Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Has the time come to look for the loose change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Breaking down the doors to construction modelling...

I stated before, how I believed there were no decent construction modelling software–applications available for the AEC market.
I still stand by this claim and to support it, let me turn to the ‘humble’ door.

When I look at the two modelling programs that claim to be ‘out-of box ready’ for construction and I’m familiar with, what they ‘do’ with doors is not what I’d call a construction focused approach.
Someone early in the development of these tools decided that doors (and windows) should be ‘hosted’ elements, a type of digital parasites, not able to stand on their own.

Fair enough, you might say if you are a designer, this makes sense. Not only will the practice prevent modellers plonking doors down randomly where no walls are there to support them, it is mostly the host’s duty to set the way the joinery item should behave, the way the cladding must wrap around and into it.

For a true BIM-application to function properly, both the door and its host need to be able to stand on their own. A block wall is built well before the doors are hung; the openings are still needed to be provided for.
There are numerous ways construction-modellers can get around these shortcomings, they can and they do.
A little interest and help from the developers would do too.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The fancy role of the terminator... the one I’ll establish one day when I have it my way. I’ll be on a main construction contractor’s team and we’ll be still producing drawings. I guess, that condition indicates I wouldn’t quite have it all my way, but let’s assume I’d be happy with the set-up.

The job of the terminator will be to constantly scan the central model and all its associated drawings and remove redundant data. S/he will be identifying dimensions and notes related to elements that have been built, verified and as such become ‘existing’ within the process. This data will be then made invisible for the new issues of the drawings, and the elements will become easily identifiable. (by colour, labels)
S/he would include a register of data removed too, a bit like we do in revision clouding, just the other-way-around.

You may say, there is nothing revolutionary to this concept, the traditional process of documenting buildings via IFC and shop drawings does exactly this.
Well, does it? In practice?
Do you know of companies that have people charged with the task of ruthlessly going through data and moving them onto invisible layers for progressive issues of IFC drawings? Oversee the creation of shop drawings to prevent them carry unnecessary, “existing” information?
Most companies I know still believe the busier-looking the drawing the better the results will be!

Friday, November 25, 2011

I’ve been aggressively campaigning against BIM outsourcing-companies lately...

Or that’s what people at my work perceive me doing.
In fact, I’ve got nothing against sound providers offering BIM related services.
Not just that some of my best friends are working the described field as I write this post, I’ve spent many years being one of them.
So, accuse me of anti BIM-outsourcing and I’ll take offence.
Or will not, instead I might just happily go along as being labelled a ‘hypocrite’, but branding me as such, apart from it being a lively topic for the occasion, will not help BIM the slightest.

I see company after company rolling up and rolling out BIM related services while missing out on the fact that their targets (for outsourcing, like the one I’m in now) are becoming more knowledgeable, god ‘forbid ‘BIM-sophisticated’ then what they used to be and our demands are rising.
Most of these service providers offer us modelling, the part of the ‘machinery’ that is the easiest to re-create within our own environments.
Furthermore, there is very little incentive in us in sourcing something that will put our own-people out of work in times where projects are in short supply.

If these companies want to be taken seriously, they need to offer us something that we either do not have (but want) or is cheaper/easier to get from them then us developing it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It DOES matter what modeller you use!!!

I may have said otherwise previously, so be it.
I’m putting the record straight: I’ve had it up to my ears with the PC BIM talk!
I should add, that I’m tired of the ‘my one is bigger, better, faster, lighter, cooler, whateverer than yours is’ discussions too. So this message may be a bit confusing.

I can also say it now, that I will not take one more car/driving analogy in relation to software packages, unless it is original and comes from me.
I do not ‘just’ want to get from A to B. I want to enjoy my drive, take pleasure in it.
I like my tools to be cool and clever, fast and discrete, individual yet robust.
I consider myself to be a discerning customer, highly demanding, yet fiercely loyal.

I have been ‘tossed around’ a bit over the years so I also learned to ‘make do’.
But, there is a difference between opting for something inferior due to budget constraints or other circumstances and swallowing a load or empty talk, how it is ‘not what you use’ but ‘how you use it’.
Sure and I WAS born yesterday.

I do feel a bit responsible for all of those – yet to jump into the AEC modelling modellers that are looking at their options as I write this.
Responsible and a bit sorry.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All for one and one for all!

Not referring to Dumas’ three Musketeers, but to a practice my modelling contemporaries seem to be very fond of.
It is to do with outputs: even when comprehensive models are created from masses of drawings (say, at construction stage) – and all info sits in one database, some urge exists in the model-outputters to squeeze as-much-info as possible on single to-be-printed drawings.
So, shop drawings coming out at the ‘other’ end of the model become just as hard to read and congested with information as their counterparts going in.
Add to that the silly-practice of the ‘reduced A1, i.e. A3’ size and we are almost back to square one.

Change management in action:
I am well on my way to kick my addiction to printed (hardcopy) drawings.
Never mind the little ‘green house’ plonked by senders at the end of emails with the nagging note to resist printing the host-message in order to save paper and help the environment.
My eyes did it for me on the end. My failing eyesight and the tiny desk I’m working at nowadays, squeezed in like in a ticket-booth have forced me to use digital-drawings more.
2 laptops fit side by side - one slightly overhangs the edge. I could place an A3 set in front of them, but then the coffee-cup would need to go.
The coffee-cup is staying.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The writing is on the road...

My husband believes, I write sentences that are far too long and use punctuation the Hungarian way, not well for clarifying meaning.
Thankfully no longer the sensitive type I accept his criticism gracefully, promising to try harder, while I secretly collect samples of English road-signs where a comma would make a hell-of a difference;
If commas were used on road-signs.
Two great examples from my collection are “slow children playing” and “reduce speed bumps”.

Writing on the road to instruct or warn is another interesting form of communicating with the users of the infrastructural-piece in question.
While living and driving in NZ, I was often amused when multi-worded instructions (like: slow down school) were written out in such sequence that the driver was supposed to read them from the bottom-up while for me a much more obvious way would have been the ‘normal’ way.
“Way give stop” stuck with me forever. Maybe I was doing my ‘big-picture’ thing and not paying attention to detail, at least not in the order they’d predicted I would.
(or envisaged that I should)

My interest in ‘verbose traffic-signs’ has also been related to my work, the way words have been added sometimes haphazardly I believe has lessened their use, similarly to the way technical documentation in the AEC has been moving away from graphics over the last 2 decades.

Monday, November 21, 2011

For years we had a kitchen with no hot water.

My mother and us-two-daughters carried the hot water from the bathroom to the kitchen over numerous rooms for dishwashing, many times a day for over 30 years, before my father got around to install a little instantaneous water heater above the sink.

My father was extremely good with his hands, built our house and assisted many.
He could fix almost everything, from cars to bikes to broken-earrings.
He was a busy-type too, often working a full shift at home after coming from work.
He just never did the dishes.

Had he had the pleasure to grab the large metal bowl from the pantry (1 door) get to the bathroom (3 doors), fit the bowl under a tight-tap, fill it up with boiling water and manoeuvre through the same 3 doors (open-and-shut, we only heat certain spaces) ...back to the kitchen even once...
We would have got the hot water in the kitchen in no time...

I thought of my dad when I saw the clever-little political sign, I attach here.
I also think of my dad as I look at the future of BIM.
Not going to happen, unless you get those in the middle to do what the ones at the bottom are doing now, then those from the middle will get things moving (tools, systems, processes etc)...

It is simple, like washing dishes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

“A stretched out policeman”... what a ‘speed bump’ was called in the place I grew up in, and no, this was not to mock the force-in-blue (google: lezeci policajac) – the term is still officially used by traffic planners, product suppliers, people on the street, maybe even the force.

I keep returning to traffic analogies as I try to work out some real-life BIM strategies. This could be due to me spending a significant time on the roads driving to and from work, but also because there are so many obvious similarities between issues that the traffic/road-planners have resolved reasonably well while we, making AEC projects a reality, seem to be continuously struggling with.

Here are the 5 areas of management where BIM could (should) be learning from traffic and road designers, operators and specialists:

Dealing with the clever users and the ones that think they’re are clever but are not. (the highly educated and the illiterate; the knowledgeable and the smart-alec; the clowns and the overcautious;)
Dealing with the regular users as well as the out-of-townies (the ones that speak the official language and the ones that do not)
Dealing with the quite young and the pretty old as well the technologically advanced and the low techs.
Dealing with routines and emergencies.
Keeping people more or less safe.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

HABA* and the story of the muddy river...

HABA = Half hearted BIM approach.
HABA is everywhere where BIM is present, however should not be confused with the real thing.
The ‘real thing’, if in existence continues to evade me.

‘Building creation’ as an industry is continuing to be sluggish and inefficient due to the flow of the information that it is based on acting like a big, muddy river.
Panning for gold in this medium is hard and tedious; throwing highly skilled planners, analysts, and problem solvers at it is not just useless and expensive but also counterproductive.

Still, this is what currently happens, armies of clever specialists try making sense of the muddy water as it passes their threshold.

BIM could be useful if it truly managed to clear up parts of the muddy river.
As practiced nowadays (under HABA) it continues to stay a muddy river, worse even, one that flows underground.
Only few and with specialist equipment can try to pan for gold – and the masses of ‘experts’ are forced to stand over the hyporheic zones waiting for cups of (still murky) water to be handed to them to work with.

There is a way to improve the water, but is not an easy one.
And I’m yet to find the company that is truly prepared to tackle the elephant sitting on the bank of their river;

* a slightly skewed acronym with another nested in it
(picture from flickr – Thomas Roland’s photostream)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wash your hands! (or modelling purely for interpretation)

There once lived a Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis whose biggest invention was to tell fellow doctors to wash their hands before attending to women in labour.
Will not bore you with the full story, but for me it is an inspirational tale, even though the rightful recognition evaded the good doctor throughout his life.

Can’t claim to have come up with anything even remotely useful in my life, however I often think of the doctor and the anecdotes that surround his promotion of the ‘clean hands, save lives’ concept, when I talk about employing modelling of construction projects purely for interpretation.
Even seasoned BIM-mers shy away from the idea that BIM could grow exponentially if this question was taken seriously.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s only look at documents supplied as IFCs*. As previously discussed, the  drawing-parts of these sets often number in the thousands (of sheets), not counting specifications.
Let’s also ignore people’s inability to read 2D drawings and transform the info into 3D within their heads**.
Instead, let’s just focus on the time that ONE person needs to assess all the documents once, chase all references through the ‘merry-go-arounds’ and ‘treasure-hunts’, compare various discipline’s information and confidently say, they ‘know’ the building.

How many people on an average construction site will need to do this?
You know your projects, do the maths!

* am referring to ‘issues for construction’ this time;
** anyone you ever ask within the industry will claim to be ‘over average’; 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BIM is not ‘value added’...

I drive a 1.6l, 2010 issue car (of a well-known brand) with a ‘manual’ key (i.e. no remote).
For a little bit of money, I could have had one with a remote key. Not because (I presume) it is that much more expensive to provide such a feature, but because (I suspect) the good people that sell cars have worked out that their clients/customers generally do not like to juggle bags-of-groceries, clean-or-dirty laundry, numerous laptops, screaming toddlers AND still try to fit a key in the socket, especially if the key can only operate one way (That, will teach them!). Snow, rain or dessert-heat all enhance the humiliation of such little experience, so it must have been a success to isolate the described attribute as a ‘value added’.

I think of this adjective (did you know it WAS an adjective?) even more often than just when I struggle with opening my car, every time someone tries to sell BIM as a ‘value added’ something. This occurs quite often.

The reason I am not comfortable with the label* is that I believe BIM, should be part of all ‘standard model’ AEC-projects, not something that our clients need to pay extra to get.
Doing it well may make them to choose us more often, but that is a different story all-together.
Will write about it one day.

(*apart from sounding so try-hard by being back-to-front ‘added value’)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Model validation through scheduling

Even if you never get into providing quantities for QS purposes from your model, GET familiar with the scheduling capabilities of your modeller (as in software-application).
Automated scheduling is extremely useful for checking and validating the up-to-dateness, correctness and integrity of the model.

The idea is to use labels (metadata) within elements to reflect the stage they are at.
For example, let’s assume all the internal joinery (doors) are modelled first as ‘generic’.
Their labels will be identical with what the consultants had called them (D01 or DG1011 or ...).
As these doors get more defined (type, size, finishes, fire/acoustic ratings) – additional characters can be added to the labels. (i.e. an “F” that fire-rating has been checked and approved);

A quick listing of all doors will show up, if any of them have been missed in the updating process.

If this tip sounds totally like a ‘no-brainer’, i.e. something everyone knows, look around your office and assess what processes are used to do the same thing?
My guess is, printed/plotted drawings and schedules (of consultant info) and manual-checking through individual elements.

This approach suits construction supporting modelling particularly well, though I can see it applied at the design-end too, specially where multiple users work on the same model and/or when the decision makers aren’t necessary the ones that are doing the changes to the model.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is the fight with the ‘dragon of building it’ more important than building it?

I called it previously ‘a drive to grab a bargain’ but maybe a quest to earn a ‘badge of honour’ is more appropriate for the experience I was trying to define previously when I examined how people tended to feel about buildings and construction, and the sort of hardship they were prepared to take on in the name of it.
There definitely is something in the idea, that getting a building off the ground ‘ought to be’ hard, no matter how small or large, simple or complex the said object is. And the financial hardship is not the one I’m primarily thinking of here.

If we examine two groups of participants operating in AEC, owners (both private and public) and managers (all shapes, colours and size but mostly the ‘project managers’), we can observe the historically built-up expectation for these people to be tough, cunning and resilient.

Everywhere where people build there are zillions of anecdotes circling, telling stories on the ones that did not make it, starting from botched kitchen renovations to majorly overblown budgets on large public developments.
Yet, the ones that ‘survive’ such experiences aren’t put off them, so they stay away from building in the future, in fact – there is an almost palpable recognition of them having earned ‘their stripes in real battles’, that encourages them to go deeper in it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Mexican on a bike and the squashed car syndrome...

A lunar eclipse is coming in early December and husband is looking forward to it.
Any such event gets his enthusiasm for illustrating planetary-arrangements going and I see him sketching a ‘Mexican on a bike’ to explain a particular phenomenon for the children in his class.

I model one too (just for fun, screenshot attached) while in parallel I think of another syndrome that has been troubling me lately: I call it the ‘squashed car approach’.
It describes a system of documenting a horizontal cut-through of a building in an orthogonal projection without separating logical-levels out.

Take a storey within a high-rise for example, Ground floor plus mezzanine with various other (minor) level-changes in between and show everything on one floor plan.
If you strictly follow ‘traditional’ 2D orthogonal projection rules and cut your space at 1m, showing what you see below and dotting what’s above, you’ll be getting close to the ‘squashed car image’.

Even under Flatcad’s regime the conditions existed for easy creation of ‘exploded’ floor plans, where more than one horizontal cut could be taken over a multi-floored – multi-height space.
Model based documenting is even better in handling this situation, not just by modelling the space digitally but also providing the tools to slice it up in such ways that the information users are not facing the mangled-up wreckage of a squashed-floor.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A pilot error...

It’s been over 30 years since the deadly Erebus disaster killed 257 people of the Air NZ Flight TE901, yet the controversy is still ripe around what exactly happened on the 28th November 1979, when the DC10 crashed into Mt Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica.
It was in the context of this tragic story that I first heard the term: “pilot error”.
While the term still tends to be used in air-accidents, there’s been an effort to replace it with “human error”, presumably to deflect blame-attribution solely from the pilots and reflect on the fact that anybody in support-capacity may’ve contribute to the events.

In BIM, there is a similar (though thankfully much less deadly) term that is often used unqualified:
“User fault”.
So, while I’m grateful for expert comments provided in response to my question regarding the twisted columns (*) and practical advice coming from various software supporters to get me through the problem, I’m unprepared to blankly accept that this ‘little’ incident is solely of my own making.

IFC is widely promoted as an ‘international standard’ for coordination of AEC project information and as a system (including QA of how various packages export to it) should be much better controlled.
The threshold for ‘user error’ needs to be set much higher, consistency and integrity of data assured against user-mis-action.
I.e. more ‘idiot proof’.

* See post from the 7th November

Saturday, November 12, 2011

‘I’m just a builder, how’d I know?...’

He says and in instant brings to my mind multiple ‘déjà vu’s’ from times passed long ago.
Over the 25 years of my career within the AEC more than one highly placed contractor-manager has started a sentence aimed at me with those – so modestly couched words...
So, I know the rest too:
‘...tell me why should I be looking seriously at this BIM of-yours when my job is to build buildings’...

I swallow, slow and deep, before I point out to the highly-esteemed, that his job is 90% about shuffling information around and probably 10% about the physically building. Consequently, he ought to take note of what I’m saying.
OK, the ratio is random, I plucked it from the air – but even if the opposite was true, and 10% of any contractors’ work was about handling the information related to the building they were to create, the high-level of risk those 10 percent were carrying should warrant the question being taken serious.

While these contractors rarely can influence the shape, format and quality of information coming through the door, there is no good excuse the situation to remain throughout the project-delivery.
A lot can be done to establish integration validation early, increase data integrity and minimise information fatigue.

If only the question from the title implied a genuine interest to understand what could be done....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yesterday’s post was really flippant...

Tells me my conscience... and makes a solemn commitment (again) to keep championing the cause of BIM.
Or at least do my daily blog with the attention it deserves until the clock strikes midnight at the end of this year...
People ask, ‘what then, what are you going to do once you’ve completed your quest?’ – will you stop or carry on, take it down, repackage and repurpose, a homemade-publication, a  multi-lingual edition, a verbal-only retelling, an international tour???...
Few inquire about the likely-results of the pursuit, few expect anything meaningful, let-alone revolutionary from this amateurishly set-up mission...
Yet, they keep on following it, just in case...

Today, I give a break to those needing to read between my lines...
I dedicate this post to the syndrome of the “section-marker”.

It was amongst architectural business owners (themselves architects) that I first encountered a rigid devotion to the ‘things-that-should-not-matter’, first time more than 15 years ago.
I was running a super-powerful modelling engine and parametrically replicated the relationships between the orange-peel skins of the Sydney Opera House.
Not only could I show numerous options of building-systems interacting with each other (ribs, cladding, the acoustic ceilings) – all views were automatically generated as well.

I showed the outputs to a friend, an architect.
While I was explaining the concept, he interrupted me:
“I hate the shape of the section-marker-head!”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I’ve got the feeling that BIM is about to go on the backburner again...

...As ‘things’ are getting tougher still in the AEC-world.
While not particularly looking forward to more uncertainties lurking around my job-status, project-prospects and generally the industry, taking the spotlight-off BIM for a while would suit me just fine.

Let the market do its ‘thing’ for a while and see where we would get.
I AM very-much in favour of letting BIM off the leash, and out on its own.
If it works, great – if not, then we know we’ve been barking up the wrong tree.
There surely are many others shearing the idea that there are only so many excuses we can swallow on the subject of BIM’s failure before it gets boring.

Yes, clients should be asking for it. No, they are not. Why?
Because they don’t know that they should be wanting it or just do not care (i.e. unconvinced of the benefits);
Consultants aren’t playing ball and don’t use open BIM. So, they can get away with it?
Contractors are slow on the uptake and only just working out what the BIM acronym is? Subcontractors are not even aware of the acronym’s existence just heard somewhere that AutoCAD was no longer the standard for shop drawings? Or is it?

This is your risk, or advantage, or whatever.
Deal with it! Or let be dealt by it, so we can all move on.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I once worked for an architect that tortured his clients.

Not in the physical sense, of course, he used subtle methods, like pitting them against their own builders, changing his designs on the fly and in the last minutes of construction, specifying materials unnecessarily expensive and hard-to-maintain and by not turning up at pre-arranged meetings.
He charged them exuberant fees and his projects were always late, the delays measured in years, he mocked them publicly and kept an unlocked-backdoor to his office to sneak out when they turned up unexpectedly.

And they kept coming back to him.
These clients, or if not them personally, their family, friends, competitors, enemies.
He was the darling of the industry, come to think of it, he still is.
He taught me one of the most valuable work-related lessons in life:
‘The building is not important, people love getting a bargain’.

His clients, sitting at the well-off end of the range, valued their bargains a bit differently than, say little-kitchen-renovation-clients would, or school-client boards-of-trustees.
For them the bargain was the ‘national award’ the building was likely-to win, the invitation to the architectural institute’s dinner, being considered an ‘enlightened architectural client’, the envy of the neighbours, the prestige.

I since learned that this ‘pursuit for the bargain’ is absolutely universal, yet strategically so often ignored by key building-project participants.
If you think BIM has nothing to do with this, think again!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A day full of Colours... I had last Thursday...

...though the power of colours is surprisingly lost on many when it comes to communication...

First: I’ve tried explaining the umpteenth time to my, otherwise sharp-and-enthusiastic teammate, that presenting everything grey in a construction-model is not that good a practice.
He was nodding weakly while I rattled examples, where depicting beams in orange, columns in blue and hollow-core-panels in olive-green was totally justified, but I knew he was not convinced.

His eyes drifted uncontrollable through the window, out to the site, where an army of little, glow-yellow-vested men was fashioning our building out-of grey beams, grey columns, grey slabs reinforced with grey bars...

Then, I went home to our girls’ interim school-progress reports to inspect.
Presented as tables showing subjects, criteria and grades on the scale of 1-3 (translated into letters) this communication pleasantly surprised me by its simplicity.
(Especially when I contrast it with the barrage of digital-information the school unleashes on us daily, since they’ve discovered the internet.)

Yet, the colours were missing. Printed on a white sheet, the stamp on the bottom is green, the signature blue, the writing, the table are black.
Wouldn’t it be beneficial to have the three grades represented by colours? I’d think so.
Use the well-tested colours of the traffic-lights for impact.
Colour printing expensive? Maybe, but is it worth not-to use it here? Value vs. Risk?

Monday, November 7, 2011

I have a twisted little story.....that I can’t resist to share.

Imagine this: A building yet-to-be built. (can’t really give you pictures due to confidentiality but this should not take away from the story as the numbers talk here better than most pictures would);

Commercial high-rise, numerous basements, podium, a split tower with a dozen or-so floors.
My interest is still at the bottom basement level.
There are 114 columns to this floor.
There are 47 grids to provide the spatial framework to the structuring of these columns.
NONE (0, zero) of these columns are based on the intersection of two gridlines. A few are ‘close’ (as in sitting on a grid or in reasonable proximity to one, many are floating totally ‘loose’.)

Interested in more statistics? The 114 columns are made up of 31 (thirty-one) individual types, the maximum occurrence any of the types is afforded is 15, there are 12 types with only one representative for each.
Standardisation? What standardisation?

The ‘twist’ of the story is not in these numbers, though I find them quite entertaining. (and a lot of work,  mind you).
The punch-line comes from IFC – as in the exchange format of the buildingSMART fame, the enabler of the ‘open BIM’, I’m ‘practicing’ on this job

No matter how I convert the source (Revit) file into the ‘ifc’ format, 4 out of the 114 columns come across rotated by a random angle.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autodesk may have coined ‘BIM’ but its heart has never been in it...

It may have spent huge amount of money on acquiring Revit and then developing it into something presentable and may be constantly pumping funds into its marketing-machine worldwide to promote BIM, Autodesk never really believed it to be the future, and this shows.

Akin to a politician half-heartedly supporting a policy launch he never agreed-with in the first place, or a teenager holding a candle at his sister’s confirmation-ceremony yet hopes, none of his mates see him like this, Autodesk has been sending out ‘invisible signals’ to the world, that this ‘BIM thing’ is all a bit beneath it and will not last, anyway.

The danger of ‘invisible’ anything is though that it may not get noticed by the ones aimed at, and come judgment day, when the whole ‘BIM thing’ falls over, and the time to re-populate the world with the tried-and-loved AutoCAD suites dawns again, some of the old followers may have moved on.
Unfortunately, the routes disillusioned AutoCAD fans currently can take up are few and badly marked.

Still, would not bet on this situation to continue till the ‘judgment day’ when they can happily re-join the Autodesk clan.
My guess is, that those millions of AutoCAD users around the world that have been cultivated over the last 20-years will yet come back to bite Autodesk in one way, or other.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A newcomer to BIM? Thinking of making a career of it?

Let me give you one advice: Think again!

It may look at first like an undiscovered nice, niche-area within an overcrowded field.
A sound system of utilising technology and best practice information management for the advancement of all.  
A natural marriage of the new and old, a harmonious unison between science and practice.
An easy fix to a terminally ill industry, a lifeline to floundering, aging professionals that have lost their edge and focus. Also an exciting career path for the professionally freshly hatched.
A good business plan, a ‘no brainer’ as I often hear.

I blame the internet for this one. And the software vendors. And the academia.
The three together have managed to stitch up a nice little fairy-tale that seems to be doing its repeated rounds over the various levels of the AEC industry.
It looks real and credible while behaving no better than any old pyramid-scheme or hot-air-balloon scam.
To strengthen its power, this scary threesome targets the young and the old within the field, the nerdy and the vulnerable, the ambitious and the disillusioned. It has a custom created story for each, to hook them up, enlist in their army and let them do the dirty work for the cause.

Look, if it looks too good to be true, IT IS. Full stop!
If really interested in BIM, dig deeper!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sharing means caring...

The two teenage-girls were ready for a party, minus a Hermione tie yet to be fashioned around the neck of one of them.
They came to me for help, I directed them to the ‘Fred-how-tie’ I gifted my husband last Christmas (pictured) but the static nature of the instructions made them look for a better alternative.

They went to Youtube.
Obvious choice. Would it be the same for you?
If you had to clean a laptop, replace a knob on the oven or create a macramé hanging plant holder, would your first place to look for instruction be the Youtube?
Or would you Google it first?
That’d be un-cool, according to the 15 year olds.

Let’s not make this post of another litany of generational-differences, instead:
I do have an interest in sharing instructions for this-and-that on the net (mostly manufacturer’s product installations) and feel like asking the following question routinely:

Why is sharing PDFs online so difficult?

Search for answers and you get many tips on how to ‘send’ PDF’s to someone else.
I’m interested in using a PDF online, with all its clever features and without needing to download any viewers or the file itself.
Sharing, as in using something jointly as opposed to in turns.
Sharing, as in letting somebody else in-on the same information as opposed to just keeping to oneself.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

“I’d rather go out of business than make my guys draw their own org-charts”

Is the message I’m getting. And don’t get too smug thinking it is a ‘cultural’ thing or applies to my workplace only.
Nor is it geographically specific, if anything, it is a pretty universal phenomenon.
Business owners around the world give this message out daily to hundreds of thousands of mid-level engineers (AND architects, and construction managers, and planners, and...) as they turn a blind eye to this practice of ‘false delegation’.

In the past I used all sorts of more-and-less clever analogies to describe this system of ‘second hand information perusal’, – from needing to be driven by someone else to get anywhere to ...well, can’t quite recall any of the others but am sure they were numerous – I’m known for ample uses of clichés and truisms within my blogs.

When you look at any of these cases individually, they are harmless: An engineer instructs a draftsman to draw up his design, a planner another to create a PP. A mid manager requests hundreds of tender plans printed off, another a range of variations to the org-chart (from the title) to be coloured up in all shades of the rainbow.

Trust me, these are the seeds of a lot-of-trouble, yet to come for your company.
Understand what matters...make the changes necessary...
‘Screw it, let’s do it!’ - to quote Sir R Branson of Virgin fame.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

When is a discrepancy not really a discrepancy?

They both are confident to be following well established building-documenting practices.
The structural engineer sizes the concrete column; the architect places it in the space. There is a code on the structural drawing that can be tracked to the schedule and the dimensions are noted. The architectural plan neatly sets out the column’s centre point from two nearby, perpendicular grids.

Then comes the eager BIM modeller and screams with joy as she overlays the see-through plans on her digital light-table: A discrepancy! The columns are not aligned on the two images, out by a bit.
She writes an RFI! (or a query with a proprietary, fancy name).

Hate to take the wind out from under her wings, but this technically IS not a discrepancy, let alone clash. Obviously we are dealing with the results of a non-model based documentation and a slightly stroppy CAD work, but viewing the outputs from the creation of the virtual model representation of the building, neither the architect nor the structural engineer have blundered.

You don’t often hear me straightforward release the above mentioned consultants of their responsibilities for less then adequate work, the reason I’m doing it today is to highlight a silly practice that is spreading amongst those that are supposedly are DOING BIM.

The practice of lead-balloon RFI’s.
Sorry, they are waste of time, do not fly.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

“I just don’t really understand what’s the point using this?”

Asks Gergely, who I presume to be a ‘model purist’.
...and good on him for standing up for something as noble as that.
My intentions are generally much murkier than his (I guess) as I try to force the 3D and 2D into one environment and get them to talk to each other more directly than the orthogonal views of various packages will let them.

This little-battle is between Archicad and me –
I repeatedly ignore the creators’ hints to use the product in-a-certain-way and force it ‘kicking and screaming’ to perform tasks I dream-up.

Tasks, the program generally feels to be beneath-it, degrading even – which amuses me, considering I know lot of people that still use it purely for 2D-drafting.
Now, that I’d call humiliating for a modelling program of any colour but I guess, we all have our standards, and GS/Archicad seem to be less worried about the practice of broken sections and 2D lines as long as they are ‘architectural’.
On the other hand, applying it to construction modelling and 3D/2D coordination (within one, spatial view) appears to be perceived as heresy if not outright abuse of the program.

To answer Gergely’s question: the point is to compare a 3D AND a 2D representation of a space within one environment;
The two info-packages are usually prepared by different parties.
Makes sense to me.

Gergely’s original post is here: