Monday, December 24, 2012

This ‘fat lady’ has not sung her last song yet…

Merry Christmas iTech and stop spreading rumours: I’m still here!
Yes, I know it is the season of goodwill and all…

So in line with that, here is a well-intended advice from me to you on this occasion of Christmas:
Focus on your own performance!
Remember what you set out to do in May 2011?

In case you’ve forgotten some aspects of your commitment, let me remind you:
To successfully implement Building information Modelling (BIM) on Al Mafraq Hospital, you developed a detailed BIM Project Execution Plan. That plan included everything that would allow the project to run not just smoothly, but extra smoothly.

In fact to quote you direct from the document:

The BIM processes and solutions executed on the Al Mafraq Hospital are designed to set the example for successful contractor BIM implementation in the Middle East and North Africa regions.

 Even now, some one and a half years later, re-reading this sentence, the mixture of tenses puts my knowledge of English grammar and comprehension to test:

Have these processes already been executed at the time of writing the plan?
I do recall asking the project PD to clarify this at the time.
I also recall her getting extremely agitated about this question and some others I put up, since you so successfully charmed her into believing that you could deliver something no one else could.
Any type of scrutiny into the viability of this mutually held dream was unwelcome.

In fact, it still is.
As recently as in March this year we had your team promote ‘iTech uses BIM bang – whizzery at Al Mafraq hospital’ in local construction media, while opposing comments (mine) were left un-published.

 In your plan you also promised us that:

It would set the standard for processes and expectations for BIM deliveries in the region and the benchmark in efficiency and quality for the entire BIM process encompassing all involved parties to deliver a fully-coordinated, as-built BIM that can be effectively and efficiently used by the client for continued benefit of FM during the entire lifecycle of the facility.

OK, you said ‘should’ not ‘would’, but there were no ‘ifs and buts and maybes’ to qualify it so I assumed that this was just another example of the cavalier way you treat the language.
All the above underlined words were in your Plan and in exactly the same context as shown here.

I could hardly believe your arrogance and ignorance.
I still hardly can.

 18 months should be long enough to start really rocking the BIM/AEC world in the region, not just by talking and flashing up pictures at conferences but actually delivering the goods.

Merry Christmas iTech and stop spreading rumours about me: I’m still here!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The global AEC industry has become a large swamp

These days I observe that the majority of people working in construction tend to fall into one of two categories:
The ‘plodders’ or the ‘lily-pad-hoppers’.

The ‘plodders’ make up the larger of the two groups, mostly good people with fundamentally decent goals and principles at heart:
get through the day, do a reasonable job, don’t over stretch yourselves, bring home the bacon.
I’m not referring to just labourers, tradesmen and construction managers here but also architects, engineers, client representatives, even clients themselves.
You’ll recognise them everywhere that any type of building creation is done – from the early days of ideas where feasibility is explored – well into operation and maintenance of the finished product they’ll diligently do their plodding.
They staff construction projects all around the world, from the smallest hut that is pulled together in a remote village  to the highest skyscraper that there is, currently being nudged further up into the clouds of a metropolis.

Curiously though, the really able builders we have in this industry fall into the other group,
the ones I call the ‘lilypadders’.  (the shorter version of the tongue-twister ‘lily-pad-hoppers’ I mentioned earlier);

Most excel in building, that is building their ‘own careers’.
Mostly by jumping from one lilypad of a ‘wobbly project’ to another and repeatedly surviving unscathed, even if the pad gets fully submerged not long after they abandon it.

I know project based lilypadders that periodically move from one company to another.
These are the ‘freelancers’ that manage to get away with doing as little damage at any certain day on any certain project to not be caught out, or are just so well-honed with their timing skills, that they move off the project before any type of performance becomes critical.

The ones eve more cunning than the freelancers, tend to join-up larger organisations, preferably multinationals and if possible early in their careers and focus all their skills, effort and attention on understanding, maintaining and supporting ‘the pond’ that their organisation is.
They rarely concentrate on the final outputs of the projects they’re responsible for, not to mention clients’ wellbeing or the betterment of the industry as a whole, but maintaining the ability to predict the point when the part of the pod they’re residing on will become too hot or to wobbly to hang around there any longer.

Fortunately, most of these moves – as uncomfortable as they can be – are also upward-travels on their carefully cultivated career-ladders and will bring in more money, flashier titles and better perks.

We might manage to ignore the question of morality of these widely used practices.
After all, due to the lengthy processes most projects usually go through, it will take on average, probably only 10 screwed up projects to reach the desired climax of a lilypadder’s career spanning 20/30 years in senior AEC management.
Most of these guys then retire with dignity to make space for the new generation of budding lilypadders.

It is the wasted opportunity that bothers me.
All that skill and talent carried by these power-houses and input somewhere in the system (not to mention paid for handsomely), yet we are still left with no better AEC and no good building outcomes generally.
Just murkier swamps and even fatter frogs that are harder to get rid of and messier messes they leave for the others to clean up.

Lily Pad Place Photograph - Lily Pad Place Fine Art Print - Dave Martsolf

Monday, December 17, 2012

“I’m thinking of going BIM way – what software packages should I consider?”

I’m so over this topic! Haven’t we all heard it before?
And soooo many times?
And seen helpful ‘would be advisors’, tripping over each other to be the first to fire questions back to the questioner asking to clarify –
Are you a small company? A large multinational?
Do you do residential? Industrial, commercial, healthcare?
Are you wedded to Autodesk? An indie-CAD supporter? A closet Sketchup-er?
A traditional soft penciler or prefer the ‘H’ range?
Would you choose Staedtler over Rotring?
Is your butter paper yellow or white? Thin or thick? Rolled or in sheets?

I’m so over all of this…..
‘Déjà vu’ is no cliché stale enough for what I feel re-reading,
or even just skimming over these discussions…
And don’t tell me, I can always opt-out from reading them…
they ARE everywhere…

I hate seeing ‘real’ BIM-mers (myself included) walk into traps set by these quasi innocent questions and gift some of their hard-earned ‘BIM credibility’ to discussions that are nothing more than software advertorials or naïve, but lazy attempts to catch up with reality by, the up-to-now largely ignorant.

Butt out; let them be, stop the whinging! – you may say…
Well, I’ve got to carry on whinging;
This ‘Armchair BIM-ming’ is what needs to stop, or at least the real ‘doers’ need to resist the urge to participate in perpetual, sophisticated-sounding,
yet ‘oh-so-shallow’ forums
on what colour of ‘spatula’ to use to stir the same mushy ‘nothing’ of AEC project information…
The understated Jamie Oliver equivalents of the AEC asking for the type of oven to buy –
go electrical or stay gas, freestanding or built-in…

Just get on with the bloody cooking, will you?

So, if you’ve been already practicing in any of the fields of AEC for 5+ years and you truly do not know how to get started on BIM, but are eager to, go and try doing it!
Live, in real time, on a genuine project.
That will teach you a lot!
Including what sort of a ‘potato-head’ you’d been up till now.
You may also see how your luck is now running out and you do need a major change in attitude.
And you can succeed, if you finally get your hands dirty.

On the other hand, if you are asking these types of questions because you are a student,
go beat your lecturers with them!
They are supposed to know the answers to all of these…
Real armchair-BIM-mers, the majority… if you ask me…
(not that anyone does, but to counter that lack of action from others is what this blog is good for).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Do you know who owns this villa?

Or any of her sisters on this island?
I need to find this person urgently!
Email contact details to:

Please share! Your action could save lives!
(also, translate onto other languages)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BIM makes you beautiful….

In turbulent times like these, it is the unexpected little gems of kindness and recognition that light up my days.

One of my first BIM recruits here – a front-line solder  – thrown into a battle with little more than her wits to fight with, has just left the company and sent through a nice ‘thank you note’ before departing.

It is quite personal, so I will not share it with you, but there is something in it, that is definitely of possible wider value – and all BIM- sufferers out there, should take note:

….she says… being involved with BIM kinda thickens my skin a lot”…

A pretty creature she is, no need for this special ‘beauty treatment’ –

I still do hope, that her 15 months in the deepest of trenches of BIM-ridiculicity will leave her with more than just bitter taste.

Now that she has exited the company, I can also make public my opinion that her and the two comradesses left behind could have prevented that project running off the tracks, single-handedly.

Had they been given the chance and support.

And in support, I let them down.

I sort of pulled back after they voicelessly signalled to me that my sponsorship was hurting them – life was too difficult already, could I please ‘help them’ a bit less.

So, good luck Joan, forgive me for sending you into that particular boot camp,
enjoy your future with BIM, ….

Saturday, December 8, 2012

BIM @ universities (the previously promised follow-up to the Causeway post)

Last Thursday I got invited to a black tie event – (Construction Week Awards)
I guess this is the closest I'll ever get to a Hollywood type of award-show, must make the most of a good dress-up opportunity;

Correspondingly, I urgently need to ‘tie’ up some loose ends here, and do it well before the night, 
in case I bump into Phil from Causeway (inevitable, since they are one of the sponsors) and he grills me on my unsavory comments regarding his team within this blog, a couple of days ago.

Maybe it was too late in the night; maybe I was trying to be too clever –
but the post in question did not come out too well.

So, let’s stop bamboozling about it, and tell the story as it really went:
At a recent Causeway sponsored event (coincidentally titled Hollywood BIM) Tim Cole from Causeway, a professor based at a Dubai Uni and I were discussing the role universities have (or should have) in shaping the future of BIM in the AEC.
The chat was informal, before the official discussions.
Naturally, the question of the fine-line between education and training had come up too, and how various representatives of universities get hung up on doing one (or the other);

To make it easier to distinguish between the two, Tim told us a nice little analogy:
Let’s say your daughter comes home from school and says ‘we had sex education at school today’ – you might frown a bit at the news but will probably leave it at that;
if instead she told you that she’d had ‘sex training’ at the same institution – you’d be concerned in a different way;

I really liked this explanation and not because of the ‘sex’ component.
So, to put everyone back at ease, let’s rethink the story using ‘driving’ instead, as in ‘driver education’ and ‘driver training’.
Then, once we are all on ‘board’ so to speak – let’s go back to how much BIM education vs. training should Universities do.

Could they effectively educate people on an extremely complex ‘product-delivery strategy’ without ever going into the nuts and bolts of the workings of the various available tools?
Discuss theories devoid of real application – and I mean really ‘doing it’–
not just by analysing  ‘case studies’ or ‘looking over the shoulders of others’ experiencing the ‘real thing’?
Base their programmes on industry anecdotes compiled from poorly structured and misleading surveys?

On the other hand – how would they choose what tools to teach and what not and still be able to fairly educate on the subject of the ‘large picture’ BIM?
Put their hand on their heart and say that they really offer the best tools on the market for the BIM knowledge-seekers and aren't commercially driven by software vendors?

The distinguished academic appeared to wrestle this dilemma easier than I could, going one step further and saying that Universities should also SET the STANDARDS on “how to DO BIM”.

At this point I pondered another two-liner I heard recently:
Q: Do you know how to fly a plane?
A: I should think so - I never tried it before…

(sounds better in Hungarian, trust me)

Picture of my friend Michael in a flight simulator – pinched from Michael’s FB;

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When the best bad plan is the BIM plan...

Prove it! Prove it! Prove it!

They’re demanding from me, ‘Prove your bloody BIM can do the job!’
Smugness never leaves their faces, the arrogant conviction oozing from their bodies.
I can prove my plans of course – but they never have the patience to listen through any length of explanation, too bloody complicated, too bloody difficult to wrap their fragile minds around.

See, it is crisis situation and they really have no time for yet another convoluted equation that will yet again end in me telling them to fire every-one-of their hands-off managers and start building up a real working work-strategy, from scratch.

Why do they have to waste their precious time on me, anyway?
When they have so much bigger wars to fight, crises to solve.

Or more precisely, projects and companies to destroy.
Because, that is what they are doing.
They  turn up their noses on every ‘smoking gun’ I present, while somewhere close-by a new ‘claim’ is born, created by one of our sub-contractors, a tiny baby-‘time delay’ emerges – ready to grow slowly into a monster force able to take down even the biggest of AEC giants.

Not only is my maths too complex for them, all that skipping of history classes at school is hurting –
knowing, that, not merely was Rome not built in one day, but many of the buildings well over-lived their speculative constructors – could give them some hints on what may yet come their way.
Poor souls must have missed out on bed-time fairy tales read lovingly by a parent – as they never learned that the ‘poor guy’ can win at the end of the story, or that the ‘little old lady’ from chapter 2 was the wise voice to listen-to on the way to fight the dragon.
And the fate of scores of overfed thanksgiving turkeys confidently enjoying their blissful lifestyles only a couple of weeks ago has a story or two to teach...

Let’s get this bloody show in a bloody order!

This cartoon has been ‘done to death’ by salesmen of ‘everything’;
I do like it though – as it rings so true –
I first came across a version of it almost 2 decades ago on one of Graphisoft’s presentations. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When a BIM-mer looks for a new job....

Oh, not me! Not quite, yet!
But as I watch redundancy envelopes being opened around me in desperation, I throw a tantrum or two...
 as they kick my best guy out – (an honest mistake – I’m told, reinstated after a hysterical shouting episode...)
... I keep wondering...
It is not the same for a BIM-mer to look for a new job, as it is for an architect, for example. Is it?
Yes, it is easier in a way, BIM-mers are ‘doers’ – can earn their keep even in the toughest of times, while architects.... well, some architects also can.

But an architect, if he gets a new job, needs only to prove his- (or OK, her)-selves– own capabilities in the new place.
Same goes for an engineer, a CAD-die, a construction manager, QS, almost anyone working in the AEC.

No such luck is afforded for jobless and newly re-employed BIM-mers.
All the goodwill you built up in your previous job, is gone, once they show you the door.
No matter how many people you enlightened about the different D’s in BIM.
No matter how much you pulled up your bosses knowledge of business benefits of BIM – if needed dragging them by their socks to understand that ‘no software will do nothing by itself’
and how many crappy models you've made pleasingly looking in your current place.
It is very likely that you will have to start totally from scratch in the new position.

Even if they have knowingly brought you into your new place as an ‘experienced BIM guy’, you’ll still have to do your ‘BIM 101’ rookie dance for them:
You’ll have to explain how Revit is not BIM on its own to 300 people.
One by one.
You’ll have to render endless construction sequences, as this is what BIM-mers do.
And ‘clash detect’ – constantly and at the drop of a hat.
Multi-disciplinarily.  With lots of pipes and beams hitting them.
Show cranes and axo sites in company colours, in multi-Ds.
Add soothing music to accompany all animations.

You’ll be cursed for crappy looking shop drawings and incorrect line-weights till you beat someone up.
You’ll be the butt of all office jokes – like, ‘we’ll build the building before you complete your model’ -
until you beat THE Project Director up.
Then, you’ll get disciplined publicly and the new BIM initiative will be dropped because of your bad influence on the others.
You’ll forever devise complicated equations to prove where all the wasted money is hidden by ‘traditionalist’ and how BIM could lift the company out of the doldrums.
You’ll make no new friends.
You’ll miss the first Christmas party, maybe even the second too, it will take an average of 18 months for a company to appreciate what they are getting from a good BIM-mer.
If they ever, of course – otherwise you end up going back to the ‘start’ position.

You’ll dream of ‘change management’ strategies and learn to speak very sloooowly.
You’ll start to wish you were an architect again.
Or a CAD-die, QS or engineer.

Or anything really, that does not have to justify their position and right for existence within an AEC company from scratch, all over again.
Every time a crisis hit.
A crisis that should be crying out for good BIM-mers.
There. No justice for us. A sad state of affairs for BIM.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sorry Hady, will not make it this time.

This is my public apology to Bentley Systems Europe B.V. (Dubai Branch)
I week or so ago, I had the pleasure to be invited to Bentley’s "21st Century Construction Processes" event, planned for the 11th of December, to be held in Doha.
Their programme looked interesting and as Hady (who so kindly sent me the invitation) suggested,

“The event will be also a very good networking opportunity with industry peers from top construction and rail firms in the Middle East such as Parsons International, Arabtec Construction, L.L.C, and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC)”.

I will spare you of my comment on how brave this action of Hady’s I consider to be.

Not just because that would mean repeating myself, a habit I try to shake off, but also I do accept that mature companies like Bentley Systems have the wisdom to create their lists of event-invitees without being unduly influenced by a potential blog comment of a hysterical BIM-mer, afterwards.

So, I politely thanked Hady and sought permission to go.
Still, the bosses, said: NO.

By no means should this decision be taken as a reflection on the quality of Bentley's programme - nor the high cost of getting me to Doha.
After all, for at least the last half a year we’ve had guys travelling back and forth around the globe on the account of juicy RAIL projects to be had in the region, we must have by now secured super specials with the airlines.

Though, in tough times we are currently living, every cent counts, the ex ‘small-business owner minded’ person I am, I sure understand.

Still, the overarching cluelessness of this workplace of mine does bother me a bit - as a colleague said, even if someone showed us how to dig those rail tunnels within seconds using batman’s laser drills and offered to sell the tools to us - we'd still be too cool to listen to anyone.

In fact, they wouldn’t notice if a life-saving strategy has hit them in between their eyes.
Not if it was coming from me, anyway.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Can you adjust the slopes in Revit? The guys at my work say, you can’t...

And they are not bad with their tools;
In fact, the ‘A team’ can cook up a pretty cool Revit model in a pretty good time frame.

My question to the team went like this: When you represent earthworks, and cut a platform into a site, can you use angled cutters?
Rather than having the earth cut (and filled) vertically 90 degrees as shown on picture 1 (done in Revit), different soils require those cuts (and fills) to be performed at an angle (that often depends on the type of soil) like shown on picture 2 (done in ArchiCAD);
They went away, they researched, they said: NO.

So, my dear readers – Revit enthusiasts, put me right: 
Can you vary those slopes in Revit?
Don’t bother by offering me other, Autodesk-compatible earthworks software, for the one-eyed ArchiCAD agitator I am, this is a race with 2 horses.

If you know a bit about me, you can imagine how much the guys at work hate the constant pestering I do of ‘can yours do what my can?’.
What they do not realise, that I’d be the happiest if Autodesk suddenly got their act together and technically boosted up Revit’s abilities and performance.
Preferably, well beyond ArchiCAD’s, give something for those Hungarian developers to sink their teeth into!

Competition and ‘balance of powers’ is what we are talking about here.
In the earlier ‘BIM-ish’ years, we had to squeak persistently into Graphisofts’ deaf –ears for years, desperate for a decent representation of storey-level lines in sections before anything happened.
We had to put up with a clumsy profiler for ages.
Then, Revit popped out its own representation of tools for these two and GS was forced to counter-act.
In fact, was it not for the way Revit could handle multiple type of walls (within one) that made GS really jazz up their ‘complex profiler’?
You know, in the good Hungarian spirit, they’ll go one further when the challenge is there and worthwhile to take up.

Talking about the ‘complex profiler’ in ArchiCAD, I feel another fan-mail coming from my side on that topic, something I’d urge all BIM enthusiast (regardless of colour and branding) to come and read up on.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

John Chambers: Target audience will hate it.

Tony Mendez: Who's the target audience?
John Chambers: People with eyes
(from Argo)

You can safely deduct, I’m really into mainstream movies these days;
And whatever I watch, I see BIM in it.

The above described type of ‘target audience’ may have been subconsciously on the minds of those that organised the BIM lecture (forum, pardon me) I went to yesterday.

The format, the topics, the seating were all designed to restrain even the least enthusiastic BIM supporter long enough, to make them champion the dogma.

To be fair, even though they cast their nets widely, they would not have expected the target audience to hate it;
I was not even invited originally, so have little right to complain about not learning anything new, again.
Closer to the truth, I did learn something, quite interesting:

Airports are nowadays measured in annual people-throughput and the amount of steel they include within;
(the buildings, not the people, I suspect – though estimating the steel content of the passengers could be quite fun, too);
I saw Phil from Causeway, in the break.
He is high on my list of respected acquaintances:
1/ he was gentlemanly enough to invite me to join the BIM panel sponsored by his company recently even though he probably suspected I’d say things his other guests would not like…
2/ he fronts a company in the ME that has at least 3 highly clued-up people in its management that I personally had met (very unusual )
3/ he can sell ‘CAD measure’ – and has sold hundreds of licences to my company!

Now, that’s a cunning achievement, for more than one reason!

I was about to tell him, that I intended to blog about Tim’s extremely useful parallel that he shared with me at the previously mentioned event (link below),
one befitting the institution we were standing in, as soon as I worked out how to include the word ‘sex’ into my blog and still keep it G rated,
when the break was broken.

 Keep watching this space, Causeway!




Now, if you think it is plain hypocritical to consider myself to be an ‘indie-BIMdie’, yet widely use product placement within this blog – remember, I’ve been getting my clues from mainstream Hollywood.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Good luck with that!

We went to see the latest Bond movie on Friday.
And I really enjoyed it.
Maybe, because the last 007 movie I watched prior to this was many years ago, or just that the couple of hours’ long trip into dream-world was well needed.

Escapism aside, the movie carried a lot of BIM meaning.

Everything Bond did, looked easy.
The problem of good BIM-mers is similar, they make what they do, look easy to others.
So, if they like what they see, the observers of this BIM-magic think they can get it from a box. 
A box preferably with an Autodesk logo on it.
Or a person.
But another person, a cheaper person than the BIM-mer that impressed them.
A cheaper, less demanding, less troublesome.
Preferably one that wears an Autodesk logo on his shirt.

Then, there was the dragon.
The giant lizard that represented for me most of those that are managing the AEC industry nowadays. 
Ii since learned that the dragon’s basic strategy is simple: try to smash the challenger to the ground and tear it to pieces.
Komodo's teeth are its most dangerous weapon. They are large, curved, and serrated, and tear flesh efficiently.
Though when they aren’t hungry, they lounge lazily, just like the AEC management, totally uninterested in the smart little BIM-mers trying to change the industry.

In the movie the lizard survives – good for the green- groups, less so for my morale.
Still, my two parallel stories do collide over the animal in the film.

In the lantern-lit casino floor – the villain snatches Bond’s gun (insert: BIM box)
and attempts to fire it (insert: pretend to do BIM to fight the dinosaur off)
and it fails, as it has been coded to Bond’s palm-print (insert: decades of hard-won BIM experience) so only he can use it.

As Bond utters: ‘Good luck with that!’
 I think that too:
Good luck to all of you BIM 'rejectors'!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The mighty zone tool – poetry in BIM-ming

I’ve been besotted by ArchiCAD’s ‘zone tool’ lately.
I had not always been a fan of it, early in my career, seriously disliked it even, mainly because of its ugly, big zone-stamp.
That was when I was still working and thinking as an ‘architect’ and the aesthetics of the drawings I produced were high in life’s priorities.
Have grown out of that stage, thank’ goodness and amongst other more crucial things in life, I rediscovered the ‘zone tool’.
Sadly, the stamp is still pretty unattractive, yet the tool behind it is pure magic.

Not only can you use it for dynamic space planning with instantaneous monetary feedback on design decisions, it is a de facto massing tool too, you can track your shapes in 3D.
And not just boxes, but almost any shape, cut and trimmed to suit perfectly.
Should try it out, sometimes!

Other programs have ‘room’ tools, area calculators or slabs for massing.
Virtual clay to carve your virtual buildings out.
Yet, there is so much more to this (so poorly named) ‘zone tool’.
It sits somewhere between the real and the imagined – tangible and abstract even in the digital worlds of fuzzy reality.
It treats the user as an adult professional with sophisticated needs.
As an engineer and an engigneor – recognising when one works with ‘real’ virtual elements that need to be accounted for within its boundaries, columns, walls, furniture for the QS, the developer client, the project manager-hawk keeping track of GFAs.
Simultaneously, it shows the various imaginary spaces in 3D, blurring them out to the level of vagueness the particular design or project stage requires it while still knowing when the space hits a real element (like a curtain wall) and reports back on it faultlessly.

There is a little fault in it nevertheless; the zones do not show up in sectional views.
Maybe that no one ever asked for them to do so.
Am now. Please!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Let the genie out of the bottle: A suggestion for a BIM corporate gift

When I get invited to speak at BIM themed gatherings, it is usually due to one of 2 scenarios at play:
Organisers either know nothing about BIM, or they are in a somewhat ‘suicidal mode’ intending to bomb their event with whatever random, anti-mainstream BIM ramblings I’ll come up-with on the day.

One definitely cannot say that Ivan of hiCAD-fame
 knows nothing about BIM, so he must have been feeling very adventurous when he invited me to speak at his annual ArchiCAD event, for the third time this autumn.

Travelling to Novi Sad, Serbia or better known as the ‘naughty’ capital of Vojvodina is always a bitter-sweet event for me, visiting my fading father, my heroic mother, tough little sister, sturdy brother-in-law, the  nephews and the house I grew up-in, simultaneously gives me strength and drains energy.

For this year’s event, Ivan published a selection of my blog-posts in a cute little book;
If there ever was a good corporate, festive-season present for those operating in the AEC field, this is it.
The perfect gift for your BIM clients, current or potential. Not offensive, yet powerful!

Firstly, those that think no-BIM will ever rattle them off their well deserved positions can enjoy the selection of colourful pictures without needing to get down to the deeply hidden meaning of each little aphorism.
Those, that may have started taking this BIM-thing seriously, will start taking you more seriously too; 
See, it is a real book, it has a bar-code!

Best of all, when you order your book from Ivan, he may throw in his other little corporate gift, a bottle opener marked with ‘Open BIM’.
These branded little gadgets show Ivan’s real savvy.
At his event he was promoting ‘Open BIM’ in line with Graphisoft’s strategy of the ‘IFC-playing nicely type BIM’, yet as a nod to my openly ‘NOT open BIM’ stance gave away a bottle open-er as part of the show.
As in, not quite knowing what type of genie we may let out with it this year.

So, order a couple of these BIM books for your corporate clients this Christmas and give them the Open BIM opener too.
Next year, will launch the Open (and let the can of worms out) BIM can-opener.
Ivan and I will!

(book is bilingual, opener opens standard beer bottles, I think)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kristof’s shoes

Hi Zolna, in my opinion, real problem in our industry (and not only in GCC) is that "bidding below the cost" in reality is not below the cost. It is wide spread unethical way to get the job at the cost acceptable to the client and as a result consciously delivering substandard service (product) after. Companies or professionals with basic ethics have no chance in this.

Wrote my friend Kristof, in response to my previous post on the topic of ‘bidding below cost’ in AEC. Kristof is a good chap, a highly valued and very experienced MEP engineer.
His view is very reasonable and the statement fairly accurate.
It also reflects the perception of many of those with similar ethics like Kristof’s on how truly rotten the AEC is.

Let me paraphrase it: on most AEC projects, there is a ‘Price acceptable to the client’ that is then matched by someone prepared to deliver ‘something for it’, no matter how realistic that expectation was at the first place.
If it was ‘below cost’ then consequently the provider would either lose money or give a substandard service. No other alternative outcomes.

Following the logic of the first being unsustainable in the long run for anyone doing it and the latter resulting  in so much shoddy work that clients will be forced to return to ‘quality’, and become again prepared to pay more for it, will lead us back to the theory my bosses had (have).

There IS however a third possibility:
That some providers will figure out ways to offer an acceptable service that matched their client’s expectations and still prosper as a business.

Whether they would progress by using technology better, source cheap labour globally or shape project parameters unscrupulously for self-interest, in the long run, it is likely for it to become an ‘ethically acceptable’ way of doing things.

If you think this is a sad prospect, look at your shoes:
When did you last purchase a pair that could be truly said to have been created ‘ethically’?
A fair price to the maker and the seller too?
Or, when did you last think about what happened to all those local shoe factories that went bust because they could not move their factories to cheaper areas?
Let alone those small scale manufacturers/traders that industrialisation of shoemaking had shut down one stage earlier?

Due to various factors working favourably for it, the AEC industry had been able to dodge the need to really reinvent itself over the last 50 or so years. But, times ARE changing.

Well implemented BIM offers an ethical way of improving operational performance for players currently operating in the AEC market.
It is a petty that so few of them really recognise this.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A BIM-baby in danger…

Spoiler alert: this is going to be a soppy, girly post.
If you are a regular reader looking for the latest technical happenings around BIM, come back later – I have a couple of posts in drafts on the ‘magical power of the prodigious zone tool’ and ‘how productivity can be improved by applying BIM the correct way’.

Today, I have bigger fish to fry. Or ‘fish’ closer to my day-to-day existence, so to speak.

It’s been a long time since I could be referred to as a ‘baby’ of any sort.
Yet, that is the best parallel I can think of as I consider my immediate employment prospects.
Being thrown out, as the proverbial ‘baby’ with the bathwater.

See, the almighty company I’m working in is doing a bit of a ‘major’ re-structuring at the moment.
The new CEO took the helm a month or so ago, time to brush the place clean.

Don’t look away, I’m not sharing big company secrets here, in fact I can hardly ripple any PR waves with my little blog in comparison to what the big guys have been doing over the last year or so, slinging mud over each other across continents.

I can’t in my ‘rational-professional mind’ blame the new/old management for aiming to improve accountability and ensure we operate as a single, cohesive company.
That, from now on ‘Our Operations will concentrate on the successful delivery of our projects.’ – should do nothing but please my ‘BIMmed out’ strategic-little brain.
That, ‘This will require a focus on cost control, quality and profitability’ should sooth me into a blissful knowledge of ‘finally getting understood at the highest of levels’.

No such luck.
Lots of signs are suggesting to me that the flexible catchphrase about the baby and the bathwater in our case has to do with discarding the essential, while retaining the superfluous.
In other words, they may throw out the baby and keep the bath water?
The risk is high!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How (not) to promote a BIM Summit?

I used to think of “Summits” as meetings of heads of states, held not that often with full fanfare and media attention.
Nowadays we have ‘BIM summits‘ popping up all around the world, almost every week.
There is a conference, soon to be held in New Zealand carrying the same pretentious qualifier.
(see link to it below)

Reading through the programme and the list of speakers inspired me to voice a new ‘tongue-twister cum mathematical problem’ and share it with the world:

“If BIM is not Revit, and Revit is not BIM,
but a BIM summit is staffed by people almost exclusively associated with Revit,
what makes it still a BIM summit as opposed to a Revit summit?”

Ok, ok… here I am talking from the safety of a ‘self-proclaimed disassociation with the globally-spread Autodesk tribalism’, yet I constantly dispense my support to some ‘other’ programs while still try to deceive myself of being an independent thinker.

Anyone that knows something about BIM and the fierce lobbying that is going on in it must agree with me on the following point though:

It is slightly bizarre, if not outright stupid to promote an ‘Autodesk flavoured event’ with images of buildings created in ArchiCAD!
The illustrations they use on the brochures and promotional materials are from Rice Daubney;

Could the 20+ companies that provided people for the event not come up with ONE Revit image?
Only if Graphisoft knew how to play this to their advantage!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Another example for why it is better to stay out of BIM surveys…

….Unless of course you have software to sell.

Earlier this year a survey was published in New Zealand:

“This New Zealand National BIM Survey 2012 report has been prepared by Masterspec on behalf of the construction industry. It provides a credible picture of present day attitudes and progress made towards Building Information Modelling (BIM) in New Zealand.”

Note the words ‘on behalf’ and ‘credible’.  
I’m sure you, dear reader, already feel all included within  the ‘all inclusive’ NZ construction industry and are looking forward to the ‘credible’ arguments you’ll find here.

In the executive summary, the first question is interesting, even more the way the results are presented.

First thing, first:
“The survey asked a series of questions to establish current usage of both 2D and 3D CAD, as a
precursor to determining likely future engagement with Building Information Modelling (BIM).”
… actually, this was the question:
“When producing CAD drawings, which of the following tools do you mainly use?”

They must be extremely advanced over there in NZ these days if they can establish likely future engagement with BIM from the current tools used.
I’d never dare look at an AutoCAD user today and say, ‘hey mate, you’ll never make it into the next decade with skills like that’, or
‘my dear Bentley friends, you might as well pack up your BIM solutions and go fishing instead, because currently 1% of the survey-prone part of the NZ construction industry uses Bentley Microstation for drafting their CAD drawings’.

I’d never make predictions based on info like this, but obviously I’ve lost my edge having left NZ almost 3 years ago.

Then, look at the chart itself!
Autodesk products are conveniently bundled together – not so ArchiCAD and Vectorworks (owned by the same company: Nemetschek). If there were any Allplan users within the ‘others’ (quite probable)  adding their number to the previous two (following the same logic)  would bring them significantly above the Autodesk bunch. (even with AutoCAD included!)
The surveyors must have felt a bit uneasy about this grouping, so just for good measure added the following note:

“Autodesk products (40%) and Graphisoft (37%) clearly dominate the New Zealand CAD market.
However the high number using ArchiCAD reflects the strong hold this company holds over
the architect and architectural designer market (81% of respondents). It is likely that if further
engineers had responded to the survey the balance towards Graphisoft (ArchiCAD) would not be as marked.”

Pay attention to the suggestion that ‘it is likely…’.  
Is it really something that a ‘credible’ survey performed on my ‘behalf’ would really speculate on?
Oh, that’s right – I can no longer consider myself to be part of the NZ construction industry.

Thankfully, Graphisoft NZ within their Cadimage blog had thought about reshuffling the numbers to their advantage, leaving their ‘little sister’, Vectorwoks behind.
(see attached);
I wonder if Bentley had possibly used the same results in some forum to show ‘theirs was the future of BIM’, based on the very low level of ‘2D CAD misuse of Bentley products in NZ’ or some other creative marketing blurb.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

‘Bidding below cost in the AEC…

…is a bad practice and is totally unsustainable.’
‘And we aren’t going to do it, no matter how much pressure there might be!
Unlike our competitors…
We’ll wait. We’ll sit it out….’

Pouring great-wisdom generously, the new boss introduced himself to us a couple of months ago.
His steely stamina underlined the important message.
He meant business. He was not going to give in.
The market will turn!

‘What if it doesn’t?’
I asked in my head – the conflict-avoider I am in such critical situations preventing me to say it aloud.

OK, I did demonstratively walk out mid-speech, but it is highly unlikely that the boss connected my action with the statement he just made.
So convinced he was with intimidating the rest of the industry by his refusal to bid below cost, a flustered female college disappearing from the first row would have hardly even registered with him.

But, really: What if it does not turn?
If, instead bidding below cost becomes the ‘norm’?
What if (God forbid it) some other companies DO figure out ways to match costs to those asked by the market by becoming more productive?

Turns out, raising productivity is another one of my new boss’s strengths, and he’s been telling us  lately how he’ll do it:
He’ll cut BIM down to size, replace it with CAD. It’s cheaper.

Guess what, he is not alone in this revolutionary idea on how to improve productivity and survive in a stressed construction market;

I’ve been speaking to a BIM colleague recently who was devastated by his company going back down the track of doing everything in CAD, as it was so much easier to manage than this ‘BIM thing’ is.
We are talking large, multi-national company here, employees in thousands.

Roll-up the horse carts, here we come! (or will a camel do?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

AEC Architects/Engineers: What IS your MRT?

In technology, response time is how long a system or functional unit takes to react to a given input. It gets similarly defined in medicine and military industries too.

What about the AEC?

There are traditional, contract-regulated response-requirements set for many actions needed to be performed by various AEC-project participants (comments, approvals, claims, RFIs etc.) – yet no form of an MRT comes up ever as something architects would boast about.

When questioned about it, they are often illusive and if very hard-pressed, they’d most likely emphasise the ‘quality’ aspect of their service over ‘reaction speed’.

In fact, it is viewed as a bit of a ‘dirty concept’ to expect instantaneous updating of all documents following a design change.

As recently as yesterday, a consultant looked at me genuinely surprised that I expected from him rapidly coordinated architectural and structural drawings following client initiated changes to numerous floor levels within the project.

I wonder if the same person gets to change  his travel arrangements on line these days or would stroll down to a travel agent who hand-fills  out a form and posts it to the airline company to request an amended date for the traveller? Three days or a week later…

How often does he transfer money wirelessly without considering how these types of needs were met not that long ago?

Does he ever ponder over in what way supermarket-chains adjust their products shelf prices daily?

Digital, ‘Model-based documentation’ is of course, the answer for those architects/engineers that DO want to improve their ‘response-time’ without compromising on quality or taking on additional risks.

Well informed and resourceful practitioners are those that can also differentiate between fragmented 2D (CAD) drawing processes, over-constrained and hard to manage modelling approaches and flexible, alert, proactive-yet reactive methodologies.

In the current AEC markets there is no place for sluggish, lethargic players.
It is time for all consultants to lift their game and improve on their MRT!