

Many Autodesk users/supporters will argue, that they are happy with what they have and need no competition.
Their skills and knowledge are global and easy to adapt to almost any country. Autodesk looks after them well, even invites the best to their annual mega-get togethers (for a little bit more bonding and brain washing).
It has nicely sewn up ‘global CAD and BIM standards’, COBie and other possible ‘performance management tools’ thus guarantee across the board use of Autodesk tools.
But I challenge those same people to answer this: if Autodesk told you to wear only black shoes for the rest of your life, would you?
After all, Autodesk knows what is best for you, why stop at your information toolset?
Maybe some would be happy to wear black shoes.

I know many clever, capable, innovative and altogether wonderful people that are swept under the Autodesk spell and that makes me sad.
Sure, they may feel like they are being valued, listened to, paid well and fully satisfied in their serving of the behemoth but, are they really?
Kind of, you are free, can run anywhere, if it is within the confines of Autodesk-land.

What about the young’uns? The ones that are just entering the industry? Is the rigmarole of the Universities’ Autodesk-brain washing effective enough for them to slide into the machinery with no questions asked?  On the lines of any BIM is better than CAD and any CAD is better than hand drawing?
(note: my daughter is going through one of those Uni courses).

And how about the ‘old and wise’ ones? The ones managing companies, projects and countries.
Before they put their signatures to another big Autodesk commitment do they ever ask what alternative there might be and take a real effort in understanding the status quo they are supporting?
Or, are they just happy sticking a company that makes them look legit and forgives them for not being that great in information management, anyway? In a ‘don’t rock the boat’, sort of way.

I can go on, bring in Autodesk’s competitors themselves, too afraid to offer any radical change to the market but focus on hanging to their piece of pie just a bit longer, even when there hardly is a piece to talk about any more, merely crumbs.

Then, of course, there is buildingSmart, with its endless international gatherings and self-back patting that does nothing more than give credence to Autodesk, for ‘playing nicely’ in the Global IFC arena.

And then, sadly, I must mention the tens of thousands of people within Autodesk itself that are possibly and highly likely decent people with good intentions that are unable or unwilling to do anything to level the playing field for the good of all of us.

And talking about the playing field, it can’t be that much fun to be Autodesk (the company) either, a leader in a game this uneven, no matter what money comes from it.
And I am almost sure that the company still feels it is not making quite enough money. The motivation to innovate is not there, only to sell more of the same. (maybe repackaged a little).

But even if I am wrong because, ‘naturally’, zillions of Autodesk fans can’t be wrong in that Autodesk does everything that this industry needs and to the best standard it deserves, there is still an observation I make, that Autodesk and the decision makers of the industry are in a too close a relationship.
Together they stop better and more universal data accessibility and transparency.
Two things that are even more important than innovation and progress and are essential for a clean-and-healthy industry.

I struggle to think of any other major global industry that knowingly prevents a high proportion of its participants meaningfully accessing vital data, yet this is exactly what is happening day in and day out in most of the construction projects.
Sure, company marketing will show engineers pouring over drawings in mud and rain on paper or on their smart tablets, but it remains a well-kept secret what percentage are able to dig to any depth beyond the PDFs?

Autodesk does not seem to be bothered about that percentage possibly (likely) being extremely low either.
The competition is left fighting over the crumbs, themselves unable to initiate real change in real uptake of the tools and the creation and access to quality data.
Consequently, the industry keeps chasing its tail staying the most in-bred, corrupt and murky of industries.

So, going back to my statement from the title, I do not think that the unbridled monopoly of Autodesk on the global AEC market’s graphical information management is good for anyone long (or even medium) term, starting from the industry, through Autodesk, all the way down to the users and consumers.