Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On stairs again. And design intent. And indicative drawings.

I’m fascinated by stairs. Apart from being parts of the ‘working bits’ of buildings performing a function, they are often beautiful.
So, it saddens me to see them regularly become ‘dog’s breakfast’, both when it comes to their design/documentation and construction.

Designing stairs is like playing a piano. You can’t fudge it. You need to know the rules, those that govern safe-use but also those that assist with constructability (how and where to fix the barriers) and aesthetics (how to set out treads and handrails so they connect neatly). 

Stairs seem to suffer even more in projects that are governed by ‘Design Intent’ and ‘Indicative Drawings’. These are two terms that can be mischievous when used on AEC projects.
Loaded with ambiguous meaning, hiding palpable risk.

Here is a design-intent for a stair:

This stair shall have a barrier and handrail that comply with current regulations, should be developed as per this typical detail and according to the specifications supplied.
The extent of the barrier and handrail is shown on plans, elevations and sections.

Not a problem on its own (necessary); I despair when the drawings that accompany the intent are ‘quasi’ developed.
Representing 3D stairs in 2D is a demanding activity and requires intellectual vigour.
Sloppily dressed up drawings kill both design intent and confidence in consultants.
(see picture attached)

Oh, just model them!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Turner turns to Sketchup Pro...

... and together they fill fifteen pages of Google-search results. A bit of a digital ‘scratch my back’ and ‘I’ll scratch yours’ approach in action or a well placed press release?

Wouldn’t call this an article and as a press release it is hard to fault, I have been known to predict (foresee or hope for) more decisive use of Sketchup in AEC, especially at the construction end.
A couple of intelligent lines on the software: user friendly, lightweight and scalable.
Snazzy jargon on range of benefits to appeal to current and future clients. A win-win?

Call me a cynic – but this smells of old fashion-centralised marketing. Top down, every word of the poor statement scrutinised to death by both affected parties.

So, sorry – this is a no news-news really.
I’d expect something different from the Google/Turner tandem, something edgy, that would ‘dash around the world’ on its own – self animating, walking-talking Sketchup models on I-phones, Turner avatars counting virtual bolts on top floors of virtual skyscrapers while simultaneously exchanging sport results with crane drivers on the other side of the globe.

What these guys are doing may be cool, but if it really was groundbreaking it would have come to me as a viral by now – and forwarded by my 13 year old, who incidentally is celebrating her birth day today.

Happy BD Ella!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How to recognise the BIM NHNTs in AEC?

There is a lot to admire in people/companies refusing to jump on the BIM bandwagon. Common to all is their confidence in what and how they are doing. They resist most techno-hypes and run successful businesses using tools/systems and processes they trust.
They are in minority these days. Their group is similar in size to the true BIM-ers on the other end of the spectrum, the ones that have grown grey by being ‘early adopters’, the ones that forced many-a-new-toolset onto processes largely un-supportive of any change or improvement.

The majority of players belong to the ‘neither-here-nor-there’ (NHNT) group and unlike many other industries keep the AEC in a very unhealthy balance.
You will have no difficulty recognising the NHNTs;
First, by method of elimination – both BIM extremist groups wear their colours openly.

If still unsure, here are some pointers to use:
The NHNTs promote themselves aggressively to current and future clients as ‘leading BIM/technology enabled companies’
They pepper their everyday speak with BIM jargon
They are in bed with one software provider and do lot of pilots and case studies.
They clash-detect and maintain drafting manuals.
They have specialist specification writers.
They fight tooth and nail not to give away any model data (ever)
They visibly distance themselves from the BIM extremist but keep other NHNTs under constant watch.
They present at BIM conferences.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I never knew her name was Kate....

Not talking royal-brides here – the Kate I am referring to is ‘sort of imaginary’.
We met about 15 years ago. She wore a red dress. Still does, though Kate now is well retired.
If you are a young lad/or lady you may find it hard to believe, but the woman in red was considered to be highly sophisticated not that long ago. A kind of Archicad ambassador too – you saw her, you knew the software behind.

Anyway, looking at Kate, I feel that we’d come a long way... but then, had we?
Our imaginary-ladies may be less boxy, but compare this progress to what goes on behind closed doors (refer to my post on stair-arrows and door-hinging-lines) and the game looks more like snakes and ladders.
Technology pushes us up a rung or two on a ladder; we get better objects, smarter tools, faster graphics...
But then there is a long slide on a snake back to: ‘drawings should look like this and that...’

Why can’t we get rid of the drawing? It is such a liability really, a big heavy chain around our necks.
All of our necks. They may help keep the information imbalance rule the industry but surely it is time for a new set of tools/weapons to start dominating the field? Something a bit smarter, more edgy, exciting.
Stop motion anyone?

Remember the notice board in the pretty Hungarian town of Morahalom? The interesting aspect of the sign was that the room names were written out in Braille and then covered with a Perspex sheet. (probably high up on the wall and out of reach too, though this is just me being a bit ‘smart’ here).

Friday, May 27, 2011

How to booby-trap a contractor...

Or anyone really, that is assessing construction documentation with the intention of committing to create something out of nothing based on drawings compiled in packages often labelled “for tender”.
Could be a client representative too, charged with overseeing the project!

Here is my list of 5 ‘favourite’ booby-traps:

1/ When soft copies of drawings are requested, provide only PDFs and bind them into one;
(can be separated into sheets, but it takes time and they end up with names hard to recognise)
2/ If you provide CAD files, make sure drawings are numbered instead of named
(most jobs have sheet-numbers going into hundreds – non descriptive titles hinder navigation)
3/ Set all scales at dubious ratios
                (1:300, 400, 750 are all well liked)
4/ Print all PDFs to black (or greyscale)
5/ Print PDF’s with thick lines on
                (my favourite-favourite see attached screenshots;  Samples are sourced from a number of         different jobs; The marvellously hidden number 25 was quite critical to the sheet it was       residing on);

The above described tricks are relatively minor annoyances, however, combine them all and they can compromise the contractor’s ability to put their best bid forward.
The intention could be for these practices to weed out the bad from the good, it can also prevent a good contractor do what they are best at, price, programme, plan for successful building.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Project Managers, geography and something to do with signs in Hungary

Sometime when asked about where I’d come from originally, I say, in the area I was born and grew up countries expire sooner than one’s passport.
A sad joke really, not that far from the truth.
The first 2 decades of my life the region did enjoy some stability, things turned to custard in the 1990s.
I was 25 when the Berlin Wall went, then in the following years the Balkans gradually disintegrated through a miserable, country-wide-version of a Big Brother game, where on the end ‘there was only one left’.

So, you’d think nothing could surprise me any more regarding the geographical location and state-alliance my home town, Novi Sad would get into. You’d be wrong;
Just in the last couple of days I discovered from an international consultancy’s website (see link) that Novi Sad now belongs to Poland.

What’s this got to do with BIM? Not much really, I just though it quite interesting how Scott Wilson (now part of URS) is active in Serbia.

Another amusing blog-filler: examine the second picture included within this post and tell me, what is wrong with it?
Can’t guarantee accuracy, has been posted by an architect on FB. (we studied together long time ago.) So, must be true.
If you can’t figure it out, come back in a day or two - I’ll post an explanation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nitpicking today – hinging of doors and arrows on stairs...

Go into any architectural consultancy employing people from different parts of the world and soon you’ll find two of them arguing about the way hinging of doors must be represented on drawings.

One school of thought says: the dotted lines form a symbolised arrow (symbolised symbol?) and indicate the opening of the door. The ‘opposition’ claims this to be misleading and wrong. The lines should connect the hinges with the door handle. Logical, of course!
Cadimage, the NZ Archicad-tool-developer is wisely catering for all tastes in their Doorbuilder. (see picture).

The above described issue is rather cute, specially when compared to arrows on stairs.
Here too 2 approaches exist:

One says, cut stairs at 1m above main floor level (as with the rest of the building). Allways show direction of rise with the arrow pointing upwards.

The other side promotes the same cutting process but with arrows going from the main floor both up and down. To avoid confusion ‘up’ and ‘down’ words are added.

There is another, third approach to this question that I find really amusing.
This approach advocates arrows pointing always upwards but the words alternating between ‘up’ or ‘down’ depending on the main floor’s relationship to the stair. (see picture);

Actually, not that amusing – having spent the day working on drawings strangely following this third approach – I have to ask: Why???

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Here is a prediction for Autodesk...

In the not-too-distant future, Autodesk will launch the integrated, multi-disciplinary version of its BIM solution, and name it Revit Integrated. Revit Int. – for short.

I can see the headlines, the AEC Bytes review, User-groups and User-blogs all terribly excited about the potential this new approach will bring.
No longer will architects need to fight with structural modellers over the ownership of columns, pipes will return to be just what they always have been, pipes, suitable to be used as, downpipes as well as specially engineered metadata-rich liquid carriers.
Sovereignty will be granted to many an element currently residing in no-man’s-land and dimension styles will carry over disciplines. You will not have to have 3 different software packages loaded up on your machine to create ONE digital building and all training will be uniform.

It won’t be just the Autodesk devotees celebrating; many others in neighbouring/competing camps will possibly take notice.

Some of them (from both camps) will feel a bit uncomfortable with the new developments.
Even a bit cheated by Autodesk’s previous marketing hype that promoted Revit in 3 different flavours.

Many of them will ask the questions:
How could it make sense for Autodesk to promote a solution that was supposed to make everyone seamlessly collaborate while using an ‘artificially’ segmented set of tools?
How could we have all fallen for it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Not a saleswoman for BIM

It may be news to you – I am no saleswoman for BIM. If BIM disappeared today – I’d be OK.
I studied architecture in the mid eighties and my beginnings at the University weren’t great. However, the first top mark on an exam I earned (within the first year) was for a subject I became attached to for life: Descriptive Geometry.
Following graduation, for a while I entertained the idea of dedicating my career to the subject and taught DG for 3 years at another University.
Then fate took me to NZ, where DG was unheard of, but it allowed me to purchase my first Flatcad.

Moving autobiographical titbits aside, these are the skills DG afforded me:
I learned to properly construct a three point perspective of a scene
Work out exact areas of cuts-and-fills resulting from roads going through difficult terrains
Define all edges, ridges and falls of complicated roof structures
Create shadow-falls at different times of the day of complicated curvy elements on each other and the ground.
Cross bodies by using DG Boolean-operations and unfold the common-parts into flat planes for physical model-making.

I don’t sell BIM or bits related, but am still very enthusiastic about it. Why?
With age one gets a bit choosy where one’s energy is used – those DG tasks take a hell-of-a-lot of effort and time.

BIM is easier.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

“Predictive modelling is the process ....

...by which a model is created or chosen to try to best predict the probability of an outcome.”
states Wikipedia.
Finding this definition was a sad discovery for me – “Predictive Modelling” is a perfect description for a concept within BIM, yet not well-explored but with significant potential.

IT, the insurance industry, archaeology and marketing have all put their pretty-paws on this terminology already but cannot claim exclusivity.

Predictive Modelling within AEC’s BIM will be a set-of-tools developed by manufacturers and suppliers (M&S) closely associated with AEC.
These tools will work like Predictive Texting;
Within a digital modelling environment, as a user created a digital building, the intelligent PM automatically and in real time compared all of the possible forms, shapes, sizes and combinations against a built-in dictionary of elements, and determined which would possibly suit the location/conditions best.
If it guessed incorrectly, the user would get the option to scroll through other possible types, originators without disruption to thinking processes.

An idea too far out?
There is of course the danger that it gets nipped-in-the-bud by those that like to promote the design process as totally unpredictable and random.
I believe PM in BIM has legs and when M&S of building materials and products decide to finally take an active role in how building designs are developed, documented and built, it will definitely fly (high).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Christchurch special: The director’s cut (Do try this at home!)

When you have a couple of teenagers living with you, the “shining wit” – somewhat rude spoonerism tends to permanently inhabit your vocabulary.
It was quite surprising still, to find myself recently and accidently grunting: “Go shake a tower!”
And that then reminded me of Christchurch, the shaking of the towers and the Earthquake.

We once had a great client then (and hopefully still) based in Christchurch.
We did a lot of work for them. All around the country. Their projects still pop-up in my blogs illustrating various serious and less serious points.
Two of their guys I became quite fond of...
One day history may declare them as the BIM-pioneers of New Zealand...

But, this is not what I was going to write about today...
Today, I have a special treat on offer.
You can down load the sample of the project (link at the end of the blog) and view it with the RH/DE viewer (free);

Originally this was meant to be a simple, pre-tender construction-sequencing but the boys (in the office) made it totally OTT.
Look out for:
Slide-in Interior light fittings
Multiple entries of the concrete trucks
Rotating nuts
Mischievous Helicopter
Crane misbehaving

Hope you do download the file and the viewer.
After all, you also ask your clients to get out of their comfort-zones and view your files digitally!
Don’t you?

PS – just as I finished this blog I realised, that I cannot make RH files available for download through Google docs. L
So, instead I uploaded the PDF version; I am happy to email the RH file (or the PDF) to anyone interested;

 (download Deep View for the RH file only, email me for it)

Friday, May 20, 2011

The evolution/revolution question of BIM? oldBIM, newBIM, realBIM?

Was it a rhetorical question even when I started with this blog? 
A third into my self-imposed timeframe, I am inclined to state that BIM is really going to be neither, it will fizzle out totally or at best turn into something quite different.
NewBIM practitioners will want to distance themselves from the past (BIMs), so it will be called something quite different.

The current BIM in not acting very evolutionally, if the last 20 years are to go by.
Evolution is a bit like a roll-of-toilet paper, a change that unfolds progressively;
Involves incremental changes, is mostly passive but indicates pragmatic growth.
Slow change may have happened in AEC due to BIM, pragmatic growth? NO.

For me revolution is like a bouncy-ball, radical and jumpy, triggering sudden changes. One moment it is here, the next over there.
BIM as practiced these days is definitely not a bouncy-ball!

Then there are the grey ones, slow unfolding revolutions and rapid evolutions, just to make the subject more difficult to generalise.

I put my money on the building owners instead, one day, soon I hope – they will en-masse start demanding different types of results.
And those results will ask for different types of BIM, newBIMs, realBIMs.

Meantime, I’ll be slowly getting old, maintain my oldBIM skills
...and keep one eye on the emerging newBIMs, will not hurt.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Should building owners have independent BIM representatives on their projects?

A sister question to the: “... Prescriptive/Specification-based BIM...” one.

I do advocate for building owners to employ independent BIM advisors.

If this became standard practice, it’d do a lot of good to AEC.
Would call an end to bluffing and document stuffing that is going on now.
Keep everyone on their toes, making sure that they concentrate on what matters, stay alert and ready to respond. It would raise the productivity too.

This concept is not new (roles of clerks-of-works fall in here, so do in house design and project managers’) and it does not necessary need BIM.
However, BIM makes it more affordable than the alternatives.

Some countries are more litigious than others; some people get more involved with the law than others. Most of us have a basic-idea on how things work in the legal field.
The basic concept of the right-to-access-representation no matter what side of the law you end up at – is known to even very young children. You may choose not to claim that right or end up with shoddy representation but the ability to counter-balance influencers in the process is a must.

Self regulation in AEC is just not working. Owners should not accept blank recommendation from parties that are already involved under different roles.
Owners would be much better off with independent, BIM literate advisors on their side.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Delegate to Relegate (information); Remote to Demote (information)

“Your theory is rubbish! I have the perfect draughtsman – he knows what I want in the design even before I think of it...”
Advises a friend of mine, an HVAC engineer with significant experience under his belt.
He could be right, but one cannot possibly build a business on this.

“What if the draughtsman departs?” – I ask
“I find another one just as good” – he says.

What I observe in the industry still backs my view, that project delivery where one party does the ‘thinking part’ and another the ‘documenting’ is risky. And costly.

Just look at a typical ‘design team’:
Most BIM presentations start with a picture of a round-table and various team-members gathered around the ‘project’.
Criss-crossing arrows represent the difficulties in communicating between members. The project suffers.
I too occasionally roll-out a picture like this.

What these pictures omit is the fact that few of the participants around the table are hands-on.
Every one of them drags behind an army of documenters that are charged with making sense of their sketches calculations and notes and capture in a set of presentable drawings (or models).

Apart from the cost and risk of multi-handling and constant repurposing of information there are significant side-effects.
Inflated, inferior document-sets, design-team-members that have no in-depth knowledge of their projects and increased bluffing.

My friend may be an exception.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The marker-upper and developing photos the long way (as relevant to BIM)

For AEC to improve, the delegated capturing/modifying of design information should be totally eliminated.
The ‘delegated info manipulation’ is me saying nicely that I do not like the concept of ‘marking up’ drawings for someone else to implement.

This practice is totally unsustainable and should go. Marker-upper = Hands off consultant. Dangerous!
Please note, I promote the concept of eliminating double (multiple) handling of information before it gets solidified on a progress as opposed to advocating that everyone in the design chain (from the stararchs, project architect and all types of design-engineers) must model their design-info themselves.

Developing a photo-film negative into a picture is an exciting process, I would recommend to everyone to try it.
But, would you rely on this process if you needed to capture and assess images of something, anything?
In construction: do you go out to a site, take lots-of progress photos, go back to the office, retire to the dark room and spend many hours developing, fixing, drying, enlarging – so that you can examine the pictures in detail?

You don’t. Instead, you use your digital camera and download the pictures straight to your computer and scrutinise them on your screen...
You may say, it’s not the same – and it is not, as the impact of marker-uppers on projects is much-much worse.
The secret is in having all hands-on contributors.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blogger was down for (at least) 36 hrs late last week...

Known as a strong critic of many things-digital, one would rightly expect from me to condemn Blogger.
Actually, I feel sincere sympathy.

There’s of course the question of how wise it is for many effected companies to build their entire businesses on something that can easily fail?
Not very wise – though if one gets too cautious, one needs to take into account that electricity can (and does) fail, gas, oil and other commodities can disappear too.
Critical industries (emergency, health, defence etc) put contingency plans in place; small businesses are less likely to do so;
Consequently the robustness of SaaS, cloud-computing, BIM-servers and others all need to be scrutinised when building a BIM venture.
Still, I’d never advocate not innovating, because the infrastructure may fail.

Another thought to consider: Isn’t it unfortunate, that inner workings of the ‘internet’ are largely hidden from most of us?
If I used a road regularly and it became congested beyond manageable I’d treat with understanding any move to manage the situation by the owner.

I see the road – I understand the difficulties. With the internet, the road and the congestion are invisible.

Within BIM there exists a similar phenomenon – too often clients and practitioners set their expectations at unrealistic levels without understanding the limitations of the unseen and thus intangible infrastructure that is used to deliver their BIM projects.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Should building owners be asking for ‘performance-based’ or ‘prescriptive’ BIM?

During my involvement with BIM I’ve had the privilege to set the BIM framework for a number of building projects.
In retrospect I wish I’d more often based those documents on the principle described in the following paragraph:

This project is required to be fully delivered using BIM.
We as owners of the future building and the main providers of funds for it to happen, ask to have a “Digital Building Model-based” approach put in place for the duration of the project, that will result in us having full transparency in what is going on from start-to-finish.
We need up-to-date reporting on activities of all parties employed on this project and immediate feedback on how well the design is developed, where costs are compared with forecasts, advancement of construction and generally progress.
We ask for graphical, multidimensional representations of integrated data in accessible formats for us to be able to assess all criteria described.

This paragraph above I classify as a ‘performance-based-specification’ as opposed to a prescription-type, that spells out exactly how something is to be done;
Too much room to wiggle out of providing meaningful BIM by allowing the consultants to decide how the owner’s goals are achieved?

I prefer this approach to setting detailed rules. Those need a lot of skills to interpret and they usually constrain real improvement and innovation in BIM.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How would you clash-detect this? Modelling is easy, managing the process is hard.

I had the great-fortune to work on a very interesting project recently.
For confidentiality reasons I can’t say much about it;
It resembles an amalgamation of two plates of pasta, spaghetti and fettuccine, meat, cheese and vegetables and a cherry-tomato placed on the top.

My interest is in the tomato.
Picture a nice, ripe cherry-tomato elevated above the serpent of pasta, supported on a pair of angled oriental chopsticks.

The main consultant was smart and used a digital model for design, working out the relationship between the various bits of pasta-and-fillers.
They did not go deeply into build-ability (or cook-ability) but at least spatially the assemblage worked.

Then, for one reason or other (VE exercise, height issues) there came the need to lower the tomato quite a bit;
I am speculating here a bit and suggest that the consultants’ pasta-guru was unavailable at the time of the change, so someone cleverly decided not to update the dish but just note the height of the cherry-tomato as lower.

No, no consideration on the length, position, geometry of the chopsticks or the various pasta pieces weaving under them.

This issue could not have been picked up with clash-detection, no matter how many clever software packages the model was pushed through.
A thinking model manager could. And did.
Modelling is easy, managing the process is challenging and hard.

Friday, May 13, 2011

BIM models and a Pineapple hedgehog

Children play games of blindfold. Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey is one.
Disorientating the ‘victim’ is at the core of the game.
It could be a mean trick and when adults playing blindfolds it often is.

The parallel between being blindfolded/disoriented with what we do when we interpret building design and construction information may not be apparent at first – but does exist.

Recently, I wrote about the lack of tools for 3D grids, levels, north-points.
Stefan Boeykens helpfully suggested ways to overcome these challenges. (see link);
He is correct, all these issues can be addressed by work-arounds.

I like to put this concept on its head with the following claim:
3D navigation elements are left-off intentionally (2D often too) to ‘blindfold’ the user/interpreter of the information.
A client (or a contractor) viewing a 3D model without obvious spatial references has no choice but to focus on the superficial.
The ability for meaningful analysis and scrutiny is also limited.

When I guide for-construction modelling, I show the modellers a Pineapple hedgehog;
A favourite centrepiece of retro parties – it works on the concept of a central anchor (potato, watermelon, kumara) with pieces of pineapple, cheese, fruit and vegetable stuck into it.

All digital models should have viewable anchors as references. All info should be stuck to the anchor.

Resist getting blindfolded – demand a digital hedgehog (anchor, reference system) be always provided!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A confession of a BIM-crafter: I have to use my hands to think

Most mornings my husband and I share the car-ride to get to work.
We tune in to Abu Dhabi Classic-FM and listen to the early risers’ cryptic clue.
Most mornings Graham solves the puzzle within 5 minutes. Driving the fast-lane, in his head.
He also knows hundreds of ancient songs, remembers car-plates and phone-numbers from 50 years ago, can multiply multi-digit numbers fast.
Admittedly, sometimes he forgets his glasses or children at home, no one is perfect.

A person closer to perfection was Nikola Tesla, a great engineer and inspiring inventor.
A quote from him:
“Before I put a sketch on paper, the whole idea is worked out mentally. In my mind I change the construction, make improvements, and even operate the device. Without ever having drawn a sketch.”

By contrast to both of these men I’ve got to use my hands to think.
I sketch, I doodle, I fiddle around the keyboard, mess about with the mouse.

I pride myself of being good at ‘reading plans’ and assembling 3D buildings from them.
BTW, have you ever met anyone working in the construction industry that does not claim the same or would admit not to be good at it?

Unlike most, I do admit to be needing ‘a little help from my friends’;
Maybe that is the reason, I find working with BIM quite exciting?

Pictures from the Tesla Museum in Belgrade (taken 16 years ago)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When the workshop looks better than the showroom (last post on model viewers for a while)

Name an industry where the back-of-house (BOH) gets more attention and is flasher than the front-of-house (FOH)!

BIM part of AEC comes to mind!*

Design normally happens behind ‘closed doors’, even if regular client/consultant meetings are held. In fact, not just behind doors but often in sealed (CAD) boxes, the information accessible to selected few – and sometimes not the most desirable ones (even in design teams).
This back-of-BOH, the workshop where designs are created and documented tends to be technologically advanced with up-to-date software to suit the needs of the information creators and capturers.

The front of house on the other hand is where these designs are viewed by the clients, contractors and other information users. The physical space where the viewing  happen may be attractive but the tools that the viewers/reviewers are awarded tend to be poor.

There may be pretty walk-through-movies and shiny models (scale) part of this experience, still, the toolset the reviewer is given is extremely limited, specially when we compare them to the tools the ones behind the ‘curtains’ use.
Fair enough one might say – many other trades work like this – not many other industries charge their own clients for inferior tools (no, the viewers aren’t free on the end of the day) – while they get smart instruments for the BOH ultimately at their clients’ expense too.

*Actually that needs correcting: it is the building design and documenting stage of AEC. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking for cool in BIM? This is cool, not quite BIM;

Saying ‘cool’ when you are over forty is not cool.
Excellent, first rate is better, sometime ‘perfect’ when the result is really good.

I do find the file I’m about to upload pretty cool, even excellent!.

It is an interactive, 3D PDF file, download it, play with it!
You may think while you are reading this, that I am taking a bit of a break from serious subjects by playing with this file – trust me, there is substance here.

The digital ruler was animated because reading the story of the parallel-ruler I wrote about a couple of weeks ago,  a friend of mine thought it should be.
While  giving me a hand with jazzing the model up, he took the opportunity to express how much he enjoys working in 3D as opposed to 2D.

Him being a young guy, his stance  also fits in with another earlier post of mine, regarding the relationship between the age and attitude of people towards documenting buildings.

As a potential information user, I think the file is quite sleek – I like the way I can easily filter information out (or in) with a click of a button.
Add to that the size (very small) and usability (Adobe Reader).
Also  geography – the file moved from Middle East to Central Europe to New Zealand, to come back to the Middle East.

Or email me zolna.murray@gmail.com and I’ll send it to you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The 2 essential BIM gizmos: The Underdefined and the Welldefined (suggestions for BIM-tool developers)

The Underdefined and the Welldefined are two gizmos, the foundation of an ‘optimum’ building design-modelling toolset.
Not to be confused with the ‘ideal’ (utopistic, press-of-a-button) one, this solution could be the reality of BIM now, even though it may not exist.

To put it simply, this solution based on gizmos could (and should) be available off-the-shelf at present.
(with a little-bit of help from my developer friends).

I define these two gizmos as:

The Underdefined:
a totally generic, mouldable ‘thing’ – an amalgamation of the wall-beam-slab-roof tools that most modelling packages already have. A Boolean-enabled creature, also a cutter.
It works with the magic wand, has interactive nods and ability to assign spatial points the way meshes do.
It’s highly generic and infinitely customisable. Attributes are expandable and modifiable, parameters constrainable, but unlikely to be a fully free-style modeller (very few buildings need that anyway).

The Welldefined:
A rigid, predefined ‘thing’, very smart but almost unchangeable without good programming skills and getting under the bonnet. Provided by manufacturers and suppliers it needs no editing apart from selection and positioning.

The Underdefined gizmo is like a magic pencil that I can turn into anything I like and want, the Welldefined is the equivalent of a sticker, it is explicit and unambiguous.

Don’t dismiss this as fluff or wishful thinking, if it makes no sense, read it again!

See also Stefan Boeykens comment on an earlier post

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dear building owners: we will let you know what you need to know when and how WE think you should get to know it!

Enabling meaningful access to model data outside of native CAD platforms has been neglected by software developers and data originators for a long time.
The issue regarded with a bit of a mixture of arrogance and ignorance has been giving building owners the message – “we’ll let you know what you need to know”;

The pain is further rubbed in by lumping all building owners (and other none-modellers) into one big group of model viewers who’s primarily need could only be walking virtually through digital buildings.
A small, house owner is treated equally to a large city developer or government representative.

Somehow, the word ‘scrutiny’ (i.e. giving the ability to scrutinise the buildings) is conveniently dropped from the necessary features ‘viewers’ need to have.
Even the name ‘viewer’ bothers me – I see it convey unashamedly the role the non-info-originator is assigned to have.
Some of the viewers/ reviewers are better than others, still most do not meet the minimum for what a product that is designed with future users in mind should have.
They often feel patronising and gimmicky.

This disrespect for the building owner shows up in how buildings are presented in 3D.
Why are grids, north points, levels, spaces and zones almost never shown in 3D?
Design intent, future operational references, construction approach visualised on the model?

Why are digital viewers/ reviewers so un-cool?

(pictures shown are not all of viewers, building not dressed-up, the raw model captured)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cool cars and navigating digital building-models

I’ve never owned a cool car. Apart from the little black Mini (born 1980) but she was prone to breaking down hence quite a liability. Incidentally, she was the only one we named, the ‘shopping trolley’ and ‘soap-dish’ we had since do not count.

So, my interest in cars has been largely practical – take me from A to B, don’t demand too much fuel and be easy to park.
Despite of history of driving mediocre vehicles and lack of experience with cool-cars – I notice the ones around me that stand out (and where I live at the moment offers plenty of eye-candy);

I may never own or even drive any of those – still nice to see where technology and design is getting to.

I approach tools in my trade in a similar way.
I may never go beyond off-the-shelf modellers and middle-of-the road renderers and navigators, I still keep my eyes and ears open for new ‘gadgets’.

So, I was a bit disappointed, when 82 comments to a recent question on BIM Experts Group-page (Anyone know how to export 3d model to pdf? With all properties ie rotating .& object properties...) brought in very little new or interesting.

It is not easy to stay motivated and aim to drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini one day, when all you see your peers care for are Corollas.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why NOT reason more visually?

A kind Scandinavian Archicad-expert posted a message on my blog:
 Well, look at what the Norwegian government building agency (Norway’s largest building owner)
is specifying:

.. and I read through it obligingly – adamant to suspend my cynicism and find the really useful in the document.

And it IS a useful document – see for yourself.
The Nordic countries have long been at the forefront at anything BIM.

But then, I love to read long complicated books and still I am not that good with long textual documents.
In fact some internal self-preservation mechanism tends to kick in when I confront my mind with anything that looks like a set of rules (or even a guide or manual) and helpfully takes my interest to something else.

As I read through the wise document of the large Norwegian building owner an old email-viral flashes up.
Can’t really recall it in detail but lists numerous witty sentences, all starting with a “why”.
So I go and search and find ‘a’ why list and muse over it for a while...

Then I return to the document I rudely abandoned previously and make the connection...

My interest in the “why”s is simple –I’ve been wondering subconsciously, why aren’t documents that are supposed to guide processes like designing-documenting buildings not more pictorial even animated?

Why NOT reason with more graphics, visually?

Some of the “Why”s I like:
Why are apartments so close together?
Why is abbreviation such a long word?
Why do we call something sent by car a shipment and something sent by
ship a cargo?
Why do we call them restrooms when no one goes there to rest?
Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Modelling for construction, interpretation and coordination.

Modelling to interpret IFC drawings and to aid coordination prior to construction is the ‘fruit that hangs’ even lower than clash detection:

I have been thinking since yesterday if I should pre-empt likely comments on my column post – or column-column and explain myself further...(I can also call it  a column on the post too if we assumed that columns and posts were interchangeable in construction jargon as well as journalism...)

Or should I just move onto something more exciting, getting a bit flat here?

Apologies for being a bit of a broken record – but there is really no way forward for BIM (I believe) until the need for basic modelling in construction is eliminated, i.e. there is a meaningful design model in existence and available to contractors prior or at least at the start of construction.
A digital model that is capable of replacing or at least being totally in sync with IFC drawings
(IFC = Issue For Construction).

Currently (often) GCs foot the bill for construction modelling and it is a costly exercise.
The major factor of cost is not what is being modelled but how many drawings and other documents need to be found, opened, interpreted for a competent modeller to be able to model it;

Hard to call this BIM, really – building owners please, demand pre-construction, digital design models from your consultants!