Friday, June 16, 2017

Confessions of a BIM practitioner of a ‘dystopian leaning'

First, let me introduce you to the term of ‘a dystopian BIM practitioner’.
I never knew I was one of those, until Mr. F recently called me such.
Don’t get me wrong, I was not offended one bit, just got me pondering over the possible meaning of the term.

True, over many years now, I have been cementing my image in the field, as being forever negative about BIM and its immediate prospects to grow, help productivity, cooperation and innovation.
Still, I always laced my grumblings with a some optimism and hidden signs frozen in invisible snow, for ways forward, in even the most of my negative of outbursts in the blog.

Maybe, that wink at a brighter future was missed by others.
Maybe, I have gone a bit too far with criticism of those involved with BIM and overall the outcomes of their endeavors.
Maybe, I hurt too many of well-meaning, little BIM ants.
Maybe.

First, many years before it became live, I predicted, that the ‘British wholesale BIM Mandate’ was not going to work – even though the letters behind the names of those driving it, could complete the entire alphabet, I guessed, that all of them  put together could hardly model a barn or a small outhouse at any LOD, even if their life was depending on it.
Let alone schedule things out of it, or COBie it.
It was a lot of theoretical BS (and I do not mean ‘British Standard’), spread over aggressively in a country always eager to lead the world, and the slight whiff of it is still hanging on. 

Then, I’ve been forever poking pins in the voodoo doll of ‘Building Smart’ and its voodoo baby, the IFC – pointing out all the issues of the BIM equivalent of the ‘United Nations’ trying to run one of the largest global industries, based on a toxic mixture of corruption and ignorance.

Then, I got even more brand specific, called Revit a ‘dog’ (many times) and analyzed/described its impotence in minute details, hurting the feelings of many a follower of that particular software.
(I am feeling really bad about that now, many are good folk, just totally misguided that sold their souls and abilities of critical thinking for the sake of their careers).
My guess is still, that once they, themselves will feel sill, when they truly face up to the fact that for decades, they have been pushing a ‘horse-cart’ under the cardboard mockup of a Ferrari and pretended to be at the forefront of the industry.
(their own children may help in this realization in times to come – comparing the super-duper Revit's lack of capabilities to cheap-or free off the shelf applications these children use).

Bizarrely, I have been even more cruel on my truly beloved ArchiCAD, treating it as a clever and sleek, but mostly useless gadget, when put to the task of shaping the future of the Global Construction Industry.
A often see the direction ArchiCAD is following as if putting a pair of designer, round glasses or a black turtleneck on an (professionally impotent) architect. And selling this achievment to the global AEC world, time and time again, as a true innovation.

Still, rather than thriving to be ‘the Banksy of the BIM world’ (how pretentious that would be!) or secretly dreaming of streaking naked through an international BIM conference with a provocative slogan scribed to a sign,
I do spend substantial amounts of my thinking on positive thoughts and search for the solutions on how the potential of ‘this BIM thing’ could really be realized in this industry, taking into account all of its weaknesses and limitations.

Consequently and purely expressing my own judgment, I think that makes me much more of a BIM-mer of utopian, as opposed to dystopian qualities.

For example, I still believe that ‘paperless construction’ is a viable way to go.
Starting from a smallish, but hermetically controlled (full cycle) construction project and growing it bigger and bigger, it is truly possible to rattle the cage of speculative building practices that thrive globally, given the right people and environments.

I have a fetish for American law dramas, for one reason only.
You do get two sides of any one story, almost no matter what the price of it is, or outcome.
Sure, some may involve weak, court appointed fighters but the fight is still real, two sided, even if uneven.  (I would settle for that in the current BIM arena).

I do everything to make people stop buying into a ‘BIM dogma’.
BIM has long become a dogma? When there is only one way, one solution, one thinking.
The innovation and positive change stooped happening. The truly useful people, left the field.

In summary, me still being here, writing blog-post after blog-post, when I do not feel like writing any more, is not about being positive or negative, dystopian or utopian,

It is to urge people to fight for the ability to, without fear and negative consequences, challenge decisions that cut through the day-to-day life of their work and the future of the industry, that is bloody big.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Debunking another BIM myth: FM enabled BIM models do not automatically pop out of Construction BIM models

For years I’ve been consistently preaching that BIM can be started at any point of a construction project lifecycle and it can be successful. Unfortunately, the level of success is closely linked to skills, motivation, depth of participation etc., but regardless of the multitude of variables, I am still comfortable to state, that given the right tools, people and attitudes any BIM (started at any time in the project) can be made at least cost neutral if not a significant source of savings in time and/or money.

With the potentials of early ‘clash detection’ wearing off a bit, and contractors staying lukewarm on fulfilling their ‘mandated BIM requirements’ let alone strongly leading the field of adoption, promoters of BIM tools and services are nowadays returning to the easiest of ways to convince clients (building owners) to put their money into the black hole of BIM, that is the ‘final’ outcome of the process, the FM-ready models.

In all mainstream BIM strategies, FM models sit at the end of the chain of Ds – numbered from the 6th D onwards, following the 3 spatial Ds, cost and time.
They are often used as the motive (excuse) for forcing BIM onto projects in the first place – i.e. during design and construction. Especially in cases where BIM is not mandated, the contractor not skilled in it and/or the client is reluctant to take the risks associated with the approach, the carrot of an 'FM ready model popping out at the end of the process' is often the one to tip the scales towards doing BIM.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with this approach, especially when one believes in any of the zillion carefully crafted ‘BIM lifecycle diagrams’ on the internet (and presented at conferences by respected BIM specialists - see a random selection below) most of them circular and never ending.

Unfortunately, principles and theories are often at odds with reality and there is a fundamental flow in the above line of thinking, that ‘a’ model will roll around the colored circular board of the host building's lifecycle without a significant ‘waste’ of efforts.

‘Waste of modelling efforts’ is a major ‘thing’ among those that know little of the realities of BIMming but are deeply invested into it. I recall many horrified faces of the past, when I suggested a model get built ‘from scratch’ for one reason or other. One such event I am reminded of daily, as I drive past on the way to work is related to the now almost fully finished Mafraq hospital.

Some 6 or so years ago, there was a huge push to make history with the ‘full BIM-ing’ of the project, mandating it across all disciplines during construction. Having surveyed the skills, capabilities and general environment, I did ask the Project Director of the Main Contractor what was the primary goal of the exercise. (apart from rocketing two shiny-suit BIM experts into regional BIM stardom and discrediting anyone that was brave enough to ask questions – like me).

Her answer was, that the main reason to do BIM, while the construction was going on is ‘to end up with an as-built model ready for FM’.
My suggestion to her then, was to employ a carefully crafted 2D/3D environment for the creation and assessment of shop-drawings (yes, I already was hooked on the concept of ‘virtual’ skeletons) and then, just before the completion of the building, build a NEW FM ready model.
Needless to say, I was laughed out of the door, and soon enough, I lost my involvement on that particular project.
But as I drive past the building complex these days, I do wonder if they have a working/operational FM model in place.

Rather than taking a ‘I told you so’ moment, let me illustrate my point in two ways – one a bit flippant, then with some substantiation;

BIM models are not transformer-action figurines and one must understand that the ‘Horses for Courses’ rule definitely applies when one gets into BIM. A good design BIM does not necessary leads into a good construction BIM (model or process) nor does a successful construction BIM effort finish off (automatically) with a FM ready BIM model.

Therefore, FM BIM models must not be thought of as construction models with another coat of data added to them
It would be like gradually dressing up a bride with all detailed, heavy accessories, jewelry, make up, hairdo, shoes etc. etc. and once she is fully geared up, make her run a marathon in this attire.

On a more serious side, let’s really look at the ‘type’ of BIM models.
I crudely classify them under two groups:
A/ Hi graphics, low data
B/ Hi data, low graphics

In Group A, are the ‘standard’ models most people are familiar with, the ones that change through various LODs from design through construction. Walls modeled by architects morph into construction elements created by contractors, conceptual trusses get replaced by full Tekla models done by steel subcontractors, mechanical zones allocated by designers, filled by highly detailed HVAC elements provided by specialist software used by D&B parties.
Meta data (the non-graphics stuff) can be added into these models but it is rarely done and even less in a controlled manner. (forget COBie).

In Group B, are the models that are rarely made, but have their purpose especially post construction for FM. They are light in graphics for ease of manipulation, but have lot of meta data connected to elements, in various forms, Word documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, website links, movies etc.

In an ideal world, an A type (say LOD 5) as-built-construction model would easily convert into a B type (LOD 300) FM model, but this is not the case, even though various software developers and library manufacturers promote the ability to scale up or down their model parts. Even the concept of ‘purging’ down a construction model to an FM-one is not very practical in reality – once man hours needed to this are compared with those necessary to build a model from scratch.

There just does not seem to be a lot of interest in understanding and resolving this issue within the industry.




Friday, June 2, 2017

The lifecycle of a detail – BIM and butterflies


This post started off as a response to a comment on a previous one, then, coincidentally I had to deal with a ‘what LOD and when to specify – why remodel the same thing over and over – who is doing what – what is the point of it – etc’ type of (very typical) BIM question somewhere else and decided to give another go to bring the ‘fairy tale BIM’ sphere closer to the real world of design, procurement, construction and post construction O&M.

And to do this using a description of the lifecycle of a (fairly) typical construction detail.
Now, anyone with 2 feet on the ground of the real construction world will say, that everything written (and illustrated here) is no rocket science, but common practice.
Yet, a lot of these well-grounded gentlemen (and a few ladies) will make the ‘leap of faith’ when they get sprinkled with the golden dust of the BIM fairy and expect/believe that, the same lifecycle will not happen once linked to the magical BIM box, or if it does, they will have little to do with needing to aid the creature through its development stages, since this BIM will make it all ‘automated’.

Admittedly, my main and real reason for writing this post, is to float (again) the belief that buildings are ‘A set of 3D grids and critical points‘, that define it and the management of those will make the info management of the building succeed or fail, no matter if the approach is fully manual, pure 2D CAD, a forced conglomerate of 2D/3D or a sleek real BIM (of as many Ds you like).

That sentence I just wrote, is a mouthful, but do read it again.
Trust me, zillions of dollars (and other currencies) and just as many man hours are flushed down the loo daily all over the word, because of those involved in the process do not understand this little ‘secret’.

In the past, I tried to use all sorts of parallels to explain this idea, from the ideas of visual skeletons, to coatracks fixed in space, but I still find myself meeting blank stares when I try sharing this as the ‘BIG secret’.
So, today, I will make another attempt to describe the concept of the ‘internal grid’ of a building (any building) through the lifecycle of ‘a detail’ (any detail).

First, a little bit more musing on ‘grids and points’. Grids within buildings are not new and have been used for centuries. Those are the setout lines that drive the way building elements are spaced and relate to each other. These grids are 2D and represented (mostly) in plans. They are then, complemented in the space with the 3rd dimension (that are usually represented by stories and levels). So, with the help of these references, in theory at least, anything within a building could be located exactly within the space.
For a successful project, these references get fixed as soon as it is possible, and are not moved. Ever.

Of course, one must stop here for a moment and note, that in the current world of squashed-up design timeframes, speculative developments and general fluidity of (not just) the design but the brief and even the fundamental end-use of most construction projects, this goal of a permanent virtual skeletong it is often an almost impossible thing to achieve.

Designs evolve, grids get moved, storey levels get changed – entire floors added or deleted etc., in spite of all of that, critical efforts must be made, that the internal grid (skeleton, coatrack) is maintained and controlled. Because, if it is, the rest is sooooooo much easier.
And I mean, everything, getting IFC drawings, as-builts, shop-drawings, or magical, know it all 3-7D (+) models.

So, imagine a detail. Any detail, really, scooped out of a finished building.
Now, think of it as the cliché butterfly from the ‘caterpillar-to-butterfly’ story of your biology classes of the past.

This detail of yours will (must) evolve in a similar way, but with many more stages involved, and a ‘hell-of-a-lot’ more human intervention and a ‘hell-of-a-less’ predictability than its natural parallel.
But, it is still a pretty good example of how any part of a building must to go through its development, no matter what approach you choose, from a traditional Design-Tender-Construct, fast track to D&B.

You can bring in the ‘magic painters’ that will paint the dots on the butterfly early in, but with little use, if your caterpillar is still merrily chewing on the green leaves.
You could try though, to hasten the process by having the ‘dot painting magical painters’ being in the right place when the right time arrives, by say fixing the caterpillar to a certain place so there is no time wasted in chasing it, at the correct time.
I know, this sounds loopy, even to me.

Let’s try again.
Think of a precast wall. Someone (likely an architect) will set out, that ‘a wall’ will be a precast type.
That wall will then (possibly by a structural engineer) chopped into pieces and the sizes determined. Then, likely the pieces will be designed by a specialist subcontractor, who will prepare connection shop drawings for someone to approve.
Before that happens (or in parallel), a main contractor will likely prepare shop-drawings linked to those precast elements piles, connecting slabs, roofs etc. Hundreds of people will be involved in creating drawings, models, drawings-and-models describing this particular wall from the time it was only 2 lines drawn by an expensive pen through (maybe) a smart, but still linear 3D+ wall element, through lines again as a set of plans and elevations to (maybe) a smart prefab model for the specialist subcontractor.

People that devise sophisticated BIM workflows spend a lot of time, trying to line up the above participants and force them to use one, or at least a small number of fully-integrated and compatible models. They go into significant efforts to use and reuse models and not ‘waste them’.
Yet a properly used and discarded model part, like the chrysalis’s shell is totally acceptable collateral ‘damage’. It is the retaining of the critical spatial position of various elements and their critical relationships that will truly guide a wastage of time and efforts.

Aiming for a fluid BIM approach I still see as an honorable goal, but is unlikely to work without, (you guessed) the proper management of the virtual building skeleton (the grids and points).
So, if you want a good BIM manager, you may ask at the interview from the proposed candidate, ‘How he/she maintains the health of her building skeletons?’ (you will need to know what answer to expect too, but I leave that for another time).

As a read through this post, I feel it disjointed and all over the place – so, I do try to pull together a meaningful end. I also look for a good illustration of the point I wish to project here.
Believe it or not, I have practiced this mantra of the ‘sacred skeleton’ I am preaching here for you over at least 2 decades and on hundreds of buildings and have many good examples.
In my search I found a little 3D PDF file that I will share with whoever would like to look at (email zolna.murray@gmail.com) it. You can use LinkedIn messaging to ask for it too.

I hope Naylor Love will not mind me sharing the file, but take the gesture as my nod of compliments to their visionary director Scott Watson, who some time ago walked for a while with us on our journey to reshape the world of construction.

So, rather than giving you a meaningful ending, apart from the message that I sprinkled through the post ad nauseam, I am sharing you an example of a 3D PDF – that was made a good 10 years ago (this is just a ‘make believe one,’ but we made many of real and important buildings too) – an approach and technology I am yet to see anywhere else – even close to it.

Make sure you enable the 3D features of the pdf and remember, it is a PDF.