Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The question is not WHY should one ban the use of paper on construction sites but WHY NOT?

The ‘Paperless 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’ BIM approaches.
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 the industry?
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 pretty lukewarm.
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.

Not that will stop me working on the idea.