Prologue: This blog-post
is written for the millennia generation +/- one or two;
They do not like reading
long stories, I will work on a shorter, more digestible one for them –
something that can be tweeted or texted;
This is aimed at their
parents and caregivers, who should still be able to handle a 2 page article.
Nathan Zraicat looks proudly over the Melbourne
construction site as the photo gets taken (REF 01), with his hardhat, safety vest
and glasses, a poster boy for the AEC industry and the company he works for,
Leighton. (REF 02)
Meanwhile, half a world away, his father, Elias Zraicat (REF
03) in the role of the Executive General
Manager, UAE, Oman and Northern Gulf of HLG, another Leighton Group associated
company, is busy tidying up the mess he has been left by his predecessors.
It must have been a very big mess. The company’s top
management made a hard decision to relocate the project director of one of its
key projects in Hong Kong, by now publicly known to be in a bit of a trouble
itself. (REF 04)
While I look down the big hole that Mr Zraicat left
behind in Hong Kong, (the unfortunate West Kowloon Terminal of the Express Rail
in Hong Kong, (REF 05)) I can’t help being jealous at his parenting success.
There is the proof, clear as the sun, his son steadily
walking in daddy’s path, towards a flash Leighton future, safely tucked away in
peaceful Australia, while I drag mine around the world and have no idea how I am
going to feed them next month, let alone get them through university.
As well as differences in our parenting success rate, Mr
Zraicat and I have very little in common.
For example, for decades I’ve been working on exposing the
story of a deeply corrupt global AEC industry.
Forget kitchen alterations, bathroom refits or even new
houses built for individual clients.
The big money and murky deals are higher up, where the
mega projects of our built environment are arranged.
The media do not seem to care. The public are given no
“No blood in it” they might think, or “it’s not tainted
milk powder poisoning babies”.
The big money and murky deals are only about building our
most valuable collective assets: hospitals, schools, roads and rails.
No big deal.
My audience from within the industry that I have
entertained over the last 20 years with my theories of the corrupt AEC had
almost always split unevenly onto two groups;
The first, a large majority would say ‘no, it is not’ and
They’d carry on obligingly climbing the limited staircase
of their careers by keeping their profiles low and sticking to forever
designing cheap office layouts, calculate bending moments or size sewer pipes.
The second group, a small minority would also say ‘no it
is not’ but would not believe or live by this statement. They’d ignore
everything they learned in their architectural/engineering/construction
management schools and focus on building one thing only: their careers.
You’d recognise these guys on the boards of all major AEC
companies, often light blue shirted and with loudish ties, bald and pot-bellied
– or tanned and over-trained, inevitably male.
Unable and unwilling to fit into either groups over 2 and
a half decades ago, I set off on a doomed road of building up a career in AEC
while retaining some self-defined level of personal and professional integrity.
First I put one house up to fund this quest, then
another, then another.
The proceeds all went eventually, also lost in the game
were the various companies I poured my energy, time and money into, trying to
bite the ankle of this ‘loosely defined monster’ and move forward while keeping
the family afloat in New Zealand for close to 18 years.
Ending up with nothing but chased by a bank with a half a
million dollar GFC-fuelled debt – I set
off globetrotting – dragging the family behind.
Over the next 5 years I managed repeatedly to land
respectable roles within respectable companies – only to lose them one way or
other due to identifying and exposing high levels of negligence, incompetence
After the last one, getting fired within 12 weeks, my personal
best – I found myself at the end of this road.
Now, you can join the queue of many that will quickly conclude
that I am basically unemployable within the AEC, incompetent to hold a job down
and am trying to cover these flaws up with all sorts of made up ‘conspiracy
Neat and convenient, yet the facts were falling in exactly
the opposite direction.
But even without the facts and proofs, and even with
taking me out of the picture, don’t you think that there is something very
fishy about this industry?
And what is most fishy, is how it treats ‘the young and
bright’ that end up in their midst.
Unlike Nathan from the beginning of his story, most cannot
look forward to bright steady rises through the ranks of the corporate ladder.
Droves of young, bright and enthusiastic would be
architects/engineers/construction managers rise from their schools to the
industry. They are then quickly hit by the reality that this industry punishes
anything that has to do with innovation, progress or threatens the SQ in any
way, for those that have their paths to happy retirement planned out decades in
So, these young talents end up in two groups as well. The
first will pull their heads in and join the fathers and mothers of previous
generations that have fallen in line accepting that things just have to be the
way they are.
They will end up forever drawing door schedules, create
thousands of meaningless CAD drawings and left being manipulated into quasi BIM
monkeys by their superiors, themselves often only foot soldiers to the truly powerful
The others with a bit of spark and integrity will leave.
And the cycle will carry on like this, the next generation
of intake will have even less bright and ambitious ones contemplating any questioning
of the modus operandi, moving the industry even further into corruption and
And the public will still not know, it is not like they
are tainting milk powder or making land mines.
This must stop, for the sake of the generations to come!
Hand over the global AEC to our children as a viable
career choice where they can thrive and contribute to its recovery!
Let’s suspend the complaining over the huge
amounts of public money going into private pockets for a day, and look into
what Murray Murray Associates (MMA) are about and how we are going to raise
the standards of the global AEC .
We have been following the fortune-tellers forensically
for the past two decades and know the field well,
Most of the imagery found in the attached slideshow is
from projects where we had been hands on.
We have honed our skills working in many
regions of the world.
Put simply, see us as the private investigators of the
When commissioned we prepare a report for our
clients, based on the documents, so that they can see exactly what they
are buying (or selling) both technically and financially, and make informed
There are many companies professing to provide such
services already, but they usually fall short on one of the three critical
components that MMA have:
Technical skills/knowledge, contractual savvy and
also the press release we put out a couple of days ago:
Forensic BIM Consultants
We are one of the most experienced and trusted
independent BIM consultancy operating in the worldwide AEC market, and are now
specialising in Forensic work;
Wherever you work within the AEC field globally, we can
help you address any BIM related issue you come across.
We work for private and public AEC clients, including
General contractors, big and small and the entire
spectrum of subcontractors.
We do not work- for or represent consultants.
When we need technical or other expertise that are not
within our core offerings, we source them for our clients independently and in
a totally transparent way.
BIM or NO BIM, if you participate within the AEC industry
as one of the groups of our client-base it is likely that you will be losing
money in the claim processes, regardless of what side of the claim-game you are
It is a game, it is often gaming, so the results depend more
on deals than fact.
Our objective is to assist our clients play this game in
the most informed way, by providing them with the best possible forensic BIM tools.
If you reached the last line of our introduction and are
still not sure what BIM stands for, you need our assistance, urgently. Your
margins are likely to be much leaner than they should be.
what you are doing. But, you are going on about it totally the wrong
he concludes with a hint of sadness in
Sad? Me too – well,
a little; disapproval of a fellow BIM-mer does cut, but life goes on and on.
One must carry on
doing what one must do; “when the kids need new shoe’s . . .” do you answer the
or “when a 'niche' industry like the global AEC pleads for a radical shake up .
. .” do you answer?
If I wanted to
be really poetic I could say, that the “kids of this world need a new AEC
industry” as this one is on the edge of a vortex, but let's just park that question
for another day.
Back to my
conversation partner, who points out he once was a supporter of mine, unfortunately
off, he leaves me with an important lesson, half said.
He implies that
because I was shown the best path for Hong Kong, but took another, I'll never
get another BIM job here.
He must mean a
commission, since I'm now an independent contractor; forgive the omission.
Things can move
along in Hong Kong surprisingly quickly.
A Very Important
Person can overlook the current status of my CV, it is a pretty live and
dynamically changing document, you see.
He may be right
about my bleak future, he and others – well I might not have heard threats but
there were cautions, “be careful” etc
When you arrive
to work in Hong Kong, as I had, just over 3 months ago – you are bound to be
told to be aware, that if you want to be successful here, you really need to
understand the place, the culture, what makes it tick.
Hong Kong is
about money and deals, they say, forget the contracts.
Old habits die
hard, so in the new job I still work hard, forget about deals and the small
print of my employment contract and am loyal to the company and my family.
Life is easy
when your guiding principles are simple to define and not in conflict with each
I keep an eye on
the money, so we can buy at least another year of stability for our kids and to
earn as much as it is possible for the company that has hired me, not just in
this year but for years to come, by using my skills and experience to guide
them around the minefield of the yet-to eventuate Hong Kong AEC.
12 weeks into the ‘dream job of my life’ the ‘Contract’
rears its head; it says that I can be fired there and then or to keep it
strictly PC ‘my services are no longer required’.
Over the following week at least half a dozen people assure
‘The contract is King in Hong Kong’;
Are there three sides here?
There are two sides and Aside to every contract; it’s an Interesting place,
Here is the third instalment to the MTR-BIM experiment trilogy;
Best to go backwards, first see the summary slideshow (or even better, email us for the narrated one to email@example.com and you won't even need to read the script) - then read the summary background before you dig down to the detailed data.
Real fun stuff, trust us! Scary too!
MTR has called for the development of The Shatin to
Central Link (SCL) as a strategic metro line.
The railway scheme was gazetted on 26 November 2010 under
Ordinance and authorised by the Chief Executive in Council on 27
March 2012. The Finance Committee of the Legislative Council endorsed the
funding of the SCL project on 11 May 2012.
Construction of the SCL has commenced in 2012. The project is expected to be
completed in 2020.
The total construction
cost of the entire SCL project is estimated to be about HK$64.9 billion
(in September 2011 prices)
14 contracts have already been awarded to individual
contractors or joint ventures.
Most, if not all of those tenders have likely included a contractual obligation
to deliver a BIM model, based on the design/tendered documents produced within
3 months of their contract being awarded to them.
This BIM model had to be fully compliant with MTR’s
prescribed standards. The intention was that there would be 3 months to
identify troubles i.e. all possible causes of project delays.
For 13 out of the 14 contracts the 3 month cut off has passed,
on average by about 8 months.
The question is this:
Can the MTR publicly confirm that each contractor
that accepted the obligation to deliver a BIM model within its SCL contract has
delivered it and if not, what remedial measures have been taken by MTR?
TERMINUS NORTH TO MISS TRAIN BY 562 DAYS
The following comments are regarding two articles, both published
in the Construction Post
(HK & Macau)
Author for each is Mr Danny Chung, Editor, The Construction
Article 1: (May the 15th 2013)
Terminus North To Miss Train By 562 Days’ (REF 01)
Article 2: (August 13th, 2013)
“Adopt BIM For
Better Project Management, Says Gammon”; (REF 09)
Article 1 discussed the projected delay to the completion
of the West Kowloon Terminus North of the Express Rail Link.
It re-quoted extracts published by Local Chinese
newspapers Ming Pao and Apple Daily, that predicted a project over-run of 562
days, based on an estimate by the main contractor, Leighton-Gammon Joint
In addition, the estimate of cost for additional work and
costs arising from delays stood at HK$1.55 billion.
Apart from a few anonymous comments by various
construction professionals the article added little extra value to the basic
story. The Hong Kong construction market is tight-knit, and the recently
appointed Editor (REF 02) decided to play it safe and not dive too deeply into
a potentially contentious issue. With a little homework, he would have realised
that a lot of useful material was freely and publicly available to him, to enrich
For example, September 2012 (REF 03) a conference
organised by the Lighthouse club, the well-respected charity, hosted numerous
high level participants of the said project including Mr Thomas Ho, the CEO of
Gammon (REF 04) and President of HK Contractors Association; and Mr Ronan
Collins, the MD of InteliBuild, MTR’s BIM consultants on this project. The
event was widely publicised.
Mr Collins opted to explain to the audience the novel,
BIM-based collaborative approach to the West Kowloon terminal’s delivery. Mr
Collins used a 25min presentation he has placed on You Tube (Google “BIM MTR
KOWLOON”) (REF 05). Apart from acknowledging his fellow presenter and long term
client, Mr Collins gives credit to many others for assisting him pioneering a
new approach to the delivery of this highly complex project.
Had Mr Chung listened carefully to Mr Collins, he could
have isolated numerous slides of this BIM presentation and then interviewed MTR
and the contractors involved, on how and if the approach had really worked at
the time the possible troubles were made public (8 months following this very
upbeat presentation) and how, if at all, it helped minimising the risks of
project derailment for both MTR and the HK Government.
‘Why BIM for MTR’ from the point of MTR’s view was very
clearly and openly discussed there (REF 07), though admittedly by the BIM
service provider, the claims have never been rebutted by others.
The following questions would have definitely added
useful scrutiny to the topic had someone had the courage to ask:
Would the cost and time overruns have ended up EVEN
higher without the use of BIM, was the cost to even trying doing BIM really justified
and value for money with such low level of skill and understanding on offer
amongst those involved?
Mr Chung wrote the article on the troubled Express Rail
Link and how late the project was likely to be. Even if he had deliberately
chosen to ignore the existence of the claimed-BIM approach and its possible
impact on the success of the project, It would have done him a lot of good to
make a mental note of another ambitious plan heralded by Mr Collin’s
presentation, which referred to a dozen or so companies which at the time of
the conference, were yet-to-embark-on MTR contracts.
‘TC Chu and his
team have propagated BIM further into MTR projects…
Anybody that ends up working on the SCL (Shatin to
Central Link) will need to work with a full blown BIM specification’ Mr Collins
claimed, and provided a summary of these specifications on his slides; (REF 08)
‘The trigger is, they want to find the problems early and
MTR want to collaborate to resolve those problems early… so it is not for the
contractor to “keep the secrets as in …and we’ll tell you later”, they want to know
the issues, they want to see the details, they want to see the model early…’ he
Being aware of these highly demanding BIM expectations by
MTR of their contractors would have better prepared Mr Chung for writing the
article that he published in the same magazine, on August 13th, 2013
under the title “Adopt BIM For Better Project Management, Says Gammon”; (REF
By writing an article dedicated solely to Gammon, he
could have presented a useful fact-based analysis of results of Gammon
Construction’s attempts at BIM adoption on the previously named 2 MTR projects.
Instead, he provided a mouthpiece for a company PR release.
Knowing that Gammon was one of the contractors on the
previously mentioned SCL (REF 10) – the fully mandated BIM project line, where a
3 month cut-off for modelling and issue-raising was stipulated clearly and contractually
by MTR – would have made it obviously important to enquire about this exercise
from the Director of Innovation, Derek So, who appeared to have interviewed for
Especially since Mr So was making some pretty bold
“Citing data from the US, company director Derek So
Kwok-leung said costs incurred by the contractor could be cut by 10 to 20
percent if they used Building Information Modelling (BIM) on their projects.”
Referring back to Gammon’s own website (REF 11) and
noting the contract to be that of 3.4 billion
was he forecasting a saving of a conservative 340+ million to be shared
by the JV and MTR at completion of the project? Or was this saving already
priced in at the time of tendering?
Full compliance with this contract’s BIM component
obviously would not be something the journalist would need to question this
gentleman, considering that,
“Mr So said while some projects did not stipulate use of
BIM, Gammon went ahead anyway with it since the potential benefits were too
important to ignore.”
It is unfortunate that the author of the advertorial had
not gone back to relevant government authorities to ask for their response to
Mr So’s allegations that,
“…However the government has been slow by “several paces”
in BIM adoption apart from the Housing Authority.”
Gammon’s bold BIM-related PR statement had given the
paper “The Construction Post” a good opportunity to start a meaningful
discussion on behalf of many government shareholders and MTR’s stakeholders on
how these respected companies indeed managed public money, including where and
how risk management approaches the likes of BIM were employed.
An opportunity obviously too risky to take.
Yet, this would have been a great forum to also analyse
if MTR truly had set out to de-risk their projects with a mandated
BIM-approach. Ask has it the skills, willingness and resources to police it
properly or will it leave the various contractors to lead MTR by the nose,
pretending to be doing BIM while carrying on with their old ways of working and
making up for lack of care or productivity through inflated claims?
I write this post with the hope that in response to my
notes Mr Chung of Construction Post (HK & Macau) and his or another local
paper will pluck up the courage and approach the GM of the SCL line, Mr Philco
Wong formally for a progress report on BIM implementation on projects under his
watch, especially those that have passed the 3 months deadline set out for BIM
His reassurance that all is proceeding as well as
expected and no one is let ‘off the hook’ due to unhelpfully close associations
to the said manager will give a peace of mind to all involved.
It will also assure the public of Hong Kong that not only
will there be no big unwelcome surprises down the construction track of any of
the current MTR projects but a likely windfall of savings between 10-20% will
be enjoyed by all, just as promised by the leaders of BIM in the Hong Kong
market, Gammon Construction, championed by the Director of Innovation, Mr Derek
(for all references write to firstname.lastname@example.org)
About 10 if not a 100 times that long, to do it well.
‘I see’ – he says and I know, that he does not.
In the world of large scale AEC projects I operate in, I
tend to meet people that have had their own ‘first BIM experiences’ finally
behind them. This, of course makes them feel totally qualified to come up with
a ‘grand strategy’ on how to do it next time, regardless of how hands-off they
themselves were in the said experience, or how deep/ shallow that particular
BIM had been.
The wave of ‘BIM cynics’ of 10-or-so-years ago is now the
new-wave of ‘quasi experts’ that slosh around the (still) lucrative end of the
More and more of those people also feel obliged to personally
vote in the widespread debate of ‘who is benefiting most from any BIM project:
the contractor, the designer or the client?’.
Yet, very few understand the topic to the extent that makes
them eligible to vote at all.
We have truly entered a stage of BIM, where the design consultants
of mega-projects are largely ‘let off the BIM hook’ and the focus is on the
contractors to make BIM work for the owners.
It is an interesting stage, not only because it is
evolving parallel with the activities of the still very vocal proponents of the
‘truest BIM-based collaboration across all participants’ theories, but also
because contractors seem to be much less prepared to take on this battle than
the consultants had been when first hit by it on a large-scale a year-or two
And not because they are less technically endowed then
their design colleagues (anyone can buy cheap modelling capability) but because
somehow their own PI insurers have taken their eyes of the ball and failed to
advise their clients to thread very carefully into that little muddy pool of
Probably I should not be surprised then, when I daily
meet people that say we should process thousands of drawings within days and
take responsibility over their accuracy with no additional thought of how that
risk is managed.
Or when others will propose confidently to ‘just model
our own stuff’ in parallel to the consultants 2D production on huge D&B
When I question the wisdom of their strategies …they bat no
eyelid while confirming how easy this is going to be and they've done it all
…anyway, as a ‘so called BIM expert’, I should know this!
How difficult can it be to turn 2000 drawings into a
(the illustration shown is the representation of the
drawing production of a real AEC project)
(or, is there any
relation between the ‘factually’ very low level of BIM-maturity of the industry
and the aggressive buy-outs happening in the AEC’s consultancy-field?)
Recently, on a well-attended BIM group’s discussion site,
I re-floated my view that the UK Government has little idea on what BIM really
is, or should be like.
After a couple of days of debate and gentle lecturing by
a number of learned participants, a consensus was reached:
‘I don’t know what I’m talking about – let alone
question, could I please go away and grow up in quiet or eat worms, whatever is
going to make the least noise.’
So, having arrived to such a happy and universally satisfying
ending … I let the topic fizzle out.
Still, there was one commenter within the thread that
bugged me just a bit more than the others.
It was not even his comment that annoyed me that much,
but the fact he was working for a particular company and referencing it as something
equivalent to a ‘mature BIM practitioner’.
I will not name the individual, let’s just say, on this
particular forum, he represented a large, big-name, multinational AEC consultancy,
starting with the letter ‘A’.
Ha, you may say, that is not really helpful, don’t they
all start with ‘A’s?
Or most of the big and multinational-multiconsultancies?
Indeed, they do.
The ones still sticking with their old names in spite PR
advisers’ suggestions and/or multiple
mergers and by-outs, I guess do this probably after weighing up the pros and
cons of ditching a moderately valuable brand for something that will stick out
from the Aecoms, Aurecons, Aedases, Arcadises, AMECs and Atkinses…
But, I digress…
What the participant of the forum was implying to me,
that not only was himself as a person ‘very’ BIM mature, not even all of the
projects he was working on, but the ENTIRE multi-multi company he was
Now, that is hard to accept.
Especially because I’ve had the fortune to interact with
various representatives of this entity in numerous locations scattered around
the word (some very recently) and I can clearly state that this company is no
more BIM mature than most of the other ‘A’ listers.
So, since this discussion,
I spent a bit of time in re-thinking of what ‘maturity’ could mean in the BIM
arena, prepared to find that I am really the totally misguided one here.
Is it just age that will set its level – as in wine – or
would certain behaviour be expected from a certain level of maturity of BIM?
Just like, when we talk about maturity of people relevant
or irrelevant of their age?
Are there different levels of BIM maturity for individuals,
projects and/or companies and how are they related to each other?
Can an entire country really achieve something that
independent assessors might value as ‘mature BIM’ in the near future?
So, as a due diligence against self-justifying arrogance
I mentally collated all my knowledge of the A-listers I know and/or had
personal dealings with, who incidentally through various buyouts over the
recent years are present on most of the biggest projects in the AEC happening
Admittedly, by now they all have dedicated BIM specialists
on board, have dreamed up a fleshy BIM manifesto
and claim to have the commitment of the ‘topest’ management.
Also they proudly sponsor a crew that flies around the
world representing them at BIM conferences.
And a number of ‘pilot projects’ showcasing their
advancement, nicely repackaged for all flavours of BIM.
But, I can bet my top dollar, that once you scratch the
shiny BIM surface, you will find that most of their projects are still done
‘traditionally’ – their so called frontline, BIM enabled people used to answer
to CAD titles until very recently and their BIM processes are pretty much ‘under
Furthermore, if you are an unlucky client, already locked
in a contract with any of these A-lister chaps and hope to squeeze in some
Q&A on your project post-contract by utilising their over-marketed BIM maturity,
the answer will most likely be:
‘we had not priced that in’.
BIM after all has a clear price-tag attached to it.
I wonder, when will my teenage children figure out to give
a similarly clever answer justifying their immature behaviour questioned
As in, ‘sorry mum, I know you would not expect from a
mature person to behave as we acted at Grandma’s but our maturity is pretty
much limited to certain places and events, when it comes to family gatherings,
we only allowed for ‘traditional’ teenage behaviour’.
It goes without saying that this example is totally
hypothetical, my children always behave perfectly at family events. I guess,
they are mature beyond their ages.
Not something that can be guaranteed from the A-listers
of the oh, so mature BIM High Society;
As I’m getting settled into my new job, the members of my
immediate family are crossing their fingers behind their backs;
They may even be mouthing silently while doing so:
‘please don’t blow this one up… or at least do it
Despite of their hopes and my best intentions, I start
here with ‘a hiss and a roar’, setting of a real war for opportunities to
meaningfully apply BIM.
Of course not everyone sees this as a ‘just war’ and quickly
I get to be considered as someone that claims to know the answers to
An obnoxious persona, with a ‘My way or the highway’
ready to throw a mighty Drama Queen fit, at a drop of a
hat when things do not go her way.
I sure believe to deserve the title of ‘the Queen’,
‘The Queen of knowing just-about-everything that does not
work in BIM’.
I am a proud owner of more than two decades of ‘live
experiments’ trying out just-about-any theory that there was, on how BIM should
be applied to design, documentation, construction support and claim management
within the AEC industry. A bit of operations and FM too, post construction.
Tiny projects and absurdly large, public and private.
Traditionally procured and those highly speculative. Supported by some great
people and obstructed by many more, not so great.
I put everything into this 25 yearlong experiment, time,
work, knowledge, money, the family’s past, present and future.
Self-titled Queen or not, I of course am not alone in
As more and more people get involved in the ‘movement’ it
is interesting to observe how various individuals take on the challenge of
responsibility for the ‘success of BIM’ – whatever that may mean in reality.
Also, how the long awaited and wished for mandating of
BIM turns out to be quite a challenge for some of the loudest of BIM promoters
of the past, forcing them to urgently look for new BIM doers to blame if things
don’t work out as planned.
And things rarely work out as planned, so when a PR dress-up
of a failed BIM application is not an option, somebody got to take the blame.
Some BIMmers learn quickly how to duck for cover, others
tend to be happy as sitting ducks. Because they are either eager to please by
nature or believe to be aiding the progress of humankind, they take on
everything that comes their way.
I have seen sitting ducks turn into cover-duckers after
being repeatedly shot at but never the other way around.
It’s a tough world out there in the current BIM world…