Monday, May 8, 2017

ArchiCAD 21 – New Stair Tool

Sorry Graphisoft, I can’t get enthusiastic about your new stair tool.
Not just because Andrew Watson (from a place even less known than Palmerston North, NZ – and that means a truly tiny dot on the map of NZ) has created a pretty serviceable stair tool some 15+ years ago and Cadimage had spent over a decade in promoting it and selling it to the ArchiCAD-users’ world, but because, while the stakes are so high in the industry of what way (if any) it should be heading to get out of the dark ages, you could/should be doing some really groovy stuff in showing the way.
Yet, you launch a ‘stair tool’.
I mean, really?
How about a pen -colour manager or layer selector or text aligning tool?
I said it before, and not just once: repackage your product, call it an ‘all encompassing, constructing BIM tool’ and you’ll do more good to the industry than any type of new tool development.
Get out of this comfort zone of “we are the architects’ tool’’ and the ‘designed by architects for architects’, once maybe cool but now extremely dated mantra, and attack the industry head on.
Show us, your party faithful that have stuck with you for 1, 2 even 3 decades, that you still know how to spin the wheels in the industry and will not be relegated to the lower ranks of solution-providers that craft entire road shows around pitiful improvements on previous releases.  
Show us, and the world what you truly are made from!

I know, you do not listen to me, you have never, not over the years.
I know, you do not care about the personal investment of many (like me) that mastered your tools to exceptional levels at high personal price.
You may care a bit (but probably not enough) about the investment companies made into purchasing your tools and shaping their own workflows around it over year (if not decades).
But you should care about the future of your own product as its development, marketing and generally placing on the market is seriously getting off the track, even in ‘safe’ countries like your (and my) ‘own Hungary.

My dear, beloved, ArchiCAD and Graphisoft. Please wake up!
Promoting a stair as the central innovation for this year, really?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The biggest secret, those with vested interest in BIM do not want you to know!

If you are, or have been involved with BIM in any sort of form, move past the cheesy headline of this post and think: are you truly confident that this ‘BIM’ thing is working?

That an approach that arguably has been in existence for 3 or thereabouts decades, had everything going for it in the way of technological developments (hardware, software) and is serving one of the biggest global industries – made almost no impact on the world-and its targeted industry in real (and even less positive) sense.

Sure, people involved in it (including myself) are able to rattle lists of areas where BIM ‘is useful’, ‘may save money…xxxx % or more’, ‘raise productivity’ or ‘help achieve targets’, but these claims are often fuzzy and unsubstantiated and never scientifically quantifiable.
After all, there almost never are two projects available with exactly the same set of base conditions, done in parallel, one with and one without BIM.
And even if there were, who is to say that the personnel of one would not make one work (there are still plenty on non-BIM projects that perform well) or the other fail, for a successful and valid appraisal of the entire approach.

There are many BIM professionals, that have managed to squeeze out a career of BIM, spanning 1-2+ decades and had done well from partaking in never-ending travelling circuses called ‘BIM conferences’. Most have instinctively learned, to fine tune their stories that accompany the same set of 3D slides of pipes, columns and complex staircases, to the ultimate BIM truth, they themselves have figured out: they’d done everything they could, but the industry is ‘just reluctant to change’.

But, that is an easy way out, both for the said practitioners and the industry.
Surely, there is more to it, than ‘just’ accepting that an industry that employs zillions is purely made up of the type of people, that cannot recognize, what is good for them and ‘do as they are told’.

So, here is the secret, I was referring in the headline:
BIM is not working, because, it is a fundamentally an approach designed and built for a ‘collective psyche’ while the industry on all levels (from very small, to very large) works mostly on the success and even more, failure of the ‘individual’.
In an environment where the existence of the individual is constantly threatened, the individual’s focus is on survival as opposed to investing in skills and efforts for a ‘better (BIM) world’.
Sure, some people will train in BIM to enhance their chances of employability, but ‘one Revit modeler will not make global BIM’ not even a hundred thousand of them.
A company, similarly may write an elaborate BIMmisation Plan to enhance its market presence, but all of that is just window dressing, when it comes to true BIM empowerment of the industry.

If one carefully examines the fundamentals of the approach as presented by ‘leading BIM practitioners’ to identify the reasons for its failures, one must wonder if this is some sort of a bizarre, left over virus, that escaped from the dying communist era and is relentlessly sharing the mantra of ‘play together nicely’.
Even more bizarre is that they are targeting the global industry that is probably up there with international politics on its inability to ‘play nicely’, at any level.

So, let me say it simply: BIM does not work, cannot work, unless every part of the organism it is applied to practices it in full. Meaning: buys into the philosophy of it and works it ‘hands-on’.
Let me not elaborate on the exact level of ‘hands-on’-ness here, as there obviously are different levels allowed for different parts of the ‘organism’ but it is important to note as illustration the cliché, that the ‘chain is only as strong as its weakest link’ - or the one that refers to absoluteness as ‘one cannot be partially pregnant’.

There cannot be functional BIM projects with partial uptake – no matter whether they are single houses or international airports. Similarly, companies cannot claim BIM success, with uptake of less than close to a 100%, again, regardless of the scale, a 2-3 people boutique architectural studio or an AECOM-type giant, spanning the globe.

If this claim of mine does not ring true for you, then maybe ‘you’ are better informed than me and have seen ‘real’ improvements in the industry from partial BIM dissemination here-and-there, through selected trainings, single-digit software purchases, pilot projects and government-mandated showcases – or maybe are just blinded by own vested interests in the above trainings, software development etc. etc and unable to see the truth.

Hoping and promoting that ‘gradual’ improvement will lead to high levels of uptake from the above named endeavors, is also false if not straight misleading to those less informed on the topic. If a company of 200 trains 5 people in any BIM software, than the company gets just that, 5 people that had done a training (not even sure that those will grow into anything BIMishly useful).

If an airport project, that employs thousands mandates an ‘evolving BIM modelling approach’ that is created and truly accessible by a small ‘BIM group’ (and often totally out of whack with the rest of the project), than the project is getting exactly that: a handful of people with some modelling skills playing forever catchup within a real project.

In reality, nothing wrong with either as long as everyone knows what they are getting for what.

Let me close on a positive note: I am a BIM believer, have been for 3 decades and I believe that where close to 100% uptake is achieved, its success is inevitable. Nothing less, nothing more.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

(possible) Roles of BIM in managing Variations

Variations are the bread and butter of the industry.
This is, of course not something that people will willingly admit to, after all it gives a bad image to accept that the ‘oil’ of the industry is something that should be eliminated by all logic of fair markets.
Add to this, that for years almost all BIM promoters used the ‘No Variation’ promise to sell the idea of the industry (or at least their direct targets) upgrading to BIM – and considering the advancement of Mandated BIM in recent years by that logic, there should be little left to combine BIM and Variations, apart to keep promoting that when BIM works, no Variations will occur, or if they do, they happen so early in the project that their cost/time impacts are insignificant. (visualize here those curvy graphics that give absolute ‘proof’ to this theory).

Yet, I think that those prepared to analyze and understand the reality of the industry without constantly looking through rose-tinted glasses, and what variations do to all participants on a daily basis will find BIM (in almost any shape or form) useful when tackling variations, regardless of what side of the ‘variation fence’ they may be sitting.

One area is ‘Visualizing Claims’.
Nowadays a claim for a variation (and/or EOT) will include massive numbers of drawings, BOQs, complicated P6 schedules and often lengthy narratives. Yet, a series of screenshots of even a rudimental 3-4D model will tell the same story in a much more powerful way. For the latter to happen, one would of course need someone that had the ability to make or at least manage models, be able to interrogate and eyeball commercial managers, planners, delay analysist and the like, while often being mocked and  looked at as techy-jockeys of pretend-sciences.
Regardless, if one is prepared to go beyond these somewhat unpleasant treatments and persevere and win the support of the claiming – or claim assessing teams – the results could be really pleasing for all.

So, BIM-mers out there with a bit of ‘oomph’ give it a go and plant yourselves within your organization’s Claim teams. Trust me, nothing beats the joy of successfully visualizing a screwed up critical path or uncovering the knock-on effects of a small omission in a Claim. It does help to be highly conversant in modelling and have a good handle on how buildings are put together as well as be aware of the tactics QS-s and Planners usually use to pull the wool over each other’s eyes – but some of these skills can be developed even while the BIM Claim exercises are under way.

The next step of BIM involvement would be assisting in ‘Quantifying Claims’
This part is definitely not for the faint hearted of the BIM practitioners. No matter how much is said in BIM promos on ‘Automatically Getting quantities off BIM models’ – one needs to know how to model ‘construction style’ and derive quantities comparable to traditional BOQs understood by average QS’s. Still, when it works, it works beautifully. In a supporting environment aligning the two sides – construction modellers and claim (creating or assessing) QS’s could be and should be possible.

I kept this post pretty generic, I do know, of course how to write very detailed ‘how to’ instructions, for both approaches (could be called Standard and Advanced version of BIM support to Claim Management); Anyone interested to know more, contact me through my LinkedIn profile.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Playing with fire – the high risk of forcing uncontrolled BIM to vital infrastructural and other important assets

Well, 2016 is behind us.

From the point of big BIM success stories, this was meant to be the big year, the one delivering the UK-spearheaded, Government Mandated ‘solve-it-all’ BIM.
And the plan to set it in motion may have achieved everything it was supposed to do, I am in no position to tell. Years ago, I lost my interest in watching/reading/listening the insincerely fashioned, and over time regularly re-fashioned BIM experts, telling and retelling the same story of how BIM was the big thing, but  only in the way they did it, in the meantime little real improvement was felt in the trenches.

As 2016 was crawling to its kitschy, shiny end, I occasionally did get worried, that by failing to rub myself close enough to the shiny-suits that matter, I will totally miss out on the real action when it finally truly happens in BIM, but somehow also clung onto a philosophy that if things ‘really were happening’ amongst the innovators, some morsels would trickle down to the ones like myself and would entice me on time into pulling on the BIM-fighter clothing again, just to keep putting the proverbial bread on the table.
Based on the evidence of people I meet daily in my real work, I can state, that 2016 has not delivered the ‘BIM revolution’, and it has a long way to go, for it to be able to make any real impact within its host industry.

Based on this perception of the state of BIM, so BIM-apathetic had I become, that my once busy blog – I have all but totally neglected – while its readership is (almost bizarrely) constant (and growing!)

Consequently, I had no intention  in starting the New Year with writing a blogpost on anything BIM-ish when I got out of bed today, and would have likely spent the day mosaicking, had I not just returned from a two week holiday.
A half-a-globe holiday trip on a cheap has its certain characteristics, meaning a lot of airlines and airports have been involved. Watching airline security for hours did something to me.

Strange that, Even the make-believeish part of it, that is visible for the average Joe, like me is not that exciting – one could say. Since 9/11 we have learned not to make silly jokes while being tapped down or up, or mock or treat with understated importance of the officers on duty. Apart from, maybe my mother, who at 76 and having criss-crossed the world a couple of times, still has the guts to place a full size canister of hairspray in her hand-luggage and shrug it off as something she did know once caught. (true story).

OK, I know, we know, everyone knows, that emptying my husband’s 300 pockets 5 times before you let him on the plane; make him pull out his belt while holding up jeans not meant to stand up without them and fishing his laptop from the bottom of a bottomless bag  IS ALL part of a pure psycho- strategy to get us all behave like sheep but believe to be ‘looked after’.  Most of the real security happens behind the scenes, based science and pseudo-science, on algorithms, risk calculations, tip-offs and simply picking up the guys that tend to be trouble, or something like this.

Still, one thing came out of me watching these procedures performed in various location and using numerous languages over the last couple of weeks.
It reminded me of a blogpost (serious one too) that I have been meaning to write for a long time.

So, here we are:
For numerous years Governments internationally have been targeted as the possible biggest beneficiaries of the ‘mainstream’ BIM pushed by the shiny-suits.
These ‘shiny-suits’ being the paid experts of various companies taking on the roles of BIM-pioneers, yet often lacking in appropriate knowledge or experience for such roles.
It is hard to find an airport, metro, hospital, museum, mall sport or cultural centre globally under development  without a ‘living’ BIM plan attached to it and zillions spent on consultant’s fees, on making them look like there was a functioning BIM guiding the process.
According to the shiny suits, BIM is not only supposed to save a lot of money on these undertakings (remember: clash detection) but also bring ALL sub-contractors to create a singing dancing (anything up to 7D) coordinated digital model.
A model that was managed by an often uncertain party (you know, the CAD guy from the main contractor that speaks one of Autodesk’s many languages) while construction going on, and than handled to FM guys to ‘make use’ of all of the charmingly and so aptly named BSxxx, COBIE and other adages given to the model parts by the highly-competent (not) outsourced subcontractor modellers.

While I was still somehow involved in setting up or managing the implementation of plans described above, I often set through ‘cutesy’ meetings where various people in the know, argued about the ‘ownership’ of parts of the model, mostly parts they themselves created and were unwilling to put in the pot. Yet, rarely I remember discussing the security risks on behalf of the owners of the final products of creating, good/or/bad, but still highly detailed, information laden digital replicas of vital infrastructural and other important assets without having a lot of clue on how these files will live on once the buildings are finished. Seldom was it mentioned of the risk of the creation, storing, managing, sharing of data and given believable assurances that sound steps were taken.
So mesmerised (even the otherwise savvy) owners of these BIM mandated-assets by their technological advancement tended to become, that even normal questions of data security was left unasked, and the specialist got away by serving up straight BS mumbo-jumbo to the ones brave enough to ask.

I did have one different experience, more than 10 years ago, where the PM acting on behalf of the Government Client did seriously question the process – to the extent that he wanted to lock up our modeller in a secret location 24/7, but that was definitely the exception to the rule.

So, the point of this blog today is to raise this question, motivate those that write, read and implement ‘War&Peace’ sized BIM Plans for vital infrastructural and other important assets to include realistic, proven, doable sections on how the modelling data will be managed in a way not to get into hands they shouldn’t, or how to behave (the data) when they actually do get into unprofessional hands or people set on causing damage.

The idea of Digital cities have been a tantalising one for a long time, even I’ve seen a city major or two get all teary eyed by the idea of all its infrastructure and building work digitalised, but when this data is managed by quasi experts or those with hidden and questionable agendas, the BIM-thing starts becoming much less of a good idea on a large scale and those acting to protect their clients’ interests should do everything to come up with their knowledge and fill the holes.

Now, I could close this post by saying that I am a perfectly experienced and qualified expert to advise exactly those client representatives, but then, who would believe me?
By no means could I claim to know the answer on every question (just as no other ‘security expert’ could) – but if the questions are not asked, there is little chance of the risks being rightly identified and dealt with.
Seem to be easier to just cross fingers behind ones back and hope everything will be fine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When 3D + 2D = more than 5D!

Digital Platform based Shop-drawing assessment

Construction Information Management has been an interest of mine for a good 30 years.
Over this time I become a fairly competent BIM implementer and had been involved with some pretty large projects all over the world. While I missed the glory of the almighty BIM projects supported by the BIM-cream of the industry and stayed out of the limelight of the mega-ambitious and fake attempts to speedily BIMitize the global industry , I’ve had the pleasure of delivering some very cool and cutting-edge stuff.

While BIM is all about the ‘I’ of the Information, BIM or no BIM, when it comes to Construction Information Management, one issue keeps failing to get enough attention.
In the attempt of fixing the industry in one big swoop is, the workflow of producing and managing shop-drawings by numerous construction participants based on design documentation in a pretty archaic way seems to be generally overlooked..
This is the case even in the majority of otherwise BIM-mandated projects, though a parallel, quasi-sophisticated modeling workflow may exist, for ‘show’.
The shop-drawings, that end up used for building off are still, more often than not, 2D based drawings (regardless of their origin) and get assessed and approved (or rejected, corrected and then approved) by client-appointed parties, in a tedious, long-winded way before they are let to proceed to construction.
Regardless of the skills and qualifications of the assessors, or even time spent on these exercises, experience shows, that there is an unfortunately large number of issues buried within these shop drawings, that do not get unearthed in the assessment process and end up going to the construction to be resolved on site.

Luckily, there exist an approach practiced by some on the fringes of the BIM fraternity that helps with this issue.
This particular approach, described below is also shown graphically here:

The way construction projects usually work, (design – tender – build, for example) the contractor submits the shop-drawings, the technical team, either the design consultant or someone independently appointed by the client, assesses, comments and returns for amendments or approves for implementation.
The process is linear and mostly broken over disciplines.

The various assessor engineers typically work with flat (2D) PDF or AutoCAD files, and consider individual sheets, marking them up or adding comments. Sometimes, but not always they overlap various sheets from their own disciplines (digitally or just over the window glass) and sometimes, but not always they cross check information against other disciplines.
Due to the large number of shop-drawings, each assessor is pressed to process each sheet in the shortest possible time and there rarely are processes in place to capture typical issues that may impact on future packages.
The results are often missed technical problems of spatial coordination or the nature of ‘under developed-design’ that will have to be resolved on sites at more cost and time delays than necessary.

While a truly functional BIM would probably fix these problems, the strategy described here is by no means a ‘pure BIM approach’ but rather a ‘hybrid’ one.

For the example to explain the methodology on, a set of buildings is used, part of a development completed a couple of years ago, where the number of shop-drawings created went into thousands. (in fact close to or OVER 20 thousand! Or was it 35.000+?)
It is also important to state, that the concept works on both very small and extremely large projects.

The process starts at the point where shop-drawings get created and submitted by contractors for assessment.
The assessment team (appointed by the client) is expanded from the usual cocktail of specialist-engineers with a new position, that of the Virtual Assessment Model Manager.
This person will work closely with all the individual discipline engineers, but also manage the Platform, the center feature of the Digital Project Environment.

At the outset of the project, the Manager sets up the ‘ghost structure’ within the platform. This structure has the digital equivalents of the key spatial drivers of the ‘real’ project, grids, stories and the positions of section and elevation lines matching the ones on the drawings.
The main elements of the ghost framework are grids, sub-grids, section-elevation lines and stories. These combined define the 3 dimensional skeleton of the project. It is important to understand that these elements are intelligent objects, not just lines, circles and text.
It is the digital skeleton of the building and it is critical for it to be as accurate as it is possible.

The next step is to feed onto this Digital Platform  the shop-drawings as they become available. There is no hard rule on the order of imports, but it is logical to follow that of the construction’s needs, so starting with foundation drawings makes sense. As the shop drawings arrive, the Model Manager places the sheets within the ‘correct place’ of the Virtual Environment on the Digital Platform. Plans over the appropriate grids, elevations, sections in the right planes, specific details in their original positions.
The Model Manager, given the correct software has numerous tools to assist the work with large number of drawings, going into hundred and even thousand, including filters, layers, views and work spaces.
While not all drawings can be placed in a specific spatial position (i.e. typical, generic details, schedules etc) there is always area within the Digital Environment for these to be stored and referenced from.

The Model and the Digital Platform are continuously available to all assessors, so they can review these drawings almost as soon as they have been placed within the Platform. Drawings from one discipline can be referenced to each other or against other discipline straight from the beginning of the populating of the Digital Environment.

Parallel with the placement of received shop-drawings, the Model Manager creates the virtual model of the building(s) itself on the Platform, constructing it up in a similar sequence to that of the real construction.  This developing model is another feedback to the accuracy and completeness of the shop-drawings and provides up-to date information to the assessors to act on in a timely manner.
The beauty of the Platform is that one can have numerous buildings in one file or closely referenced to each other as well as it all been centrally located and updated.

Should there be contractor supplied 3D (shop-drawing) models available as parts of submittals, the Model Manager has the ability to import them as well and assesses their integrity against the live model and all the other shop-drawings.

The Digital Platform should be user friendly and offer many tools for visual assessment like, traces, sliders, colours, modifiable transparency etc etc.
On the first look, the interface of the Digital Platform presented here is pretty similar to any CAD (or BIM) interface. It has a ‘model space’ type of area with a square grid and is also equipped with what looks like a 3D window. While the approach is somewhat software-agnostic, the global AEC market has a lean offering of platforms that are well suited for the simultaneous manipulation of (many) 2D drawings and one or more live 3D models.

Here,  Graphisoft’s platform is used and it is not unusual for it to carry 200-500 drawings dynamically linked in within a complex, construction level, detailed 3D model.

For more information on this approach, check out the supporting PP:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Of course one can do BIM with Revit, but why should one even try?

I know. Every time I write about Revit, its shortcomings and my relationship with the software and its supporting people/companies, I lose another BIM friend or an interested in BIM -blog-reader otherwise supportive of my ramblings on the current status of the AEC industry.
So be it.

I must have matured (or got to be pickled) enough to find the ability to have all sorts of (seemingly) contradicting things living in harmony within my head.
I can admire clever people of certain skin colour, even be friends with many of them and despise others for their arrogance, again irrelevant of skin colour (same or different). I learned to enjoy painful experiences for what they are teaching me, have simultaneously opposing views on political situations and possible resolutions to them and I can maintain genuine friendships  with people that practice or ‘Havens forbid’ – even like (love) Revit.
And I accept, without holding grudges when they eventually stop being friends with me because of my dissing the named software.

Add to this the fact, that I am getting close to completing 3 years  of full-time employment within my (beloved) industry where my role has had nothing to do with BIM, confirming that I still have some marketable skills in the industry that do not rely on 20+ years of feverishly intensive self –development in the BIM field.
So, I can openly be anti-Revit.
The latter may also indicate same some other things about the industry too, but let’s leave those conclusions for another post.

Just a tool, one would say. And they do say it, regularly. ‘Them’ being those in the know, using the ‘tool just being a tool’ as the foundation to build up many an argument on something terribly sophisticated and BIMmish.

But no, it is not ‘just’ a tool.

For me (note: for me!) it had become the symbol of everything that is wrong with the AEC industry and its attempts to improve itself through a forced BIMalisation of its masses.
A word that opens doors if one wants  to look BIM-literate and shuts the same fixtures squarely in one’s face,  if uttered in a wrong sentence.
(like, ‘I find Revit to be an inferior BIM tool, at a job interview).

A word that conjures animations of Pixar quality in the minds of clients that want to look refined and as a result will mandate BIM on their projects.

A word that makes me skip over any BIM-Manager’s role advertised in the main media of AEC jobseekers.

Revit is not Autodesk, they also like to say, assuring the ‘above-the boardness’ of their BIMmish statements, so clearly soaked in everything Revit and therefore Autodesk.

But, of course it is.
In anyone but Autodesk’s hands, the promising but underdeveloped predecessor of Autodesk  Revit would have either died quickly in obscurity or got its act together and become a useful tool to a minority of discerning practitioners. Unfortunately for Revit it got selected to be the ‘front face’ of Autodesk’s BIM invasion of the last 2 decade and while achieved large coverage, failed to grow up.
No, Revit survived in its half-functioning ways, only because of Autodesk and the power it has over the global industry.

So what?
Don’t like Revit, don’t use Revit, it is a free world when it comes to software, one could argue.
What is the point in analysing the software shortcomings, its supports deficiencies the politics of its longevity?
What is the point of nailing oneself on the proverbial cross and declaring time and time again that I’d never touch Revit in my professional life again (unless to convert the data from it to something more palatable)?
What is the point of tempting faith and push oneself into a situation in life that one may want to beg to be given a BIM role with everything Revit?

There is not a lot of rational reasoning for all the whining from me on the topic of Revit, of course. Apart from maybe just creating another opportunity to publicly declare:

Want to do BIM? Don’t use Revit.
Want to use Revit? Don’t try to do BIM (seriously).

Friday, August 12, 2016

BIM for fixing up Distressed Projects and/or using as a Weapon in AEC Claims

Ever since BIM raised its pretty multi-dimensioned head within the AEC industry, most talk and action has been focused on its role in prevention, rather than cure of construction projects.
I.e. developing and applying processes of information management, using the principles and tools of BIM to ensure building projects finish on time, to expected quality and budgeted costs.

Even seasoned BIM promoters’ stance is usually, that introducing BIM to a project is worthwhile only at the start-up, followed by the comment, that ‘a particular project is too far down the track done the traditional way’, for any BIM implementation to be successful.

I have been challenging this assumption for years, by successfully performing small and large BIM type exercises on projects, either to get them fixed up mid-way or (dare I say?) once completed, illustrate who was to blame (and by how much) for its distress in the first place.

So good I got at this particular use of BIM (I thought) that the idea of a consultancy service based purely on using BIM tools and techniques to assist parties in distress (on building projects) seemed like something worth exploring. The services I had in mind were less the type of the ‘lovey-dovey-clash detection’ but more like supporting successful variation claims, defending EOT claims or preparing proper recovery plans that would give clients full transparency and actually bring projects back on track.

I toyed with the concept of calling the services collectively ‘Forensic BIM’ and prepared a pretty workable strategy for getting a start-up off the ground.

It never got off the ground.

Not because, nothing I ever start I complete well (‘don’t be so insecure’, my husband would say) though ones should consider it with my BIM-records – but because this whole BIM thing has still not reached a maturity to function in a realistic way. Not locally, nor globally.

While millions of funds, all around the world are invested daily into quasi BIM ‘things’, to meet mandated requirements, look sophisticated (leading!) and keep up with one’s peers, the idea of having Forensic BIM departments within major Consultancies and/or Contractors is looked at pretty squeamishly by almost everyone I encounter.

Those, that are at least prepared to argue their points against Forensic BIM practices, say that it is unproductive to spend BIM efforts on the ‘cure’ of the ills of the industry (or perish the thought, create Weapons of Claim Management for individual parties on projects) but must keep the collective focus on ‘prevention’ and aim for the ‘idealistic, everyone works together playing nicely BIM industry’.

As if, there would be no point curing the ill, or supporting the infected, while we were waiting for ‘some magical prevention approach’ to be fully developed and in place.
Or to use an analogy from a different sector, to actively ignore any smart tools potentially available for prosecuting/defending criminal cases and force everyone working in the legal field to put their efforts into the creation of environments with zero criminal occurrence.

Nice ideas, sadly unrealistic.

Furthermore, while BIM promoters wearing rose-tinted glasses dismiss ‘Forensic BIM’ approaches as dead-ends, an opportunity is lost to give the entire BIM fraternity (rosy coloured – theirs, grey/black – mine) to develop some real polarity within, that could possibly nudge it out of this state of perpetual infancy, it badly needs to move from.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Doing BIM right: My way or the highway!

If there is one advice I would like anyone to take from me on the topic of BIM, it would be:
Do it my way or don’t do it at all!
Now, that is an arrogant statement even coming from me, someone that over the last couple of years has become more-less known in this field of Global BIM for putting out subjective, flippant statements that the BIM majority did not like and often publicly declared as simply ‘untrue’.

A couple of days ago, my middle daughter turned 20th.
This fact brought home the realisation, that it is exactly 20 years since I bought my first ArchiCAD licence. That date did not mark my introduction to (what much later become) BIM, for a number of years before 1996 (about 5) I dabbled with 3D AutoCAD (fully modelled buildings with it in DOS).

So, this birthday became the trigger for another realisation, that it is time to stop being the ‘Nice Girl of BIM’ – pussyfooting over the ‘herd of elephants’ in this field that Global BIM is and once for all, write up my list of 5 musts for a BIM system to work at any scale.

The following 5 points cover the essentials of the ‘who, what, how and what with’ of a working BIM system. There could be variations on the build-up (yeah, yeah, the devil is in the detail)  of the system, but these are the fundamentals:

1.       Main, modelling tool must be ArchiCAD; Revit is a dog, and if you are not going for Revit for political reasons, might as well go with the best tool still on the market.
2.       Your workflow must be set up for constant cross referencing of 2D-3D data. No matter of the level of ‘mandated BIM’ on a project of any reasonable size, most of the data will keep on flowing on PDF’s. Your modelling tool must be able to handle PDFs well – and many of them in one model. Again, you must use ArchiCAD.
3.       Ignore any meta-data until you model with construction integrity. This applies to Cobie and other super-duper ‘i' strategies. They all sound good, but if the foundation of your BIM is shaky because of your model integrity, you will be wasting a lot of money with very little benefit for anyone. (hint: employ someone to manage these magical ‘i' flows, but keep them away from the ones that are doing the real work);
4.       Your key person is your Chief Model Manager and you must not have more than 2 people sitting  in that role even at the biggest of projects. (2 people will give you the redundancy you need to manage the risk). Your Chief Model Manager must be a fully hands on modeller and interested and  know how buildings go together spatially and logistically.
5.       Don’t burden your Chief Model Manager with writing or implementing mainstream type BIM plans, get someone else do it, if mandated by the project.

There. You are welcome.

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.