Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The biggest charity on Earth

Move over Red Cross, Red Crescent, Greenpeace and WWF!
There is a new entity aiming to become the king of the compassionate:
The AEC industry.

Who says that the world is a hostile place, when you have an entire industry committed to preserve a species that was destined to die out some 2 decades ago?

I’m referring here to my ‘favourite’ part of the AEC food-chain: the hands-off architects, designer-, project- and construction managers. Collectively they rule the building-creation industry.
The marker-uppers, the second hand information users, the stay at arms’ length – decision makers, the no-real-responsibility takers.

Far from being an advocate of the ‘rule of the jungle’, or worse even, promote hard-hearted policies that disadvantage the already disadvantaged, I observe with amazement this phenomenon of an industry shooting itself in the foot.

There was a famous economist (his name escapes me as I write this) that got into trouble because he questioned the campaign to protect the Panda as a species.
In a very good argument he contrasted the Panda’s lack of ability to survive/thrive with the qualities of the domestic cat.

Non-critical, self-protection of a profession is not a new thing, both the legal and medical fraternity can lecture us all on how to do it well.
To ignore the rules of both evolution and revolution seem to be unique to the AEC.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

‘The battered BIMmer’s syndrome’

I’m claiming it today.
It may invite the furore of those supporting the genuinely ‘battered’, for trivialising the syndrome, but you know what?
Who cares? I know MY pain, and it goes deep.
OK, not quite as deep as the youngest daughter’s who has drowned her mobile phone a fortnight ago and is saving up for the mandatory-half of the new-one, but close.

The symptoms of BBS I exhibit:
I walk around like the dog that has been kicked one-too-many times.
I look jealously at the checkout operator that gets a smile and a ‘thank you’ for her service from the person in front of me at the supermarket.
(oh, to be once more appreciated for doing something, anything...)
I sit through 2 days of BIM-related presentations without experiencing any sparks for involvment or a slightest wish to criticise.
I stop caring about my DebunkTheBIM blog...
As it is with so many other things, by acknowledging to myself the degree of emotional imbalance I found myself in, has lifted some of its power and weight off me.
Curiously, it has also given me the almost unnatural gift of being able to recognise fellow sufferers, from quite a distance and within crowds.

The sombre looks, the fear, misplaced loyalty, unfounded shame and economic dependence on something very hostile.
But most of all, the inability to escape!

Friday, January 20, 2012

$aving with BIM (‘What is this BIM of yours going to save for us?’)

This is a question I get asked often.
One day, when I’m in a very bad mood, I’ll answer with:
‘It may $ave your butt yet, if you’re clever enough to jump on it in time!’

Wise-cracks aside, it is a legitimate question of course, and I would welcome it with open arms if it was raised after the questioner had put some effort into understanding what was involved in this ‘BIM of mine’.
I’d probably even concede to the unlikely opponent that presented me with a counter-argument that proved his Flat-CAD system could tick the same boxes as ‘my BIM’ while incurring a much lower cost.
I definitely would, with pleasure even, as it would also mean I could finally have an intelligent conversation on the subject.

Instead, I operate daily in environments where ‘modelling for interpretation’ is considered to be a dirty concept.
Creating a reference model as a navigation aid capable to link thousands of documents to, aimed for hundreds of people to be working with daily for years is looked at as an ‘unnecessary luxury’.
Getting highly qualified engineers do their own Word-document editing when writing reports is received as a hostile attack, ‘I would not go there if I was you’.

‘What is this BIM of yours going to save for us?’
I’ll tell you when you’re ready for it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Abu Dhabi Municipality is asking for CAD files from applicants of building permits...

Not sure if this can be considered good news for the BIM-minded operating in the region.
Only a couple of days ago I stated in this blog, that sticking to-and improving a wobbly-but functioning-FlatCAD system often makes more sense than jumping half-heartedly into BIM.
It felt great publishing that thought publically, BTW - I once lost my job over saying something similar.
Doggedly sticking to the theory that the only way BIM can be successfully implemented is by going ‘cold-turkey’ on CAD did not help my prospects of lasting in the said position, of the BIM-software-vendor-consultancy, but that is another story.

So, I’ve been reading with some interest the specification that CAD files provided as part of future building permits and as-built drawings will need to comply with.
All reasonably easy to follow, technically not challenging, yet, still a major step in the wrong direction, I believe.

The last 2 decades of CAD existing within the official framework, yet contractually non-binding has kept the doors open for changes to be made for the better.
For FlatCAD to be leaving these murky waters for officially endorsed ‘standards’ solidifies something that the industry should have left behind by now.

In fact, my hunch is that making these CAD standards work across the board (in one city alone) will be difficult, might as well go cold-turkey and BIM.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

...A brave manager would recommend anything but Revit...

According to Brendan.
 He wrote this responding to my comment in the long-time-raging discussion on a Linkedin-Group (see link below) under the ‘relatively generic’ question of ArchiCAD vs Revit and to do with ‘due diligence’.

It would be interesting to be in charge of doing due diligence on ‘what BIM solution should a company go to’, have the luxury of not being tainted by 20 years of ‘making-do’ with inferior products and hostile environments, yet still have the intelligence to collect meaningful data.

Given such opportunity I’d still most likely come up with the conclusion, that there just IS not enough evidence OUT there that any one system, or even a combination of off-the-shelf and proprietary systems AND processes IS working.

Sorry, the jury is out on this issue and stating otherwise is pure bluffing.
So, I’d advice the company setting up the task of due diligence for BIM implementation to go back to the initial question.
The most important factor in the BIM-quest IS the question;
No way can the answer be right if we have the wrong question!

Replacing a slightly dodgy, but functional FlatCAD system with a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ BIM one is far worse than being told to re-examine the original BIM-brief.

Should I be surprised that not many prospects are beating down my door seeking out BIM ‘due diligence’ services? So far.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

To lose a face and save an industry...

Is that too much to ask for?
It must be, as despite of persistent nagging from my side, no progress can I see in the area.
In my workplace, on my jobs, in my industry.

It is the issue of ‘hands-off’-nes practiced by a large part of the industry when managing project information.
You may feel totally unaffected by this worry of mine, but if you run a company, consider this:

Do you provide (excessive) admin/technical ‘support’ to your engineers, architects, construction managers because their time is more valuable than the ‘lower ranks’ and consequently most ‘menial’ tasks should be off-loaded?

You may be thinking of this strategy as wise task sharing – in fact it is just a perk you are giving to some of your staff.
Don’t kid yourself that you are saving money!

Unfortunately, this ‘privilege’ dished out by you is not just some additional weight on YOUR overheads or a bit of extra that your clients end up paying for, it has far reaching consequences impacting on just about everything I DO during my workdays.

Like, the software packages I use ....and how they are not developing as they ought to be.
The people I hire ....and how they are not developing as they ought to be.
The clients I serve ....and how they are not developing as they ought to be.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The clandestine practice of consultants modelling for tender documentation...

For more than a decade I’ve held the belief that an undeclared game was going on between consultants and contractors that was based on and revolved around ‘drawings for construction’.

It went on a bit like this:
Consultants would prepare drawings to tender.
Thanks to CAD, these drawings would number in the hundreds if not thousands for even modest buildings.
The contractor would price with a superficial look over the documents.
(no way could all those sheets be properly assessed).
Once a contract was won and building had started, both sides would comb through the said documents looking for ammunition to gain advantage over the other side.
The contractor would search for discrepancies and excuses for variations, the consultant for proofs that the buildings were properly designed.
Sometime one party won, other times, the other.

Owners lost either way, of course, but owners did not care too much as long as the ‘building bubble’ delivered the numbers at the bottom of the sheet.
Still, it was equilibrium of a sort – with everyone having a chance of landing the jack-pot.

Then, a slight shift happened.
Consultants started using modelling to prepare tender documentation.
Relatively low key, nowhere near the full-blown BIM, but going far enough to ensure that their own vulnerability was dramatically reduced.
Most contractors missed this shift and got caught unaware.
No surprises there.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Best bang for your bucks

They may call it a ‘BIM Audit’, a ‘BIM health check’ or refer to it as a ‘BIM Gap analysis’.
There are companies operating within the AEC that promote services fitting the above described categories. If you have anything to do with BIM, you would’ve come across at least one of them by now, urging you to take the assessment.
The premise of their promotion is to establish where had the client company got-to BIM wise, and what remains to be done.

In principle, not a bad idea, however be careful, very, very careful what you are spending your money on.
First, check the assessor’s credentials. You would not want to have your ability to speak a foreign language tested by someone that is not fluent in it.
And fluent means, fluent. Speaking it, daily. Out and about. On the ‘street’. So to speak.
Second, commit to further steps even before the results come in.
Third, still be prepared to change tack, no matter what the assessors recommend.
Keep an open mind. Research. Research. Research....

I have an 8 page PowerPoint that I am happy to share with anyone that wants to do a 10 minute self test on BIM readiness.
The best use of your ‘audit’ money may yet be pondering over it for a while!

Email for it if you are interested: zolna.murray@gmail.com
or can see it here:
My latest SlideShare upload : A working bim system2 
http://www.slideshare.net/zolnamurray/a-working-bim-system2 via @slideshare