Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ignorance can be bliss, but should you really flaunt it publicly?

Done it, not quite like running a Marathon, but I’ve completed the year of BIM-blogging.

What did I achieve with it, apart from securing an ‘outlet’ for some of the frustration that would have been most likely bottled up and/or released on people least deserving?

Although my children forbid me telling jokes in front of anyone whose opinion they care about I’m still going to quote one I heard recently:
Chap asks a priest: Father, can I confess?
Priest responds: sure son, you don’t have a FB page?

What good did this commitment to dream up a ‘225 word daily snippet’ do to anyone else?
(got me out of cooking dinner and mostly doing the dishes too).

I learned that the BIM question continues to be a puzzling one, not because it is so hard to make sense of it, but because it DOES make sense and yet remains almost a totally unworkable idea.
It is also the classic case of the ‘tail wagging the dog,’ archaic people, customs, systems and processes running the show with little space left for thinkers and innovators.

I stay positive, helped by little-gems of people and ideas twinkling at me from unexpected places.
Still, let me dedicate this post to those colleagues of mine that start their conversations with:
“I know nothing about BIM but....”

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fight duplication with duplication!

Many of the managers I deal with within the AEC are aware of the perils of data duplication, several make extra effort regularly to minimise those within their day-to-day tasks and the work of those they manage.
Very few observe and/or are capable to distinguish between good and bad duplication, in fact very few would ever contemplate the premise of a ‘good duplication’.

I wrote previously about using modelling redundancy to achieve better project information integrity.
Not a novel idea, many other industries use it successfully by duplication selected functions to increase reliability (and accuracy in our case).
In the BIM world, sometimes you should have two (or even more) parties modelling exactly the same thing, or run a system where the same information comes from two different places, originated by two different entities.

Most people find this idea not appropriate and ill-fitting when applied to AEC projects.
I used to go to great lengths to highlight the unmanaged duplication that goes unnoticed and compare the cost/risks these carried with the minimal (perceived) cost increases that ‘managed’ duplication added to a project.
I no longer bother explaining this, you either get it or you don’t.

Still planning to build in-house BIM capability?
Here is a tip:
Teach your middle managers Word, Excel and Power-point or employ ones that already know how to run those programs.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lifecycle BIM – Yeah, right!*

I am preparing material for an FM-conference, will be presenting on the subject of BIM with regards to its relationship to FM.

If I was a cynical person (thankfully, I am) I could argue that BIM has ‘suddenly and seriously’ started eyeing the FM/OM end of the construction process because it miserably failed to make much progress in the construction part.
This fiasco followed another major, unsuccessful group-of-efforts focused at the design end.
I read and classify this move as an ‘upping the ante’ a bit every time, raising further the stakes without the benefits of successfully completing previous levels.

Sort of like, let’s climb Mt Everest since we failed to pull ourselves up on Mt Maunganui.
(the weather was too hot, the mountain too steep, we were too tired and had better things to do).
It has always made more sense for us to aim for the highest mountain, anyway.
Looking at the big picture, lifecycle and all!

It is considered a major ‘letting down of-the side’ by me, when I state, both that BIM could be (and more importantly often should be) done at the end of the construction process rather than using a badly-built ‘construction BIM’ and, that selling BIM with FM as the ‘carrot’ is hugely misleading and usually counterproductive.

Still get invited to conferences, can’t be that bad a traitor.

* there has been a hugely successful campaign running for years in NZ by the Tui Brewery based on/around this saying – it became a ‘common phrase’ (may have been that before too, the ads definitely promoted its use in the common language);

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not strictly BIM: the nerdy cup!

“Jonny, get up!” Is the Hungarian name of a toy, that works on the principle of self-righting itself whenever someone tries to knock it over, thanks to a strategically placed weight in its bottom.
It is often depicted as a clown or a doll with a nicely rounded backside.
The concept is also used by designers of drinking-cups for toddlers.
I wish someone had commercialised the adult version of this drinking vessel, many a computer would have its electronic life extended by it.
Have tried locating one on the net but found only speakers, toothbrushes and standing-lights benefiting from the physics of their counterweights.

Staying with computers, still not exactly BIM:
I was sad/surprised to learn a couple of days ago how all the lugging of two laptops and an obscenely-heavy power-unit (for the HP) had done little good to my arm-muscles and totally failed to help me pull myself up on a 1.5m high wall.
I got locked out of our house and repeated bell-ringing, yelling, treats and threats failed to get my youngest daughter to open the front door.
I peered longingly at the wide open back door over the previously mentioned concrete fence-wall, while numerous neighbours prepared for Christmas Eve celebrations.

Talk about embarrassing.
Not as much as pouring a large cup of tea over two laptops though.
In a single sweep.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BIM = The ArtS AND ScienceS of making buildings

Middle daughter is contemplating going down the route of studying architecture in the future, so with husband they discuss the list of subjects she’d need to take while still at high school to be able to apply.
I’m in two minds about whether I should en-or-dis-courage her, thankfully, (and admirably) at least I do not straight out ‘forbid’ her or indeed any of them to follow a chosen career path.
Unlike their father who has been talking them out of ‘teaching’ from the age they started role-playing.

Architecture requires its practitioners to have both sides of their brains equally well developed. By no means the only profession to do so, still probably one of only a few.
You mention chemistry, physics, geometry and visual-arts in one sentence and not many teenagers will stick around.
You tell them that it takes a lifetime to master the skills needed for one to be a good architect and they’ll think you’re pulling their leg.

While we collectively mulled over this subject, an unexpected answer came to mind, in response to why was it so difficult finding good BIM-mers in the AEC?
Good BIM-mers, (just as good architects) must be equally talented in both arts and sciences to be successful...
And ADD to ‘the injury’: they need to have an aptitude towards IT.
A combination even harder to find.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dr Vera and seeing the world from the bottom up...

Dr Vera was a friend of mine that almost 2 decades ago arrived to New Zealand with a medical degree she was unable to practice with. She did get her paperwork eventually recognised and specialised in obstetrics but not before she had done her share of low-level immigrant work.
She worked in a fish shop, she knitted jumpers for sale.
Hundreds of jumpers, indeed.
When she finally was allowed to deliver babies at the local hospital, she credited the masses of knitwear produced that honed her knitting skills for the ability to work quickly and efficiently on women post childbirth.

The moral of this story? Well, sometimes the experiences you thought were the least useful to you bring you the most benefits in life.
My equivalent to Dr Vera’s knitting is contract-drafting.
I had done a lot of it, as a new immigrant, often for very low pay and for some dodgy companies.
And that is exactly where I earned my BIM stripes.
There and working with builders and their quantity surveyor project managers.
I credit a pair of particularly eager-to-please-the-boss QS-es combing through my documentation while building a house I designed, with giving me the best lessons on BIM.
Combing and combing through my earnestly modelled and drafted-on drawings to find even the last measly variations and slap me in the face.

Thank you!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmases in sand and snow...

All in all, I don’t travel much.
Have been in the UAE for 18 months and had not got to Al Ain yet, a town not that far and definitely worth a visit.
Still, when it comes to Christmases I’ve been fortunate to experience many shades of it;

Winter and cold
Self awarding a break from exams in my twenties and taking the last train on Christmas Eve to the village of my friend’s parents’.
Walking the 2km-es from the dimply-lit train station to their house through knee-deep snow while treasuring the experience of seeing the heavily-laden Christmas trees twinkling behind laced curtains on our way.

Summer and warm
Scooping up a bottle full of metallic-magnetic-black sand on a beach in my late thirties, suffering from morning sickness all day and watching the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean, while husband is practicing his trumpet for the family New Year’s party we’ll be going to.

Summer and cold
Shivering on the inter islander-boat in my early forties, watching the green cliffs of the Marlborough Sounds slide by the slowed vessel due to over-zealous regulators’ eagerness to run the world. Reminiscing of the honeymoon spent on a magic spot, accessible by water only and now infamous for a high-profile double-murder.

Winter and warm
Past my mid-forties, celebrating with the immediate family, near the desert.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I’ve inadvertently engineered a cat-head out of my web statistics.

I must use my ‘last’ days to float the most boring topics related to BIM, to prevent the cat gain a third ear just before the end of December.
I do not need to lose any sleep over the subject, the trend is definitely downwards, my post regarding the emergence of the ‘ideal’ BIM client yesterday received only a lukewarm welcome.

I think it does deserve another mention:
Hardly ever do I come across a self-proclaimed BIM expert that does not put ‘educating clients’ as a number-one priority on the road to widespread BIM adoption.
The notion of a homogenous group of people (entities) that sit in rows of undersized desks, eyes peeled on a blackboard, eagerly waiting their BIM enlightenment from the above mentioned specialists is something they believe in, I’m certain.

Lo and behold when the pupils turn out to be an unruly bunch, unprepared to be spoon fed, worse even, demanding credentials from the teaching crew, wanting proof to their claims to be at the forefront of the topic.

This picture imagined puts a smile on my face and reinforces my HOPE in the sector to drive this BIM where it needs to be:
‘A cutting edge toolset that not everyone can use and/or get.
Something that the smart cookies of the industry will have to get one over on the others’

Friday, December 23, 2011

The end of the year brings The Hope!

He came in a creamy coloured kandura and blew my socks off.

May not have struck others present as the representation of the ‘ideal AEC-client’ by any official-or-unofficial measure.
I certainly could see in-him the drive for a hard bargain and am sure he employs it with anyone and everyone that crosses his paths.
Still, for the time being he jumped into the role of the human-representation of what an ideal BIM client should be, for me.

He had what very few of my clients ever had: ‘a good bluffometer’.
Don’t confuse this with pure business ability, I’ve had the pleasure to deal with many of those smart, savvy operators getting the best out of the AEC, skilfully turning any situation into their own benefit, no matter of what side of the property bubble they were in.

Even the concept that the entire industry on an international level is running on the principle of “Make it up as you go” is not that well kept secret for many, so labelling various professionals serving him from design teams with unkind epithets would on its own not awe me as much as the kandura-clad Doctor had. (i.e. ‘stupid engineers’).

His proactivity astonished me!
I wishpered to Daniel (BIMES) the question: “Where did you find him?”
Daniel’s response was: “He found us!”

There is hope for BIM yet!

Picture borrowed from Dr Najeeb Mohd. Al Nuaimi’s presentation at the First Annual Conference in the ME on BIM;

Thursday, December 22, 2011

‘I told you so’

I’m sad to say but all the opportunities that keep popping up where I can say the ‘I told you so’ are losing their attractiveness.
In fact they are turning into predictably boring. Or boringly predictable?
Either way, not something to use as a springboard to launch a fresh set of New Year’s resolutions. The new ones, BTW I’m going to keep quiet about to save myself from publicly committing to something that will haunt me throughout the year.

On the other hand, there ARE certain advantages in involving the world as one’s own conscience, a Jiminy Cricket to a reluctant Pinocchio and – “Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide!”.

I’ve been observing a project recently, from a reasonable distance, where the bar was set very high and announced to the World with a tremendous drum roll!
Something on the lines of: doing a huge BIM project with very thin BIM resources in a highly challenging environment to such standard that the
“project’s end results will be the benchmark to which all building owners, project managers and contractors in the region strive to achieve with their projects.”

Now, I call this having balls!
Petty it is not going to work, but that is just going to be another mark on my “I told you so” wall of shame and that gives me pleasure no more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The irritant has been slowly creeping up the chain...

I will not be offended if you tell me, that the title made you imagine me inching up a (chain) rainthingy... I CAN be irritating.
But as any good oyster-farmer will argue, sometimes what you need most is an irritant to get things going.
In more PC worlds, they may refer to the agent as a ‘catalyst’, I prefer the former.

This picture of a ‘climbing annoyance’ forms in my head as I watch another rendition of the graph of the ‘Chasm between early adopters and laggards’ getting flashed up on 3 simultaneous screens within the room.
Yes, I’m still reflecting on the conference from last week.
Numerous well regarded speakers presented on BIM from various angles and as almost always on such events this parabolic-graph came out at least once.
While I am fond of the shape (reminds me of the Elephant in the Snake’s tummy – re Little Prince) I am not convinced of its usefulness to understanding where BIM is.

I’d amend it, add another stage to the graph, or create another graph altogether showing the build up of frustration as the indicator of the level of adoption likely to be happening in the future.
I’d also explore how nuisance, aggravation, pain, identified within project delivery systems changes through the hierarchies and its impact on successful BIM adoption experienced within the company.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Universal format for BIM libraries?

BIM is a ‘group sport’ – not particularly well suited for the ‘lone-rangers’ roaming in it, wanting to make a difference.
Both success and failure depend on the quantity and quality of data available for BIMmers to play with, an environment hard to achieve for any one-entity on their own, regardless of size.
Even a super-powerful, super-rich and super-committed operation will struggle building up a database that will let them play meaningful ‘super games’.

Consequently, almost everyone within the field will quickly recognise the need to share the tasks out across the board and to charge building material manufacturer- and supplier companies with some.
I have dedicated numerous posts to this subject.
I believe that this part of AEC has a huge role in content creation.

The question is in the format of libraries offered:
Should manufacturers and suppliers of AEC products be taking more interest in creating IFC-formatted representations of their products?

What would then a pervasive use of IFC-objects do to the overall development of BIM?
Would it encourage fit-for-all, low intelligence development with large volumes but not great substance?
Or, would it move current BIM ‘modellers’ away from own content-creation skills and focus their efforts onto better manipulating IFC formatted objects instead?

Hard to know.
Will widespread practice of reheating of pre-frozen meals replace the need for full blown kitchens in the future?

Monday, December 19, 2011

“I expected a younger audience”

David Wilcox said, while waving a conference brochure from 1985 to the participants of the latest BIM event I went to.
If he anticipated a hip audience in their twenty-somethings, that were only just alive when the early BIM he was referring to came to the market, he would have been disappointed.
The roomful of addressees in their solemn and predominantly black, Sunday-bests were mostly David’s contemporaries.

Equally ‘cool’ was the reception when numerous other speakers’ kept alluding to the dangers our industry was facing, because at present we ignored the needs of those we may hope to employ in the future.

I have plenty times attempted to persuade my peers in the industry to pay more attention to how their children communicated these days to be able to read from the faces of those present that they were unconvinced.
I could just about quote their thoughts ‘verbatim’, list the various shades of “no way we are going to be driven by today’s teenagers’ actions” and “I had to earn my stripes through hard work, they will need to, too”...statements solidified into cynical-smirks they had not even attempted to hide.

From all of the misguided excuses people use for dodging BIM, these kinds amuse me most.
Where do these people live?
Don’t they ever come across teenagers?

Eldest daughter is turning 21 today. Happy BD Barbara!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

“We looked around in the market and found nothing that would fit...”

...was the reoccurring theme for many of the speakers at the conference I went to a couple of days ago....followed by an inevitable...”so we built the toolset from scratch”.
It made sense. And did not.

I wrote previously how I could not see ‘backyard’ or even professional-but-small-scale program writing feasible anymore and that the baseline expectation of a ‘standard’ user of any digital tool is so high that customisation of mainstream, off-the shelf products should be considered first.
Can’t say that the glimpses into a number of these in-house tools did much to unsettle me in my conviction.
Some quite  clever-looking, potentially very useful but the way to go?
Doubt it.

If we have only shonky tools at our disposal, we are partially to be blamed for the sorry affair.
We collectively, as an industry assisted or failed to assist various software developers reach their potential and/or meet our needs.
Truly useful instruments, systems and approaches do not tend to develop in isolation from practice, they rarely pop-out fully formed, but are often results of endless tinkering.
Even with very limited programming knowledge, I find it very hard to accept that it is worthwhile investing in a self-sufficient, noncore-business, technical arm for any AEC based company, as opposed to putting the boot (so to speak) into the existing tool-makers and get them to perform better.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pay attention to the ones missing!

At the latest ‘first’ conference I went to recently, there were representatives from (almost) across the AEC.
Manufacturers and suppliers of materials and products were (again) mostly ignored and highly under-represented, which was unfortunate. I see them as a crucial party in bringing BIM to anything close to reality.
Even if invited, I speculate, most of those companies probably declined to join, on the premise of having just blown the annual promotional budget on entertaining thousands of ‘tire-kickers’ at the BIG5 held in Dubai, marketing their fares in a glitzy-yet-disappointingly ordinary way.

Oh, for the missed opportunity!
Throughout the two days, the conference chair repeatedly referred to building-owners and contractors as ‘bookends to the construction process’, and placed design consultants somewhere in the middle, as ‘the’ books.
Industry organisations and the academia were not consigned a role within this imaginary-bookshelf, thankfully they were all still there.

I wish the organisers laced their speaker’s line up with some innovative manufacturers, fortify the summit with intelligent product suppliers’ intelligent virtual construction products.
Give it some real ‘content’!
It was ‘buildings’ they were talking about after all, bits of concrete, steel, glass, ceramics!
Think, what a tiny percentage of the money spent collectively on trade-fairs could do, to boost the slim offering of real, meaningful libraries for BIM-practitioners, should the manufacturers and suppliers chose to redirect their efforts!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The telltale PowerPoint

Went to another BIM conference this week.
Should not call it ‘another’ since it was a ‘first’ of its kind, firmly indicating this intent in the title:
First Annual Conference in the Middle East: BUILDING INFORMATION MODEDLING (BIM).
Not a bad two days after all, set-for and aimed at the middle-to-bottom level of the ‘BIM-informed’ folks of the AEC, it still provided plenty of breadcrumbs for me to follow through in the next couple of days to fill my daily bloggy quota.

The obvious target for the old, ‘give-a-dog-a-bone,’ in me would be the ‘role and influence of technology’ in the event itself, how it helped and hindered its success considering again the theme and central point of the summit.
While plenty on offer to chew over that particular subject, I’ll park it for a while and go for an ever more obvious ‘sitting duck’:
The good ol’ Power Point.

Consider these questions:
Why do people with 20-30-40+ years of distinguished carrier repeatedly fall into the traps this simple-yet-ingenious tool sets for them?
Why do they fill up tens of slides with densely written text and read it up to the audiences time after time, speaker after speaker?
Why do they ignore the facility to help them stay on course and finish on time using self timing of slides?
Why don’t they rehearse beforehand?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kitchen planner: clumsy but honest

Having worked in BIM for many-years and been regularly subjected to hot-air type of marketing by software vendors, I really appreciate when I come across an honest operator that is prepared to say things the way they really are.

I was playing with the ALNO kitchen planner when I got the little message that so pleasantly surprised:
You have maximised the application window (yes, indeed, I had done just that);
If the application crashes, (did not for me but obviously does for some) please restart the programm (sic) without maximising the application window.
Followed with the OK button. (no question mark by it, should consider adding one, maybe even two optional responses too, like: Fine then! and No way!)

A long-lost acquaintance has found me recently on Linkedin.
An architect and someone I studied with, he did not enquire about my work and/or life not even about my family’s health or happiness;
His first message related to my Linkedin byline: Model based BIM practitioner
Are there other ‘based’ BIMs as well? That people can practice in/on, around?’ he asked.
Of course there are, I responded, we, the ones really concerned with the model are the minority in the field.
The rest are career BIM-ists, one needs to be cautious taking advice from them.
The smoother their talk, the hotter the air in their balloon is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My BIMblog and the books I’m reading

While rereading Jonathan Franzen’s book ‘Freedom’ over the last couple of weeks, the recognition of my own traits’ in his heroine’s mock self-depreciation made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
I could see myself in this blog using an amateur version of Patty Berglund’s sense of humour minus JF’s literary brilliance, of course, let’s keep it suitable modest.

Almost a year of winging and wining in ‘DebunkTheBIM’, no wonder my anonymous fan found it so difficult to follow the posts. (not that it stopped him/her, just made the experience very painful, I presume from the comments still landing occasionally).
I sympathise. Or empathise? Whatever.

Look at it from my angle: Once I committed to find the ‘holy grail’ of BIM, I was sort of stuck.
At the end of the day, how many different ways could I say, that:
The methods of task-sharing used on AEC projects are preventing the successful implementation of BIM...
...while widespread implementation of BIM is essential for the ‘creation of buildings’ to become better, more economical and sustainable.
And stay profitable.
Or become profitable again, provided no property bubble comes to save our skins and profits in a non-BIM, easy to digest way....

I’m into Dawn French’s novel now, ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’;
Another varyingly mild but sometimes heavily-sarcastic, self-depreciating heroine to entertain me.
Must be the fashion these days.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ask me what my job is...

... and I’ll tell you that I am re-using the bits of a broken-down car to make a working aeroplane.
Don’t take this as me wanting to insult anyone involved, as the bits that will not make the car go, can on their own be of pretty high quality. They can and they are.
That is what keeps me going.

On some days. On those days I tend to brush the rust off the almost obsolete parts, polish them to their original brightness and marvel at the potential they express.
One by one first, then put together in various clusters.
A windscreen wiper, a revived gear box, an exhaust pipe given a new life.

On some other days I eyeball my tasks and while aware of the futility of my action I pile the tarnished elements into groups, attempting to make some sense of the material I’m left to work with.

When our middle daughter was little she used to say “doing, doing” a lot, her answer to any question with regards to what she was up to.
In honour of the perpetually busy two year old, the concept of the ‘doing, doing’ mentality stuck with me forever.
By now it gained a less than cute undertone, for it implies to me that people are ‘working hard’ and getting nowhere.
Like a pile of car-parts.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How we pay for software

Friends complain about Facebook and the way it treats their personal data. They feel violated, robbed and cheated.
Fair enough! They also use their Facebook pages to let the world know just how appalled they are with this practice.
Good! Free speech, democracy in action! The consumers fight back....
Hmmmm.... Is this so clear cut, really?
Facebook is a medium, a platform that one voluntarily joins (still) even if it is a bit harder to leave.
It offers hundreds of services to millions of people at no direct cost to users.

Does ‘a free lunch’ exist after all?
Not really. The time has come that we face up to the fact that everything we get, we pay for one way or other. Or we should.
And when we think we are not, we still are.

For years the story around the AEC had been that Autodesk ‘willingly’ tolerated piracy of its software, furthermore thanks to this practice AutoCAD became the ‘standard’ toolset of the industry.
Even if Autodesk had done OK despite (or because of) millions of crack AutoCAD packages in action, the industry suffered long term from this, I’m certain.

I’ve been a stickler about having properly licensed and up-to-date software in my office most of my career, to an extent that was often a huge burden for my little enterprise to stay afloat.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

‘Now, that IS clever!’

I thought, examining the little office-kitchen object.
I found it in Archicad’s Object Depository while searching for something else.
Created by Tibor Szolnoki and uploaded in 2006 (5 years ago!) it is a very smart example of good object-making.
Strangely enough it was not the high-level of parametric-versatility nor the clean interface that delighted me most, but the automatic/simultaneously updating ‘projection dump’ it also offered.
The object was obviously designed to be used within Archicad and supposedly by professional kitchen designers, yet the ‘output stamp’ was so highly pre-created that anyone with access to the software could make use of it.
Must have been a flop – I found no recent updates.

As a significantly different take on the same task-set, ‘kitchen (and other room) planners’ have been the first examples of attempts to create technically clever yet easy to use branded applications aimed at both professional and amateur designers.
I wrote about IKEA’s example before, following the ‘bread crumbs’ of the office-kitchen object on the www took me to another: ALNO’s, built on a similar concept.

Numerous other companies have gone down this track recently, ditching the idea of writing objects (families) for ‘mainstream’ BIM packages, opting for stand-alone applications.
While I supported their pro-activity in the past in principle, the said approach now feels like a dead end road.
Bring back the clever objects!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

For the argument’s sake: let’s assume I was a smart woman.

Not that convinced of the above myself, I need to state it as a given, otherwise the theory I’m about to outline is not-worth considering:

BIM is useless without raising the level of integrity of the (construction) project-information.
Integrity of project-information cannot be raised without ‘robust and timely’ project data verification in place.
Robust verification cannot happen, or definitely not in an efficient/timely manner without the project’s middle-management getting their hands dirty and manipulating the data in a direct way.

Useless = costing extra w/o bringing in much value-for-money
Integrity of the project information = transparency; allows for the project management to have a finger on the pulse; know scope, timing, responsibilities, finances anytime, anywhere;
Verification = nominated parties are held responsible for the status of the data, anytime, anywhere.
Hands dirty = all decision-makers are able to assess, manipulate, filter and extract data without help; Anytime, anywhere.

The need to do an insanity check on someone putting this theory forward has two sides to it:
On one side, it is all very logical and many would argue to be doing exactly this.
On the other side, it is an impossible idea to deliver on.
I just have to think of a selection of the ‘middle-managers’ (construction, architecture, engineering) whom I had the pleasure to interact with over the last decade and I give up.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Remember Archie?

In my spare time I make lists of characteristics the ideal Archie will one day have.
(the core ones I identified in my post from the 1st of October, others are added and deleted daily, depending on my moods and work related experiences).
But I no longer think of calling the little, virtual construction man Archie.
A new idea has popped up recently: How about Rivet?

Ok, it is not original. I have seen the word in numerous BIM related job searches
(I do those just to keep up with where the market is), but it is such an appropriate name!
This would definitely put the spanner in the wheels within the AEC!
A construction modelling programme called “Rivet!”.

You’d be hard pressed to know who is mocking whom, and get all the free publicity from people mis-pronouncing the name of the toolset forced onto them by their CAD department!

Mischievous thoughts aside, I still hope that someone soon will take on the task of creating a real construction modeller.
It is such a sad state of affairs to work in a digitally orphaned industry where hardly anyone bothers to put some programming effort into.
Where hand-me-downs from consultants get rebranded and passed on as customised.
Where the software makers just don’t seem to be having any idea on what we, the users need.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

To BIM train or not to...

I still remember clearly how I first learned AutoCAD. From a book, step by step, in DOS.
I give the authors the credit for they started me straight on 3D, no mucking around with Flatcad in the early 90s.
The chair I created within the first chapter was a bit like the picture accompanying this post.
Times have changed, no longer have I got the will or patience to follow a step-by-step guide to learn a software from scratch.
‘Can I figure it out?’ Is the minimum threshold for establishing the usability of a package for me these days. This attitude may come across as arrogant, but it is still a far cry from what new, much-younger-than-me users will be showing towards various teaching methods offered to them in the years to come.
Actually, I’m faced with a bit of this mind-set even these days, the young don’t care much for training, while the old expect everything to be broken down into easily digestible portions and spoon fed.
Reality is somewhere in between – to get into BIM one needs some basic training, then practice and support.
Lots of practice and lots of support.
How much exactly of each depends on where you’ve come from, how much you’re prejudiced, your views pre-coloured.
Sometimes I give this advice:
“You don’t need training, you need a complete brain-defrag!”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

OM/FM is the new spring, not the old summer in the BIM-model’s life

Despite of the everyday chaos of AEC projects, there is something profoundly beautiful about the way information matures through the delivery process, and I like to describe it as ‘mimicking natural changes within-seasons’.
A BIM approach used well allows for the model to adapt to these changes.

It functions like a tree, the trunk and branches form the solid base of information to be referenced to. Grids, levels, origins.
Just like a tree that grows its flowers and leaves in the order of priorities, a good BIM model will develop and refine its elements in order of importance too. Taking into account long-lead items, various weather constrains, site limitations.
Just like the tree, it will bear its fruit in summer.
The parallel gets a bit tricky when the project is completed and the building starts its operational phase.

Promoters of BIM like to brand this stage as the one where the well developed model is ‘FM-ready’.
I like to ask for time-out.
This is not the time the fruit is borne. We are passed summer.

The OM/FM model needs serious clean up, redefining, often rebuilding from scratch.
Those that have battled through sunshine/wind/rain to get their little buds turn into rotten fruit, yellow leaves and bare branches may rightly feel disheartened.
But this is not the end.
It is the beginning of a new cycle.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

“Insurance is all about risk management”

...Says Walid Shidani in his interview given to Rupert Wright, this week.
Mr Wright’s weekly column in the National is one of three reasons that make our little investment into the paper’s annual subscription worthwhile. The other two are the crossword and the designer sunglasses that I would have never bought had it not been for the ‘free’ subsidy that came with the subscription.
But, back to insurance...

Earlier in my BIM promoting phase I naively believed that the insurance industry, specially the part related to construction would welcome the development of BIM based tools and services with open arms.
Soon enough I had to face the fact – not only could most of the insurance agents I talked to hardly spell the three-letter-acronym, with no exception, they all advised me to review my own PI insurance cover, if I was to dabble in such fringe activities.
Nowadays many agents believe that BIM is a liability to practitioners and I have not come across one that would recommend developers and/or public owners mandate BIM processes on their projects in order to reduce or better manage risk.

“Insurance is all about actuarial forecasting...” Mr. Shidani reveals in the above mentioned interview.
For me, the high level of transparency BIM can bring to construction projects makes it an ideal risk-management and forecasting tool.
Should be promoted as such.

Monday, December 5, 2011

There is some advantage to working in a stale industry...

The risk of me waking up one morning to the news that all the problems that have been bugging me for some time, have been solved by someone else over-night, is extremely low.
No sleepless nights are endured because some revolutionary system may be potentially bubbling in a lab with the intent to upset my steady, apple cart of ‘changing the world, one-person-at-the-time’.

Still, I do regret the unlikeliness of a morning dawning to the discovery of a super-duper-clever model-verification toolset having popped onto the market and spreading over the AEC like a storm.

On a more modest scale, I could get pleasantly surprised by the main ‘claiming to be BIM’ vendors coming up with some smart ways of codifying information within their models according to their status. A bit like the various methods now distinguish “renovation” and “new build”, the source of the information and consequently its status could also be tracked and automatically filtered.
I know we could/should and probably will achieve the same results through custom coding, adding tags or parameters to tools/objects and scheduling them.

It is just a bit strange to have these vendors/service providers descend onto the construction industry like they were ‘the heroes everyone’s been waiting for’, without applying an effort to understand how information matures through the construction process, and what their model could do to help?!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

“Shifting planes always implicitize a surface of revolution”

...Is a slightly weird title of an article*.
I’ve borrowed it because of relevance to my topic, today. First, I really liked the way it connects ‘shifting planes’ with the idea of a revolution brewing under the surface. Then, I got intrigued by the word ‘implicitize’, fully convinced such word did not exist (and the MS spell-checker was with me on this one), so I looked it up and it DOES one thing led to another and...

Actually, the original question I was going to put up was:
Why do planes (floors) shift away from their original locations when exported out of Revit as IFC 2x3 files and imported into 3 different applications?
I wrote on ‘twisting columns’ recently and received some assistance in principle.
These shifting planes are even more interesting then the twisting columns, for two reasons:
ONE: floors are supposed to be ‘system families’ in Revit, I’d expect them to behave more predictably then hosted ones (what I believe columns were);
TWO: the same issue occurred on three very different projects, created by three very different companies over a six month time span.
... but then, do not worry too much. It all got fixed up.

The helpful chap at the tech-support located the patch I needed and following the download/installation, the planes no longer shift from their places.
Sleep easy.

* Shifting planes always implicitize a surface of revolution
Author:  Eng-Wee Chionh  School of Computing, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117590 
Published in:
· Journal
Computer Aided Geometric Design archive 
Volume 26 Issue 4, May, 2009
Elsevier Science Publishers B. V. Amsterdam, The Netherlands, The Netherlands

Saturday, December 3, 2011

BIM and corruption

My adopted country again made it to the top of two, ‘best of something in the world” lists published this week.
Auckland and Wellington came in high as the best cities to live in, and New Zealand is in first position as the least corrupt country in the world. Denmark and Finland are tied second.

I’ve never been to Finland or any of the other Nordic countries. I hope I’ll get there someday, am very fond of their architects and architecture.
Finnish has been associated with my mother tongue Hungarian and while that theory has been discredited lately, I enjoy interacting with fellow professionals from Scandinavia.

At the buildingSMART gathering last week, the esteemed director from Finland expressed his faith in public building-owners as the main catalyst to bringing BIM into mainstream.

If one was a fan of simple cause-effect theories, one could follow this line of thought:
Non-corrupt countries have public building owners of high integrity that ask for their buildings to be delivered fully model-based.
Thus, NZ as number one non-corrupt country in the World will have for public owners the MOST BIM friendly clients on the planet.
So, if you want success in BIM, go to NZ!
Not me though....Fifteen or so years of running businesses there taught me to sometime value the obvious and clean-cut one, over the perceived ‘non’ corruption.

Picture: Thinkstock

Friday, December 2, 2011

BuildingSMART going backwards? (Do not look for round trip-tickets here any more!)

Went to a buildingSMART gathering last week, driven by curiosity about the new version of IFC.
The technical director of the local chapter was enlightening us on the developments.
And enlightened us he did, presenting a complete ‘u-turn’ to the approach they promoted up to very recently.
It was refreshing to hear someone in-the-know publically backing away from the utopistic idea of a central database and a single project model.
Disappointing nevertheless as I personally believe in the integrated database.
Phases, stages, uses, disciplines and functions can and should be all pointing to ONE place.

There are and will be limits on size, speed, access but these should not be the drivers, rather the challenges that need to be worked through.
Just as I said previously, at some point of my life there may be numerous medical specialists having an interest in my ‘left ear’ it is still only ‘one’ ear and should stay with me.

As a counter argument, you can say, it is the ‘information’ about the ear we are concerned with, it can sit in hundreds of different places, fragmented or coordinated, will not hurt the ear.
Or will it?
Actually, the case of my left ear is not that appropriate for another reason: it already “exists” (thank Goodness) as opposed to being planned for as most buildings in this context are.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Biased and proud of it

92% into fulfilling my pledge to produce a BIM-blog-post-a-day for a year, the “results” are interesting:
The post that received by far* the most hits has been the one where I declared my deep devotion to the ‘Archicad Marquee’.

One can argue, that I promoted the blog heavily on Archicad based forums, I claim to have been even handed on self-promotion from the very start of blogging, if the scales tipped to favour one over the other, that was not of my making (or intentional, anyway).
Somehow I stumbled on something quite critical. Something that first occurred to me more than a dozen years ago when I still drove AutoCAD as a pro too: Archicad was made for the thinkers and doers, the hands-on solution makers.
I use some other smart packages daily, DE, Tekla and even Revit (yes!) ‘blow my socks off’ regularly with unexpected (or previously unknown to me) abilities.
I may be prejudiced but I do usually give credit where it is due.
When I’m charged with making decisions about a project I consider all relevant factors, and based on the particular circumstances Archicad may not get shortlisted at all.

Still, when I put on the hat of the ‘virtual design manager/construction coordinator’, I go for Archicad.
Multi directional section lines and/or clipping-planes just won’t do, if you’ve ever known the Marquee.

* ratio of post ‘popularity’: about 3 to 1 for the Marquee compared to the second in place

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You need to be smarter to document buildings in 2D than in 3D.

Properly documenting that is, rather than ‘just drawing’.
Using orthogonal projection-rules faithfully and making sure everything is fully resolved and defined.
Coordinated, sorted, kept up to date, throughout the project’s lifetime, regardless of the interfering circumstances.
In fact it is so difficult that almost no-one does it any more.
Furthermore, this has been going on for so long and all over the world that the skill-set required for 2D based (proper) documentation has almost totally died out.

The industry has compensated for the loss by evolving the ‘pit-bull engineer’.
A creature weak on the technical side, strong on persuasion, will ‘manage’ him/herself out of any tricky situation both in the design office and on the construction site.
Helped by a string of construction bubbles dominating the AEC environments over the last 2 decades, the industry took on the characteristics of a gambling room.
The skills needed to consistently win were not in line with what 2D based documenting would have asked from its loyal practitioners.

The growth of tools that collectively became to be known as ‘BIM methodologies’ for a while looked like the answer for the ones questioning the sustainability of pit-bull managed project-practices.
Where they got it wrong was missing out on the fact, that while it may be easier to document in digital 3D, ‘project management based on bullying’ is still cheaper.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Has the time come to look for the loose change?

We have a little, fake treasure-chest sitting on our kitchen bench where we put our coins in.
I occasionally empty my wallet into it; husband clears out pockets there when doing the laundry.
When the month drags out a bit too long for our liking and all the cards have run dry, we dip into the box and use up the coins.

Despite of some serious cycles of ‘booms and busts’ I’ve had the privilege to observe within my working time of over 2 decades and hundreds of companies forming and failing on mass through these, AEC as an industry never was forced to go on a genuine search for ‘the hidden coins’.

In good times, everyone had a piece of the pie even if not in proportion with their abilities/performance.
In bad times small companies disappeared, larger merged into bigger ones and the reduced pie got shared to those closest to it. Everyone felt the pinch and was supposedly tightening the belt, still at the industry level, no real attempts have been made to improve efficiency.

The fortunes of participants of AEC-projects were driven by a combination of factors not easily identifiable, nor separately analysed, murkiness was (and by-and-large still is) the name of the game.

A couple of coins here-or-there could make no difference to most.
Not even when combined into a coin-tower.

I am a big fan of clever stop-motion movies; see one relevant to the topic:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Add a couple of new letters to your name (PBIM)

The easiest way to lose friends that work within my (AEC) industry is to tell them to become more ‘hands-on’.
Apart from a few that are architects and document their own buildings*, all my other industry-based mates fall into ‘that’ category.
A generation of engineering/design and construction managers that like to take their information nicely packaged-up and if possible, served on a silver plate.
This ailment seems to be non-discriminatory to nationality, age or gender. As if all universities around the world simultaneously set out to train construction and design managers that once they pass the intern-job-level and are put in control of ‘a’ human resource go into a totally ‘intellectual mode’. They will instruct, order, redpen and mark up, but ‘god-forbid’ to ask them to generate, manipulate, order or output the information.

Actually, the fact that BIM is not yet a ‘press the button, fix it all’ solution nor can work unaided, on its own should be good news to my them the opportunity to ‘shape up’ as opposed to ‘ship out’.

I’ve been suggesting establishing the role of a ParaBIM-mer, someone that is highly skilled in manipulating, navigating, investigating the model but not necessarily a model originator.
Doesn’t even have to be a stand-alone position but a qualification that will enhance one’s ability to work as a manager in a model-driven project-environment.

* and some of them are staunch graphic-artists with their own take-on of the famous ‘section line’