Monday, October 31, 2011

A very expensive Vitamin...

If you’ve had ever had the pleasure of pitching to investors of any kind, you’d have come across the importance of classifying your solution as an ‘Aspirin’ for a problem (or Viagra in more liberal countries) as opposed to a ‘Vitamin’.

Before you get concerned about me launching into another highly-complex-allegory, let me tell you, that I have a very simple theory on this one in relation to BIM.

If you had recently come up with an idea that you think will revolutionise construction, or at least fix its main problems, do the following self-check on your proposal:
Answer with YES/NO to this question:
Is the implementation of your idea (system/approach/toolset) going to make ALL project-participants get their hands dirty with project-information?
And when I say ‘dirty’, I mean dirty.
Use information direct from the horse’s mouth and plonk it back there once done with it;

If your answer is yes, you are onto something.
If not, you’re investing in (possibly) a very expensive vitamin.

Not convinced?
Think of writing a letter through dictating to someone and having an answer read back via a third person once it arrives (much later).
Replace those two sub-processes with emailing a message from your mobile phone and getting back an answer instantaneously.
A change from first to the second required a major ‘pain-killer’, no ‘vitamin’ could manage that.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The M&M’s

We humans are pretty single-dimensional and even when we say, we are open to changes, we like to have them packaged in manageable little-parcels.
When we’re hit by a divorce, we like to keep our jobs going steady; when the job falls-apart we want our health to be in good-shape, when a sickness strikes, it is good to have the family intact etc...
Strangely though, trouble seems to like to come in pairs, divorce knocks on the door at the time a bad illness is emerging, a redundancy likes to partner up with a wayward teenager getting into trouble and so on...

BIM is one of those sets-of changes that like to come in twos too, forcing changes to both methods and media.
While many within the field classify moving to Flatcad from the drawing as easy, that’s because the method stayed, the change only affected the medium used.
The forever-quoted parallel to ‘driving’ is similar – you’ll move relatively easily from driving a motorbike to a car or even a lorry.
The medium changes, methods are similar.

However, take the same medium you are familiar with (say-a-car) into an unknown environment (African Safari) and you will feel impacted stronger, especially if the car is now a terrain-vehicle and you need to manage two new “M”s, method and medium.
Adopting BIM is similar to this challenge.

(picture from M&M’S website)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Round Tuit for construction. Procrastination runs in our family...

Actually it does not run (due to its nature), rather paces slowly when it gets around-to-it.
Considering this, I’m surprised we’ve only few people within the wider family working in the AEC industry, likely to be the most procrastinating-one operating on earth.
Of course, I could be wrong – and the phenomenon of leaving ‘every little decision to the very last minute’ and ‘acting on it when one just can no longer postpone it’, is more widespread than I think, on the surface the results look worse for AEC than any other field I know.

Still, I am gearing up seriously for a career in Investigative BIM within AEC.
Maybe a while before that becomes reality but neither of Agatha Christies’ top two problem solvers (Poirot and Mrs Marple) could be classified as spring chickens;
While Sherlock Holmes was ‘only’ 39 when he first died, I still intend to declare myself an Investigative BIM practitioner when the time is right, no matter how old I become.

There is a little barrier in the way of my plans: The toolset for any aspiring BIM investigator is pretty thin, the art, science, even the craft are highly under-developed.
The imbalance of the type/quantity of artillery that the investigator and investigated own is so high, that the result is akin to police using rubbish cars, while crims run Ferraris.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It’s not called ‘the Browser’ for nothing...

...and I hope its counterpart’s name has been chosen carefully too.
I refer to the ‘filtering gadget’ that most AEC modelling packages have, the one that provides for easy assessment of project data, with the capability to quickly move between preset views.

Some are more powerful than others, the two I use regularly are Revit’s Browser and Archicad’s Navigator.
As their ability goes when it comes to do what they’re supposed to and the range of features each one offers, the two are quite similar, so I’ll not do any point-by-point appraisal.

Rather, I’d like to ponder their names.
Call me biased (by now, you know I am): I favour Archicad’s: NAVIGATOR.
It is an ‘active’ word, guides the user and pushes them into action.
Either letting them take the helm directly or by giving them tools to find their ways following preset maps.
It calls for engagement, pesters and nudges, provides for a dynamic environment.
It brings to me the image of the endless ocean pleading to be conquered.

Revit’s BROWSER sounds much more ‘passive’, pictures a leisurely leafing-through environment with tools to ponder the information needed to be perused.
A workplace that calms and unwinds, lets the user take steps at own pace, contemplate and reflect.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, just takes a bit more self control to keep moving.

Picture: Linda Lapp Murray

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The waterfall is flawed

...and it is time to face up to this.
The ‘waterfall model’ in project management is a term that describes a sequential design process and it is routinely used to represent the way buildings are created.

I seriously dislike the concept.
Actually, not the concept itself but the idea being blankly forced onto the AEC industry.
Designing a waterproof window may work well within a ‘waterfall approach’.
Pouring a concrete-slab or erecting a set of steel-trusses for a roof might do too.
However, taken as a whole, building design AND construction are ill suited for ‘waterfalling’ and it is time to accept this ‘fact’, otherwise, there is no hope for significant improvements happening within this industry in the near future.

And the reason I’m allocating yet another of my ‘valuable daily posts’ to highlight this great misunderstanding by those managing construction?
I am a BIM enthusiast (in case you missed it) and BIM suffers hugely from the misconception that the ‘waterfall approach’ to the question of design-document-construct-manage is a feasible one.

In fact, instead of a neatly cascading model, where an idea starts from the top and rolls down numerous steps in an orderly fashion, an inverted game of ‘snakes and ladders’ eventuates.
One where both the snakes and ladders can force one back to the beginning.

An alternative is needed. There ARE alternatives available.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

‘Writing software for 3D modelling from scratch is unwise’

I told an acquaintance some years ago (my guess: it was about 2005).
I was really referring to the full-construction-integration package he was proposing to soon launch. His heart was in the right place, had government funding to chase his dream and a bunch of PhD students to execute it, I still could not earnestly back his concept.

He argued that some revolutionary software solutions originating from suburban garages still make it to the top, I said, time for believing in magical-tales has gone, you’ve got to work with what’s on the shelf, adopt and adapt, tweak, if necessary but don’t try to go back to the basics...

Time to ‘eat my words’?
As I pick up the next modelling package from the ‘shelf’, figure out its strengths and weaknesses, pilot through various projects and discard disappointingly...
I’m more and more convinced that creating a brand new digital modeller for construction is the way to go.

Imagine yourself looking at the line up of luxury sedans in front of the window of your construction site office, sent by various tool makers to make your job of a construction manager easier.
Sure, some of the cars have been modified, thicker wheels and dust-covers, one even comes in a nice yellow colour (construction people like yellow!).
..still, you need to build a four-wheel-drive, from scratch.

Picture taken from flickr (by gittsy)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“I think the hurdle contractors are going through....

... is that they are generally ten years behind architects and engineers.
They have a traditional process that has been in place for a long time. This is because the complexity of projects in the Middle East is pretty different from Europe. You need to be really experienced to be able to run a project over here,” says Jeffrey Freund in an article written by Gerhard Hope on May 4, 2011 and published in the
Jeffrey Freund and Marc Durand are the executive directors of iTech, a BIM service provider.

While I read through a string of other, wise-thoughts these gentlemen are intending to release onto my backward industry, I count on fingers the months that passed since early-May.
5 and a 3/4, almost half a year...
I find myself musing over the question: if-and-how this 0.5 a year that’s just gone, relates to the 10 years Mr Freund is referring to in the article.
Have we closed the gap a bit? Made it longer? Maintained the ratio?

Also, how did he come up with the 10 year-thing in the first place?
Did he look back on his early twenties (or was it late teens?) and judge his own level of maturity of that stage as comparable to the present Construction industry?
Would be interesting to know. Should ask him next time we meet.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Searching for Fettuccine...

Husband is preparing a lesson for tomorrow.
As he trawls the internet for interesting examples for his chemistry problem, he marvels at the capabilities of the search-engine:
“ ...I type in a question... and...within seconds I have the 54th page of a particular course-book, published twenty years ago opened on my screen...”

Here is another aspect of our life we so take for granted, yet is almost totally absent when it comes to my daily work within AEC projects.
Searching for information is the biggest problem we all face while getting buildings off the ground (and off the paper) and it is not getting any easier despite of the spectacular achievements of various internet-based-search engines and us using the same in our ‘other’ lives.

Actually, the gap is getting bigger and bigger....
Husband searches millions of source documents for answers to a tricky question, I spend a day on a tender-set of drawings trying to figure out something quite simple.
He compares findings from 20 countries simultaneously within minutes, I turn over a thousand pages of reduced A3 sheets to locate a simple reference....

I’ve been a bit more successful with my blog – though not tagging anything does not help ‘getting found’ as easily as the system would allow.
...and a weird statistic: the most searched word this blog has come up in response-to: fettuccine*!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On this day, twenty-one years ago my mother fell in a concrete hole...

...and exploded her heel, she required multiple surgeries and numerous metallic implants over the following years.
Many observed at the time that she could have ‘easily’ died had she landed a bit differently.
She would have never known her 6 grandchildren born in the years following this accident.

That October in 1990 was eventful enough even without this crisis, I was expecting my first child while still working eagerly on getting the foundation of a new 3D modelling program off the ground.
The student helping me with the algorithms was clever, my vision clear, the Faculty mildly supporting, the bosses cautiously encouraging. Still, the said program never eventuated.

Contrary to what you might be thinking now (that I am lost in the past yet again) – I use this bunch of memories to paint the framework for a statement that is relevant, now:
Creating modelling software from scratch was possible in the nineteen-nineties, a bit into the early two-thousands, it is no longer a viable option.

The reasoning behind this thought is complex and I may elaborate on it one day when I’m short of subjects to write on, today – I just say:
Use off-the-shelf and established packages, customise if you really need-to but don’t go back to the basics.
The AEC tool-providers’ field is ruled by a few-giants, they will not let you get anywhere.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

“Autodesk And Gehry Technologies To Work Together To Improve The Way Buildings Are Designed And Constructed” the title of the press release.
While I skim over the carefully-crafted-spin, my imagination goes into overdrive – weaving an inspired string of positive effects that this cooperation will bring to the true BIM enthusiast....

If Autodesk is going to be ‘working together’ with Gehry Technologies, then surely Digital Project will be synched with the ABDS (also known as the Revit family of Products).
Digital Project uses Catia as its core engine, and Deep Exploration works beautifully with Catia, so ABDS will play with Catia and consequently DE, now owned by SAP... so I’ll be moving my paltry little files between all these world-leading packages seamlessly...

Guess what, I’m not the only one excited about this ‘working together arrangement’!
Yoshihiro Ichioka, deputy GM, Overseas Business Division, Obayashi Corporation is quoted in the same press release as being ‘very excited’ too.
This highly esteemed Corporation I got to know through various BIM-related press releases, last time about a month or so ago, in this one:

Obayashi Signs Agreement with NEC and GRAPHISOFT to Deliver "Smart BIM Cloud"

Obviously, no mention of these ‘other-interests’ of the valued client by Autodesk, curiously nothing about GT’s Digital Project or Catia either.

There is a sentence however, well couched within the press release, that ‘As a part of a comprehensive agreement, Autodesk has made an equity investment in Gehry Technologies.’

Friday, October 21, 2011

The saying ‘God is in the detail’...

... is often credited to the architect, Mies van der Rohe.
It is still a regularly used view, in fields beyond that architecture and buildings. 
"God is in the details," meaning opportunities come from digging into the details.
Others say "The devil is in the details," implying that the details might cause failure.
Both are true, I believe, one a bit more positive than the other.
However, it does not really matter which version is better.
The key message is "even the grandest project’s success relies on the quality of its smallest components."
Or, to continue my line of thought from yesterday’s post, digital-construction-modelling must focus on the detail, software developers wanting to succeed in this field: take note!

Another ‘revelation’ resulting from writing my post yesterday for me: using BIM and VC as interchangeable terms is not appropriate.
While they ARE similar, transposing one over the other can be misleading.

For example, a wall, slab, roof modelled as a simple digital shape and enhanced by intelligent parameters could be classified as BIM in action, however I’d not call it ‘virtual construction’ as its use within VC would be highly limited.
On the other side, an extensively detailed steel structure (including nuts and bolts) may be perfect for using in VC methodologies but unable to meet the minimal intelligence asked from a useful BIM model.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sticks and stones...will not hurt you...

It is the software-packages that can’t represent them well that will break-your-back as you try to make any headway in virtual construction.

Take for example walls within buildings:
Most architect-focused modelling packages create walls as monolithic entities, even when they are made up of numerous layers in real life (composites);
Therefore, when one wants to represent walls in a ‘virtual construction’ or BIM context, the work method to follow is not user friendly or straight forward.

There are two lines-of-thought:
Some practitioners, that I’d classify more as BIM theorists, believe this shortcoming of ‘AEC targeted’ modelling packages should be tolerated, as the said simple representation of the wall can be enhanced by almost endless number of non-graphical parameters to include anything worth knowing about the building element.
Others (myself included) require the capability for elemental build up of complex structures, keeping them highly detailed, well defined, accurately positioned and ‘constructurally’ intelligent.

As an upshot of my opinion on this issue, I long for construction modelling packages developed truly for the virtual constructor (or BIM manager).
Software and tools geared towards the easy creation of highly intelligent objects armed also with turbo-charged profilers able to sweep complex sections within 3 directions and beside/over/under one another.

Currently, most packages are woefully inadequate for use in the above described manner.
Barely deserve the title of ‘BIM modelling software’.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Airport security and BIM

I spent the day flying again.
Don’t wish to list all the airport-jokes that come to mind, have visited the US enough to put me off that reckless habit, for the foreseeable future.
I still like to examine the practice of screening passengers from a psychological point, but with no political undertones whatsoever and as a result, almost always end up pulling together some useful lessons as I queue to have my bags x-rayed once again.

Operating within the AEC industry and regularly dealing with sets of documents prepared by respectable (and often internationally spread) consultants for designing various buildings, I have this problem of not trusting the content of their sets very much.
Consequently, I am forever searching for a magic x-ray machine through which I could push any old set of tender- or IFC (as in ‘issued for construction’) documents and have the magic screen show me all the traps that are hidden within the examined paperwork.

Just as the operators of those machines are trained to spot vicious looking nail scissors, cigarette lighters and lethal knitting-needles, I’m confident we could come up with schemes where professional spotters could highlight areas within building drawings sets where reckless cut and paste has been applied to, generic details used irresponsibly or multiples of non-dimensioned floor plans issued.

Well, time to learn something from airport security.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The idea of a “National Software”

The richly decorated, highly acclaimed academic was presenting before me.
This fact on its own would not have been a problem, had he not used my laptop as a host for his densely populated power-point and had my laptop not been under huge risk of misbehaving due to its overconsumption of desert-dust.
The disease of the ‘black screen’ is manageable in the privacy of one’s office, (unplug the charger, blow through both ends...) a bit less when it happens as part of a well-organised and technology based conference.

Thankfully, my laptop behaved... However, my anxious wait for the inevitable catastrophe almost meant I missed the best part of the presentation...
This professor, whose subject was loosely based around Energy Efficiency and Regulations (yet to be implemented) in the host country, referred to something that made me prick my ears...
“National Software”.

I mentioned before, how I had the lucky opportunity to observe Sustainability related happenings unfold in 4 very different countries over the last couple of years, and attended many occasions highly influenced by software vendors. Overly for my liking.
Still, floating the idea of having a ‘national software’ to be the synonym for regulated efforts towards energy efficiency of an entire country is a bit ‘out there’ for me.

Almost like stating that Revit = BIM. (or any other modelling package for that matter).

My broken record of BIM

This picture (attached) has been doing its rounds on the FB and other social websites over the last couple of... months*.
A similar phenomenon little if at all known to current generations of digital information users is the concept of the ‘broken record’, though they may still get caught accusing their mates of sounding in such way. It is unlikely they ever had the opportunity to watch a squealing-needle get stuck in a groove of the black disk, causing the performer to endlessly repeat the same word or part of it.

Alarmingly often I find myself these days sounding like a broken record.
Well meaning people interested in what I do, tend to summarise my often lengthy explanations in the following way:
“You take the consultants' drawings prepared for a yet-to-be-built building, you digitally model the building before the contractor starts its own work. You ‘do’ clash detection and find where pipes go through beams. You save heaps of money for the owner..”

...and here comes the broken record... I repeat endlessly, how consultants’ drawings are almost in all cases not sufficient for digital modelling, let alone building. That they use masses of drawings to slow us down. That ‘clash-detection’ is a silly concept created by someone to take away interest from the previous problems...that I’m tired of explaining these same issues forever and ever...

(*I know, Barbara, I’m always the last one to notice)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Twist and shout...

Sure, yesterday’s post was a bit of a copout, though even the hastily put together writing had a question worth further exploring in the future, I believe.

Due to own interests and often recklessly accepted invitations I present at a number of conferences each year, mostly as a “BIM expert”.
Since the start of this blog I’ve been going to these summits with sharpened pencils, looking for little gems to praise/ridicule, seeds-of-wisdom shared by others to use and fashion a couple of posts out from.

This latest one has not quite materialised into anything overly useful yet (give it a day-or-two to settle), however there has been one thing I now notice to be a trend.
We BIM-ers get packaged together with the ‘Green guys’ when it comes to event programming.
Over the last year or so I had the opportunity to see the subjects of sustainability and BIM being closely-coupled in 4 different countries and in 3 very different geographical locations.

I suspect the righteous reasoning behind such moves; the two fields complement each others painlessly.
Yet, for me, the most obvious link between the issue of ‘aiming form sustainability within the built-world’ and ‘getting BIM into the AEC processes is’... wait for it... both seem to be attracting individuals practicing on the fringes of the industry (myself included), the slightly – or not-so-slightly twisted.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The closet organiser

I once knew a lady who claimed to be a professional ‘closet organiser’. She was employed by other, mostly well-off ladies to sort their closets (wardrobes) out.
Following a get-to-know-you session, where a lot of personal information was released on how the closet and its content were used, the CO set out to ruthlessly go through the employer-lady’s bits and pieces and reorganise them.
Some things she threw out, others retained. New partitions, drawers and baskets were purchased and installed. Everything was put in their exactly set place.
When I asked the acquaintance on how successful the business was – she said very successful, most of her clients required her to come back regularly and re-sort everything.

As I search for best practice in content classification within AEC, the organiser lady often comes to mind. I don’t think best practice actually exist. There are good ones, adequate ones but not a ‘one size fits all’.
Actually, I was not going to write about the closet-organiser friend today, but ran out of time for my post today and this was the longest half-though I had noted on my list of possible subjects for the blog over the last-couple of months.
Verdict to this writing: Needs more work.
I know – will come back to it. Now off to have dinner with a dear friend I see really rarely.

Friday, October 14, 2011

...Down on the ground... I said yesterday, the ‘big picture’ is a bit of a problem for the AEC.
It gets lost within the masses of ‘little-ones’, fragmentation seems to be working against it.
While personal-aero-transportation appears to manage a similar fragmentation with more success – AEC projects get ground to-halt by the lack of understanding by most of what the big picture is supposed to be.

You need only look at the design phase of any old building project and it becomes apparent that the various parties involved in it, aren’t much driven to fit meaningfully within the big picture.
If they were, do you think ‘clash-detection’ would have ever gained traction?
Clash avoidance and coordination between discipline yes, but clash-detection?*

Sorry to be ridiculous, but when I was examining the workings of the 3 airports** I visited yesterday I was contemplating if the associated industry would be as welcome of an ‘aircraft clash detection approach’ to manage its main processes as the AEC seems to have been recently?
Somehow, I doubt it. An industry with little margin of error where it matters, cracked the issue of multiple aircraft landing and taking of simultaneously and hundreds of thousands of people getting to , from and transiting between those crafts in hubs located all over the globe.

The AEC gets excited when a beam manages to dodge a pipe.

* If you read my blog regularly, you know this is a bit of a bugbear for me, some of my friends regularly tease me on the subject.
**visible for public

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Up in the air...

Spent yesterday mostly in the air with some of it on the ground between flights, dosing...marvelling at the clockwork-style-machinery-way that the 3 airports I visited all worked – in 3 very different countries, culturally, economically, geographically varied, yet so similar in running airports.

I envy industries where the margin for error is small and where the need to fulfil is clear-cut.
Everything is about keeping-moving people and making sure no one gets hurt.
Come to think of it, on the surface, AEC is no different, the need is there and clear cut, hurting people isn’t desirable either.

Still, these two objectives are much weaker in the industry I work-in compared to the one that is air-travel, much less are they part of what drives the various participants in their daily chores – and consequently, the industry performs much worse.

The ‘big picture’ is evident at airports – even for the lowliest worker, the need, this ‘machinery’ is there to fulfil is obvious.
If you were to survey them randomly, you would come away satisfied with their understanding what they are there for, apart from earning the ‘right to take home the bacon’ or the ‘butter for their bread’, depending on the culture they’d come from.

Significantly different would these survey-results be, had you collected them from the AEC.
Will write more on my thoughts on this subject, tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

“We are in donkey-deep doo-doos now...

- writes  Michael Laws, ex politician, ex mayor, current radio host and commentator. Someone I don’t always agree with, but this time an urge to distribute part of his opinion-peace published in the NZ SundayStarTimes hits me too hard – so I stop fighting and re-blog it ...

.... not because of natural disasters nor the world economy, but because we lack the skills base, the employment incentives, the entrepreneurial flair and, most of all, the aspiration.
Too many Kiwis are satisfied with their lot. No, worse than that. Satisfied not to succeed. And envious of – even hostile to – those that do. There is a view that those who demonstrate enterprise and initiative are just showing off. There is an undiluted joy when the Terry Serepisoses of this world hit the wall”

One might think that my bitterness towards the country I gave half-of-my-life to is starting to be a bit of a bore, especially within this quasi technical blog of mine, however...
...Don’t you find the parallel between the country so cool and yet so not-so and BIM, a niche ‘way of doing things within AEC’ to be strikingly apt?
Both think of themselves as innovators, leaders, above the rest, yet both are unprepared to push the limits of anything really, rock the ‘apple cart’, get out of their comfort zone, make a measurable difference!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I miss the ‘Wow factor’ in BIM...

Not the ‘glossy-toy’ type one, I might add – there is no lack of attempts to wow audiences with polished presentations by BIM vendors that shamelessly aim to quickly impress the curious and often ‘defenceless’ viewer and lock-up forever as a software-loyalist.
Nor the academy driven attempts to pass on lukewarm theories fashioned in sterile laboratories that may work in principle but are miles-off any reality and unlikely to turn into a workable solution this century or even the next.

No. I miss regular opportunities to be subjected-to or subject others-to positive surprises presenting substantial productivity boosts, ease of use, streamlining of workflows, navigation techniques etc...
Anything, that will make the industry stop for a second, audiences gasp with delight, blogs heat-up and kids start taking interest-in as the representation of a career worth considering.
I miss the feeling of envy that I could spend on competitors fortunate enough to come up with the answers to questions we only just asked.
A miss the glitz, the feel of contributing to something that matters.

BIM now sits between H&S and Sustainability when it comes to distinctive appeal or expectation to produce something revolutionary any time soon.
It’s kind of already ‘retro’ but not the cool type, more the cynical, ‘backwards-way-retro’, a move, if not quite to the past but not really towards the future either.
A flop.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Soul less, the Soul full and Sohole....

‘Soul-less is the digital’ – some claim bitterly, often relating to digital music, photography, food and design.

Soul-full must me the opposite then, the manual, the one off.
The construction industry could be claiming to be the last bastion of large scale art-and-craft.
The last place where sole-full is created daily.
Even under the pretence of the modern and industrial.

Cast your eye around your room. Every nook, every corner embeds hours and hours of individual labour, often performed in situ, high up a ladder, deep in a void, balancing on a scaffolding outside a window.
Can you see the trace of a paint brush?
A crooked tile, a chip missing from the corner of the door sill?
Cherish these imperfections as gifts of those that made your building. They all left a piece of their soul in it.

And then, there is Sohole...
No one seems to be bothered by my debunking of the NZ BIM attempts anymore, so let me indulge in dedicating this little post to a large, muddy hole in Auckland, located not that far from some of the RWC’s happenings.
Sohole was a large development in a pretty part-of Auckland, stopped just after the excavation and foundation were completed, ‘an eyesore’, many locals complain.

I once worked on the project, put many-many hours into it.
Left part of my soul there...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Fale Pasifika @ AU

An ex-employee of ours has just got a new job.
It’s been almost 2 years since we parted ways and I think of him as a dear friend.
One of the 2 best model coordinators we ever had, he now calls himself a FIM, for Fabrication Information Manager.
McIntosh Timber Laminates, the company he joined, I came across about a decade ago (they have been around for much longer) – suppliers of glulam beams to NZ and the world.

A couple of years later (2005 is my guess) I went to a presentation that I found interesting, somewhat bizarre.
It was about the Fale Pasifica (see link) and the project was explained by 3 parties involved, the architect, the structural engineers’ team and the representative of the manufacturer of the main structure.
It was fascinating and almost unbelievable to see how this building was designed and documented using 2D technology, to then have the Fabricator really roll-up-their sleeves and model-it-all, so their risks were addressed and spatial-accuracy and coordination achieved.

People involved within the design process may argue with me the opposite, it is likely that the team had used 3D(+) software help here and there, I base my comments on that presentation, where Ivan Mercep and the engineers left me wonder why so back-to-front their approach had been.

Good luck with your new job RDJ!

(Ivan Mercep outside the Fale Pasifika he designed for the UA – photo Dean Purcell)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stop stopping!

Says Ella to her sister, and the saying makes it to the album of family ‘classics’. Forever.
I remember it too as I observe how often cars are stopped inside roundabouts in the city I live in. ‘What a hazard’, I think trying to dodge them and the other drivers feverishly speeding as well as manoeuvring around the stationed vehicles.
A nuisance that a car stopped within a roundabout can be, it also turns to a delightful parallel for the ‘number one hazard’ of construction projects:
Stopping. Causing others to stop. Or even just threatening to stop.
Specially at a place where keeping-on-moving is critical to success and even a little stop can be extremely costly.

There is a BIM relevance to the above described little vignette and its construction equivalent.
I see BIM to have good potential in highlighting where those vital stops occur.
And, we should be using this potential widely!

Whether you talk about 4D, construction sequencing or graphical representation of planning data, BIM can be employed to identify those places in construction programmes where ‘stops’ can become critical, their cumulative effects to the project even detrimental. BIM can help!

(I tried to take a photo of a stationery vehicle within a roundabout but turned out to be quite a difficult thing to do.
Nowhere to stop safely. I modelled one instead.)

Friday, October 7, 2011

I’ll be in Novi Sad next week...

Primarily to visit my ailing father.
Catch a glimpse of his old self between the frequent time-travels he orchestrates these days calling upon his own long-dead parents and siblings.
I timed my visit to happen together with the double birthdays of my mother and sister.
So rare are the occasions we are together, might as well look for things to celebrate too, rather than just observe the aging-process helped by a myriad of illnesses rapidly eating away at my father.

Another neat coincidence brings BIM into the equation, my ‘fourth’ child, my real daughters sometimes label it.
A dear old acquaintance has scheduled the annually occurring Archicad users’ summit for the same weekend. He kindly invited me to present.
What alignment of the stars!
Mix in a cheap Turkish Airline ticket and its all go.

The last time I presented at this event it was exactly 5 years ago and I chose the subject of ‘virtual construction’. I talked at length about a project I was involved in at the time, a large multiuse development in Auckland, New Zealand. We were in the process of fully documenting it in 3D.
BIM isn’t actually that new, is it?

The event:
If you speak Serbian, have been infected by the BIM bug and would like to see a pretty town, get in touch with the organisers.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The pressure of my peers....

It would be highly presumptuous from me to suspect my blog getting astroturfed by one or a number of software promoters for at least two reasons:
One, the feedbacks that land in the ‘public’ comments-field of the blog are few and mostly placid and two, my posts are rarely in full praise of anything – I like to dance on the fine line between the good-and-the-ugly, so the ROI on time that any fake ‘grassroot’ campaign decided to spend on this vehicle would be pretty scrawny.

Still, it is interesting to see how the stat-graph shoots up every time the blog’s title has a branded word in it and how certain user-groups get active every time a mildly-tricky software related and brand attributable question is raised.

While feeling reasonable comfortable existing in my semi-independent or software-agnostic little world where I move relatively freely between packages, applications and approaches I do get tempted occasionally to join the fan-clubs of one or the other.

Just for the feeling of belonging, I guess.

The lure to hang up the cloak of the ‘unattached’ is sometime so strong, coupled by the inducement of the herd that the effort it takes to fight it becomes too much on its own, the place I fight it from too lonely and hostile.

But then, it is only peer pressure. I can ignore it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Black box BIM, no good BIM

I said it once, said it a hundred times: the number one goal BIM should be fighting for is increased transparency within building projects.
Not necessary ‘universal’ transparency, that is naive to expect, too many of the inter-party dynamics rely on manipulated transparency for this to happen any time soon.

No building owner worth their salt should pay any money directly or indirectly for any type of BIM if it’s main goal is not to increase project transparency for the said owner.
To state it bluntly: if the building owner is no more aware of what’s going on within the project post-BIM then pre-BIM, any money thrown at BIM is largely wasted.

What do I mean under project transparency?
Understanding what is going on.
Anytime, anywhere, with minimal skill, putting little effort or searching time and requiring specialist interpretational abilities to be able to make sense of complex documentation.
Is the design truly resolved? Are the documents synchronised across disciplines? 
Is the construction plan working? Are we behind? What do we need to do to catch up?
Where does the budget sit? Are we facing any VO’s?
Where are our weaknesses, what can we expect within the next week, month, year?

Transparency within the building project is the ability to constantly have a finger on the pulse.
Good BIM should enable this as a minimum.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Two misleading notions of the Penn State CIC RT BIM concept...

It is one thing to be needing to fight the self-proclaimed ‘industry leadership’ of some tool promoters within the BIM field, a different ball-game altogether to be regularly put in a position to face-off with a ‘document’ heralded as the ‘blueprint’ for BIM.
I’ll refrain from analysing the hundred-thirty something page document* line-by-line and focus on 2 points where the Penn State CIC Research Team (I believe) got it majorly wrong:

These are in their ‘BIM use Maps’.

First: they illustrate the process as being made up of steps where ‘author design’ is followed by ‘perform coordination’...
...then they show pictures of little documents used for information-exchange labelled as
‘architectural model’, ‘structural model’, ‘MEP model’...
For the first point, I’d solve the issue by putting the two into one box!
(author design AND perform coordination).
True, this would totally mess up their tidy-little-flow-chart, but that is the whole point.
Life IS messy.
Construction especially.

For the second point, let me say this: I may take a sore ear to an Otolaryngologist, my foot doctor may be called a Podiatrist, and I may ask my GP to check why my blood pressure is high.
Still, I can guarantee that under no circumstances will I willingly leave any of these body-parts at the corresponding medical specialist to be looked after without me being there.
See the connection?


Monday, October 3, 2011

BIM in the fast lane...

‘Was driving to work this morning when a red-convertible past on my right side.
Not an unusual sight in the 5-laner I frequent regularly, if anything, his speed for moderate.
Having passed me, he slung across 3 lanes, swirled around 2 white-bullets hurtling independently in the middle lanes then gently slalomed to the outer track.
‘What a clown!’ – Graham would say, but he isn’t in the car today – so I continue following the red one’s journey ahead of me without the burden of husband’s commentary.
The red makes two letter S-es before disappearing from my vision, inching past a large truck and narrowly avoiding two minibuses travelling in tandem.
‘He keeps himself awake’ – my verdict, and the red one is gone...

To increase own alertness, I redesign the highway.
The 3 fast lanes become centrally managed for the 80+ km-es of clear drive between the two cities. As cars join up, they have the ability to carry on self-driving in the 2 slow lanes, or relinquish control to an auto pilot and join the fast lanes.
The auto-control keeps them moving at a steady pace, around the 180 km/hr speed and densely packed.  
Shortly before their destination the controlled cars disengage, return to the slower lanes and their journey continues in a ‘traditional way’.
Can I use this idea as part of a BIM strategy?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

“...Anyway Deep Exploration is more engineering oriented software not really suitable for building industry... “

I quote Mr Robert Kalocay, commenting in a long-winded discussion on one of the LinkedIn Groups. The main question (and consequently the title) of the debate is “Archicad vs Revit”, however the 500+ comments have long wondered away from the “does-does-not” type of arguments to other nooks-and-crannies of the industry, as it tends to happen often when open ended questions are asked.
While I lost interest when the comments only just passed the 200 mark, I occasionally visit the group to scan over the latest additions, just in case.
Hence Mr Kalocay’s comment catching my eye.

First my blood boils, fingers itching to type a ‘too-smart for own good’ type of response, then I cool down, of-course, he means well, the above mentioned toolset is too smart for the present audience, the AEC industry even, he says it such himself....

A day passes, am cooled further and the sentence bothers me no more, indeed it fits well with my very recent posts on the minimum BIM IQ one may expect from a BIM ready industry to show up for at this stage of development.

Unexpectedly still, the thought continues to linger– despite of all my healthy/unhealthy cynicism, I realise now that I have never really and seriously considered the possibility that the AEC will just not be able to make ‘the shift’.
Maybe it won’t!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Archie*, the construction bácsi**

Archie is the cheap version of Archicad, customised for Contractors. It comes with an easy to use work environment and an intuitive interface.
Bearing mild resemblance to ‘Bob The Builder’, the dynamic-help-figurine Archie is ever-so-supportive by popping up whenever hesitance from the user is detected.

Archie’s workspace is partitioned into 4 panels, each colour coded for easy navigation:

Modelling and Coordination: the panel is white with the original-orange coloured grid of ArchiCAD (note spell!) where contractors model their buildings.
Contractors have to do their modelling. Unfortunate but true. (get used to it for now);

Sequencing: The panel is light green to disassociate itself from the old green of the “Construction Simulation” add-on and provide users with a calming, hospital-like experience.
They need to stay calm as sequencing is still a tedious process and will be until the concept of true multidimensional planning is more widely understood.

Logistics: Is yellow, for fun. Contractors’ favourite workspace, real sites can be built-up quickly with moving trucks, rolling rollers, digging diggers and swinging cranes.

Shopdrawings: Is the dark gray panel with faintly visible outputs allowing to preview but not change. Discourages 2D dress ups, editing etc. Makes eyes hurt.

There is no separate panel provided for quantities as these are obtainable by ‘filtering and selecting’ (Ctrl+Shift+F), then right-clicking to pop-up the BOQ Archie and his scroll of customised schedules.

*  Archie is a figment of my imagination.
** pronounced ‘barchie’