Wednesday, August 31, 2011

BIM for building owners

Of course, I’m pleased when owners ask for BIM...
Apart from the colour their BIM specifications bring into the dullness of my daily work, these ARE signs of the BIM-thing moving somewhere.
Just about any random line of these well padded documents would keep in business for a while a regiment of BIM specialists, so the need is there; we are on the right track here.
Or, are we?

I have the pleasure to deal with the back end of the BIM specifications, i.e. those written with the contractor in mind.
Well thought out pieces of labour these are.
I hope they have their big brothers/sisters doing their work up the food-chain too, i.e. the consultants get a juicy set of BIM conditions given to them too.
Page xx within the document would highlight:
“Consultant is to make the design BIM freely available to the contractor at tender stage”...

That would be fair and reasonable.
It would be, if not for a tiny technical problem.
These draconian... (or let’s keep it positive) ‘highly demanding’ construction BIM specifications are often written by the consultants performing the front end part of the job.

The ones that make the rules for the construction BIM are the same entities that dump the truckload (and I MEAN truckload) of chaotically put together tender documents on the contractor at tender stage.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You think I’m boring?

Boring... is generally a forbidden word in our household. So are its derivatives, being bored, a task seen too tedious to do, dreary, wearisome.
Sounds like a not-very happy place for a child to spend a childhood in, still, despite of these rules somehow our kids manage to get along.

I’ll tell you what is boring:
Boring is trying to assess a construction tender-set structured with no end-user in mind.
Actually, the word ‘assess’ is not appropriate here – assessing is easy, one look at the roomful of stuff and I know that this is not going to be the revolutionary example of being presented with a meaningfully-navigable set of documents I’ve been hoping for.

It truly is boring to be faced with another truckload of hard- and soft-packaged information that is pulled together haphazardly by an army of people calling themselves professionals.

Too harsh?
If you are in the business of preparing tender documents, have you ever considered the poor souls at the other side of your document transfer making sense of the deluge that has hit them?
Have you ever attempted to reconstruct anything from the disc you ‘carefully’ prepared or the roll of printouts that if laid out in a continuous strip could take me easily back to NZ?

I know, I have written about this subject before.
My life is a bore.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Have your cake and eat it, again!

Cooking books tend to get the balance more or less right:
They usually start with a juicy title to get your attention, a glossy picture to feast the eyes on then explain step-by-step how to get there, from basic ingredients and tools, through a series of tasks to a finished product.

Amazingly, the AEC as an industry has never really got the handle on these principles, nor how to effectively translate them into practice.
Throw a pile of construction drawings to a group of professionals (designers, engineers, contractors) and ask what they meant to convey and you’ll find a mixed-bag of answers.
If you systematically classified the answers, it is highly likely that you’d end up with two groups of thoughts:
Some will believe the drawings show what the building should (or will) be once it is completed and others will see the drawings as a set of instructions, for what various participants involved in the process need to do to achieve the information-originator’s vision.

Few would nominate both!
Nevertheless, all are likely to argue the superiority of one type of need (to convey the vision) over the other (to show how it needs to be done).

I believe that this confusion on what the primary purpose of the drawings should be also transgresses into BIM and hinders it from being developed into something meaningful.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I don’t do no hands-on mate...

A loyal but somewhat-grumpy reader has been pointing out to me (over some time) how little had I achieved in debunking the BIM subject since I started.
He’s been explaining to me in great detail, why he should stop following my empty ramblings, wingding and whines...
By now I ought to have presented him with the magic answer to the mighty BIM-question, as opposed to what he perceives as a series of instructions I keep dishing out on how-to/or-not to get ones hands dirty on a micro-BIM level.

Parallel to enjoying his regular fan-mail-offerings, at home I had numerous mini-mutinies staged around the subject of dishwashing.
I confess, there are definitely too many cooks and not enough dishwashers in our house;

These two occurrences coinciding so neatly, highlighted the existence of a phenomenon I can name as the ‘shortage of Man Fridays’ and have prompted me to focus more on the idea of ‘delegation’ and question why is there such unpreparedness of the human-kind to be ‘delegated-to’.

Delegation is critical for BIM to work but it also requires active participation high up the project hierarchy.
Is there future for an approach so desperately in need of ‘applied’ attention as opposed to purely ‘theoretical’?
I’m not convinced that there is, without some major changes happening in the industry, changes the Crusoes of AEC unprepared to implement.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Muddle through adolescence?

One thing almost everyone associated with BIM agrees on, is that ‘BIM is still in its infancy’.
I guess, that leaves a bit of room for hope.
Personally, I’d say that a 20 year old baby is a bit of a worry, still even I often escape to the theory of ‘BIM trapped in a certain type of late puberty’.
Saves me from giving-up.

There are some dangerous flow-on effects of this practice of soothing ourselves into believing that BIM will eventually grow up.

First is the lack of Plan B’s for those that question this teenager’s (let alone baby’s) ability to join the ranks of rational adulthood.
All eggs pushed into one immature basket?

Then, there is this army of aging BIM professionals trying to keep-up with the teenager’s knack to constantly reinvent its language without producing anything meaningful in the process.
I meet new people daily, which are ill-at-ease with the subject, yet are expected to deliver mature and measurable results.

I’ve been blessed to have at least one teenager in my household for almost a decade by now, and am looking forward to another 6 years of it.
Keeping up with my daughters’ antics should provide me with tools to deal with BIM – but what if they grow up while BIM lingers on as a baby?

Grandchildren will come in handy then.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I’ll have two of those...

... he says, eyeing the 23 inch monitors.
And he gets them. The shiny beasts crowd on his desks, the station like one out of the star-wars.
Soon enough, the old guys are there too, the laptop, the palmtop, the blackberry, all flickering in unison to their master tapping the somewhat understated dull keyboard.

I tell him, he looks like a kid on the seashore, filling up bucket after bucket with sand and water and claiming to be examining the ocean-floor this way.
He looks back puzzled, his eyes reflecting multiple-screens, the miniatures rectangle stars offended by my suggestion.

I leapfrog over the parallel and accuse, ‘don’t you feel responsible for feeding the market of cheap-glitter rather than asking for more complex solutions for multi-dimensional viewing?
You go into width rather than dept, playing into the hands of those that like easy sells.
Have you not seen a light-table before? ...’

The conversation is going nowhere, I yearn for portable viewers, small but not too small for aging eyes to strain, layered, responsive filters taking me into depths of digital oceans, him stuck with the star-wars theme, mesmerised by the comfort of the blanket of lit up-pixels.

Things were once going well.
Monitors were expensive, developers worked smart.
Those were the times of clever gadgets layering, splitting, sliding the screen.
Five years ago, I guess?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A pie in the sky...

There is something weirdly familiar with the treatment ‘cloud computing’ is currently getting.
I think I’ve seen this before.
An approach that has existed in one form or another for quite some time gets a name and suddenly it takes off.
Similarly to the way BIM ‘legalised’ attempts at using digital tools for improving construction, ‘the cloud’ has suddenly given an easy to remember name for something that is quite complex and hard to explain in a sentence or two.

The branding of the method, toolset or whatever else you want to think of the ‘cloud’ to stand for, simultaneously branded most people involved with it, or if not quite branded them, put the onus on the perceiver of the ‘cloud’ to understand where the cloud was within the cloud, as opposed to the promoter of the cloud needing to clearly explain what made his/her cloud a real cloud...

Now, this sentence turned out far too long and convoluted (even for a Hungarian) – I do hope you get the gist of it...

Am a bit envious on the branding of the cloud. So much cooler than the BIM, so much more visual and capable of spin, spinoffs – visual story boarding, flash eye candy.

You can just see the full-range of possible emotions billowing out of the word ‘cloud’...
In comparison, BIM is just an acronym...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Make the symbol wavy and you may get away with it...

Learned a new word today: congruent;
It means “Identical in form; coinciding exactly when superimposed.” I recall this symbol from my primary-maths classes – I memorised it as being the combination of the ‘approximate’ and ‘equal’ signs.

I was prompted to look up this new word following my husband reading through my blog-posts and questioning my ramblings over the scales (as in ‘drawing scales’);
I was so amused by the randomness of the numbers that totally ignored what they supposed to mean, or to quote Graham:

“There is more to these numbers than randomness...”
So he examined the ratios between them...

How much mileage should one squeeze out from a set of numbers representing scales on a single drawing picked from a pile of a thousand?
When it comes from fulfilling the self exposed daily quota of one’s blog, one should make the most even of little morsels.

Is this not highly symptomatic of this industry?
Scientifically looking data to take us away from real issues?

I do wish things were more clear cut, like in maths learned at primary.
Equals means equals. Equivalent, exactly the same.
Approximately equal is approximately same, near, within the ballpark.

Why not then say ‘whatever’?
Not meant to scale, just use a figured dimension and that’s it.
Or use the wavy symbol!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What is the best platform to combine data presented as either 2D or 3D+ in?

Now, don’t bother trying to talk me out of the question or prove it to me why it is bad practice to combine 2D and 3D in the first place.
Let’s just assume that it is a valid question and that I have numerous and totally legitimate reasons to regularly combine 2D and 3D+ data into one, digital place.

I like bringing 2D drawings (in fact that is what they are) into an accurately defined 3D space where I then model over.
I combine these with ready-made objects, often originated in non-AEC native authoring packages and I like to keep their intelligence intact.

When you decide to advice me, take the question to its limits at both extremes and include PDFs, not just ones created in CAD applications but also scanned-in sketches and on the other end, meta-data laden, heavy, 3D+ intelligent objects.

Also, allow me to have the ability to place the 2D stuff (sheets) onto any plane within the space, horizontal, vertical, under an angle.

I hope to create a meaningful discussion on this subject with pros and cons for various existing platforms.
Subjective comments are welcome, also real quantified observations (for example ‘xx works well until you load up 10 x 2D sheets and then it becomes really sluggish’).

Am really looking forward to great ideas – though not quite holding my breath!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Do your homework!

...You are told. And as a lowly employee, tail-between-your legs you retreat back to your cubicle to do more research, compile data, assess, investigate, quantify, draw tables, compare, export graphs, analyse graphs...etc
Then, your smart boss glances at the painstakingly prepared report and chooses the ‘winner’, ignoring all your work, taking a hit in the dark, based on his instinct, experience or nothing at all...

Is there a difference between ‘making an informed decision’ and ‘pretending to be doing so’?
Are we fooling ourselves with endless data gathering and following pseudo-scientific methodologies to come to answers we would get to easily by flipping a coin?

I’ve been following one of the latest long-winded discussions on what AEC modelling package one should invest in for a lifetime and as usually, all sides are passionate.
Personally I am losing interest in the topic that is failing to provide anything new or interesting.

Still, one comment published triggered some counter-comments that lead me to comment (again):
“Performing point-by-point comparisons may lull people into feeling that they are making an informed and considered choice, shrewd marketers have known for centuries that ‘endorsement by key parties’ sells better and more.”

My hunch is that the way we make even the biggest decisions in life are very similar to how we choose a cereal box from the shelf of the supermarket.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

At least two ways to skin a cat....another sock story

My mother is one of 8 daughters born to a village school-principal and his wife, the heiress of the neighbouring village-pub-owner.
Two sisters died in infancy, 6 survived to adulthood.
A very close-knit bunch, the 4 that are still around (in their late 60s and 70s) communicate daily and share their accumulated knowledge on tightly-run households freely.

An issue that 2 of them feel to have figured out really well, isn’t unique to the sisters.
The phenomenon of ‘disappearing socks, once they hit the dirty-clothes-basket’ has been well documented world-wide – you’ll find it hard to locate sceptics brave enough to question this happening all the time, everywhere.

What is interesting, are the methods that my mother and the one-next-to-the youngest sister have developed to cope with this act of natural misfortune.
My aunt long ago decided to only buy black socks. A proud mother of two boys and a devoted wife to one of my favourite uncles, the only sacrifice she had to make was herself wearing black socks over a lifetime.
Mum on the other hand, has 2 daughters and even the grand-daughters outnumber grandsons, 4 to 2.
Her method of coping has been to pair-up socks without any relevance to colour or pattern, so her family is known as always wearing mismatched foot-coverings.

There must be something very important to learn from them!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

To brand or not to...

Life is often truly back to front.
I remember fighting tooth-and-nail the concept of branding safety vests, warn by school patrols along pedestrian crossings near school entries, when my children were primary school aged.
McDonalds worked it out, that for a handful of money, it can get a generation of children to associate safety with its golden arches.

Similarly in healthcare, at the local GP – stationery heavily branded by the suppliers of medicines along the reception, the doctor’s desk, around the walls ...

Luckily in this world saturated by aggressive marketing, there still exists a virgin environment one can escape to:
The pristine commercial workspace of the CAD/modelling packages, we building creators of the AEC industry have been assigned to spend our working lives in.

I should be very happy with this set up – most CAD suppliers unable to effectively market their own products let alone provide vehicles for clever, subtle, cross promotion for others, even competitors.
No messing with the mind while building the digital house, theatre, shopping mall.

You can trust me to feel let down by being left alone...
I look at Google, how it often clumsily attempts to target its wares to my needs and marvel...
When will my BIM package see the opportunity, when will it go where many others did before, balancing the rights and wrongs of crafty advertising?

Friday, August 19, 2011

A man on a bike...

I skim over the library of my new Archicad.
A toilet-roll-dispenser, a new man on a bike. And a woman too, both vehicles gender appropriate...
Still, another year gone by, another version developed and another lost opportunity to do something with the libraries.
Surely someone, somewhere in the past had made a conscious decision not to play in the hands of manufacturers and suppliers of building materials and products and consequently the developers keep refusing to open up the product to accommodate them.

I’m not thinking GDL or any serious programming here. API’s have existed for a long time, the technologically savvy suppliers had the means to clone their products digitally for equally long.
If they were interested enough and prepared to put the funds in.
Despite of some stand-alone-solutions and the occasional branded object hitting the market, and even with the support of elaborate websites selling such products, this opportunity has gone nowhere really, in the last 15 years.

First step is quite simple:
Provide generic objects with the off-the-shelf library but also means to easily brand them, lock them and supply back to users within the same interface.
How hard would be to have a kitchen sink object that allows for a branded name (logo) to be added and some custom measurements?
Or branding tool attributes, materials, composites, fills for walls, slabs, roofs?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Snake oil or a new skin?

Snakes shed their skins regularly to allow for growth and get rid of parasites.
Pictures of these creatures shedding their envelope come often to mind when I see standard BIM model evaluation diagrams presented, showing how a design model will turn into a construction and then FM model.
I value the illustrator’s point behind the concept.
Any BIM struggles with similar issues as the snakes, however I think it should do better than emulate these vertebrae shedding their entire covers on a periodic basis.

The ideal BIM should behave more humanlike, discard and renew its cells like we do with our skin or hair.
A progressive development, not appreciated in real time, unseen by the naked eye.

Not that there are no stages identifiable, like milestones in our growing up (getting our first teeth, reaching or passing teenage-hood etc). These could and should be easily recognised within the BIM lifecycle but we should strive also to maintain a fluid-framework of gradual changes.

On the other hand, one should not be overly demanding.
When a project uniformly signs up to a snake-like BIM, it is still a significant progress. 
Specially if compared to the prevailing perception that so many in the industry hold of BIM.
The vision of an utopistic world where BIM models are born once and stay unchanged throughout the life of the project.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dumb and dumber

Got to be really dumb to get caught out by the same question two days in a row – that is exactly what happened to me this week.
Two competing event organisers separately called to quiz me about possible BIM content for their yet-in-planning, to be held in the future events, summits and/or conferences.
The question they both had on their cheat-sheet went something like this:
‘...In an ideal world who would be your most hoped-for/preferred speaker at the next (insert subject) (insert event)?...’

Hmmmmm.... I did take some time to think. And could not come up with one, single name of a BIM presenter I was dying to experience in a live show.
Got majorly embarrassing as the first questioner pushed and pushed...
‘Someone you really look up to?’ ‘Someone who’s work you really value?...

Recklessly dismissing this encounter as a one-off, I walked into the second totally unprepared again and had to admit to a similar question that I could not locate a person in my memory worthwhile of chasing by this eager promoter with deep sponsorship pockets...

I do hope they do not exchange information between offices though they tend to have high staff-turn- around levels causing me to need to overwrite their email addresses regularly in my contact lists.
Surely have a big ‘A’ (for arrogant) by my name in theirs...

PS: Started to collect names for future references
(not many BIM names in there yet and sadly some unavailable to attend this side of heaven):

Alvar Aalto, Joern Utzon, Friedensreich Hundertwasser
Paul Murray, Chris Cleave, Nick Hornby
Szabo Magda, Djordje Balasevic, Milan Kundera...
...the guy that regularly presents on educational issues...numerous TED presenters...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Found myself in a parallel universe a couple of days ago while flicking through a magazine.
Turns out that the Oil and Gas Industry has its own BIM, accompanied with struggles and challenges a bit like ours.
Except they call their BIM DOF.
Digital Oil Fields!

Will spare you from lifting the entire article (written as a report of the IDOC 2011 Abu Dhabi conference held earlier this year).
I’ve still taken the effort to copy some nice half-sentences in here:

Companies have struggled to adopt new technologies that can improve methods and results...
People resist change...
It is not about buying new technology, it has to be about real change...
We have an old industry and we have to adapt fast...
A genuine DOF deployment touches everybody’s department...
The whole organization has to buy in...

I guess most of these thoughts can be applied to just about any change – just to test the theory I mentally checked various options like:
washing your cups following your drink, cleaning your inbox regularly and archiving emails in right places, turning the lights off once you leave the office or use more sustainable and clean energy sources....

Amazingly, rather than enhancing my own worries, this little discovery of a struggling sister-industry made me feel a bit more at peace with the BIM-change I fight daily.
Fancy that! DOF!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oh, the meditative benefits that building a site can bring... a stressed out, forever scheming, calculating, strategising, high-flying (or pretending to be) BIM professional...

I create a new file and am instantly lost in the familiarity of the vast expanse of the light-grey-grid, uncontaminated by the flaws of the yet-to-be modelled project, the blunders and imperfections soon to be introduced and cultivated through the life of the file extending these to the real site...

I plonk numerous PDF’s, survey CADs onto the project-window, I create storeys, views, north-point and grids...

I go about shaping the site. I trace the boundaries, check the dimensions, follow the contour lines, one by one...
A slow, tedious process punctuated by agitated zooming in and out to force the replica contours to keep to the base.
I could almost switch off, enjoy the cool serenity of a repetitive task, instead I force concentration so the contours are not too detailed to overwhelm the model yet stay sufficiently accurate for future cut-and-fill calculations.
I build roads, existing site features, services.
I flick between the windows, capture the model in my head – a mirror image I see, when I close my eyes.

I am truly immersed in this ‘get to know you better’ phase and the tranquillity I feel sets the project on a good path for success.
And yet this treat is so often skipped, off-loaded/delegated down the hierarchical chain...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Let the best one win...

Scott Graham (LEED AP BD+C) said on a forum I’ve been following (see link):
“...R’s comparison offers some vindication for those few of us that feel market saturation doesn’t always equate to superior quality...”
Those two BIM packages have been compared many times before....

My response:
Hungarian is the most beautiful language in the World!
It can describe feelings you never knew you had, and do it in five significantly different ways...
I cherish every opportunity to listen to Hungarian spoken, the words, the melody,...
Still. I use English daily. At home with my family. At work. With my Australian, American, South African and English colleagues.
And the Arab. And Indian, Pilipino and Russian. Even the German and French.
Is this right? Is it fair? It just is.

A crude parallel to why one solution does better in the industry even though may be of a lesser quality?
I hope more of a reminder that what seems like a logical outcome is not often the one that eventuates in real life.

He also dismisses what he calls ‘normal arguments’ such as ‘quicker learning curve, more industry support etc’ in favour of the ‘nuts and bolts functionality of the program’...

Shouldn’t do that.
Assessing the ‘value’ of any program in isolation from all of the particulars of the industry they serve is unhelpful and potentially dangerous.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sir Peter Blake’s ‘lucky red’ socks

Kiwis like to get their knickers in twists over branded clothing.
The latest in a row is the dispute brewing over the pricing of the official (replica) Adidas’s rugby jersey.
Some years ago there was the drama about the Canterbury sport-range and sixteen years ago the origin of the red socks that were sold countrywide to support the efforts of TeamNZ in fighting the America’s cup challenge.
Chinese import or not, in 1995 the country wore the red foot-covering with admirable loyalty, some on their feet, many stuck to their car aerials.
Only recently I learned where this little marketing ploy originated from, nowadays conveniently, these badges would colour-match beautifully with the Emirates Team NZ’s main sponsor’s  trademark red.

In 1995 I was yet to become a full-blown NZ-citizen, so could be forgiven for lack of enthusiasm I felt for the patriotic games the America’s cup challenges represented.

By the time the cup was being defended in 2000 I had my own ideas to support the country on a large scale.
I was gearing up to grow BIM for it.
I called it Virtual Construction and spent the next decade advocating for its use to guard public money within construction.

For a while I honestly thought that I could influence the NZ public and help.
I now cringe at the naivety of the plan...

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Revival of the All-rounder...

Not the ‘GP’ version of it!
Generalists are not the flavour of the month in the professional circles I frequent these days.
Project decision makers like to take their consultants nicely packaged and clearly labelled.
That pretty much writes architects off the project-influentials’ lists.
Make no mistake, architects are still present on most building projects, however like it or not, the archetypal ‘general practitioners’ within the troupes are by and large relegated to the margins.

I did not start this post with the aim to have another ‘put-the-boot in the architect session’.
Rather, to highlight that there is future for the all-rounder building professional.
It will not surprise many, that I see this to be the BIM project coordinator.

BIM coordinators must be technically competent in almost all facets of building creation.
Also gifted managers, able and willing to lead. Motivators and mediators. Standards setters and moderators.
They need to be adaptable to a constantly changing set of tools, flexible to deal with a wide range of people and disciplines, resourceful, multitalented and naturally curious.

The project BIM coordinator’s role is a demanding one, an unashamedly elitist position people should work hard to get.
A subfield within the field of delivering buildings is crying out for high quality all-rounders.
It is a pity that so few architects currently see this area worthy of specialising in.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The colour brown

Created this little illustration some time ago, I was obviously into primary colours then.
It formed part of a more complex narrative on the intricacies of BIM implementation.
I will not go there today.
A couple of days ago when I looked at this picture with eyes anew, it struck me how appropriate my choice of colour had been at the time:

Blue for BIM. Clean and crisp. Databases deep as the ocean, an approach cool as a spring.
The sky is the limit when it comes to the good this set of tools can do when implemented on a construction project.
Yellow for Shop Drawings. A high-viz colour, yellow for safety. Practical and sunny, warm and essential.
Red for Design Documentation; Obviously a colour of danger! Caution, warning!
Not much else to add to that.

Following the logic of blending the primaries I ended up with a brown patch for the Nirvana (the utopistic stage when all three merged into one brownish blob) – and this is quite interesting on the subconscious level as brown is not often regarded as an optimistic colour.
Gloomy, muddy, murky are words that come to mind seeing the above mentioned shade, though to be fair creamy milk chocolate, chewy caramel or a frothy glass of late mocha may be positively associated with it too.

Let’s go for the latter!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On bizarre scales again...

Those that state that I repeat myself too much can feel justified:
nothing is new under the bright August construction sun..... apart from scales.
Funny new scales that make your eyes water keep appearing on drawings.
Just found a beauty; (see attached)

It is often discussed in forums that in today’s complex world many of us loose the appreciation of how our work fits into the bigger picture.
We don’t know or care, if the end product of the task we perform daily will end up as a piece of a bicycle sold in Canada or a pair of chopsticks marketed in China.

Still, it is so hard to imagine someone earnestly calculating and typing these scales onto a digital drawing and not thinking about what use they will be and to whom?
Or maybe they do realise the futility of this operation they are obliged to perform and bring a pinch of humour to the task just to make it more bearable.

Perhaps they like to visualise the builder on the construction site, balancing high-up on a scaffolding holding the drawing in one hand, a scale-ruler and a calculator in the other try to work out the distance the balcony-door frame should be set from the load-bearing column.

They afford endless hours of amusement for me too –that ought to make them feel appreciated!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When they can no longer be ignored...

One topic that hit home with many readers of the blog was the post on the subject of ‘BIM bluffers’, earlier in the year.
Interesting, how over the last 6 months I stopped referring to the above figures as such and am more inclined to think of them as BIM cowboys.
There is only so far the bluffing can go without turning sinister and start hitting where really hurts.
While I often found this behaviour daring, smart even cute in the past, I think it is time to get a bit more serious about exposing dodgy behaviour within the field.

Should not bring any disrespect to the ‘farmers of cows’ by associating them with yet another group within the AEC that employs questionable practices, still the temptation is there to hijack the label – even more because the term has a certain ring to when it comes to building.

Their biggest sins? Misleading clients, playing on their inexperience and vulnerability to get into projects they know at the outset are incompetent of delivering.
Even as I am writing this down, it just does not sound right;

I am not talking about little old ladies cheated out of their lifesavings by shoddy insurance-sellers.
I am referring to hardy, shrewd and smart operators that know the industry like the back of their hands.
Something does not sound right...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Actively passive or passively active?

There is something quite weird when it comes to BIM ‘viewers’. Most appear to have been created on the assumption that there is a large section of project participants that are happy to ‘just view’ the project they are supposed to hold a stake in.
Clients are often put into this basket, negating everything I know about building owners/clients/developers.

Presented with a design, they all like to pull it apart, analyse, balance and savour, praise or criticise but more than anything, interact with it.
Scribbles of multicoloured pens over working drawings come to mind, perspective renders prepared with care and attacked with vivid pens also.
As far as I can recall from my past as a practicing architect, dog-eared, coffee stained these documents truly ‘lived’ between the communicating parties.

Digital viewers came to the market as the cheep/free and often highly-disabled versions of the modelling packages designers used.

Finally got around to trial Tekla’s BIMsight. Verdict? Not too bad.

Missing? Offload button for files. Export to formats I can use...
It is fast and smooth, however solid objects come through hollow!
I am non-inclined and definitely lacking-in-patience to systematically review anything –
but I feel obliged to note:
Not impressed by the interface...
Minimalist? Utilitarian? Boring?
How do we have such a mismatch or features in this field:
A Mercedes engine with a Trabant’s navigational interface?

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Must have been living under a rock as I had absolutely no clue on the meaning of these acronyms when I came across them recently on one of the BIM related group forums.
Was not going to be the one to publicly ask the question and not intrigued enough to search for it on the net, thankfully it was all revealed.
RTM = Read The Manual; RTFM = I’ll let you work that out yourself... (I’ve copied the explanation from the source here, even I got the message quickly...)

I learned two software packages from manuals.
Three if you count Coreldraw, though only got half through that book.
All of this happened almost 20 years ago!

The time of manuals has gone. Or at least in the sense of ‘this is the interface, these are the commands, the buttons...’
By now the way we interact with the machine should be common practice. By and large it is.

Only when software developers ignore this, we find ourselves facing packages that we need to start learning from scratch.
The ‘proud-parents’ of those products may have thought to have invented the best possible way to rotate a building through the mouse or the most ergonomic way to spread the commands over the ribbon, but if I need to spend hours to memorise these tools and moves...they’ve lost me.

(Crocodile Dundee figures out how to use the bidet)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Irish mug...

My birthday today. Only mentioning it because of the nuclear connection.
The Hiroshima bombing 2 decades prior to my arrival has somewhat coloured every one of my personal celebrations so far.
I’ve regularly enjoyed peace candles burning in unison with rapidly multiplying age-celebratory ones on mostly makeshift cakes put together on summer holidays (first part of my life) and winter work-around –the-clock evenings (second part of it).

A much less noteworthy event than the 2 mentioned previously occupies my attention at the moment:  The struggle with the equipment.
My two laptops with out-of-synch keyboards keep giving me endless grief.
One of those experts that calculates (as part of his/her daily task) the ‘possible compounded savings the fixing of a dripping tap offers’ could probably put a clear figure on my loss of productivity due to regularly miss-hitting the CTRL key.

It bemuses me a little when product designers get it wrong – a bit like the ‘Irish mug’ we once had, that placed the handle on the inside of the utensil.
That software interface developers underestimate the disruption a misplaced toolbox can cause, I’ve got used to, from designers of tangible gadgets I expect more understanding of the ‘power of habit’ that drives us humans.

I’ve resigned myself to put up with this – loss of productivity or not, 2 laptops still better than one for now.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Get into BIM so you can make faster informed decisions!

But what if the question is whether you should be getting into BIM at all?
And what if that question required you to make an informed decision on a subject that you are unable to do because of lack of independent and meaningful data?

The wording ‘ability to make informed decision’ has become a bit of a mantra of BIM and I find this to be a bit of a paradox.
If anything, BIM managed to further muddy the already gloomy waters of AEC project information management.

Let’s look at this from a practical point: what can be considered a decision needed to be made that would do well with supporting information?
Well, it depends.
On the decision maker’s perspective, priorities, tasks and objectives.

You can find books written on just how much information a simple column can carry in an intelligent model.
The shape, the size, the materials that make it, the number of nails needed to fix the formwork and even the time the ready-mix-concrete guy will take his coffee-break.

Sounds all highly sophisticated.
But, what if the model can’t tell me if the described column is correctly set out?
Am I any better informed to make a decision to cast/place/sign-off the column than if it was sitting as a fat black line on a dumb drawing?
The difference is in ‘Verified’ information.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The under-appreciated digital clothes hanger...

The retail industry had worked it out a long time ago:
A piece of clothing looks better displayed in 3D (on a mannequin or a clothes hanger) then lying flat.
I got to a similar conclusion in the early days of my VC work.
Pick up any of the flat sheets the building designers produced and hang them on the virtual project clothes hanger (mannequin, skeleton, framework, you choose the best term) and they’ll look better;
And likely to be more useful too.

I have described my work methods previously, how I first create a 3D reference file with grids, levels and north directions set out and set to as much accuracy as reasonable.
I then guard these like a hawk throughout the project primarily because everything else gets related to them.
I often incorporate many flat sheets within this 3D files very early in the piece, as plans on relevant storeys as well as sections, elevations in corresponding places.

Within the industry I found this practice to be less widespread than I’d expected it to be. Numerous reasons for it, files arriving in PDF formats (only), not accurate and disproportionate drawings, files overburdened by 2D stuff become slow and sluggish etc etc...
Puzzles me a bit that no AEC related software-developer has taken this issue under their wing and fleshed out a workable solution.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The digital lifesaver...

I’ve had Michael Anonuevo’s email regarding his review of the 3Dconnexion mouse on my ‘to do list’ for weeks. Hope to get around reading it soon as I am a committed mouse user and this looks like an interesting gadget.
Ever since I’ve set out to learn AutoCAD on DOS, various versions of the digital rodent have influenced my daily work life.
Some of its permutations bypassed me, the laptop pad-and-button-mouses, also never got to really trust the cordless.

Without getting overly enthusiastic about it, I wish to highlight that the typical two-buttoned-wheelie-device has some inspired qualities.
Consider this: Over the last 2 decades it has stayed truly intuitive and easy to use, even though a wide range of applications are accessed through it.
Contrast this to the evolution of various remote controls and you’ll see my point.
It is widely regarded as a cliché, but would anyone without a double doctorate in the specific subject still attempt to programme a VCR from a remote? Maybe Zsuzsie, our tech angel. Certainly not me.

What prompted me into commenting on this subject again were numerous discussions I’ve encountered recently on various forums evaluating navigational abilities of different BIM modelling packages. They highlighted to me the fact, how lifesaving the mouse has been for me as I got to learn new packages.
Even Revit. Especially Revit.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Great expectations!

Business 101: Never over-promise, over-deliver instead!
Exceed your client’s expectations by giving them more than you initially promised.
Nice idea, petty it seldom works when it comes to BIM based services, regardless of whom the interaction involves.
My experience: give them a finger, they’ll expect the hand... and the other hand...
Why not throw the entire body in while we are at it?

Truly, it is hard to bring realistic expectations to the field when so many that are involved in trading BIM services have no idea what to ask for, how to assess proposals and if it is OK to accept the end products once the contracts are executed or ask for more. And more....and more...

In my ‘real architect’ days I went into great pains to get my clients to understand what they’d be getting once their building was built, sizes of rooms, lighting levels, feel of the space, colours, materials...I worked hard for them to visualise these before the final decisions were made.

That was not an easy job to do, many clients were still surprised at the end (pleasantly or sadly otherwise);
Still, looking back and comparing what needed to be done on those projects to what I ought to do nowadays for people to set clear BIM expectations was a bit of a child’s play.

If in doubt, under under-promise!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ramadan Kareem!

A pinch and a punch, it is the first day of the month.
Ran out of inspirational BIM topics. But don’t go far, I’ll bounce back.
Something mildly annoying related to BIM is bound to come up soon and get my writing going again or I may trawl through my Linkedin groups’ discussions for an idea I can dissect or just lightly comment on.  

First day of Ramadan! The holy month observed by millions is celebrated widely in the city I am residing in at present.

I’ve lived in a number of towns around the world for decent stretches of time.
And I noticed:
In Auckland, New Zealand, you are permitted to walk on the grass in all public spaces.
On the other hand, you are not able to cross the harbour bridge on foot.
In Budapest, Hungary you may cross the river, on numerous bridges and any time of the day. However, the gorgeous, murky Danube that flows under them is out of bound for swimming.
In Novi Sad, Serbia – down the same river, you can swim on a beautiful beach visited by many every summer, yet aren’t allowed to walk on the grass in most public parks...

It is a varied world around us, speckled and stippled, spotty and striped.
I enjoy this diversity most of-the-time, it moves me and motivates.
Ramadan Kareem!