Sunday, July 31, 2011

Arrogance or ignorance?

Two-days-ago’s topic on ‘exchanging digital data’ warrants further consideration.
Can you relate to the sentence:" we'll give you CAD files so that SHOULD reduce your work by half"?
Few non-hands on people could appreciate the difference a badly exported file could make on the receivers life. This type of over simplification of the issue goes back in time.

It used to be present when flatCAD drawings were the norm.
The ‘bylayer’ word still rings warning bells for me.
Exploded blocks, fills and hatches, paperspace plans scaled, non-anchored labels, right angles just a bit out... a few more booby traps...
Savy CAD managers learned to deal with these issues and many company manuals had systems and processes in place. Even the majority of marketing people knew not to make frivolous delivery promises based on existing CAD data. By and large.

Roll in model based building information!
Don’t go too far with it, not into fat databases carrying a lot of metadata.
Think first of basic geometries, walls, floors, everyday objects, desks, tables, basins, showers.
Despite of strong PR from IFC followers and in-house interoperability of various packages that large providers like Autodesk deliver to the market, the fact is that the real complexity and hazard comes from the data author and these risks grow exponentially anytime a model moves from a ‘safe’ controlled environment to another.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Globalize BIM! (genuinely)

I go on-and-on about the interrelation between how various software dealers organise their product distribution and the overall state of BIM within AEC.
(see link to very good discussion on Archicad Linked in group too);

BIM is pretty much surviving (but not at all thriving) on tools provided by companies set up to work on the principles of succeeding in “cold-war era” types of environments.
They navigate by-the ‘us’ and ‘them’. The ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. The ‘you’re either with us or against us’...
Just to name a few, emotionally charged slogans that still so well characterise the field.
There is a token attempt by some on the fringes to voice the ‘right tools for the right tasks’ approach but this is mere playing lip service to taking quasi informed choices as opposed to really encouraging robust and widespread experimentation of variety of tools..

From the point of innovation and product development, the cold war era was not all bad news. Had only one party to outplay, focused resources and efforts into achieving palpable results within remarkably short timeframes.

So sticking to this type of environment should not by itself be paralyzing for the industry. Unfortunately, or fortunately (to the users) BIM-related tools can’t survive in their bubbles anymore and are forced to face up to the democratised information management that globalized construction projects demand.

Friday, July 29, 2011


The more we talk about it, the less of it there is on our projects.
Meaningful interoperability.
I note that the level of success of how any project’s parties interoperate is shaped by many forces, the medium used for communication, I highlight as important.

Glance back thirty years:
The medium was the drawing – originated as a transparency, a technical document on a sheet of tracing-paper.
‘What you see was what you got’; If you were to develop your own information on the basis of the particular drawing, you’d trace over. You might check the integrity of information symbolised, however any assumption you’d make on the time needed to repurpose the incoming data for your own information would be reasonably accurate.
I.e. the time for a structural drawing to be prepared from an architectural one was not affected by the type of pen (Rotring, Steadler?) the original author had used.

Forward 10 years:
A Flatcad drawing output would be very similar to the hand drawn one, apart from the fact that some electronic data was likely to be exchanged with it.

Here comes the variability: no longer could you assume that the data you’d get would be ‘x’ useful to base for your documents on.

Nowadays (within our quasi BIM era) this inconsistency is almost totally unmanageable, we try to exchange model-based data, transparency removed. TBC...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Automated (intelligent?) clash detection

The idea of ‘automated clash detection’ on construction projects is so delightful that it attracts a large following and refuses to go away.
Or allow for any type of meaningful challenge.
I’m not surprised that sellers of clash-detectors are enthusiastic about the concept.
More puzzling is to see hardy, experienced site-based contractors get all dewy-eyed about intelligent machines processing models of yet-to-be-built buildings and spitting out clash reports.

For some reason our ability to think rationally switches off when faced with what’s trumpeted as the latest technology.

The quintessential clash of the HVAC duct or plumbing pipe going through a massive beam gets promoted endlessly, yet my experience tells me that things are much more complex and convoluted in real life.
However and despite of the complexness of these systems, BIM tends to make its breakthrough not through automatic clash detection but little achievements, more-often-than-not delivered through a personal touch.

A case of a ‘clash’ we discovered a number of years ago and shown on the pictures I included here was minor and in the scheme of things, almost entirely forgettable.
Then again, us identifying it, documenting and presenting the way we did was the turning point in the relationship between the model- and the construction managers.
The trust, so desperately needed, was finally established.
Even though our report was at-first totally ignored by all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The lack of Animation in AEC

Husband’s got a new pet project for the summer. He set out to create an animation of the workings of the S bend of the kitchen sink;
He teaches science to children, so this is not too out of character.

While discussing various options available to him, I wondered again, while is the technique of animation so underutilised within the AEC industry’s communications?
The method of capturing successive drawings to create an illusion of movement of a construction sequence is one used reasonably often. The only other  practical application of moving images I can think of are the walkthroughs used as presentation materials often to sell yet-to-be-built buildings.

Buildings are stationary elements most of the time, one can argue. Making them ‘sing-and-dance’ should be left to creators of children’s entertainment.
Still, there are so many aspects of designing, putting together and probably most importantly operating buildings that could do with the help of the animating industry that I advocate for more exploration within this area.

Over the years in the little BIM lab we operated quite a bit of magic was had by applying animation skills and tools to building elements.
We pulled apart and reassembled complex building parts, visualised fire egresses, stretched planning tents over houses, banged lifts into pile-caps, rotated cranes over streetscapes, nailed nails, painted paints, waterproofed waterproofing...

Samples available, just ask!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Split personality

Working in a BIM related role will get you develop a split personality.
You constantly alternate between two significantly different roles;
One is a positive character, the innovator, the pioneer, leader and motivator.
The other is the cautious chap, the pragmatic one, providing the voice of reason and forever dragging the chain. 
Ironically, those that manage to be good at both roles are often labelled as ‘flip-floppers’, people who can’t quite make up their minds or hold their arguments across the range.

While the spectrum of conflicting traits does not match that of the famous ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ struggle of good and evil, it can be a hard work to deal with this duality daily.
I find the biggest risk in working on an autopilot where I automatically assume the opposite role from whoever I am dealing with, regardless of other circumstances, i.e. shoot down an enthusiastic BIM promoter or try to talk a BIM sceptic around at any cost. I also start my sentences far too often with “Yes, buts”, an impolite habit best to get rid of.

You may say, that the answer is not in developing ‘a split personality’ but a ‘level head’;
That may be healthier for the BIM person and might even be easier to achieve, somehow I don’t think would do a lot of good to BIM.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What is your BIM hit rate?

Hit rate is a measure of BIM performance. An indicator on how effective one is in turning a set of gobbledygook into meaningful construction data. No, I don’t think an official assessment system exists. I just made this question up. You may view it is just as a benchmark to gauge the effectiveness of someone’s modelling, however I believe it can be developed into a universal BIM measure;

There used to be Modelling shootouts between modellers working on various packages to prove superiority of one over the other. These focused on the speed one could interpret drawings and translate them into a digital model. I’d extend this testing by including all of the other steps necessary for a ‘BIM move’ to be completed, i.e. identifying and isolating out queries, publishing and following up on them, reintegrating into the database, identifying and isolating all the implications of the change, publishing them, following up and reintegrating ...
Could an iterative process like this be measured?
Well, it is obviously an essential and necessary part of the process of creating buildings.
It is performed daily by millions of people worldwide. It must be assessable.

On the other hand, figuring your BIM hit rate becomes largely meaningless if not totally obsolete once all information authoring processes are model based and verified.
We are a long way from that yet;

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Middle daughter’s BD today!
Being born on the 24th day of the 7th month suited her ever since she was a baby, making for us the numbers easy to remember, she’s been a real 24/7.
Slowed down a bit when teenage-hood hit, hopefully will regain the trait of ‘keeping going’ as she gets out the other side of the tricky years.

Her birth day also marks 3 software related anniversaries for me, 15 years of Archicad, 20 of AutoCAD and 5 of Revit (Architecture).

Rather than being proud of my long association with these packages the numbers make me weary, conscious of time flying and things not changing much for the better...
Am getting a reputation for whinging... An unfair label, I believe.
Most of the time I just state the facts. Or the way I see them. Well, I do speculate a bit too.
Can’t help if they’re all a bit gloomy?

Looking back at my BIM history, I now see that I made the same mistakes as many others do:
“We want to believe in the power of technology to solve all of our problems”.

Too much emphasis on tools, too little on the tool handlers;
More effort needs to go into the people part, space and opportunities given to those that can make a difference. Especially the young ones!

Happy birthday Zsuzs!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The significance of Figured dimensions in BIM

People taken up by the whirlwind of BIM enthusiasm tend to look at the discipline of dimensioning with fresh eyes.
Dimensions no longer need to be specified, you can take off any and from wherever you like!
Interesting idea, but can it be right?

Can one assume that 3D modelling has reached such sophistication that all tolerances, installation requirements, conditions and subtleties are reliably captured within the virtual representation of the yet to be built building?
To such an extent that any-old-user can go in, measure and apply?
If you give a blank cheque you need to anticipate people will use it, maybe even abuse it;
The above described notion is pretty scary and potentially very hazardous for the future of BIM.

While FlatCAD could go into almost n-t degree of accuracy, somehow the understanding that accuracy does not equal to taking full responsibility for buildability was retained within its processes.

What has changed since the ‘do not scale’ mantra of the drawing based documentation?
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when moving to BIM, examine the reasons behind various old dimensioning practices.

Software vendors need to sharpen up their programming skills to allow for meaningful 3D dimensioning and setting out.
The “do not scale” warning still has some mileage in it even within the BIM framework, bring in SMART figured dimensions!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Google and Mesopotamia...

“A new study has demonstrated that Internet technologies have changed the way we remember information.
We now remember information sources rather than information itself” the study says, “remembering methods instead of memorising facts”.

I don’t think this is such a new phenomenon, I believe it’s been with the human kind since written recording was first established.
In fact, in a very informative exhibition I attended recently (‘Splendours of Mesopotamia’, dubbed by a daughter as ‘a roomful of clay and sticks’) I mused about exactly this miracle.
Not being overly good on memorising facts, I could really empathise with my counterparts living in the 3100BC when first given the ability to capture information without needing to keep everything in their heads.

Capturing and searching go hand-in-hand, more recent history shows what difference technology can make in extending the lives of musical and dancing treasures by recording and managing of the records.

Let me use this opportunity to emphasise again how BIM thrives on this concept:
When used well on building projects, BIM becomes and stays your project memory bucket where you keep all relevant information on a project in orderly and searchable manner.

A set of project trivia at your fingertips, even if not in your head!
The trick still is in retaining the skills of knowing what to remember not just where to find it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The power to choose!

Consider this dilemma:
You develop an innovative software solution.
You undertake to distribute it within a geographical area;
“Do you give exclusivity to one company or do you choose a number of them and keep them competing with each other?”

Not a trick question, I am genuinely interested in the issue.
Having been on the receiving end of an exclusive dealership for quite some time, I’d say that more than one distributor would benefit the client/customer.
There however is the risk of them competing too fiercely for a limited client base, killing each other and the product in the process.

There is a condition present in the life that we live, that has an impact on how we perceive our position within it.
The ability to make a choice.
Whether that is getting up in the morning, wearing particular clothes, listening to specific music or residing in a street, town or country.
Take the choice away and we are powerless, insecure, unhappy.
Look at the retail industry! They spend a lot of effort on maintaining the perception of choice even when there is no real alternative available.

Groceries have been distributed in NZ for the last decade through 2 main monopolies; we still feel that we have a choice of much more providers on offer.

Software developers, don’t underestimate the power of giving a choice!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BIM and politics...

This is an election year in New Zealand.
Oh, how I wish BIM could be on the list of items voters will base their decisions on whom to trust to lead them next! It will not make it to the agenda, of course.

Think about it! What an opportunity! The country that first gave women the right to vote could be also the first one to employ BIM as an official strategy to hold governments accountable for their development of all public buildings. Transparency over public funds as well as employment for good BIM modellers! (know a couple that could do with some meaningful work);

I accept, there are numerous governments further ahead with the game, already writing BIM requirements into their tenders, asking for BIM frameworks within their building projects and generally championing BIM, but maybe NZ can still leapfrog them all by adopting a series of bold, innovative policies.

Digitise the country’s current building stock and make digital models mandatory for all new ones. Request manufacturers and suppliers of materials to provide digital representations of their products and develop tools that allow for rapid model based documenting.

Someone else has pioneered online building consents? NZ could offer to do them over the phone.
Centralised school asset databases? NZ will have them ‘walking and talking’ too.

Not this time? Next election in 3 years!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We stopped playing dress-ups...

When I say nothing ever changes in this BIM game, I am exaggerating of course.
One practice I used to see a lot has almost disappeared on largish projects.

We called it the ‘dressing up’ game; views from loosely modelled buildings were isolated and decked out with hatches, dimensions, labels and notes. Depending on the tidiness of the host model, a cover fill was also employed to various extents. It concealed minor blemishes as well as not-so-minor ones.

Some-of-us used to go OTT with the ‘cover up’, performing extensive drafting exercises in 2D and relegating the model to an almost totally insignificant role within the documentation process.

The ‘two section syndrome’ typified these projects, where two or less graphically-beautifully presented sections were a good indication on the quality of the overall documentation.

This, ‘Putting lipstick on a pig’ practice has been abandoned by most largish design-practices I deal with, and is being replaced by a new tactic I code: ‘kill with sections’.
In this method the model is developed a bit further than before, so ‘reasonably’ looking sectional views are taken off and not a lot of makeup applied.
(Creative work with scales is often needed for it to work...).

I have been advocating for publishing a lot of sections of the model for a long time, so I should be pleased. I am not.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Never say never...

People have been telling me to drop the drawing...
And guess what, I’ve been fighting back!...Who would have thought this could happen!

Seriously.... I’ve come across a number of projects recently where wise and well meaning people propose to eliminate the 2D drawings from the process and just ... ‘use the BIM for everything’.
Construction, shop drawings, sign offs.
Sadly, these suggestions aren’t coming from the design consultants. That would be something to celebrate!

Before you rush to condemn me as a hypocrite – let me clarify this:
I am all for BIM, I have documented buildings from very small to quite large-ones fully based around central, digital models.
Given the opportunity, I’d take on the challenge to document and construct a building with no drawings what-so-ever, but boy, would I require many special systems to be put in place for that to work?!

Ignorance may be bliss, but please think again!
If you need one example, take a relatively simple suspended ceiling system (with a couple of different levels, a combination of recessed, cove and pendant light fittings, louvers, bulkheads, maybe acoustic tiles, fire-rated boards here-and-there, sprinklers sticking through, glass partitions meeting up...)

Think through what information is needed for this structure to be built properly and then expand to an entire building!
You’ll need some serious input from manufacturers here, more on this later!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A friendly assault by Dassault...

‘A full page article in the paper on BIM today, has Gehry in it too’ Graham texted me a couple of days ago... On the second reading he realised BIM was not mentioned in it at all, the acronym I mean, the concept was, still, interesting.

Fairly simplistic and one sided reporting nevertheless creates general awareness.

Awareness of what? That the Tooth fairy still exists?
That somewhere out in magic forests hide magic boxes with solutions for all our design and documentation related troubles?

Can’t talk for the airspace industry, though what I know of Boeing’s toolset, there is much more to its success than one software.
Can’t comment on Catia, its ability to transform the airspace, car, submarine AND transformation industries, nor the achievements of Dassault.

There is one sentence that hits a bit too close to home though:
 “Designing cities is another speciality. Dassault Systemes 3D software was used for urban planning in the Chinese city of Shenzen.” So were numerous Microsoft packages, I guess.
Thankfully here is Gehry too, representing paperless design and the future of the AEC....

Am I being overly mean here?
Hope not – I too crave for exciting news in the techno-AEC field, magic boxes that will release us all of the daunting tasks of needing to figure out forward ways ourselves...

This isn’t quite it, or is it?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Will it ever grow up?

Our three daughters are spending some time together – having lived the last year in different parts of the World. They’ve been to see the last Harry Potter movie, a midnight experience that was planned for months ago.
While they were bidding their last good-buys to Harry and co, husband and I were listening to the radio half a world away discussing unusual experiences of people never touched by the HP craze.
The question was regularly repeated on air as we drove home:
‘Have you lived through the last 11 years w/o ever reading a HP book or seeing a movie?’
Whether to my credit or not, I can safely state that I belong to the above mentioned group of HP ‘ignorants’ though have got a tainted past when it comes to the Teletubbies and Barnie.

Curiously this (hopefully truly last) Harry Potter mania has triggered for me to see the ‘craze’ that has ruled the last 11 years of my life.
Come to think about it, it is coming close to 20 since I’ve started taking serious interest in what is now called BIM. 

Can one spend an entire working life in the same immature profession?
What if no one remembers to take an initiative and put this undeveloped, juvenile movement to bed in the near future and it lingers around for another 2 decades?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Rube Goldberg BIM machine...

One day.... I’ll have my own Rube Goldberg music machine....
Sitting in the garden, or maybe by the bush*, sipping a weak, lukewarm tea, I’d drop a wooden ball into the topmost opening of a whimsical creature and listen serenely to it making its way down the intestines of the handmade contraption playing a simple tune heard thousands of times yet still soothing and providing pure pleasure to the old ear...

I still have children to be raised, so while I dream of a very distant future I make the most of now, often pondering over AEC’s likes to indulge in the collection of Rube Goldbergs within its own processes.
There is no shortage of consciously (or not) designed to be over-the-top machines that perform a very simple task through a series of steps in overly complex ways.
And I’m not even thinking ‘physical’ construction here.

Take for example what happens following award of a tender and prior to doing any ‘real’ work on a site.
Usually, there is an eight-major-step Goldberg in place, made up of hundreds of mini Goldbergs interweaving the mother-machine.

Collect, find, locate, identify, examine, interpret, understand, prioritise, convert, translate, digitise,  identify, detect, isolate, record, track, raise, distribute, follow-up, chase, update, communicate, re-loop, implement, change, record, track, inform, reveal, exhibit, display, describe, filter...

Hard to follow? Refer to the graph provided!

(*I am not much of a gardener unfortunately – do like living by the bush or water, but don’t we all?)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why does ‘sceptic’ sound so ‘septic’?

A well informed subject expert asked at a gathering recently:
“How many results would Google spit out if you searched for BIM?”
Various, similarly well informed subject-specialists guessed within the range of 5-15 million;
Following a ‘pregnant pause’ the instigator revealed the answer he was expecting: 34 million;
34 million....
Was I biting my tongue and sitting on my hands? Oh, you bet...
Not that I did not type BIM into Google late that evening! My ‘number’ came in at 34.9 mil.

How many of those results are of BIM acronyms unrelated to Building Information Modelling? Names and surnames, vehicle registration plates?
Or just random three letter compositions floating through the air?
Why am I even thinking of this as having any significance at all to BIM or me???

If there is relevance at all it is in the sad fact that probably 2 million of those tags refer to articles so identical in nature that it’s not funny anymore. You can read hundreds of papers on BIM and find nothing but zombie-like rhetoric.
Rhetoric that hardly changed in 2 decades;

Later that evening, I asked Google another question: “BIM sceptic”.
Result: ONE
Time to form The BIM Sceptics Society!
To promote some critical thinking and search for like minded individuals.

There must still be place for evidence based BIM! Let’s make it!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grids behaving badly...

A post on a regular contributor’s own blog* prompted me to again look at the concept of ‘Say it once, say it correctly’. 

I believe that this notion (as many others), will only work when a combination of factors come together, tools, work methods, culture.
I point to FlatCAD as the entity that (a long time ago) put down the foundations for a way to tackle this issue. A pretty good base it was too.
Petty it was underutilised by most practitioners, often totally misused.

Still, systems and processes have existed for years and in the regular digital environment to link up, xref, group, create libraries and custom applications, all in place to reduce duplication within project information.

‘Read it on whatever-number-of-places you like, be able to assume it all came from one place.’ was the goal (I believe).
Two things were missing: policing and trust.

The first step I do when I assess a set of documents, is to look at the grid system.
Is it present, properly defined and consistent?
I can report, that 9 out of 10 times there ARE issues with the grids.
From the moment I discover one issue with the grid, I am on guard.
Not necessary because of the single reference behaving badly, but because it will most likely signal systematic disregard for consistency within the project data.

* htpp:// from Lighthart

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A somewhat clumsy (ϋgyetlen) analogy...

Have never been much good at sports.
To my parents’ immense disappointment, both keen sportspeople.
By the young-age of two, I earned an adjective (ϋgyetlen) that stuck with me for life.
(loose translation: clumsy). It is often extended to my other, non-sport-related but physical (manual) capabilities – implying limited ability to contribute to society when it comes to making things.
Thankfully, by-now I learned to deal with this appendage and earn a living through some alternative talents.

Due to the rocky start of our relationship, it’s taken me a while to recognise the immense value ‘understanding sports better’ can offer when it comes to improving productivity within the AEC.

I suggest you look into this field for ideas if you want the make BIM work too.
Not just for obvious tips related to team management of group sports, leadership and cooperation, but more on how to tackle unforeseen circumstances, collect and use intelligence on conditions and opponents, build up resilience and handle challenges caused by human nature.
Someone competing in a ‘singles’ sport has to deal with own limitations ‘only’ and the ones the physical environment will throw at her/him at the time of needing to perform. (for example most athletics)
A sportsman playing against another will have to add another dimension – the opponent, a much more fickle set of variables to influence or even foresee...

Picture of my sister and nephew with the young Novak Djokovic (now World no 1 in tennis) taken a couple of years ago; 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The gloomy little game we play...

I wrote a slightly silly post a couple of days ago, describing the case of the devoted nonBIM-er.
It displeased quite a number of people out in the BIM world – somehow this subject is reaching the stage of total PC-ness, no self-mockery or cynical contemplation is welcome. Sorry, can’t help it.
BIM has so far almost totally refused to act predictably or even rationally on small or large scale, so it only fits ‘the patient’ to employ a somewhat erratic strategy to deal with it.

Allow me to compensate a little with a sombre statement today:
Fully coordinated documents for new buildings come at a price most building owners are unwilling to pay for!
(Fully? Replace that with “even moderately”)

So, is anyone in the industry prepared to tackle this issue?
Not really, the horse has totally bolted on this one, many years ago.
Between dropping consultant fees to absolute minimum, various unrealistic global property bubbles and the advent of project managers in AEC, the stage had been set sometime in the eighties. 

We collectively play in this theatre daily, serving ideals many disagree and observe rules few agree with. Strings are pulled and loosened sometimes to allow young enthusiast to dance solo or even attempt to modify the stage.

AEC is no stand-up comedy and while ad-hoc methods are tolerated, impromptu performances are unwelcome.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The blueprint for Picture Book Documenting

Are you old enough to remember real-pen plotters? They had a captive audience in me, mesmerizing the way they ran their pens seemingly-randomly over large pages of paper for long bits of time to end up with meaningful plots, often on tracing paper.
They were big, capricious, noisy beasts no one liked sitting close to, consequently not many shed-a-tear when the last of them left the office to be replaced by a large scale printer.

There was one thing though that they did better than the new ones:
Kept us ‘honest’. Made us think carefully as we set out the drawing sheets.
‘Is it really necessary to introduce another sheet just to show that? Can we group details better to balance the page?’
The ‘post-production’ process was laborious too – the tracings were copied through the traditional blueprint machines – the smell still lingers somewhere in the back of my head.  

These days the art of laying drawings out has all by gone.
I rarely see conscious effort behind drawings with the aim to help comprehension.
We often receive thousands of sheets with very little information on them accompanied by few crammed with lots but hard to depict, especially when the sheets are reduced to smaller formats.

I wrote a bit on the subject when I floated my ‘picture book documenting concept’*, more on it again, soon.

* look up two Jan 2011 posts, published on the 14th and 17th

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What is missing from the BIM kitchen?

Martha Stewart visited recently.
The country I live in, not me, though I am personally grateful for all the interviews she’s entertained my husband for days (indirectly, of course via the printed publications we are lucky to receive daily);
The homemaking Queen’s call triggered my renewed interest in domesticity but also hospitality in general.

I’d written a number of posts on the need to run the AEC more like the hospitality industry before and was challenged on the idea by some;
Nevertheless, the subject fascinates me. I see far more similarities than differences so I still encourage keeping an eye on what ‘restaurantors’ are up to when devising strategies to improve the AEC.
One of the commentators promoted ‘prefabrication’ ahead of the idea of being overly charmed by the actions of those that help filling ones tummies.
“...These are successful because we modelled our activities after manufacturing, not Veal Picatta. Prefabrication keeps waste of the jobsite, meeting one of the highest principles of LEED (managing waste)...”

But is the Foods & Drinks industry not one of the best examples of prefabrication?
Where did the “The one I prepared earlier” saying originate from?

The AEC is notoriously bad at capturing lessons learned, collecting, distilling and bottling up its knowledge, get Martha Stewart’s help!
Or is it time to talk to the good people of ‘Sara Lee’?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The BIM free utopia...

Consider this: you are a confident consultant (architect, engineer) prepared to stand up publicly and say:

“No, we do no BIM in our office and are proud of it!...

...We produce documentation for our buildings ‘the good old way’ and use CAD where absolutely necessary and only to mimic the traditional processes.
Our buildings don’t come from cookie-cutters, we fashion each-and-every one from scratch by painstakingly drawing up separate views for all plans, elevations and sections.
Details aren’t copies of typical ones but individually developed from enlarging sectional cuts and setting installation/operational tolerances for all elements.

...We forbid our people to use any modelling devices; they have to do all inter-disciplinary coordination in their heads and all participants are collectively responsible for clash free designs. They also need to be able to be awaken up at any time of the night and recite bills of quantities of their projects forwards and backwards. Schedules are fashioned by filtering elements out manually from the drawings and are continually kept up to date through various mental catalogues.

... our consultants write their own specifications too, preferably long-handed though in some cases some word processing is allowed. In those instances spell checkers and editing tools are naturally, disabled.

Our clients receive an outstanding service and our fees are only 2 and half times the value of the proposed building.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A red rag to the BIM bull?

Remember my post on colours in BIM? No?
Great, I can write about the subject again.
The human eye sees about 7,000,000 colours, some sources say (would be interesting to know how they come up with such a number?).
Colours are everywhere and their impact on us shouldn’t be under-estimated. Even without a lot of scientific knowledge on the subject we ‘know’ (from some personal experience) that colours can affect our mood, make us work well or feel tired, calm down or irritate ‘up’.

I believe that the appropriate use of colour can significantly improve productivity when it comes to BIM. But, what is the appropriate use of colour?

Bad news – you’ve got to work it out yourself!
This is yet another area where I’ve seen little progress since the Rotring colours (red, yellow, green, cyan, magenta) adopted by AutoCAD were replaced by multiple hues of grey, favoured by Revit and other sophisticated modellers.
I know you can use zillions of colours in most modelling packages currently active within BIM, but do you?

Do you use colours to help you and others be more productive?
Interrogate the model, identify different elements more easily, distinguish between various classes and/or other non-graphical properties of elements? Smart colour coding?

So, I state that ‘The untapped potential of colours for BIM is huge!’
A red rag to a bull?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mouses and Keyboards

The scroller on the home mouse has packed up. When I turn it downside up and look at its belly, it is hard to see anything wrong, the red light is on.
The experience brings back a vivid memory of a now obsolete action.
Cleaning the clogged up rollers of old fashioned mouses: Straighten a paper clip and gently remove the fluff accumulated on the plastic cylinders. Then, pop them back into the mouse. Off it goes!
Very satisfying.

On the other hand (literally) there is something bugging me these days.
I use two laptops regularly, will not go into the reasons, let’s assume it is a logical way to work.
One of the laptops is a mature HP, an almost 2 year-old mobile workstation. The other is a spring chicken, a brand new Lenovo.
Observe the CTRL and Function keys on each; they both have them at the left bottom corner of the keyboard. The HP places the CTRL to the outside, the FN is inside;
Guess what? The Lenovo, ‘naturally’ has them the other way around.

A have an enthusiastic, amateur pianist for a husband, so we’ve always had a keyboard in our house (almost always); The current one is a digital Yamaha that comes with tricks, bells and whistles.

Still, it places it’s keys just like the old one did. How odd!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

BIM is a failed revolution...

An anonymous commenter wrote on my blog;
He is right! (or was it a she? An entire consortium could hide behind the anonymous sender, that would make them ‘they’, I guess. I digress).

“Ultimately Architects and Engineers need to make a profit.
BIM increases costs and offers nothing in the way of greater efficiency or a competitive edge.
BIM assumes A/E offices have lots of time to train people, and that their employees are long hires. This is not true either.
Most firms hire and fire by the job.
BIM is a tool for making high tech airplanes but has no place in small scale construction.”*

Interesting how often airplanes come up in conversations related to BIM.
I often use them to explain hard-to-explain theories.
Or just to make my stories more interesting and appear real high-tech.
Did you know that my favourite coordination software package is used by both Boeing and Bell Helicopters?

Still, I think I am more fascinated by the airspace industry then the aircrafts themselves.
There exists an environment that previously did not, with its intricate rules, processes and systems.
It continues to operate across all geographical areas despite of numerous and daily impediments.
Even if you take into account the time frame it evolved to its current state, it is still a revolution.

Something BIM has been unable to achieve.

* Don’t necessary agree with the entire comment as such though, it has some very good points;

Monday, July 4, 2011

The two sides of the BIM coin...

...there is the ‘light side’ that most BIM people talk about:
The 4D and 5D. The sequencing, the clash detections. The project model, one and central, accessible through a cloud from anywhere, anytime.
The virtual construction concept, building something twice, first virtually, then in real world. The accessible model that clients can investigate and contractors interrogate.
The optimised model, the clever database, quantities, logistics, resources planning ...

...and then, there is the ‘dark side’. The poor quality of information that travels through the project. The lack of integrity of project information that at best is ignored or at worst is used as a major tool for diversion/confusion as the project proceeds from one stage to the next.
The fact that design consultants may talk the BIM talk but rarely walk it, definitely not across the line that separates design and construction.
The hard to learn authoring packages, the limitations of the off-the-shelf solutions, the empty databases...

Few of us seem to be able to see both sides of the coin.
Some get stuck on the light side, pushing the utopia down anyone and everyone’s throats.
Others are hostages to the dark side, trapped in the never-ending battle of tangling up and untangling project information, repeatedly going down roads that everyone knows are dead-end.

... all-in-all, a sorry state of affairs.
Care to flip the coin?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Moving to BIM from flatCAD is nothing like dropping the T square!

I’ll ease-off transportation parallels in the future, this one I must write about (again?).
Can’t help myself thinking of it every time someone tells me, how going to BIM from CAD will come about (easily) just as moving from the drafting board to CAD happened in the past.
Not necessarily a painless change but nonetheless, no big deal.

I beg to differ. Moving to real BIM from flatCAD is nothing like changing from the T square to the mouse!

And this is where my transportation parallel comes in:
Look at 3 ways of getting from A to B. Bike, drive (a car), fly (by a plane);
Disregard reasons you’d choose one over another and look at the components of each system:
To bike you need a bike and to know how to operate it. There need to be roads and rules to govern how you get around and interact with others.
To use a car instead, you’d need a car (obviously) and to know to operate it. The roads may be different (wider, sealed) and the rules more stringent, still similar.

Now, decide to go by plane. That is your BIM.
You may have a clunky aircraft (software) even someone to run it, but what about the infrastructure to operate it-in and the rules for interaction?
The road-based environment and knowledge will not be enough!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I like to have a mix of LoDs in my model!

LoD is the Level of Development you model to;
Or Level of Detail, depending on the party that is using the acronym and the context.
A good approach, in principle. Problems start when you want to put it to practice and innovate.

Traditional design works on the principle of developing and documenting ideas from masses and spaces through generalised systems to specific assemblies.
It is generally assumed that a wall and window will ‘grow up’ together, move from ‘solid barriers /openings within them’ definitions in schematic design through types and materials in design development to specific assemblies and installation instruction, just before or during construction.

What if Ii wanted to mix up my LoDs?
For example, what if I knew exactly the type of lifts we’d want to use within a particular building early in the design and plonked LoD 500 models into a largely LoD 100 model?
Would they rock the boat?
How about an LoD 300 curtain wall? Or a number of them, provided by manufacturers and used early in the design to compare, analyse and optimise energy performance of the building while other elements were left lagging in their early hundreds?
What if I wanted to pick up all LoD 400 elements of numerous buildings (completed earlier) and play with those elements to create a new Schematic design?

Mishandling of LoDs? Lol!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Don’t call it BIM! Delegation and BIM.

What could/should a young architect working within a traditional/hybrid architectural environment do to advance BIM without jeopardising his/her career?

You’ve got to be creative!
At the heart of all traditional design processes is delegation and delegation is highly reliant on trust.
Design and decisions are made by one party and interpreted, implemented, executed by another.
If you are the one being ‘delegated-to’, challenge the medium and the tools not the decision making hierarchy.

Here are 3 hypothetical scenarios for a senior/ junior architect setup in a medium-sized design company with a strong ‘hybrid’ (confused) BIM/CAD approach and process*:

1/ SA: 50+ (years old) JA: late 20s
SA will know how buildings go together; will not be hands on;
Help SA become hands on by providing many inroads to the database and work through resolving the model with whatever outputs the SA can relate to.  

2/ SA: 40-50 JA: late 20s
SA will know what documents should be created (in 2D) but will not have a good understanding of how to check them;
Suggest ways to restructure outputs for checking to become easier; (reduce number of drawings);

3/ SA: 30-40 JA: late 20s
SA will be somewhat hands on and very vulnerable. Combine approaches 1 and 2 and be very careful not to tread on egos.

Applies to all: Don’t call it BIM! Don’t call it anything!

(*there can be further senior people above and draughtsmen/CAD people below)
SA = senior architect JA = junior architect