Thursday, February 26, 2015

I wonder, how does HM the Queen feel about Britain’s impending BIM supremacy?

She must be fully aware of it coming, after all it’s been some time since the UK Government BIM Mandate has been dreamed up and sold successfully to both the practicing and the ‘not quite convinced yet but getting there’, BIM world.

It has been a while since her 2013 New Year Honours List awarded Mervyn Richards OBE for services to BIM and the Construction Industry. She must have cast her eye at the time over the list and dutifully asked the question ‘What the … is the BIM thing? .
I can just imagine the solemn advisors quietly whispering to her something on the line of ‘BIM being to Construction what the full cure for Cancer to medicine could be’? Quite possibly.

Then, there is her son Charles, Prince of Wales who tends to faithfully keep up with what is happening in the industry, so she must get first-hand reports on the progress of this worthwhile initiative especially as the Prince’s favourite UK architects are again the first in enthusiastically embracing the UK BIM mandate.

By the way, what mandate?
Soon enough it will be apparent that it was going to happen naturally in the UK first and in the bestest form, the mandating was just there to speed it is up bit. The UK elite (including the part that reigns over the construction) would never have let such a great opportunity of a ‘hot-air-balloon idea’ be passed onto someone else to claim pre-eminence over.

The Americans? With their claim to have invented the acronym? Or the North Europeans, with their various BIM-ish toolsets successfully operating for decades (like Tekla for example – oh, sorry no longer Finnish)?
Not even the Singaporeans who’ve been parading with their supposedly sophisticated building consenting systems for a while, let alone the little Hungarians that claim to have come up with the concept roughly at the same time as Rubik of his cube?
Nope, this one has been destined for the Brits to control.

As well as quantified positive impacts on the local and global economy of the BIM-UK-storm, HM the Queen is likely to be receiving regular updates from each BIM user-group meeting and every BIM conference held in even the remotest part of the world.
She must be feeling the long forgotten pride of the truly magnificent, learning that these forums dutifully acknowledge UK having gotten ‘there’ first with BIM – even before they look at the serious tasks of labouring on their own, local standards for this non-existent set of activities the group (conference) has been set up to nurture.
Almost like the forming of a new BIM Common world, ignorant of political, economic and other boundaries, after all you can buy I-phones almost anywhere and find Autodesk resellers in the remotest of parts of the globe.

She is probably pretty pleased with this unexpected gift of good news for the nation, even if a bit worried for the time passing by.
Does she wake up in the morning looking at the calendar, hoping 2015 would go faster and we’d get into 2016 just a tiny bit earlier? Or kicking herself for not setting  an earlier deadline for this UK BIM Heaven on Earth and UK’s return to true global dominance?

Picture from here:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tomorrow marks a BIG BIM event in the neighborhood that I will not be attending.

Following the success of the first two BIM conferences in the Middle East, CIFE is co-organizing the 3rd BIM conference with CCC and Projacs in Dubai on Feb. 25 and 26. 2015.

I love how they are doggedly sticking to calling their events ‘annual’ – when this is the 3rd one in the 5th calendar year since the first was held in 2011.
Hairsplitting over semantics from me or just a bit of stretching the definition of the ‘annual’ from their side? A question of a viewpoint, I guess.

I did attend the first one of the three, still have the book that came with it. Nowadays it is gathering dust on my bookshelf though it had accompanied me on my journey from Abu Dhabi to Hong Kong and back to Dubai almost two years ago.
Not that it was a lot of help when  I had to fight my war with the BIM-Mafia over in the East, but admittedly there is only so much useful advice authors can include in a volume like this.
Maybe I should have used its physical properties for the close quarter battles I had to fight through (it is a hefty piece of a hardback – Gammon take note) rather than looking for answers between the lines on how to survive in the ‘Manipulative BIM world’ of the Global AEC.

Aside from the above mentioned publication and conference, there are regularly numerous handbooks published and happenings organized within the global AEC market on how to ‘DO’ BIM, yet not much literature or events on offer to assist those that need to brace themselves against BIM malpractitioners or want to dodge the subject altogether.

Since some of the organizers of these events are obviously struggling to find enough good news in their BIM-backyards for the conference to happen within true 12 month intervals, here is a suggestion: Why not make it a ‘Pro BIM Biennale’? It has quite a good ring to it and the commitment that comes with the title will oblige the organizers to only hold it every second year.

Then, the alternative years could serve up the ‘Protect From BIM Biennale’, a series of events aimed at the growing number of BIM-affected that would welcome a forum to discuss and learn about the dark side of BIM too.

A kind of a yin-yang of BIM-happenings to cater for varying needs and keep it all in balance without hindering innovation and/or the emergence of a better global AEC industry. Talking about balance – not much gender balance in the speaker list of tomorrow’s even.
The topic obviously got even more masculine since the first conference, where they had their token woman speaker.
Just observing the facts.

Friday, February 20, 2015

BIMobject: a concept with a little R and a large E

Obviously, it would have been highly pretentious from me to expect some recognition on his face as I introduced myself – let alone true appreciation for the fact that I temporarily suspended my self-imposed BIM exile to attend the BIMobject’s CEO little presentation in Dubai last week, but hey, that just shows how miles apart are we in our understanding of what makes the AEC-BIM world tick.
Or maybe not far at all, just dealing with it in a different way.

He probably did not even notice that I left within 10 minutes into the time he was personally speaking (the presentation movies he started with, I will not count this time).
It was likely that it did occurred to him that the tiny audience he was addressing (the things we still have to do, even as CEOs of BIMobject AB - a public company listed on NASDAQ OMX First North: Share Ticker: BIM) could have show a bit more respect than half of it upping and going after only a couple of words into his monologue, but maybe he did not see either.

Oh, the benefits of being confident in oneself.
Did I write confident? I’m sure I meant cocky, at the time anyway.

It has taken me almost a week to figure out if I was just jealous of his success.
If my leaving in a hurry, driving home in tears and swearing against ever saying the acronym  BIM aloud again, was due to poor, basic envy?
Admittedly, the guy had been hugely successful in something I can only (even in my better days) consider myself to have been mildly profitable in. Comparing time and effort likely put into the subject, over the last 3 decades from either of us, he has definitely done significantly better than I have and am likely to do in the future.

Was it envy? Bitterness, resentment or spite?
Was it upsetting to hear someone simultaneously insult all participants of the industry and still get away with it, something I usually have to pay some sort of a price for – often quite high?
Was it him claiming things that just simply were not true?
Was it him manipulating the facts and trends and doing it without flinching?
The past and the present and predicting the future (like Autodesk and Graphisoft and Bentley or going down the drain hole in unison?
Was it the way he pronounced BIMobject with a ‘y’ – knowing that it kind of sounded cute?
Or was it the jeans  he was wearing and the plastic bag he walked in with at the first place?

None of the above, or not on their own, anyway.

I think it was the combination of ignorance and arrogance with what he dismissed everyone and everything that ever tried anything similar before that really threw me off balance. The stick on the proverbial camel’s back – or my tendency to suffer from flashbacks of my own BIM battles? (thanks, M)

How dare he belittle all the ones that have contributed to where he is now, even more, he now is also milking for own gain?
Velux, intelligent, branded 3D windows existed, like forever – IKEA had fully functioning libraries for decades, Eptar was a beautiful invention dreamed up probably 20 years ago? (or thereabouts).
And these are only the ones I personally know and like, there were hundreds of others that attempted something in a similarly confident way but stayed local or regional (for New Zealand readers: Eboss, Productspec….).

What happened to the old, humble ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ attitude where one can  claim personal achievements but still give credit where it is due?

On the other hand if he was being so smug because he truly believed to have ‘invented’ the business model that is able to rip off everyone within the AEC industry without them even being aware of it, after all the investors fell for it – maybe I should not be as upset as I got.
The world (even the global AEC) works in some mysterious ways and things tend to get balanced out sooner or later.

Sorry Stefan, your concept is an old story, even the clever-business one you believe to be such a unique invention, which sits behind the glossy-techy fa├žade.
The entity you are representing is one that even with the pompous little R at its right shoulder is only oozing of a patronising Ego.

As for this little storm in the teacup I attempted to get off my chest with this blogpost that enjoys a very limited readership  – write it off to an attempt of self-preservation through blog-writing (mine) and an unusually gloomy Dubai day we are having today.

I’m sure NASDAQ has not heard about Zolna Murray, either, so you’re cool, for now anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is Two D from Two D still cheaper than Two D from Three D?

Should documentation that is based on a coordinated 3D digital model be charged at a higher price than straight CAD-ed  one is?
Should a client have the right to choose one over the other without wanting to pay for a full blown BIM?

One would think that in the time of advanced ‘BIM maturity’ we are enjoying these days, fundamental steps of information management within the industry, like documenting buildings for the purpose of construction would be done in 3D, as a default.

Sure, drawings are necessary outputs (others say) and orthogonal projections are the most widely understood representations of yet to be built objects, but marry this with the aggressive introduction of BIM for some higher purposes (and dimensions) and logic says, everyone should be using the 3D environment by now to create the simplest of drawings for construction.

Again, there are people arguing the exact level of detail one should model to before the button is pressed to strip the drawings off it, or how much metadata should be attached to a dumb model, but there is little frank discussion out there if traditional, CAD based services should be cheaper (or in fact more expensive) than 3D digital model based ones.
Not to talk about if the practice (2D based 2D) should still exist, at all.

Yet, it is an issue that I see often and raises interesting questions.
For example, an international consultancy I’ve been working with for a while now (7000+ people employed worldwide) likes to claim to be at the forefront of BIM application within its core services.
On the other hand the project we are involved with them has been ‘priced and structured’ to be done in 2D for the supposed benefit of the client.
I.e. it is cheaper this way.
Is it also slower? They claim not to be, though the day-to-day results show otherwise, it is definitely not faster than if done by competent 3D modellers/documenters.

Had the client insisted on wanting a fully integrated 2D-3D process, they’d have to pay a premium, the argument (and the consultancy) say.
Even though the time taken to prepare and the outputs would have been the same (supposedly), i.e. 2D drawings.

So, how does this phenomenon fit within the laws of common economics? The consultancy can argue that their services are exceptionally and equally good, no matter if the drawings were done via traditional CAD or by peeling them off 3D digital models.
And because the client is interested in the end results only, the ‘how they are done’ should not be of their concern, i.e. it is a question of the ‘means to the end’.
They could also argue that the extra charge is due to the higher (or different) skillsets the modellers must have from their CAD colleagues and possibly their availability.

But if the end results are the same, shouldn’t the client have the right to choose at no extra cost?
Now, let’s say we accept that this consultancy has a valid reason to offer the two services at different costs, after all it employs over 7000 people worldwide, that would include one or two old fashioned CAD-dies needing to be kept busy.

What then, if the client asked for visualisation material throughout the project development?
Asked and been offered, but at an extra cost.
Logically, one could say, that since the client is now paying extra for the visualisation material, the consultant should be offering a basic BIM-ish package instead that fulfils all the client’s needs at this extended cost?
Yet, the other side can argue just as logically, that visualisation 3D is not the same as documentation 3D (and I’d agree with that, funnily enough) so traditional 2D + visualisation 3D cannot be easily substituted by a ‘do it all 3D’.
A level headed approach to this question would be the ‘horses for course’ theory, have we not have been (as an industry) around this issue so many times before.

On one side, big names claim (and mandate wholesale) BIM because it is the only way to go to save money and work better. On the other side big names (like this consultancy) sell their clients ‘just as good 2D based documentation’ as well as the ‘higher cost 3Ds’?

Is this the case of some wires being crossed or is someone being seriously taken for a ride?