Thursday, June 30, 2011

You can still say ‘no’ to BIM

Truly. I’m not doing an about-face here, the BIM movement at the moment could do with more people saying ‘no’.
For the right reasons, of course, just as the ones saying ‘yes’ should be doing it only because they truly believe in it.

Recreating a non-BIM-PC environment would have two main benefits:
One, it would inject real scrutiny to the system, questions only whispered currently would be asked openly; A simple one, comes to mind: “Why?”
Or extended versions of it: ‘why should we be doing this ...when it is making us do this?’ or ‘failing to allow us to do that’ or whatever...
As long as tools, systems and services providers in-and-out of houses (projects) were requested/allowed to meaningfully argue their case - there would be progress.
Second, practitioners would start separating into more clear-cut ‘types’, the 3 categories being:
Those that practise BIM, know why they’re doing it and can sell the concept to others;
Those that refuse to do BIM but do a splendid service without it by employing traditional (or alternative) methods and those, that are just drifting not quite sure what to do;

I applaud building owners that take the initiative to have their projects delivered in a BIM environment, but those providing the requested tools and services should be able to ask all the ‘why?’ questions they needed to.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Will Aconex* figure it out before the others?

Quite some time ago, I prepared a series of images explaining the idea of the Project BIM Environment based on the parallel of the development of Trans-Atlantic transportation systems. Needless to say (see pictures) that the parallel went down like a lead balloon and I shelved the concept for a while.

Most parties I was talking to were still wrapping their tongues around the unpronounceable word of ‘interoperability’ and refused to see that creating an environment where the interoperability process can happen is just as important as the process itself. So another 5 years have gone by merrily, without real progress made to tools and systems for BIM PEs.
Naturally I blame the software vendors for this state of affairs; Admittedly, some started to dabble in ‘platforms’ and most are now in a ‘cooperative mode’ but it is all a bit too little, too late.

In these last five years companies like Aconex have built a reasonable following within AEC and digital (online) project environments do exist on most large(ish) projects, however, no real BIM aspects have made in into them*.
Two things need to happen, move on from digitising parts of buildings to creating digital project environments and work with companies that already sell digital Project Environments .

Or, do the first and knock the incumbents off their perch by providing a true BIMPE.

* I’ve read that Newforma works with Revit; (only)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The accuracy fallacy

“I hate accuracy in CAD!” I remember a friend declaring 2 decades ago. I also recall, early in my career, small-scale-builders giving me a hard time on construction sites for dimensions on my drawings ending with 2,3,7 (mm);
Accuracy is a tricky thing – a double edged sward. It is not an interchangeable term with dimensioning, however the two are closely related.

Over the recent times, often guided by PI insurers, design consultants have developed an almost pathological fear of dimensioning. You can leaf through hundreds of sheets of IFC sets with very little dimensioning on them, to then find yourself on ‘setout’ drawings that have random dimensions all-over the place, including positions of section-markers and loose furniture.

“Traditionally” a dimension meant an instruction: somebody thoughtfully set out grids, openings, fittings in all 3 directions. There also existed a common knowledge of relationships and min dimensions for typical details.

In CAD/BIM world, dimensioning became an after-thought – if the CAD file was accurate, a somewhat automated afterthought.
This on its own should’ve not been a problem if the thinking had gone-in when the digital file was originally prepared, i.e. walls were set out to some logic, same for openings.
Tolerances taken into account between various elements and a 3D grid set in stone.

Applying uncontrolled dimensions is a dangerous practice, BIM/CAD accuracy will not help you there.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The sidewalk syndrome: A sign of a maturing BIM?

Presumptuous I may have come across when I commented on the CME acronym (Common Model Environment) a couple of days ago, I was very pleased to see someone finally pulling the word ‘Environment’ into the BIM picture.
For far too long, far too many of us have been defining BIM as ‘digitally representing buildings’. Focus was on the building, or even more on the software to represent the building, parts and assemblies, sometimes relationships but rarely the project environment. (PE)
The PE continued to be a fragmented, imaginary, notional place that loosely interacted with tangible representations of parts of it.

A real life equivalent I see often, when travelling. Lots of places in the world have some nice buildings. Individual houses, public creations, well thought, beautifully crafted. Even places ravaged by civil wars in relatively recent times will have the Nuevo Riche beautify their newly acquired spots.
When I look for signs of stability, maturity and hope, I look at sidewalks. The condition of these strips that connect the buildings to each other and the world tell me if the thinking process has moved from the buildings to the environment.

The digital project environment is not a new concept, AutoCAD’s Model Space laid excellent foundations for its development many years ago. Unfortunately, largely neglected, it stopped maturing.
Time to focus on the Project BIM Environment!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Won’t do no more, BIM101...

Went to the girls’ school a couple of days ago*.
At the entry there’s a sign: “We are a Nut free school!”
I wondered: does the exclusion apply for 2 legged nuts too? Got in regardless, so maybe not. **

Curiously enough, the school and its ability and sometime lack of it, to cater for children of different ages and different stages prompted me to finally make a statement:
I’m moving on from BIM101. If you don’t know what BIM is, find it out yourself!

This decision’s been also helped by numerous events lately where I was explained again and again, what BIM was.

If you are serious about doing well in AEC – you should learn what BIM is, not necessary because of all the benefits that will come your way once you employ it, but because someone might use it against you in the near future without you even realising it.

The internet is bursting with BIM101 – and it is so repetitive that you will quickly get the gist of it. And if you want a fancy presentation with walking, talking pretty pictures call in your local anyCAD supplier and they will customise a BIM theatre just for you.

As in the snakes and ladders game – sometime you’ve got to go back to the beginning.
In this game, I’ve had my share of snakes.

 *  The place of the handicap toilets
** Shouldn’t be making fun of allergic conditions.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Who owns the column?

C16 is not a column yet, a figment of imagination and a square on a paper.
A square or a rectangle, depending if you are looking at the soft-copy-representation (of the hard-copy-print) of the architect’s or structural engineer’s imagination.
The architects visualises C16 as a tall and skinny piece, with a rectangular footprint of 400x1000. For the structural engineer, C16 needs to be square. They may have reached a compromise by now, that had not get onto the drawings yet.
Petty these drawings have been issued as IFC.

I look at C16 and think ‘clash detection.’ How would you automatically clash detect this?
If you worked from drawings only, and were charged with integrating all disciplines would you model the columns twice and run two models through the clash detection machine?
What setting would you put in? ‘Highlight where columns are not matching?’ But, surely that could not be called a ‘clash’?
That would be a non-match detection!

If there was a model earlier in the piece this would not have been an issue. Correct?
Who is responsible for sizing the column? The structural engineer’s you’d say.
So, it needs to be square.
But, the architect normally sets them out. He wants this one to be a rectangle!

I’ve seen numerous flowcharts describing how these things should work...
still not quite sure who owns C16?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Control is a bad word...

...Should not be associated with BIM - a reader argues my definition of the maxCME from yesterday.
It makes me think of The Fat Controller;

Remember The Fat Controller? In our old office, we had a picture of him on the wall.
I modelled the role of the BIM controller on him, aligned our company colours with the yellow west, though thankfully stopped short of making my guys wear top hats.

A cheerful chap, that I also associate with Ringo Starr, The Beatles drummer.
He voiced the first two series of the children's television series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends
Starred in many movies too, but let’s not digress too much.

Due to Ringo’s influence or just endless repeats of the tapes, I have such confidence in The Fat Controller and his team, that I would happily put my BIM data in their custodianship to control.
I guess, Caretaker or Custodian would be titles agreeable to most critics of the BIM controller, minus the ‘control’ of course.
For me? Too PC, or at least too passive to reflect the role that needs to lead, guide as well as manage, set the rules of the game and carry the responsibility to shape project success.

This is a critical role within the process, I’ll keep pondering about what to call it.
How about: BIM Data Moderator?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is it going to be CME or CME?

I like maxCME.

Just like I seem to be the only one bothered by the two, easily confused meanings of IFC within the AEC, it is unlikely that anyone will get overly excited about the two distinctively different explanations that could be behind another BIM related acronym: CME.

For some BIM practitioners CME stands for Common Model Environment, a place where integrated teams collaborate in a managed, digital environment. A platform, where multiD electronic data is (freely?) exchanged.
A virtual collaborative sandpit. Managed. As in the kindergarten sandpit.

I prefer the word ‘controlled’. My version of the environment is the: CME, Controlled Model Environment or even maxCME.
This may not be very PC to state, but I believe is much more likely to work.
If there is control, there are responsibilities. No control, no responsibilities.
No meaningful data either, due to the disclaimers that will likely accompany models playing in the friendly sandpit.

Going back to IFCs, that problem may disappear soon, document sets referred to as IFC (‘issues for construction’) are harder and harder to squeeze out of consultants, the fluffy ‘design intent’ tends to replace them.
Legally words like ‘intent’, and ‘for information only’ are more palatable then ‘for construction’, so, no wonder they are terminologies of choice.

Easy: No IFC (drawings) no confusion.
I am still left with the two CMEs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Constructor that was not meant to be...

When VICO picked up Constructor about 5 years ago, it elected to upscale the reasonably capable but also architect biased modelling software into a complicated construction suite.
Should have gone the other way...
Get rid of the architectural baggage Archicad was weighed down with, and make Constructor a stand alone, construction focused, modelling package. Sell it as a box.

Had it gone down that road (and who knows if the possibility existed at all?) – by now we’d probably have a decent modeller that offered sensible tools for the digitally minded construction coordinators, managers, planners and programmers.
Stairs that aren’t handicapped by silly 2D illustration principles.
Beams that blend or unblend with slabs depending on their types and materials;
Doors and windows that can exist without walls... and much more.
We’d probably have good 4 and 5D integration as well, clever logistics, nifty virtual cranes.

I discussed the need for a no-frills, robust construction modeller ages ago with a software developer/vendor. He was highly sceptical, citing two reasons for not agreeing with me, one that ALL construction based data is ultimately originated by architects and engineers and construction people are always the last to innovate, anyway.

I disagreed with both points but the fact that we still have no robust construction-modellers available proves the guy knew something about the industry.
Or, maybe not? Time will tell.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Model, model on my palm, can you tell me where am I?

Metal Mary is our navigation assistant, a cheesy name she got for a piece of electronics.
As most creatures of her sort, she is terribly patient and forgiving. I am yet to hear her yell because we took a wrong turn or refuse to do another ‘recalculating’ exercise.
Her job isn’t easy, as roads, ramps and roundabouts regularly get established and disestablished where we live. It is not unusual for us to be travelling through a blank screen or pretend to turn into a submarine for the reason of a new road or bridge appearing that Mary is yet to be acquainted with.

I wish my BIM models learned some of Mary’s skills.
For a start, to tell me where am I?
Say, I am navigating a model – looking at a particular junction in a middle of a large floor-plate, up on the X’th floor.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the model had the ability to show on the screen (ghost it?) what level I was on? Also, if I was looking through a vertical cut, what grids had I been truncating in the view?
The vertical referencing I can get around, but am yet to think of any usable work-around for grids having their heads cut off.

A wormlike object, that grows a head at whatever place I cut it, would work, I think.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Do it once and do it right!

Is the mantra that applies.
To the building. The real one!
The same does not necessary apply to the digital representation of the building.
In fact, trying to do a perfect model at first attempt (that will not change down the line) can seriously backfire on the model-authors.
Novice modellers and those that design projects around digital models for the first time all tend to want to do things only once. The thought of a model being dumped, replaced even lost terrifies them.
Maybe because of the effort that is needed to produce their first creation feels overwhelmingly large, they often insist in keeping half-baked formations and work on them well beyond used-by-dates.

You’ve got to learn to let it go. Start from scratch. Repurpose, rebuild.
Think of the screen as the digital sketch (butter) paper, you regularly screw up and throw away.
Or a word processor where entire paragraphs can be scratched and rebuilt.

In the olden days when software and hardware were much less reliable, there was the helping hand of a good old crash every now and again.

Redoing a model or any part of it has two benefits:
the model will be better next time, (you’ll find new issues with it, or the building it is supposed to represent that you’d missed so far)
and your modelling/model management skills will improve.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

BIM is about certainty...

...I utter this daily, often more than once to anyone caring to listen and those that don’t, but are still forced to.
So, one would think of me as well versed in certainty.

Interesting then, how much I freaked out when Graham (husband) was interviewed on AD Classic FM this week and broadcast predicting the moon to act in a certain way – 24hrs after the interview.
He talked beautifully, no ‘ohm’ or ‘ums’, only one ‘you know’. Did not get off the subject much, the interviewer kept him on the topic. Nothing to worry then...

I was paralysed with fear between the first airing of the clip and the moon finally eclipsing itself almost 30 hrs later.
Graham was ecstatic, driving around the town through the night to get the best shot of the phenomenon.
Afterwards, I was relieved. It happened, just as he (and admittedly many others) predicted.

Once I thawed enough, I could think of the experience a bit more rationally and look inwards for clues.
Have I been so damaged by the industry I work in, where things so regularly go wrong, that I no longer am able to look forward to little celestial celebrations without fear?

What did I think could happen?
Moon decide not to rise? Earth refuse to cast a shadow? Sun become all contractual?
Their budget blown over?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Do they still sake male rulers in Germany?

I ask my German colleague and waive my (25+ years old) German made scale ruler at him.
Then we laugh, realising the silliness of what I’ve just said.

Needless to say the conversation quickly jumps from the scale ruler to computers and then the best make of cars, passing through globalisation, culminating in outsourcing.
Not surprisingly someone questions me owning one anyway (being all digital and BIMish), others extend the query to all of us, since we aren’t supposed to scale anything, anywere, anymore...

So, following a bit of quiet reflection I collect 4 contemporary uses of my German-made scale ruler:
As a bookmark in my very old fashioned diary
To underline/separate titles on printed drawing-list and construction programmes
To fold and rip A3 pages into halves
To indulge in a bit of nostalgia, remembering the times when Rotring, Steadler and Faber Castell ruled the industry;

..and while listing old tools of trade, let me mention:
My box of rapidograph-pens, I carried them around the world as I shifted houses and lives for two decades, disappeared in the last shift.
My stencils, a nice little collection of mainly orange (Rotring) and green (others) thin sheets of plastic, sold them a year ago.
The first-class-compass with the adjustable wheel, I paid an ‘arm and a leg’ for as a student was stolen while still studying. RIP.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Speaking of the BIM lingo...

Do you have trouble keeping up with the BIM jargon? You’re not alone, I can assure you.
Either because it is technology driven or due to it chronically suffering from the shortage of real news, BIM seems to get a boost of new terminology regularly.
For example: ‘software agnostic’.
Had to look up the meaning of the second word and even after quite some research into philosophy, software development and religion, am not quite sure how it applies to BIM?

I understand it refers to something being able to work with various systems rather than customised for a single one. So, if I am prepared to create my models using various platforms, the terminology applies to me?
Would a cross platform BIM count as a software agnostic BIM? Or would the creators of the cross-platform BIM be classified as the software agnostics?
(very helpful that the word can be both a noun and an adjective);

Does it imply across the board commitment (plays with everyone) or universal no commitment (questions everything)?

Not quite sure that I like this word, while it is easier to pronounce then ‘interoperability’, it sounds negative, agonising, angry.

And while we’re at reinventing the BIM language, let me highlight this again:
IFC (interoperable BIM file-format) is easily and often confused with IFC (documents issued for construction) when used on construction projects.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Leave me alone: you are not my mum!

It was lucky I had my speakers off, on the laptop, otherwise the question Google Mail posed to me when I pressed the ‘send’ button would have really startled me.
“Did you mean to attach a file?” – a helpful note fleshed up instead. Your message says “attached please...but there is no file attached”...
This is quite creepy though – do they really scan every message I send or receive? For a chance to find places they can assist me? A sort of thin line between helpful and annoying...

Or is it just to control us all?

I know the horse has bolted on this one some time ago, Linkedin knows my address book inside out and FB bombards me with customised ads all the time.
I get suggestions to meet single available people locally.
Have they detected some activity on my husbands’ Gmail account that is prompting this avalanche?
Won’t be his FB or Linkedin, he demonstratively refuses to get manipulated by neither.

Are we being exploited?

For BIM’s future’s sake, I want universal connectivity between people and entities to happen sooner rather than later.
I wish for speedy information highways and clever vehicles to travel it.
I have zillions of ideas to plug into this, yet to become reality.

Still, an email system that acts like it was my mum? Aren’t ready for that, yet!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The lost dimension

Spare a thought for 3D today. It is losing ground even before it got really established.
Somehow, it’s no longer cool to do ‘just 3D’.
It is not BIM, they say. Does not count. It has to be 4, 5, 6D.
(oh, I despair when people keep hopping from one D to the next as if they were piano keys to tap);
You go BIM shopping, and it is no longer on the menu, at least not without the (just as despised by me) ‘clash detection’ tacked onto it.

I would accept the industry having outgrown 3D, a bit like analogue-phones were phased out by the digital, if the market acted in synch with this notion of multidimensional information being only valid starting from 4.
However, that is not the case. 2D information is still pretty much the working language of AEC – Few owners can claim to have had their projects properly coordinated in digital 3D prior to execution. Projects are crying out for robust 3D digital environments, but there seem to be a gap for providers.
Design consultants keep sticking to their guns and 2D outputs while BIM specialist consultants promote 4+D.

Not that there is anything wrong with 4D, or 5, or 25D, but aiming for those is pointless if 3D is not fixed up first.
Integrity of 3D information is a must.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just add bits...

If I had a dollar every time a project manager assured me that the subcontractor’s digital model will just need to be plonked onto the digital platform...I’d be rich of course.
I’m not, no need to say – measured in financial terms anyway, though I consider myself to be quite lucky and privileged in most areas of life;

Be wary of the ‘just’ word. A real red flag!
There is a significant leap between single discipline digital modelling and full virtual, spatial coordination. Also, remember this, no matter how sophisticated and good a subcontractor is in creating a digital representation of their part of the building the fact that it is a ‘part’ is the killer.

Their part is unlikely to be sitting on its own without interacting with other parts they have no control over.
Even if it was totally independent, the ‘inserting place’ would be controlled by another party.
Consequently, before and during the production of this super-duper part-model, there would be assumptions made.
Assumptions that render the ‘just’ word totally inappropriate, as those assumptions also tend to be fluid and change.

So, instead of a 3D puzzle with smooth and well fitting pieces, you will be working with a dynamic, continuously changing beast.
A beast that can be managed to some extent, but with the ‘just’ word removed from the scope all together.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Autodesk is investing in a new acronym: ABDS

Autodesk Building Design Suite (ABDS) is marketed as the NEW complete solution for both CAD and BIM.
(may have been out for a couple of months, I only got introduced to it recently, must have been living under a rock, me, not Autodesk);

Like it or not, AutoCAD has become a commodity. One fact to prove it: whenever people in the industry refer to ‘cadding something up’, you can bet (almost 100% of the time) the work being done on AutoCAD.
Within the AEC, Revit has got close to regularly being identified as BIM (and vice verse), though not nearly as successfully as AutoCAD had done in the flatcad environment.
The BIM acronym has been a mixed blessing for Autodesk, almost like a naughty child that turned its back on the parents.
BIM refused to be exclusive to Autodesk and become a synonym for almost anything digital and non-flat in AEC.

Let me make a wild guess: Autodesk intends to fade out ‘AutoCAD’, ‘Revit’ and even the ‘BIM’ brands and will aggressively market the box (solution) approach. The various elements will turn into tools in the box, stripped off their current personalities, emphasis will be on utility.

I suspect, the one thing Autodesk wants more than anything is ABDS to turn into a verb.
Won’t bet on it. Hasn’t got the right ring to it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Doing BIM is still a bit of a donkey work...

Hear it from the horse’s mouth: BIM is a fishy business.

A three legged stool, all 3 legs equally important: Author, Manipulate and Act on (information);
BIM without the ‘Author’ part done well, ends up like the pig in the rural wisdom: you can weigh it as much as you like, that will not make it fatter.
You’ve got to remember to feed it too.
BIM without the ‘Manipulate’ part is like herding cats and BIM without the ‘Act on’ part is like the horse and the water; You can have a horse (author) take it to the water (manipulate) but if you cannot make it drink – you have no BIM.

I have been bitten by the BIM bug a long time ago. After a while, decided to take the bull by the horns and do BIM my way. Advising clients to go cold turkey often is like kicking dead whales down the beach.
A risky process, at snail’s pace but you’ve got to do it, a cat in gloves catches no mice.

Though I often have to put up with the worm’s eyes view, I think I’ve just about broken the back of the beast.

A lame duck of a blog this turned out to be but it is a bit of a dog’s life to need to think of something clever every day.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Black blobbed but beautiful?

From the beginning of the year, I’ve commented on just-about-everything in my daily BIM-blog.
Some posts were received better than others, with feedback both positive and negative.
It did get me a little bit by surprise to get by far the worst hammering on the ‘booby-trapping’ post.

Many people felt offended by me implying that consultants intentionally employ those practices. (paranoia was mentioned);
No one argued about my observations accuracy. Only that the practices described were done that way by design.

So, these dubious practices just happen by accident?
Or have they been designed NOT to booby trap – i.e. instead support speedy navigation and interpretation of documents?
Maybe there are clever navigation gadgets built in those documents that I am yet to discover? 
Really good reasons to do silly scales and number-only identification of CAD drawings;
Has Autodesk come up with a DWF barcode viewer that will show me what is within the drawing if a hover my mouse over the string of numbers?*
Do PDF’s no longer keep electronic bookmarks under their bookmark tabs but react on users thinking of them?

I’d love to see little explanations on tender documents outlining the authors’ intention on how those should be navigated through, so I do not second guess them and get into trouble;
Or better still, why don’t they try navigating them themselves before issue?

*  the Windows thumbnails do not count – at their size one can’t properly assess the content of the drawing;

Friday, June 10, 2011

So much for user focus, interactivity and easy access.

I hit a bit-of-a low point with my blog-writing recently.
To look for some hidden inspiration and stop repeating myself I re-read some of the posts from January.
Quite early in the piece and I can’t recall the reasons for it anymore, I started offering cool little files to my readers.
These were (and still are) outstanding examples of user focused communication tools developed for the construction industry.

The initiative turned out to be a flop.
First, because I set the share-button wrong on the Google-docs setting. Second, many people had trouble downloading the files even when I fixed the sharing. Consequently not many persisted with attempting to manipulate them.
So much for user focus, interactivity, easy access.
Some emailed to ask for samples, other declared publicly that they NEVER downloaded anything from the net.

Hurt pride aside, this is interesting from the point of the global BIM!
We explore at lengths the BIM utopia where everything is shared with everyone, everywhere and in numerous Ds, real time.
We argue about authoring software, viewers, protocols, while I struggle with making a 1Meg PDF file available to the masses to explore.

I know of Dropbox, WeTransfer and all sorts of other controlled-vehicles available for over-the-net file sharing, I merely wish to point out a discrepancy here, between what we say and do in our daily BIM-ings.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How the toilet handicapped the BIM...

If you were an English teacher and walked past a “handicap toilet” at your work daily, would it make you cringe?
You may think I misspelled this, I did not.
Even with my limited English knowledge I know that ‘handicap’ as is, stands for a noun or a verb, for it to be an adjective it needs to become ‘handicapped’.
Putting aside the inappropriateness of the terminology for a facility that serves people with some disability, it continues to amuse me to also find the grammatically correct (but misleading nevertheless) alternative of ‘disabled toilet’ sign on doors.

I have my own ‘handicap toilet’ that I hold secret grudges against.
One? Millions.
All those WCs, real and imagined that over the years turned their architects off documenting in 3D.
I’ve seen time and time both architects and their caddies (drafties) opt out of creating full, integrated, digital models of their designs because the WC fittings they chose had no accurate digital representations available.
Or when they did, thanks to product suppliers, they often turned into self-exploding bombs killing the host files with their size and structure.

Toilets do have a lot to answer for when it comes to why BIM is where it is.

I suggest it become mandatory for all bathroom fitting suppliers to provide light, easy to use, intelligent digital representations of their products.

(The first paragraph is courtesy of the school that two of our children currently attend.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pebbles or breadcrumbs: Navigation through a set of typical building-project-drawings...

...should be easy and straight forward.
It is not, firstly because of the sheer number of drawings that are needed to be opened (or even worse, located, then opened), secondly the information is usually highly fragmented, duplicated and uncoordinated throughout the drawing-set.

Let’s for the moment accept that for the immediate future we are stuck with 2D PDF (soft) prints of drawings provided by consultants.

Still feel that we should be able to get more out of them. For example at minimum:
Have digital bookmarks and cross references to navigate between various views and drawings.

I expect many of you from the consultants’ side of the fence will be offended, possibly outraged. How dare I suggest extra work for you when you already are overworked under paid and not appreciated?

First, I don’t think this is unreasonable. What other industry is as ill-equipped to sort and package its data in a user-friendly way as AEC?
You go to a fast-food place, order three different types of coffees and all cups will be clearly marked.

Secondly, I have another agenda: I hope, that you’d choose to change some processes.

Digital book-marking and two-way referencing, both significant tasks could be made more palatable by doing 2 things:
Reduce the number of drawings generated to an optimum number and base all information on a digital, coordinated, project model.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sometimes you can positively detect the presence of the ghost model;

But the consultants insist everything was done in 2D.
Recently I was working on a reasonably large project.
I could ‘sense’ the model in there, the moment I put my hands on the drawings.
The third time in recent months, I knew the consultants used a model. The only question was, how far did they take it?
I looked for a pattern. The elevations have been definitely doctored – sections too.
Big deal? Not really – but still fascinating!

Think about it, there are two possible scenarios at work here:
One is that the consultant team IS using a model, purely for own risk management and only for limited stages of design/documentation and parts of the project.

Second option – the consultant representatives we’d been dealing with had genuinely though there was no modelling done within their office and some of the (possibly junior) staff did modelling work on their own initiative.

Both cases I find intriguing, the first one raises the question of why a company that chooses to use modelling for parts of the process ‘flattens’ the project and stays 2D for outputs; (as opposed to step up to document fully from an integrated model)?
The second even more fascinating: Could there still be practices that set up their projects in a way that they end up with totally hands-off project people fronting the design team?

Monday, June 6, 2011

My clued-up BIM tongue twister

My definition of BIM on any building project is: create and maintain quality project Information throughout the process.

If predictive digital modelling existed there would be a smart bucket of project Information created at source, that buildings could be built from with no further quality control needed (on the documentation side at least);
This hypothetical model I call a ‘Clued up model’. (clued up = smart, verified)

Predictive modelling does not exist (can put ‘yet’ in here if you wish) – therefore we need to have modellers that are as close as possible to understanding and have the ability to deliver ‘clued up models’. They are called ‘clued up model modellers’.

These types of people are very hard to find especially in numbers that are needed on projects, so to make sure that less capable modellers perform as well as possible you need hands on modeller managers. You can refer to them as ‘Clued up model modeller managers’.

What’s with the tongue twister?
Well, if you line these up in a bit of an inverted, lopsided pyramid:

(Clued up) model modeller manager manager
(Clued up) model modeller manager
(Clued up) model modeller
(Clued up) model

It is easy to see!
The further up the pyramid your ‘clued up’ resource sits, the bigger (and heavier) it becomes.
Cost and risks are closely related too, of course.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Would the real consultants for this project stand up, please?

A different type of redundancy from the one I described yesterday.
Not an unusual set-up, have seen it on numerous projects in recent times and in many countries.

There is a team of design consultants. Then, there is a team of client representative design consultants. And then another group for the contractor and not unusually, yet another for the PM company too.
So, a project could boast to have 4 design architects, 4 interior designers, 4 MEP engineers (or more if broken into further disciplines), 4 structural engineers, landscape designers and so on and so on...

Reminds me of an old well loved quiz, where the contestants had to guess which one of 3 claimants was the correct person. They could ask questions of all 3 and make a choice.
At the end, the host would ask the real XYZ to stand up...

If you were a building owner observing the delivery of your own building, would this give you extra confidence? Many hands make light work? Surely, so much expertise can be very beneficial? Or do you end up with the case of too many cooks spoil the broth?
Sadly, the latter seems to be the case, and not because too many parties try taking charge, more likely none wanting to carry the responsibility.

Would the real consultants for this project stand up, please?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

BIM and Redundancy...

Redundancy in the BIM WORKFORCE?  Not quite!
AEC has had its share of redundancies recently – it is time to put the word to a more positive use. Turning it on its head to promote resilience in the industry.

A bit like IT. There, they talk hardware redundancy, when there’s a provision of multiple interchangeable components performing a single function, in order to provide backup as well as even-out the load each party needs managing.

In BIM when structuring resources apply a similar, parallel processing approach.
Rather than going down the track of having one person prepare/digitise/model information and another check it, get two people model the same information in the same time and compare the two models. This is extremely effective, as between the two of them it is highly likely that the integrity of the data will be good – or huge discrepancies will become apparent to ring early warning bells.

This may sounds totally counterproductive (and a waste of resources) but don’t get discouraged from exploring it in areas that require interpretation of documents prepared by others, like the Virtual Construction end of the BIM spectrum.
Single-or-multidimensional documenting of buildings could benefit from it too.

No need to employ this approach through the entire project – only at key-stages and as part of an overall strategy.
Will expand on this method in the near future.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Let’s be pedantic: Calling it ‘2D design’ is insulting!

There is a new tide of BIM promoters roaming the AEC.
With cocky attitude and high level of confidence they promote various forms of ‘Conveyor belt BIMs’, full of digi-jargon and flow charts.
Everything they offer seems to be ‘leading’, ‘state-of-the-art’ or at least ‘best practice’.
I would give them points for their enthusiasm and self-assurance were they not so far-off what happens in the real world.

Something specially bothers me in what they are doing to AEC:
They constantly refer to ‘2D design’.
I’ve seen charts having ‘2D design’ boxes for architects, structural and MEP engineers. I’ve also read workflow described as: ‘the model will be developed based on the consultants’ 2D design...’

Building elements are never 2D, they all have spatial characteristics (even signs, pipes, wires or ‘spot’ objects, like light-fittings).
Outputs may be 2D and should be referred to as ‘design documented using 2D projections’ (or similar).
Nowadays 2D drawings can come from hybrid models, real models or dressed up ones and should not label the ‘traditional’ documenters as 2D designers either. Guilty by choice of the tool?

Just because someone is not ‘publishing’ their designs through digital 3D models does not mean they are not designing in 3D+.
Does that mean designs that are fully resolved in one’s head (see Tesla’s quote in previous post) should be considered 0D (zero-dimensional) designs?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The BIM/FM paradox

There is a bit of a sad irony when it comes to Facilities Management and BIM.

Not challenging the concept of a digital, 3dimensional, data-rich model being useful for operational and maintenance once the building is completed.
Most building owners think similarly and are usually eager to have their digital building live on beyond construction through operations and FM.
Consequently many BIM promoters rely heavily on piggybacking FM, to sell preFM BIM.

There is a contradiction:
While selling ‘design and construction BIM’ is the easiest on the back of FM, in practice these models are of little use for FM.
Yes, it is possible to repurpose and modify the information created through construction stage to suit FM, however this is not necessary cheaper then say, creating an FM model from scratch just before the completion of construction.

Let me clarify this further: If BIM is performed PURELY to fulfil the FM requirements of the building owners, the currently promoted approaches may not be very suitable.
BIM and FM can complement each other and I’m all for ‘design and construction BIM modelling’ however, these need to be able to ‘stand on their OWN feet’.
I also wish to highlight the risk of selling one thing and delivering another.

The best chance for BIM in the future is in repeat clients, having BIM-conversant clients can also help.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In search of the BIM positive...

There is a beautiful building not far from where I live.
It is also part of a successful BIM project, or so I’ve been told.
I know very little about the history of the project and will not comment on how BIM assisted or hindered the creation of this wonderful object.

Am curious about MZ Partners being the project’s original designers. I once visited their offices. If you ever need a proof that flash offices are not needed to get high profile architectural projects, walk by their entry. They may have moved since. Doubt it, somehow.

I’ve kept Arups (the lead consultants of the building) in high esteem ever since I did a thorough study on the design and construction of the Sydney Opera House many years ago.
Have never worked with them directly but admire how they manage to coast on the outskirts of the global BIM-frenzy of the recent years with unblemished reputation.
And yes, they are excellent engineers too (I expect), I’m just a bit one-eyed and look at everything though BIM glasses.

Driving past the ‘disk’ daily, I marvel at the scale of it and the fact that it does not feel overpowering at all.
It does not feel like a building either, a striking object set in the desert.
A ‘Goldilocks’ type of object – everything about it feels ‘just right’.