Friday, May 20, 2016

Who am I to tell anyone not to waste time on (anything to do with) BIM?

The picture attached here was taken exactly 3 years ago, or so tells me my FB memory jogger.
Must be right – the moment bidding farewell to a lovely team of HLG BIM-mers, almost fully coincided with the time when I lost all my belief in anything BIM. Not just in the highly idealised airbrushed version of the ‘our way or the highway – mandated’ types but even of the more down to earth, pragmatic – ‘let’s pull together enough parties that genuinely want to make things better’ flavoured BIMs. I just stopped believing BIM functioning on any meaningful scale beyond the involvement of a couple of people on a project.

True, I gave the idea and various strategies to get there, another couple of goes following the captured moment, including taking the family through a 4 month long, tormenting Hong Kong saga – but then, went back to making a living where a living can be made….
This blog too, once very enthusiastic about, I gradually pushed aside, to finally get to a stage a couple of days ago when I made the decision, to close it down.
Then, I did have a look at the stats of the readership and was genuinely surprised to see, how steady it has been, even in the last half of the year, when I published only two entries, both highly cynical, verging on being upfront flippant.
Maybe it is just a sign that anything on the net will get its share of idle browsers these days of constant staring at the little window into the web. Or, that so flat the writings have become on this topic that anything out of the mainstream mantra gets some following… It is hard to say.

While I personally all but stopped following any media on BIM, crazy ideas do emerge still of some alternative BIMs, prompted by reading words in passing like ‘revolution’ and ‘disruptive technology’ in relation to the industry and what BIM is doing or will be doing to it.
Rather than figurative revolutions, my mind conjures pictures of young (or not so young but progressively thinking) people taking literary over the industry with technologies to describe buildings, design and construction processes totally unlike the stuffy and boring AutoCAD, Revit and even my once beloved ArchiCAD.
These revolutions are likely forceful take-overs, as who would expect the generation of stiff, white collar rulers of this lucrative industry to let anyone in on the bounty they so enjoy, but the most obliging and unthreatening of the ‘innovators’ that may make a bit of noise with their ‘modelling’, and ‘technologies’ and ‘disruptions’ but will hardly ‘hurt a mouse’ when it comes to where real powers lie.
Let them have their LOD’s and British BIM standards (whatever their number is) and BIM conferences and BIM pilots and….

As long as these false pioneers exist within the industry preaching and practicing disproven ideas of false improvements, there will be no room for those that may actually come up with something really good.
Sure, you can call me bitter and taunted and generally a ‘has been’ or even a ‘wish to have has been’ but I do get some comfort from ideas that I know could still work if …and when the industry was prepared to embrace them.

But, maybe it is OK like this – this industry is stuck where it wants to be.
Who am I to tell anyone not to waste time on (anything to do with) its BIM?
After all, even giants like Google once enthusiastically targeting the global AEC industry (buying, then further developing Sketchup) have given up on it as something far too IT-immature and ruled by anti-innovation bigots to be worth spending efforts on.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The ‘toothpaste’ highway of the (near) future

I drive to work daily, on the Dubai – Abu Dhabi highway.
On this, ‘one-plus a bit of an hour’ drive, I pass numerous highway constructions, where complex spaghettis of roads, bridges and overpasses grow seemingly in front of my eyes.
One cannot be anything but impressed as the skeletons of delicate supporting structures give way to massive piers with snaking road-structures above them, almost daily.
The disruptions to us commuters are minimal, almost non-existent as various scenarios of keeping the ‘flow-through uninterrupted’ are enacted by those in charge of building these infrastructures.

As impressive as these processes have been to watch, on my long drives to and from work, I have often fantasised about the creation of a ‘toothpaste-type’ machinery, suspended on adjustable legs and fed with feather light material that moulded into the correct shape, self-supported in the air needing minimal scaffolding, to then within minutes harden into a material not-unlike reinforced concrete, ready to take on the traffic.

Optimistic, fanciful? Surely, but also why not?
In the country of the ’Tallest building of the World’ and numerous other engineering feats, I often wish I could myself contribute to something revolutionary like the toothpaste highway technology or even something less ambitions but still cool, like a decent way of using digital technologies in day-to-day, ‘normal’ construction.

A week or so ago, there was an announcement that I caught on my drive to work:

“A quarter of buildings in Dubai will be based on 3D printing technology by 2030 under a new strategy launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.”

Hearing the above statement made me feel good about the career prospect for within the region for the next decade or so.  
As ‘a girl’ with moderate skills in a number of aspects of the industry, including reasonable modelling competency, combined with 2+ decades of project/contract and design management, I am very positive about what HH’s goals and plans will do to the industry.
Add to this, that I work on a VIP Project, with Consultants that boast about their global rankings being in double digits and my craving for the ability to innovate within my daily work is sure to get a bit of a boost.

One would think so.
One would expect international engineering consultancies active within the region to jump onto the opportunity of making this vision happen eagerly, and urgently explore ways to partner up with relevant manufacturing entities to secure a good chunk of this future and likely very lucrative market. After all, they are already, by and large making a decent living on pretty average offerings charged at astronomical international rates, greased with juicy per diems .
So, stretching those expensive engineering brains that are busy making hay while the sun is shining a bit further into creative thinking, i.e. to move beyond the millennia old technologies of ‘sticks and stones’ of creating buildings, should not be too difficult and equally serving self-interest to these elite consultancies.

After all, we know that the rest of the global AEC industry is pretty sluggish, might as well put the cream of the expertise where big ideas have the right backing and likelihood of happening, not just ensure that the visiting engineers have the latest model of cars to drive.
I add my support to the 3D printed construction vision!