Monday, May 8, 2017

ArchiCAD 21 – New Stair Tool

Sorry Graphisoft, I can’t get enthusiastic about your new stair tool.
Not just because Andrew Watson (from a place even less known than Palmerston North, NZ – and that means a truly tiny dot on the map of NZ) has created a pretty serviceable stair tool some 15+ years ago and Cadimage had spent over a decade in promoting it and selling it to the ArchiCAD-users’ world, but because, while the stakes are so high in the industry of what way (if any) it should be heading to get out of the dark ages, you could/should be doing some really groovy stuff in showing the way.
Yet, you launch a ‘stair tool’.
I mean, really?
How about a pen -colour manager or layer selector or text aligning tool?
I said it before, and not just once: repackage your product, call it an ‘all encompassing, constructing BIM tool’ and you’ll do more good to the industry than any type of new tool development.
Get out of this comfort zone of “we are the architects’ tool’’ and the ‘designed by architects for architects’, once maybe cool but now extremely dated mantra, and attack the industry head on.
Show us, your party faithful that have stuck with you for 1, 2 even 3 decades, that you still know how to spin the wheels in the industry and will not be relegated to the lower ranks of solution-providers that craft entire road shows around pitiful improvements on previous releases.  
Show us, and the world what you truly are made from!

I know, you do not listen to me, you have never, not over the years.
I know, you do not care about the personal investment of many (like me) that mastered your tools to exceptional levels at high personal price.
You may care a bit (but probably not enough) about the investment companies made into purchasing your tools and shaping their own workflows around it over year (if not decades).
But you should care about the future of your own product as its development, marketing and generally placing on the market is seriously getting off the track, even in ‘safe’ countries like your (and my) ‘own Hungary.

My dear, beloved, ArchiCAD and Graphisoft. Please wake up!
Promoting a stair as the central innovation for this year, really?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The biggest secret, those with vested interest in BIM do not want you to know!

If you are, or have been involved with BIM in any sort of form, move past the cheesy headline of this post and think: are you truly confident that this ‘BIM’ thing is working?

That an approach that arguably has been in existence for 3 or thereabouts decades, had everything going for it in the way of technological developments (hardware, software) and is serving one of the biggest global industries – made almost no impact on the world-and its targeted industry in real (and even less positive) sense.

Sure, people involved in it (including myself) are able to rattle lists of areas where BIM ‘is useful’, ‘may save money…xxxx % or more’, ‘raise productivity’ or ‘help achieve targets’, but these claims are often fuzzy and unsubstantiated and never scientifically quantifiable.
After all, there almost never are two projects available with exactly the same set of base conditions, done in parallel, one with and one without BIM.
And even if there were, who is to say that the personnel of one would not make one work (there are still plenty on non-BIM projects that perform well) or the other fail, for a successful and valid appraisal of the entire approach.

There are many BIM professionals, that have managed to squeeze out a career of BIM, spanning 1-2+ decades and had done well from partaking in never-ending travelling circuses called ‘BIM conferences’. Most have instinctively learned, to fine tune their stories that accompany the same set of 3D slides of pipes, columns and complex staircases, to the ultimate BIM truth, they themselves have figured out: they’d done everything they could, but the industry is ‘just reluctant to change’.

But, that is an easy way out, both for the said practitioners and the industry.
Surely, there is more to it, than ‘just’ accepting that an industry that employs zillions is purely made up of the type of people, that cannot recognize, what is good for them and ‘do as they are told’.

So, here is the secret, I was referring in the headline:
BIM is not working, because, it is a fundamentally an approach designed and built for a ‘collective psyche’ while the industry on all levels (from very small, to very large) works mostly on the success and even more, failure of the ‘individual’.
In an environment where the existence of the individual is constantly threatened, the individual’s focus is on survival as opposed to investing in skills and efforts for a ‘better (BIM) world’.
Sure, some people will train in BIM to enhance their chances of employability, but ‘one Revit modeler will not make global BIM’ not even a hundred thousand of them.
A company, similarly may write an elaborate BIMmisation Plan to enhance its market presence, but all of that is just window dressing, when it comes to true BIM empowerment of the industry.

If one carefully examines the fundamentals of the approach as presented by ‘leading BIM practitioners’ to identify the reasons for its failures, one must wonder if this is some sort of a bizarre, left over virus, that escaped from the dying communist era and is relentlessly sharing the mantra of ‘play together nicely’.
Even more bizarre is that they are targeting the global industry that is probably up there with international politics on its inability to ‘play nicely’, at any level.

So, let me say it simply: BIM does not work, cannot work, unless every part of the organism it is applied to practices it in full. Meaning: buys into the philosophy of it and works it ‘hands-on’.
Let me not elaborate on the exact level of ‘hands-on’-ness here, as there obviously are different levels allowed for different parts of the ‘organism’ but it is important to note as illustration the cliché, that the ‘chain is only as strong as its weakest link’ - or the one that refers to absoluteness as ‘one cannot be partially pregnant’.

There cannot be functional BIM projects with partial uptake – no matter whether they are single houses or international airports. Similarly, companies cannot claim BIM success, with uptake of less than close to a 100%, again, regardless of the scale, a 2-3 people boutique architectural studio or an AECOM-type giant, spanning the globe.

If this claim of mine does not ring true for you, then maybe ‘you’ are better informed than me and have seen ‘real’ improvements in the industry from partial BIM dissemination here-and-there, through selected trainings, single-digit software purchases, pilot projects and government-mandated showcases – or maybe are just blinded by own vested interests in the above trainings, software development etc. etc and unable to see the truth.

Hoping and promoting that ‘gradual’ improvement will lead to high levels of uptake from the above named endeavors, is also false if not straight misleading to those less informed on the topic. If a company of 200 trains 5 people in any BIM software, than the company gets just that, 5 people that had done a training (not even sure that those will grow into anything BIMishly useful).

If an airport project, that employs thousands mandates an ‘evolving BIM modelling approach’ that is created and truly accessible by a small ‘BIM group’ (and often totally out of whack with the rest of the project), than the project is getting exactly that: a handful of people with some modelling skills playing forever catchup within a real project.

In reality, nothing wrong with either as long as everyone knows what they are getting for what.

Let me close on a positive note: I am a BIM believer, have been for 3 decades and I believe that where close to 100% uptake is achieved, its success is inevitable. Nothing less, nothing more.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

(possible) Roles of BIM in managing Variations

Variations are the bread and butter of the industry.
This is, of course not something that people will willingly admit to, after all it gives a bad image to accept that the ‘oil’ of the industry is something that should be eliminated by all logic of fair markets.
Add to this, that for years almost all BIM promoters used the ‘No Variation’ promise to sell the idea of the industry (or at least their direct targets) upgrading to BIM – and considering the advancement of Mandated BIM in recent years by that logic, there should be little left to combine BIM and Variations, apart to keep promoting that when BIM works, no Variations will occur, or if they do, they happen so early in the project that their cost/time impacts are insignificant. (visualize here those curvy graphics that give absolute ‘proof’ to this theory).

Yet, I think that those prepared to analyze and understand the reality of the industry without constantly looking through rose-tinted glasses, and what variations do to all participants on a daily basis will find BIM (in almost any shape or form) useful when tackling variations, regardless of what side of the ‘variation fence’ they may be sitting.

One area is ‘Visualizing Claims’.
Nowadays a claim for a variation (and/or EOT) will include massive numbers of drawings, BOQs, complicated P6 schedules and often lengthy narratives. Yet, a series of screenshots of even a rudimental 3-4D model will tell the same story in a much more powerful way. For the latter to happen, one would of course need someone that had the ability to make or at least manage models, be able to interrogate and eyeball commercial managers, planners, delay analysist and the like, while often being mocked and  looked at as techy-jockeys of pretend-sciences.
Regardless, if one is prepared to go beyond these somewhat unpleasant treatments and persevere and win the support of the claiming – or claim assessing teams – the results could be really pleasing for all.

So, BIM-mers out there with a bit of ‘oomph’ give it a go and plant yourselves within your organization’s Claim teams. Trust me, nothing beats the joy of successfully visualizing a screwed up critical path or uncovering the knock-on effects of a small omission in a Claim. It does help to be highly conversant in modelling and have a good handle on how buildings are put together as well as be aware of the tactics QS-s and Planners usually use to pull the wool over each other’s eyes – but some of these skills can be developed even while the BIM Claim exercises are under way.

The next step of BIM involvement would be assisting in ‘Quantifying Claims’
This part is definitely not for the faint hearted of the BIM practitioners. No matter how much is said in BIM promos on ‘Automatically Getting quantities off BIM models’ – one needs to know how to model ‘construction style’ and derive quantities comparable to traditional BOQs understood by average QS’s. Still, when it works, it works beautifully. In a supporting environment aligning the two sides – construction modellers and claim (creating or assessing) QS’s could be and should be possible.

I kept this post pretty generic, I do know, of course how to write very detailed ‘how to’ instructions, for both approaches (could be called Standard and Advanced version of BIM support to Claim Management); Anyone interested to know more, contact me through my LinkedIn profile.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Playing with fire – the high risk of forcing uncontrolled BIM to vital infrastructural and other important assets

Well, 2016 is behind us.

From the point of big BIM success stories, this was meant to be the big year, the one delivering the UK-spearheaded, Government Mandated ‘solve-it-all’ BIM.
And the plan to set it in motion may have achieved everything it was supposed to do, I am in no position to tell. Years ago, I lost my interest in watching/reading/listening the insincerely fashioned, and over time regularly re-fashioned BIM experts, telling and retelling the same story of how BIM was the big thing, but  only in the way they did it, in the meantime little real improvement was felt in the trenches.

As 2016 was crawling to its kitschy, shiny end, I occasionally did get worried, that by failing to rub myself close enough to the shiny-suits that matter, I will totally miss out on the real action when it finally truly happens in BIM, but somehow also clung onto a philosophy that if things ‘really were happening’ amongst the innovators, some morsels would trickle down to the ones like myself and would entice me on time into pulling on the BIM-fighter clothing again, just to keep putting the proverbial bread on the table.
Based on the evidence of people I meet daily in my real work, I can state, that 2016 has not delivered the ‘BIM revolution’, and it has a long way to go, for it to be able to make any real impact within its host industry.

Based on this perception of the state of BIM, so BIM-apathetic had I become, that my once busy blog – I have all but totally neglected – while its readership is (almost bizarrely) constant (and growing!)

Consequently, I had no intention  in starting the New Year with writing a blogpost on anything BIM-ish when I got out of bed today, and would have likely spent the day mosaicking, had I not just returned from a two week holiday.
A half-a-globe holiday trip on a cheap has its certain characteristics, meaning a lot of airlines and airports have been involved. Watching airline security for hours did something to me.

Strange that, Even the make-believeish part of it, that is visible for the average Joe, like me is not that exciting – one could say. Since 9/11 we have learned not to make silly jokes while being tapped down or up, or mock or treat with understated importance of the officers on duty. Apart from, maybe my mother, who at 76 and having criss-crossed the world a couple of times, still has the guts to place a full size canister of hairspray in her hand-luggage and shrug it off as something she did know once caught. (true story).

OK, I know, we know, everyone knows, that emptying my husband’s 300 pockets 5 times before you let him on the plane; make him pull out his belt while holding up jeans not meant to stand up without them and fishing his laptop from the bottom of a bottomless bag  IS ALL part of a pure psycho- strategy to get us all behave like sheep but believe to be ‘looked after’.  Most of the real security happens behind the scenes, based science and pseudo-science, on algorithms, risk calculations, tip-offs and simply picking up the guys that tend to be trouble, or something like this.

Still, one thing came out of me watching these procedures performed in various location and using numerous languages over the last couple of weeks.
It reminded me of a blogpost (serious one too) that I have been meaning to write for a long time.

So, here we are:
For numerous years Governments internationally have been targeted as the possible biggest beneficiaries of the ‘mainstream’ BIM pushed by the shiny-suits.
These ‘shiny-suits’ being the paid experts of various companies taking on the roles of BIM-pioneers, yet often lacking in appropriate knowledge or experience for such roles.
It is hard to find an airport, metro, hospital, museum, mall sport or cultural centre globally under development  without a ‘living’ BIM plan attached to it and zillions spent on consultant’s fees, on making them look like there was a functioning BIM guiding the process.
According to the shiny suits, BIM is not only supposed to save a lot of money on these undertakings (remember: clash detection) but also bring ALL sub-contractors to create a singing dancing (anything up to 7D) coordinated digital model.
A model that was managed by an often uncertain party (you know, the CAD guy from the main contractor that speaks one of Autodesk’s many languages) while construction going on, and than handled to FM guys to ‘make use’ of all of the charmingly and so aptly named BSxxx, COBIE and other adages given to the model parts by the highly-competent (not) outsourced subcontractor modellers.

While I was still somehow involved in setting up or managing the implementation of plans described above, I often set through ‘cutesy’ meetings where various people in the know, argued about the ‘ownership’ of parts of the model, mostly parts they themselves created and were unwilling to put in the pot. Yet, rarely I remember discussing the security risks on behalf of the owners of the final products of creating, good/or/bad, but still highly detailed, information laden digital replicas of vital infrastructural and other important assets without having a lot of clue on how these files will live on once the buildings are finished. Seldom was it mentioned of the risk of the creation, storing, managing, sharing of data and given believable assurances that sound steps were taken.
So mesmerised (even the otherwise savvy) owners of these BIM mandated-assets by their technological advancement tended to become, that even normal questions of data security was left unasked, and the specialist got away by serving up straight BS mumbo-jumbo to the ones brave enough to ask.

I did have one different experience, more than 10 years ago, where the PM acting on behalf of the Government Client did seriously question the process – to the extent that he wanted to lock up our modeller in a secret location 24/7, but that was definitely the exception to the rule.

So, the point of this blog today is to raise this question, motivate those that write, read and implement ‘War&Peace’ sized BIM Plans for vital infrastructural and other important assets to include realistic, proven, doable sections on how the modelling data will be managed in a way not to get into hands they shouldn’t, or how to behave (the data) when they actually do get into unprofessional hands or people set on causing damage.

The idea of Digital cities have been a tantalising one for a long time, even I’ve seen a city major or two get all teary eyed by the idea of all its infrastructure and building work digitalised, but when this data is managed by quasi experts or those with hidden and questionable agendas, the BIM-thing starts becoming much less of a good idea on a large scale and those acting to protect their clients’ interests should do everything to come up with their knowledge and fill the holes.

Now, I could close this post by saying that I am a perfectly experienced and qualified expert to advise exactly those client representatives, but then, who would believe me?
By no means could I claim to know the answer on every question (just as no other ‘security expert’ could) – but if the questions are not asked, there is little chance of the risks being rightly identified and dealt with.
Seem to be easier to just cross fingers behind ones back and hope everything will be fine.