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.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The straw that broke the camel’s back! The final post for (the first incarnation of) debunkthebim!

Being unemployed is nothing to be ashamed of, one would think. Especially, when one considers it as a short interlude between two highly rewarding positions. After all, one has not spent over 3 decades of one’s own life to hone one’s skills  and then be thrown out as a piece of garbage at the time one is probably best able to fully commit to one’s career without feeling the guilt of underplaying the role of parenthood.

But, of course it is. Being unemployed is to be ashamed of, society dictates.
It is a stigma that one carries, and it becomes heavier as time goes on.
One does not like talking about it and I don’t (to the surprise of many) like to chew over it publicly either.
Even beyond the uncomfortable first couple of weeks when the boot was so strongly edged in one’s backside that is physically hurt, it is hard to accept not to be wanted, let alone stating it openly.
But as so often in the past, I have this (possibly misguided feeling) that sharing one of my stories of the unemployment experiences, may help someone feel a bit better about themselves.

Actually, it is not the fact that one’s skills are no longer valued or wanted, that bothers me so much. These can be rationalized (even by the bitterest of souls) as the workings of the market economy.
Nor is the financial hit that hurts the most.

It is the apparent lack of motivation by others, to treat one as a person any more, the apparent ease, those that have the power to change the ‘unemployed’s’ status one way or other – to seemingly parade this power by …. wait for it… using the strongest of weapons: silence…
That is the real killer.

So, let me share a short, personal story!
For the good fortune of this blog, it is very much a BIM story too, so very fitting to have it published here.
Because it is a real story with real, international and powerful companies involved, I will attach references to relevant communications embedded within a slideshow, with a link added to the end of this post.
A couple of names are blanked out, these are the people that offered their hep out of the goodness of their heart and I do not wish to put them up for any unpleasant exposure.

So, here we go.
I am a BIM person, most people that know me, know that.
(If they don’t know that, they don’t know me).
I have had various titles in my past, starting as an architect, registered architect, project and design - to innovation and BIM implementation managers, but, put simply, I am an ‘old fashioned’ architect trained professional with quite a bit of global, large project delivery experience and in-depth, practical (hands-on) knowledge of BIM use. (call me modest too 😊).

When the opportunity to become a BIM manager for BAM (I know, BIM /BAM) for their freshy awarded, 5 star, YAS, Stadium project in Abu Dhabi, UAE (ref 1) happened, about a month or so in my unemployment, I got very excited.
It came about from a personal referral (ref 2) and soon enough, I got a call from a very pleasantly sounding (I guessed, HR assistant) lady to indicate the company’s intention to have a Skype interview with me.
The lady was upfront enough to say, that she had little insight of the role or project itself, but indicated that both my CV and salary expectations would be passed on straight to the regional BIM Manager of BAM.
(I know, sounds silly too, but this is not an appropriate place to make jokes about the acronyms).
I would be soon (I read: within hours) be contacted about the Skype interview, the lovely lady chirped.

It did not happen.

I would be dishonest to state, that I was not hopping for it to happen, with all my heart, even though I knew the moment the lady said the decision for the person hired to be this particular BIM manager (for BAM) will be made by the (I guessed) general/regional BIM manager (for BAM) as opposed to a clued up and capable Project Director, I knew my chances to get the job were ZERO.

Still, for a further self-torturing exercise, I did a research on who this possible person might be, and all directions pointed to a Mr. Derek Bourke. (Ref 3).

Now, Mr. Burke is possibly an extremely likable chap with a hefty 4.5 years long BIM career under his belt (hmmmm, Ref 4), fortified with a short burst of CAD technician-ship, but no one in their right minds would have expected him to recommend me join the company in any capacity.

OK, my husband did, but he really wanted me to get this job and be happy again.

Moving on.
Nothing happened.
Having past another milestone of applying for yet another 100 or so positions with little or (mostly absolutely) NO feedback, and feeling pretty miserable for it, I retreated back to my trusting old blog and set down to write down the BIM-BAM experience.

However, this event NOT being just another ‘give us a break, we get zillions of applications and who the hell you think you are, to expect special treatment’ case, I though, let’s give the guys a fair go (Ref 5), the opportunity to opt out on a ‘budget for the role is low’, ‘lack of stadia experience by me!’ or whatever other PR statement they’d wish to throw into my direction, yet… surprise, surprise….
Why bother? – A blank, crude and rude ‘silence’ would suffice just the same.

So, here we are.
I did not get the job. Did not even get that blimming Skype interview.

Hey, I can always say, I never wanted it anyway…
Which would be so untrue, as oh, I so did want it.
But will anyone care? of course not…

Yet, (again) I hope, that this little writeup may make someone feel a bit less miserable about being treated like an invisible, yet persistent annoyance, and trust me, most of you are sooooo much more employable, anyway – if you are a man for a start….
Not really keen to get into the big gender debate, but I have still both of my ears buzzing from my past job’s cocky construction managers saying how they come to work to GET away from their blimming, winging wives not to listen to another nag them on. (like me) . Oh, did I say CMs? One was a glorified carpenter with a lot of self esteem problems.

And, while many may think that this writing is pure ‘sour grapes’ – let me instead, call it the turning point.

As indicated in the title, this IS the last of these posts in the debunkthebim.
The squeaky wheel of my self-mockery will no longer need to be oiled, it is to be terminated with this post.
From now on, I intend to dedicate what remaining professional career I have, to something ‘fundamentally positive’.
The naivety of this last statement might make you cringe, but, just for the off chance that I actually get this one right, watch this space.

Some, or most of the past content of the debunkthebim blog will go – so, this could be the time to copy the juicy bits you liked from it or just enjoyed for the guilty pleasure of me taking someone to task you thought deserved it too.

The platform will remain in one form or other, so do stick around.

And again, here is one for all you poor, non-volunteered, unemployed buddies out there! And another for those of you that read this blog over the last 7 or so years.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

HR and the unemployed within the global AEC

I’ve been reprimanded by some, for taking the Mickey out of Carillion’s people laid off due to the giant stumbling a bit and failing a bit and well, going down the tube a bit.

Ok, being unemployed is nothing to joke about.
But surely, HR people can be a fair game. Specially when they are employed.
When they are not, statement one about unemployed applies.

Since there is so little real news in the fields of the mighty BIM these days, while the unemployment market of the industry is ‘enjoying’ yet another of its unacknowledged heights, let’s put the focus on the HR sector of the AEC industry.

Fundamentally, I guess the AEC people-traders are not that different then the ones operating in other industries – which actually is a problem on its own, but I’ll park this issue for now.
I will also not delve into the various (sometimes frankly hilarious) role descriptions they have been operating under, since I started ‘working’ with them over 30 years ago.

Ok, let just mention some, for the fun of it:
Personnel, human resources’ custodians, head hunters, talent acquisitionists…

Before I get into the real fun bits, let me very clearly state TWO things:
1/ I know off, have dealt with and enjoyed the acquaintance, services and generally relationship of numerous (more than one, but say less than 20) exceptional people operating within this segment.
(You know who you are, I value you greatly)
2/ These people (not) mentioned above are so outnumbered by the others that "The exception proves the rule" truism could be taught at schools purely based on this example, so clear cut it is.

I also accept, that the internet made the numbers of applicants these guys must deal with almost impossible to handle, but I refuse to agree to have millions of unemployed treated as idiots because of this.
Maybe they should be forced to list at the bottom of their ads “We are just the gatekeepers to our paymasters. Whether or not you get selected has nothing to do with your training, experience or skills. It is just the luck of a draw – might as well buy a lotto ticket instead”.

These are my other bugbears:
·        The entire HR segment uniformly pretending to have a foolproof science for finding the perfect person for any role. (algorithms, people skills, whatevers)
·        Companies having their own websites that one must fill out with all the details that are in their CVs anyway.
·        Companies using job ads to advertise their own companies at the cost of explaining what the job is about (KEO jumps to mind here as one great offender, but most of the other multis are guilty too);
·        Inability of HR people to understand skill cross-overs, looking ‘out of the box’ for malleable candidates and catering for people not fitting the mold.
·        Abusing the words ‘innovative’, ‘free thinkers’, ‘inventive’, ‘pioneering’ while wanting people that will ‘fall straight into lines without challenging them’.

I also despise:
·        Offers to improve my CV (why not learn to read it, CVs as well as people instead?)
·        Offers to improve ones’ interviewing skills
·        Telling the candidate that there were others much better than him/her, but they will be keeping them on file; (if they do, they will hardly if ever look you up)
·        Repeatedly advertising the same position even after the position is closed.

Even more:
·        Telling people, they are unsuccessful.
·        Not telling people, they are unsuccessful.
·        Being nice to people when telling them they are unsuccessful.
·        Not being nice to people when telling them they are unsuccessful.

When it comes to searching for and placing BIM people into roles, things get even more fun.
Or maybe not fun, actually really scary!

I am yet to meet ONE truly BIM literate HR person, even after 30 years of work all around the world.
I have been interviewed (or decided not to be interviewed) by many totally unqualified on any/all intricacies of BIM.
I have patiently (or less so) set through and answered to checklists of tens (or many-tens) of software packages the ideal candidate was supposed to be versed in to the same group of BIM illiterates.

I often ‘feast’ on all of the BIM roles they invented (sure with a little bit of help of their just as BIM-ignorant clients)
Revit Architects
BIM Design Architect
Senior BIM Project Manager
Revit Drafters and CAD Modellers… (and many more)

Actually, this is now getting really painful.

My real intent with this blog was to show my support not (just) for the Carillion unemployed but for the unemployed of the Global AEC.

Footnote: I have been looking for a nice little illustration for this blog – but could not go pass this HR lady’s profile and all the letters behind her name …. (she MUST know her job)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Carillion goes bust and guess what, it is no one’s fault! In fact, we should all unite to support those that are left without a job!

‘Carillion PLC was a British multinational facilities management and construction services company headquartered in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. It was the second-biggest construction company in the UK.[4] Listed on the London Stock Exchange, the company experienced financial difficulties in 2017, and went into compulsory liquidation on 15 January 2018.’ (Wikipedia).

As someone that watched with interest how Leighton (a similar Australian ‘giant’) went down, or pretended not to, but still did, I experience a lot of feelings of a de ja vu in hearing the news regarding Carillion.
Having followed the machinations of Balfour Beatty and numerous other global counterparts over the years, I have formed my views on what is behind this ‘little stumble’ of Carillion.
(note, the UEA partnership is in no way effected – say the news, so Al Futtaim guys, rest easy).

Yet, and entirely predictably, the good Brits are all very sorry and compassionate with the ones left without a job due to the unfortunate turn of circumstances.
HR consultants are falling backwards to give these souls a leg up into another career somewhere just as lucrative and (hopefully) stress free as working for Carillion was.

After all, it was not their fault.
Or was it?
Was it management?
Or was it not?
Where had management came from? Who put them in their cushy chairs?
What about the clients?
Oh, no, it was the industry.  The crises.
We had a crisis recently, haven’t we? We must have had. The AEC is all about crises.
Unpredictable too. Crises and all. Did I say crises?

I am sorry, but this is all so ‘back to kindergarten’ behavior.
No one to blame. No one to fault. No responsibility. Hold hands tight. Sing loudly.
Or keep your mouth shut, make sure the circle survives intact.

Please, do me a favor. Let Carillion sink.
Let the good people employed by it join me and others looking for work and fight the fight for the right to work out on merits, capabilities, credits, experience.
Let the good ones thrive, let the bad ones drop.

Yeah, I know it will not happen. Not this time. Maybe not even next time.

But I keep trying.

Footnote: Large ‘national’ construction companies had never been too far in their attitude to life from banks and financial institutions. Too big to fail, too big to care. Ocean liners, built for fair weather sailing only, when it gets a bit rough, leave the passengers in the water as fish-food – the captains are the first to flee. Again, the industry is littered with them, they lose nothing, move to the next ocean liners to blob on until things get rough.

Footnote 2: Quoting Paul Gibson: ‘If it wasn't for the fact that genuine hardworking individuals weren't caught up in all this and decent well-run companies also then it would be bloody laughable.’ After 30 years in the industry, where I always considered myself to be a ‘genuine hardworking individual’ – (and show me one, that does not think that of themselves, my ex-Leighton mates Hamish and Jeremy come to mind, not to talk about a lot of top Brit executives too) – I do lean towards the idea that we all (within and outside the industry) have the industry we deserve. After all, the behavior that causes these ‘shocks and after shocks’ is in no way new or concentrated to any particular country or area – so why aren’t we doing anything about it?

Monday, January 1, 2018

AEC Millennials, where are you? Where is your voice? Here is a New Year’s resolution you might like to consider!

I am 52 years old. And not a particularly young 52 either. My hair is grey, and my body shows the age. I forget things, can’t read without glasses and am not particularly agile.
And I work in the AEC industry. Have been for over 30 years. And all this time, I have been fighting a non-winnable war against its global cronyism, corruption and archaic ways of doing things (even of its mundane tasks).

I have done both theoretical and practical research over 3 decades, across all phases of design and construction and spanning almost all continents.
I written many, many words in my blog and upset at one point or other almost every major player (design or construction firm, software developer and HR provider) that there is.

I made enemies and secret admirers. I get open treats and couched support messages.

Yet, what still takes me by surprise, is the action or lack of, of the young people, entering the industry and functioning within it.
While I accept, that it takes a long time to understand the carefully hidden corruptive practices of the industry, the backwards ways of its information management must be obvious to anyone that had spent even the shortest time within it, let alone the Millennials, that have grown up ‘digital’.

“The most popular definition says, that Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.” (Wikipedia)

So, they are now in their late thirties at most and late teens at least.

Without going into complex statistics, as a rule of thumb, if the industry employs people from 18 to 65 years of age, there should be at least 40% of this workforce that falls age-wise into the Millennial category.
Sure, university training will mess up the numbers (though the trade part is often entered at an even earlier age than 18) – and at the other end, some hang around for longer than 65 – but even if this percentage is a conservative 25%, we are still talking about large numbers.

Having 3 daughters within this age-category, I also know from a personal experience that they vary greatly in how they handle digital information, but it is common for all, that by default, they take their information ‘digitally’.
The arty types will, of course venture into pretty diaries, hand written journals and within the architectural corner of the industry hand-sketching, physical model making etc.
But by and large, when it comes to ‘fundamental’ information creation, management and exchange, they will use their phones – pad – laptops – watches….etc.

I intended this post to be for them, so let’s switch to ‘you’.
What interest me, is why do you, when you enter the AEC industry fall so easily and without much noise into its archaic ways of information management?

Why are you prepared to use ‘word’ and ‘excel’ when you likely have ideas, what tools could be developed to do the same tasks more effectively and likely more enjoyably?
Why do you accept that the industry splits into those that create the technical information (draftsmen, modellers) and those that use it (everyone else) and don’t push for more hands-on, engineers and managers? Why do you accept that having a bit of access to Grasshopper or Rhino is the pinnacle of coolness on offer? Why do you ever settle for AutoCAD?

Let me make some guesses, why that is.

Firstly, I know you get hammered with the ‘lack of technical knowledge’ mallet.
It is likely true, that you come into the industry with a significant deficiency in comprehending how buildings come together, but that is not a ‘fault’, it is just the way several things collide to work against you.
(i.e. the education system, the unwillingness of knowledge sharing by those in the known, the relative uniqueness of buildings, the myriad of potential ‘problems’ you face etc. etc.).

Secondly, you get quickly put into a position to pick between furthering your ‘real career’ or carry a label of a CAD-guy (or even BIM-guy) for the rest of your life.
And, if you elect to climb the ‘real’ ladder, you will likely learn better not to question the tools and processes cemented within the system.
On the other hand, if you go the CAD-BIM direction, you may find some satisfaction in being amongst similarly ‘techy’ ones, but you soon find out that you might as well kiss goodbye to engineering or other serious management progression as well as picking your own tools (you can chose anything, as long as it is Autodesk).

If I were you, I’d be really peeved off, having these choices on offer (and only these choices).

But having selected and arrogantly pursued the ‘have your cake and eat it’ mantra over 3 decades at a price too high and bitter for most people to accept, I understand why you do it.

Yet, I can’t help thinking that, the power is there in (and with) you, all of you individually and as a group, just somehow you are not quite seeing it.

So, let me put some bugs into your heads.
The generation that owns this industry has no right to ‘own’ it.
It has no right to blackmail you into submission based on your ‘lack of technical knowledge’. Building buildings is after all, not a rocket science, everything that there is to it, can be collected, recorded, and made available to others.
Create a knowledge database and share it.
Challenge the idea that being a hands-on manager (i.e. creating your own models to supervise construction or project manage others) is something to be ashamed of.
Use the tools on hand and develop new ones to give you an advantage and expose the bluffers.

You tend to be informed customers when it comes to your food and clothing, so don’t just accept blankly that your buildings are documented ‘somewhere else’ (and this is not a blank statement against outsourcing).

I don’t necessarily advocate that you individually risk your employments by being revolutionary and non-conforming, but if organised in a group, you can be a huge force in smartening up the industry, cleaning it up of its dead weight and free-loaders and making it into an industry that the smartest will want to join and be proud to be part of.

So, rather than making a big ruckus, though haven knows, the industry needs it, get yourselves organized and revolutionize by stealth!

Happy New Year AEC Millennials!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

BIM 360: One small step forward for Autodesk = Two huge steps backwards for the global AEC industry

 Last week I went to an Autodesk Event.
No need to be telling me to ‘eat my words up’ and recalling my history of Revit-bashing on this blog.
Just because I do not enjoy modeling with Revit, I can keep an eye on what is happening in the industry, especially while the authors of my tool of choice are merrily basking in their achievements having ‘invented’ the ‘Year of the stair’.

It also helps when the event is free and comes with a dinner, though I had paid for a hotel room to stay overnight, committed to keep the local economy in some sort of equilibrium.
While lapping up the free Christmas atmosphere of one of the better venues of downtown Abu Dhabi, I was introduced to the ‘Next Generation BIM 360 Platform’ of Autodesk, designed to connect the Entire construction process into a seamless ‘something’.

There is nothing wrong with the concept.  Nor is it terribly new.
What is interesting is, how Autodesk is once again focusing on the ‘Information’ as opposed to ‘Model Based Information’.
Combined that with their new licensing model and I can almost deduct that they have given up on BIM, altogether.

Not that anyone is admitting to be doing this, of course -  hardly one sentence of the presenter was uttered without the favorite acronym in it, but the doom signs for BIM were ‘on the wall’.

In a way, I cannot even really blame them for the move.
Autodesk figured out (finally) something that so many can’t.
There are zillions of people employed within the global AEC industry, yet only a tiny fraction uses ANYTHING digital specific to the industry, let alone any form of a moderately sophisticated BIM.

So why bother trying to sell and further the development of this complex, difficult to understand, even harder to use multi-dimensional system, when they can go back to the basics and leverage their market monopoly to snatch away the good ‘cash-flow cow’ of the market, that of storing and sharing basic information.
Mostly 2D or text based and PDF formatted.

This Autodesk Platform offers everything under one banner, cloud storage, easy accessibility, one-point control, automated task tracking, intelligent reporting etc. etc.
It also gives the perfect excuse for the introduction of a per/seat licensing that touches many more bottoms that any of the authoring software licenses ever had, even in the hay-days of the Flat-CAD, AutoCAD of the late eighties and throughout the ninetees.

Indeed, this is the case of Autodesk realizing that the true bread and butter of the industry is based on doing large projects and clipping the ticket on shifting mountains of 2D documents around, with a bit of 3D thrown in for keeping up appearances.
And BIM is going on the back seat big time.

This is the case of Autodesk biting in the pie currently shared between Microsoft, Aconex and a conglomerate of smaller document management systems on the market.

Unless I missed something, the business model is based on charging each user on the project accessing the cloud based information, no matter on the type of information or the tool used to access (or author/edit) it.
So, the more users and the less sophisticated they are, the better off Autodesk is.
(Please correct me if I am wrong).

And it kind of gets worse.
For those that feel uneasy about the new model and select to stick with status quo, they will be limited to use the software for the current version only and forever. No backwards – no forward compatibility.
A reasonable ‘stick’ from the software supplier for the naughty users?

Not sure.
With virtual Monopoly come responsibilities.
And, one of those would be to treat the industry with a bit more honesty.
To have come out transparently saying that they entered this part of the market to generate more income for R&D, for say increasing the critical mass of BIM users would have gone down much better.

For me anyway.

I rarely do this, combining my responses to comments triggered by a blogpost, but partially because of LinkedIn ‘s limitations on the length of each response, partially because I wanted to have these recorded with the original writing, I have added them here, together with the original comments:

Bram Lyng Andersen
 Most companies make highly annoying "tough management decisions" (the quotes are for sarcasm), at some point the group and power of the people making these decisions gets larger than the group of people that are actually inventing/believing/working. It seems AD have hit this wall years ago. Problem is success is money and money attracts management types/sharks :)

This is a very interesting statement Bram, and I wish to expand on it:

First: You are absolutely right, this is a significant problem that soaks through the entire industry. I actually see (what you mention to be ‘larger’) to be ‘much larger’ – i.e. the difference  between the  numbers of ‘hands-off, decision-makers’ and ‘hands-on, dowers’ is HUGE and weighted strongly in favor of the first group.
Not only because, they are by default in the decision making seats and call the shots, but also because, they rely on ‘advisors’, almost as hands-off and indoctrinated as themselves, to back up those decisions. These ‘advisors’ are made up of the promoters/sellers of the tools, but also masses of in-house engineers, middle-managers, team leaders, coordinators…etc..,
who due to their hand-off-ness will naturally support whatever direction will least compromise their own positions.

Second: Not sue that ‘AD have hit this wall years ago’ – or if they have, I think they actually managed to ‘use it’ pretty well in the past.
Give me any reluctant entity, faced with the need to make a call on where to go (2D, 3D …XD) and it will go Autodesk way.
After all, it is the biggest, best and Americanest.
Could just about be a slogan, ‘if in doubt, use Autodesk’.

Third: let me quote Marek’s comment:
Marek Sopel: BIM in itself is not a goal of any commercial activity. And why should it be? 
From software vendors perspective there is no significant difference what product they sell, but what they make on it. All of businesses (including education business) involved in BIM are here for profits (even if sometimes they fail - note, you can look at Autodesk attempts to introduce BIM software since early 90s as a streak of failures. Still it can be promoted as a huge success in the end because the profits are being made);

Autodesk have ALWAYS been on the back-foot in developing and getting things to the market, from their very first 3D packages (in the eighties) then back to 2D (in the nineties, AutoCAD on DOS) then their own VR-quasi BIM (late nineties,- anyone remembers Architectural Desktop?)…then the hastily bought and rehashed Revit etc. etc.
They failed and failed but managed to make those failures look like successes.
Meanwhile, they totally missed to notice the achievements of Aconex and others paddling centralized, 2D focused document-systems over the last 1.5 decades and I contribute this to Autodesk’s lack of true understanding of the market, or worse even, INTEREST in the market, which is quite bizarre, considering how many companies worldwide are still purely AutoCAD users.
Finally, some clever dude with AD has recognized this and convinced the company to jump onto the bandwagon. Sure, maybe a good move, but is this innovation? No.

Jason Mounteer Information has always been the key to BIM. Why shouldn't they focus on it? Modeled shapes help many people, but not all of them. 
The information that model conveys is more important. I can get better data from a well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD set than I can from a poorly-executed Revit set. 
Communication and data presentation is what plan sets and specs are ALL about.

Jason Mounteer Additionally, I agree with the sentiment expressed by many, many, many of my clients and former colleagues: we ARE still in a 2d world. 

Architects & Engineers must still deliver that 2d data in the form of plan sets. We are a long way from municipalities and smaller subcontractors being able to get their hands on the models and pull information from them intelligently. 

Plan reviews are on paper. Estimating is done on PDF or Paper by these smaller, less tech-savvy subs. Customers/ Clients/ Owners still have back-end processes based on paper or (maybe) PDF output. We're still producing those "flat" files as regular order of business. 

Autodesk is behind the curve here in providing project managers methods to facilitate these workflows and get a handle on all this 2d information. Doc manager is a step in the right direction. Still a little behind its competition but catching-u

Jason, I read through your comments numerous times and while each sentence makes some sense – altogether I am not sure what are you intending to promote here.

The second comment is easier to address, as you seem to be more straight forward.
Still, the statement, that ‘we are still in a 2d world’ I can be interpret in two ways:
(one), yes, we are and proud of it, let’s forget all the attempts we (as an industry) had made to get out of it, and focus purely on workflows and tools to facilitate 2D,
(two), we aren’t overly happy with this state we are in, but kind-of don’t really know what to do about it so we pretend to be ‘in a transitional state to a full XD’.

My perception is, that the industry constantly (regularly) toggles between those two attitudes and by doing so, confuses the hell out of everybody.

Autodesk, never been particularly good at leadership (in spite of the fact they think they are) has been swinging in regular intervals over decades –
this latest, via the pushing of BIM360 is a swing to the ‘don’t really know what to do about it’ – direction with the underlining recognition that, others seem to know little as well, yet are making quite a bit of money of 2D (i.e. the more mature online document management systems do) – so why would Autodesk miss out on that piece of the pie.

Sure, they are calling it ‘BIM-something’, in case the pendulum swings to the other way in the near future – then, they can switch back and carry on fiddling with, and paddling on, the half-baked BIM solutions they produced so far.

Going back to your first comment, the part…

‘I can get better data from a well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD set than I can from a poorly-executed Revit set. ‘

While the above may be true, means absolutely nothing for the industry as a whole.
I.e. sure, I still know a number of extremely competent architects that design/document and detail buildings in their heads and with pencils on sketch paper and do this much better than a hundred of carefully selected Revit power-users can, but they will not get the industry out of the whole it is in.

Not only because my extremely competent, ‘old school’ architects re small in numbers and will likely soon die out and ‘well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD sets’ in reality are just as exceptional (especially on large projects) and require the same type of knowledge and skills that my ‘extremely competent old school architects’ have, but because the industry is in trouble not, because it is doing 2D or 3D, good or bad.

It seems to be relying on companies like Autodesk to provide them with ‘checks and balances’ when it comes to how information is created and managed (it should not be doing so but it does) and Autodesk could not care less to do so. (note again my previous statement: ‘With Monopoly come responsibilities’).

Don’t know if you are getting the idea, but it is hard to respond in a cohesive matter to statements that cover multiple facets of the industry, like the people, tools, approaches and somewhere down the line the manipulative moves of Autodesk where my post started from.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The case for architects with no hands – or why can’t the young of the AEC industry be successful without wanting to hand-sketch?

I am ‘a classically’ trained architect.
Meaning, through the 2+5 years of training to become first an architectural technician, than a Master of Architecture and Construction Sciences (a mouthful, I know) – I had all work done by hand, on paper, sketch and tracing paper, free-hand and/or using drawing instruments, with pencils or pens from design scribbles to full construction documentation.
These were the middle – to late nineteen eighties.

In the early nineteen-nighties, I started to work in real life and in parallel, dabbling with computers.
I got hooked very early on the idea of using the power of computers to assist the profession in design, documentation and construction management.
I was not quite sure then, how that will all happen, but it made a lot of sense to explore it.
Sure, I loved drawing by hand – I still do – but the process of developing designs via sketch paper and getting them documented onto tracing paper required a lot of wasted paper, scratching (with blades) and redrawing time.

Not everyone in the industry shared this enthusiasm for the emerging digital technology.
While the documentation part converted to its electronic equivalent ‘relatively’ painlessly, the idea of designing with no free hand sketching and paper involved, was an absolute no-no for most.
I’ll class the birth and growth of the FlatCAD industry to have been a ‘relatively’ easy and straightforward process for now, though it was not really either, but in comparison to the digitalization of the design process, at least it has achieved some sort of a critical mass in its uptake by now.

True, there has been some progress made into bringing technology into the design processes as well and numerous shining examples exist of digital design processes and outputs ‘happening’ within the industry.
Parametric modeling for difficult shapes and spaces, automated structural and mechanical calculations, environmental impact- traffic flow studies etc.

Yet, even the best examples that move beyond ‘one task based automation’ and into a somewhat holistic approach (like, what is generally classified as BIM) pale against the strongly upheld view that any process that is hand-less, sketch-less, paperless, yet claims to be ‘designing’  is somehow inferior to the old process of designing on the back of an envelope (throw in a smoke-filled bar and mostly men designers for effect too, why not?).

I have been listening for literary 2 decades to theories of, how those, that use ‘computers to design’ never develop the core skills of designing, because they never learn to sketch.
And scarily, this is one of the few statements that both the academia and the leaders of the industry (specially the architectural part of it) tend to agree on.

I tend to strongly disagree.
‘People’ that ‘use computers to design’ are likely to be young – or old but bitten by the techy-bug at a young age (like me);
I admit having observed, that the larger group, the young ones, when first hitting the industry are often truly lacking in many fundamental skills.
In fact, most of their real learning (just like ours had decades ago) comes while working and they will become useful 2-3 years into their career.

But this inability to fully contribute as fresh graduates must not be confused by their ability to learn anything and everything about design without the need to learn to sketch by hand.
Their capacity to carry projects from day one of their employment, design or document buildings successfully has nothing to do with the willingness (or lack of) learning to sketch by hand.
It has a lot to do, with the fact, that those that are charged to teach them the skills of becoming successful AEC professionals are out of synch with their charges’ affinities and force onto them the tools that are alien to them as well as archaic.

It may come across offensive to call a beautiful and quite romantic set of skills ‘archaic’, but I do stand by the statement, as this ‘unspeakable truth’ is highly damaging for the young people and stops them to meaningfully contribute and grow within the industry.

It confuses the software industry too, as they find themselves in the perplexing position of having to serve an industry split harshly across an age line. They tend to recognize who holds the drawstrings of the industry, consequently opt to provide for the oldies, and persist on ‘developing’ outdated products (like most CAD and even BIM software) – not to rock the boat too much.

Yet, the same people that frown on the young shunning the pencil and sketching are very happy to type their letters on word processors.
After all, architecture develops in the head and hand sketching is one tool to help, but just one, of many.
Technology should be encouraged to assist the head, as opposed to stigmatize those that attempt to use it or develop tools for others to use. Empower the abled bodies to get further (even the ones with fine-tuned hand sketching skills) and make the impossible possible for those unable or unwilling to hand-sketch.

I do not wish to exploit the often extraordinary skills, that people with disabilities develop to overcome their lack of extremities (for example) and become successful foot and mouth painters ( - do buy their beautiful Christmas cards), but I feel it appropriate to note, that while I do not know of any architects with such disabilities, I see absolutely no reason, while one should not be possible to become one with the help of technological tools.

It is scary to be needing to write these ideas in the current age, but sadly I feel it is still necessary and the urge to stand up (again) for the younger generation within the industry is with me and strong.

Picture from:

Monday, November 20, 2017

The average house in NZ will likely ‘earn’ much more than the average salary earner (person) this year!

 “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Point Chevalier home has increased in value by $350,000 in three years.
The 37-year-old is one of several notable Auckland homeowners whose properties have soared in price, revealed today in the council's new valuations.
Her house - co-owned by partner Clarke Gayford - increased by $350,000 from $770,000 to $1.12 million, a gain of 46 per cent, between 2014 and 2017.”

The above paragraph may suggest this post has little to do with BIM, but under the surface, it has everything to do with BIM.
Or, more precisely BIM has everything to do with the above statement.

Let’s play with the figures a bit:
According to official statistics in New Zealand, the year to the June 2017 quarter, for people receiving income from paid employment the median weekly earnings was $959, or about $49,868 per annum.
Take off taxes and that leaves around 42K/year.
Let’s divide the 350K (‘price increase’) by 42K and you’d get 8.3. Or the average kiwi salary earner would have to work for 8.3 years to match 3 years’ of ‘earnings’ of the current NZ PM’s house probably not doing much (i.e. not even rented out!).
Now, who would you rather be, that average kiwi or the (possibly not that flash) house?

And if you think, I am plucking out the extreme ends from the two scales, how about this:
“The average Auckland residential property value has jumped by 45 per cent across the region, taking the average house value in the city to $1.076m”.
Even if you triple the salary one might earn, the ratios are staggering.

I lived in New Zealand for 18 years. Almost all my working life I strived to enhance/innovate the Construction industry, including doing what is nowadays called ‘BIM’from the very early nineteen-nineties.
It did not work out for me, for us (my family) and one can dismiss that as a ‘sad story of a couple of losers’.

But, realistically, how can any BIM effort ‘work’ in an environment where one competes with such a crazy handicap?
Unfortunately, this is not a uniquely New Zealand issue – I have seen it happen around the world, although generally not to the same extremes.

Even though I left the country almost 8 years ago, it still hurts to see where it is going.
I once fell in love with New Zealand, for its promise of equality, opportunities and commitment to innovation.

(both quotes are from NZ Herald)

Image from here: