I am a manager of construction information, tools and people .
I believe that hands-on manipulating of project information by all project participants is the key to achieving any meaningful improvement of the AEC industry operating within the post-gambling-era.
I consider myself to be a model-based construction information practitioner (shortened to a ‘BIM- meddler’) rather than an ‘expert’ or even ‘specialist’.
The global AEC is swarming with BIM
Viewers, any service provider dealing in Building Related Information appears
to have a proprietary one on offer.
Some are better than others. Commonly
they offer the ability to view BIM models of various origins, maybe combine
them, rotate, zoom, filter information. Some have mark-up tools, others provide
fancy gadgets for tracking model-revisions. The models are usually stored on
remote servers, they live in the Cloud, so to speak.
While the intentions behind creating
these digital spectacles are usually good, the self interest of the owners to
get a larger market share combined with the genuine want to make the usually
exclusive and elusive BIM outputs more accessible to the non-BIM literate, I
can’t help but seeing them as ‘wasted efforts’.
In my experience, those AEC
practitioners, that (for whatever reason) do decide to ‘suddenly’ get familiar
with ‘a’ BIM originating software will always prefer the full software to a
dumbed down viewer and will learn to use the ‘real’ thing as opposed to the
somewhat idiot-proof substitute. The rest (majority) that are still doing fine
in their careers even blatantly ignoring anything BIM, will stay ignorant to ‘viewers’
too, no matter how user-friendly they may become.
My view is that the ROI on any
proprietary BIM viewer (apart from probably the absolute market leaders) is
likely to be far too low and those engaging in the development and maintenance of
these should think again about their investments and spend the efforts/money on
something more worthwhile, instead.
For example, PDF Spatial
These are 3D digital work environments
where large numbers of PDF’s can be placed in for the purpose of reconstructing
the physical environment they were originally created to describe. At a minimum
they are able to accurately place PDF sheets within the digital environment,
across 3 axes and to correct scales. The more advanced versions allow the users
to spatially connect corresponding points within various sheets to create a
digital mesh, approximating the end-(or originally documented) building. The
really good ones are either synchronized within comprehensive modeling programs
or offer a range of modeling tools to sculpture BIM ready models spatially tracing
I do not know of any comprehensive PDF
Spatial Re-constructors available on the global AEC market at the moment. That fact
by itself does not mean that they do not exist, i.e. are no tools to
successfully combine lots of PDF’s (hundreds and thousands) into usable digital
skeletons for BIM or other purposes.
The two BIM toolsets I’m reasonably
familiar with, each have cracked parts of this problem, unfortunately neither is
looking to be in much of a hurry to extend these, well established features
into a comprehensive system.
GS’s ArchiCAD is pretty snazzy with
large numbers of PDFs, able to bring them into the digital environment and
manages these through nifty color/trace/slider options. It copes well with
sizes and is very agile in handling them through all of its 2D views (plans,
elevations, sections). It however offers not the same option for the 3D
environment, falls short of making the PDF’s ‘dance’ in the real-imaginary-virtual
Autodesk’s Revit is pretty clumsy with
PDF’s, the last time I looked at this issue, their import was still in a very
around-about way. On the other hand, Revit will bring and manage DWG drawings
well, including in 3D, resulting in very satisfying looking standing up ‘line
section’ placed correctly within digital models.
Having got half way there, both of these
companies are in good position to offer up a really useful PDF Spatial
Re-constructor in the near future, should they decide to cater for this need.
Alternatively, those that are struggling with making BIM-viewers built from
scratch might also see some fantasy in going down this direction instead.
Admittedly this concept may not be as glamorous
as the ‘full-on’ BIM likes to think of itself to be, it definitely has the
potential to assist a large segment of AEC participants be more productive when
reviewing drawing based building documentation.
Part 1: http://debunkthebim.blogspot.ae/2014/07/pdfs-and-bim-trilogy-of-posts.html
Banks generally like to keep a close
relationship with the AEC industry.
Apart from small scale works and
cash-jobs here and there, anything to do with creating buildings in large parts
of the world involves banks as financiers or partners. In return, banks’
fortunes tend to be impacted by the destiny of the AEC markets, the threat of a
‘property bubble busting’ is well known for both.
Conflicting with this cozy association
is what can be perceived as an apparent disinterest from banks on how the AEC
is going about its day-to-day work.
One can argue that bankers should stick
to their knitting and leave the hammer-heads to run their industry as they see
fit, but it is interesting to note, how different the two sides are in their
approaches to information management.
Paper as a medium rules the AEC while
the banks have all but banned it from their processes.
Where did the practice of going into a
bank with a little saving-account’s book to withdraw (deposit) money, fill out
multiple forms, get a stamp and signature from the teller disappear?
I recently phoned one of my bank
managers for advice using her mobile number and she asked to call back on her
main-line. As they say, ‘all our calls are recorded for quality purposes’.
While it is partially to assist
efficiencies and maybe even to improve customer service, the main driver for ‘
being all digital’ with banks is to control their own risks.
Banks ‘know’ at a very high level that
what makes or breaks them at the end is their handle on the information part of
the business, possibly even more than the ‘real money’. The high level strategy
is then implemented throughout the process leaving little room for individuals
to manipulate the data against the banks’ interests.
Contrary to this approach the AEC is
anything but organized with their information – at high level there is talk and
maybe meaningful looking strategies set by the big players, but what trickles
down to the everyday work of individuals is as archaic and manipulative a
framework as it has ever been in the past of the industry. Probably even worse
than in the ‘old, traditional days of building’ where certain level of global
technical knowledge and universally accepted tradesmen’s ethics guided the use
of information away from the muddy waters of mistreat.
Exemptions do exist in both camps. Low
level individuals can sometimes intentionally or by error mismanage information/funds,
causing large losses to affected banks. There do also exist AEC based
organizations that can truly claim to have their fingers on the pulse of their project
information, meaningfully assisting their companies’ risk management and also helping
the bottom line.
However, so uniform in behavior the two camps are within their own
fields, that the exceptions, if anything, prove and solidify the rules.
And they are unlike to change in the near future.
As much likely is for the large scale mandating of BIM (in the UK and
elsewhere) to work and make a significant impact on the industry as it would
for any bank to suddenly opt out of central and digital information management
in favour of a paper based one and still thrive.
My guess is, that the banks will
continue to keep their own houses as tight and tidy as possible but indulge in
the fruits of the chaos, that their closely related sister industry, the AEC serves
Meanwhile, congratulations are due for
David Philp, who has a new job and is now Director BIM – EMEA @ AECOM! A news
that warrants an entire blog-post on its own. May yet write it in the near
future as it offers young generations of AEC professionals a great example of a
career-path as dazzling as a successful politician’s might be.
I did an impromptu survey today and asked a dozen people for
what reason did they think I was pursuing the idea of establishing a paperless
construction site. Two of them gave silly answers I had to discard and that
left me 10 with responses loosely classifiable around the topic of the ‘greenies
and saving paper’.
A surprising result.
While saving paper is not a trivial goal, it is
definitely not the main driver for this project. What is even more exciting
than the savings project owners could be making by eliminating paper from their
construction sites is the behavioural change that this move would likely to
A controlled environment that forced information creating,
storing and sharing exclusively digitally, better even doing it in a managed
way and within a relatively short timeframe a full cross section of project
participants will start positively changing their own behaviour …. TBC
Construction Site’ concept has interested me, for a long time.
The starting premise is
similar to all ‘BIM stories’, it builds on the theory that the AEC industry is notoriously
bad at modernising its processes and its archaic information management causes losses
to many, if not all participants.
The proposed solution to
the problem is however fundamentally different to most globally accepted ‘mainstream’
Rather than turning to
smart tools, software packages, programmes and systems, the onus of the
strategy is put on the non-BIM construction practitioners to raise their performance.
And the strategy suggests, they will do
so when they are put in a paperless environment for a long enough timeframe
(i.e. the length of a construction project) while tasked with their ‘usual tasks’.
Think of the Project
Directors, Construction, Planning, Engineering, Design and/or Cost Managers. Foremen,
tradesmen, labourers, document controllers.
They make up the large
percentage of any construction project’s team, BIM people, even on highly
mandated BIM projects will be in a small minority compared to them.
Far from being judgmental
about them, I actually admire how they get by – and completes projects, sooner
or later, to budget or thereabouts, largely let to their own devices.
Rarely a day goes by that
I don’t see something that confirms that buildings are often completed in spite
of, as opposed to, because of, the available tools, systems and generally the ‘smarts’
of the industry.
Consequently, for a long
time I’ve had this theory that, this part of the industry IS able to ignite a
real change given the opportunity, right
circumstances and necessary help.
Here comes the concept of ‘the’
Paper Free Construction Site.
This simple plan modifies
only ONE condition of an/any ‘average’ construction project, takes the right to
use the ‘paper’ away.
Even that, ONLY on the physical
site (bounded by a physical Paper Proof Fence and accessed through a strictly
monitored gate). Supporting offices, off-site factories, territorial
authorities are all exempt.
Everyone is free to do
their jobs the best way they think should be done, or the way they always have,
packaging project information into 1D, 2D,… 27D - parcels. Use words, drawings,
tables, schedules, sketches, whatever.
Employ mobile phones,
tablets, lap-and-desktops, small and large projectors, LCD walls, movie
theatres, smart labs.
Just, no paper.
The plan provides for a
highly specialised on-the ground support – 24/7 help and solution team – funded
by parties other than the owner.
A truly promising idea for
This concept has been with
me for a loooong time and over years I have figured out the entire machinery to
make it work, down to the tiniest detail.
Have not been publicising
it in any way until recently.
And the feedback has been
Apparently, I’m not
selling the idea very well.
Sure, I do accept it, I
lack the charisma of a good marketer, I go off topics, use long sentences, my pronunciation
is annoyingly Eastern European. I employ
amateurish graphics and I wave my hands around a lot.
The interesting aspect of
this ‘fact’ is not that I’m not selling the idea well, (that really is not such
a new phenomenon) but that people think the idea needs selling at all.
These people, most of them
deeply engaged with this industry genuinely think, that any construction
project owner would be hard work convincing to declare their construction site ‘paper
free’ – given the chance and no additional cost burden.
The scary thing is, they
are probably right. This industry is deeply troubled.