Thursday, July 26, 2012

If only….

…Someone was prepared to launch the ‘world’s only, exclusively designed for the AEC-contractor digital modelling package’!
It can’t really be that hard.
Rebranding an architectural/engineering modelling program (ArchiCAD, Microstation, Revit or other) into one focused for the contractor-end of the AEC.
Slap on a bit of a customized interface and include lots of site-based libraries and da-da…
Your market for selling the product has just tripled!
Not something one should frown on, in a tight economy.

Actually, most software vendors DO recognize the need to market to the construction segment, just aren’t able to do it well.

Where even the big 3 (or 5) of the AEC’s digital modelling tool-providers really struggle is the notion that nowadays contractors need to create (god ‘forbid model) project information from scratch!
As in, not just view, or re-purpose information provided by design consultants.
They look at it as a forgivable thought in Design@Build projects but for traditional contracts?

The idea that main-and-sub (construction) contractors could want full-blown modelling packages designed specifically for them is incompatible with the rosy-picture of ‘cradle to grave’ BIM models guided by design consultants.

So, while they dance around the consultants basing their strategies on the past, when architects and engineers were significant influencers in the AEC, they throw ‘over-chewed’ crumbs to their construction counterparts, the ones that often wield powers much higher than the consultants.
They sit on the fence, not wanting to offend their old time clients (consultants) by seriously marketing to the contractors.
This historical assumption, that engineers working from within contractors’ rooms will do just fine with second-hand toolsets packaged up for the design industry is costing the software vendors major opportunities.

Last year I wrote a post playing with the idea of the Construction Archie…

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I stand corrected: ‘clash detection is not a con!’

It is a ‘cop out’ by the AEC consultants-sector from doing what they supposed to, as per the definition of their profession.
It is a way of legitimising half-baked designs, badly documented in unnecessarily inflated mounds of documents.
It is a smokescreen to not doing the job right in the first place.

There are of course, mitigating factors that could possibly discharge some of the responsibility from the design consultants for this state of affairs on their projects.
Clients demanding cheaper and cheaper services, contractors getting more and more contractual and armies of PI insurers’ agents breathing down their necks enforcing limitations to liabilities.
Yet, there is certainly a threshold where an engineer (or architect for that matter) should not be allowed to use such label.
For me, this is when they become walking/talking ‘post boxes’ – moving documents from one party to another, adding ‘engineering’ looking things to them, but ultimately never fully achieving a working product, until a tedious (and expensive) process of ‘design development’ (often using real building elements) by the building contractors and their subbies.

So, forgive me if I find the practice of these same consultants paddling ‘cash detection’ as the magic bullet for their clients – a bit rich, if not outward hypocritical.
Clash detection has its place – as an auditing system, a safety net, a value-engineering tool, a refining instrument.
Performed by an independent party.

(picture borrowed from

Friday, July 13, 2012

Whatever floats your boat… Google Sketchup is no more.

Trimble bought it, following their acquisitions of Tekla, StruCAD and ‘God knows what other little promising-looking-packages’ that they thought will together make a nice, AEC – all-encompassing BIM machine.  

It is weirdly comforting to see big guys making the same assumptions that little guys do.
Just on a significantly larger scale. Mind you, their mistakes are often personally less costly to the involved parties than those of the little ones that like me, throw everything in the pot on the back of an ill-funded belief.
The idea of a ubiquitous virtual space that will truly mimic our real-one, has been around for so long, that many treat it as ‘a proven thing’.
That it will be created by those, that are currently manipulating its base (i.e. the physical environment, the Earth, the buildings, the natural and man-made) – goes without saying.

Never-mind, that Autodesk never managed to come even close to it and never-mind that even though  Google acquired SketchUP for their dream to achieve the same, had failed, here comes another ignorant- giant, falling into the same trap.

“Welcome to my world’ – I say, you may think you have safety in numbers and size, but you might just fizzle out into another ‘good idea at the time’

A fresh new, ‘never quite the sum of-their-parts’ type BIM solution on offer, is just what we need. (not!)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Why is selling BIM so hard? (an unnecessarily long blog-post)

It is not the ‘idea’ of BIM that is hard to sell, but the ‘making it’ happen part.
Just like the way people get easily enthused into the suggestion of one day owning the ‘perfect body’, the concept of high-tech BIM is quite alluring.
Yet, the full approach is hard to have people to buy into.
Comparable the path to that never- to achieve, magical waist-line, the road to a ‘working BIM’ is long, tedious, mostly up-hill.

Things would be a bit easier, if we all did not have to pretend.
If the sellers of BIM solutions could go out to the AEC industry and say: “you 3 parties have been conning one-another for two decades using certain weapons. Most of those had become ineffective. How about looking into our new arsenal on offer?”

For various and fairly obvious reasons, this approach to product-placement is not undertaken by most that DO try to sell BIM related tools and services.
Instead, they keep on parading weak and illusive reasons for why their potential clients should make fundamental changes to their long-established work methods.
Like ‘improve productivity’, ‘enhance transparency’, ‘find the obscure pipe that will likely hit your beam before the collision happens’…etc…

This line of attack is possibly even worse than trying to get someone embark on losing 20 kg’s of weight by saying that there is a bit of flab around their elbows.
Or asking someone else to learn to speak Mandarin (fluently) because they may be asked directions in that language from tourists one day.

Telling them instead that they’re obese?
Or that soon enough most businesses will be owned by the Chinese?
Calling a spade a spade?
Not in this industry, and I know why they can’t do it.

How could  BIM service-providers possibly promote services that ‘identify and quantify shoddiness within consultants’ documents’ to building owners without basing their arguments on those being ‘shoddy’ in the first place? Risk getting forever cut off any work coming from the consultant sector?
Or could BIM software dealers really target the same consultants with their wares by saying their tools can effectively hide the lack of (almost any) construction skills by those that prepare IFC documents?
Telling your clients that you know they are pretty weak in their core activities and you can help them get away with it, may not be the best door-opener. In the AEC, anyway.
The finance sector on the other side… I digress…

Those that hope, that by tricking owners into mandating BIM would mean an easy road into nudging the industry to practice more BIM, may be in for a bit of a surprise, as well.
They may presume that building owners have the highest investment in the AEC game, but a careful examination of the last 2 decades of the industry’s workings will show up, that in the ‘3 way arm-twisting’ game the building owners do not always end up footing the (proportionately) highest bill.

Unfortunately, not even when the building owners are large public bodies, i.e. governments.
The crazy ‘marry go-around’ of the building creation industry most of the time has been oiled by the small traders, mum-and-dad house owners and would be serial landlords. The same ones that keep on putting governments in place that are too scared to change unsustainable AEC conditions because of the small-time pundits are still hoping to finally land the big price.

Selling anything that will bring transparency or highlight any of the unsaid facts of such a game is hard.
Selling clash-detection of ‘yet to be built pipes and beams’ is so much easier.
Long time for BIM to get anywhere yet! Long live the AEC in denial!