Monday, April 23, 2012

“Committed to making nRAH an exemplar for the industry”

It does not seem that long ago that the BIM environment was swarming with pilot projects.
Everyone was doing them, carefully selecting ‘appropriate’ projects and placing them in the hands of the BIM enlightened, then charging them to pave the way to the future for many a fledging BIM company.
Some were completed, some abandoned, many ended up as glossy case-studies in industry magazines carefully referencing chosen software packages used.

Nowadays I see another extreme; megaprojects setting out boldly to become the exemplars for best practice on how to do all encompassing BIMs, multi-disciplinary modelling, coordinating, energy analyses, OM/FM, BOQs, the lot. Ambitious plans, heralding the biggest and best, the new ‘blue prints’ everyone will follow. No disclaimers, no hesitation!

In between there is: nothing.
From ‘no practice’ to ‘best practice’ in one clean sweep of the pendulum.
Call me cynical but something is not right here.
Only yesterday we were ‘boiling eggs’ in a highly controlled environment, making sure that spare ones were always close by, all hands stayed clean, the water did not get too hot and risks stayed fully under control.  
Suddenly we are preparing a ‘5 course meal for a crowd of a hundred’?
Same people, more or less the same equipment, give or take an extra pan or a pot we squeezed into the ‘mega budget’.
I am not convinced.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The entertainment value of BIM

I run a pretty versatile BIM department.
We don’t only simultaneously model in numerous packages and produce outputs in all possible D’s one-can-imagine, we offer unprecedented entertainment for our colleagues.
See construction sites, for example: places with dynamics, varying from totally-laid-back to spinning out of control from pressure, they quickly transform to a ‘jolly-mode’ when one of our BIM-guys turns up.

No longer are missed milestones, casting delays, shoddy subcontractor workmanship worrying issues. The pending visit of the big bosses is even of little interest when the ‘village fool’ arrives, clowning with flash IT equipment, speaking in funny BIM-lingo and cutely pretending to know something about construction while producing mere pretty pictures.

Our special talents are thankfully appreciated across the engineering offices too – I often watch with delight how engineers in their thirties (unable to print PDFs on their own) mock my multi-lingual trickster-modellers behind their backs.

Still, I trust the collegiality of my workplace; distinction is made between clowns and country bumpkins – we are BIM-jesters of the most professional sort!
If there existed worldwide championships to measure how much ridicule any given BIM group could provoke within its native environment, we would score pretty high!

The reason I’m happy to provide this entertainment is that historically, Jesters could also give bad news to the Emperor that no-one else would dare deliver. Think about that!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Reconstructing drawing-sets and the case of the 'Great Pretenders'

Something is fundamentally wrong with the way AEC manages its information:

We have numerous solutions available to handle large amounts of paper-based (flat) drawings in a reasonably sophisticated way. There exists a significant number of commercially available tools to collect, track, distribute, measure-off, even mark-up these drawings electronically.

Yet, I know of no application that works within these systems with the sole objective to automatically and efficiently reconstruct sets of 2D drawings into a ‘quasi 3D depository’.

Imagine, if Aconex (or equivalent) had created a 3 dimensional grid based on the drawing-set it got fed-in and placed every drawing on it in the right position (i.e. sections, details, elevations…);
Should not be too difficult, should it?

Every drawing is supposedly well referenced (grids, orientation, levels), should be a real piece of cake.
Users would then easily locate details, sections, elevations, zoom in and out, jump between views, a bit like the way Google Map and Google Street view work.

Truth to be told, I’m not that keen on the idea, since even most ‘pedestrian-BIM-approaches’ address this need already adequately.

On the other hand, still experiencing how zillions of non-BIM users within the AEC work, I say, that either everyone truly has the supernatural ability to simultaneously process and cross reference thousands of 2D drawings or a large percentage of them are in fact, faking understanding.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Design managers working in the AEC: specify what ‘type’ are you!

Are you a ‘People based DM’ or an ‘Information based DM’?
Are you primarily concerned with managing the people on the project or managing the project information?
You might say, ‘both’ – though I think, it’s unlikely that you truly are.
My observation is that 90% of design managers are ‘people based DMs’ – or if I want to be especially unkind – ‘paper based DMs’.
Within the rest, there are a few ‘holistic ones’ (less than 1%) and about 5% ‘information based’ ones.

In theory the three different types may be equally effective, practice shows, those that ignore the information in favour of ‘just pushing the people’ (or groups of people like consultants, contractors or anyone in the AEC food-chain) end up with the ‘vocal cord’ as their only tool available.
(refer to one of my previous posts on ‘shouting’).

This may work, when real end-results are not that relevant, i.e. prices, rates, timeframes aren’t set according to ‘normal laws of economics’.
Definitely not something I’d like to be left to survive with in the ‘post-gamble AEC’ era we are ‘enjoying’ now.

I must acknowledge a colleague for getting my thinking on this subject going.
She’s been defending the practice of ‘non-information based DM’ with such conviction that I could not help but get intrigued by her stance.
She may be absolutely right, yet – time will tell.

Monday, April 9, 2012

How well can you tell? (…If the drawings in front-of you have been produced via 2D or 3D methods?)

I’m often asked: 'have the documents been coordinated?'.
The question should not be, if the documents are coordinated but to what extent they are not;
Being able to assess the method of creation of the original documents can be helpful in answering this dilemma.
Fully model based, fully 2D or hybrid? Type of hybrid?
Level of model integrity, 2D dress-ups or laced with numerous versions of the same model?

You should be interested in these questions, no matter where you are sitting in the AEC triangle and whatever your role is. The moment you are exposed to drawings (hard or soft copies) you become extremely vulnerable to them. They can manipulate you, deceive you and even destroy your carrier.
Many people know this, still take on a totally ‘laissez-faire attitude’ to where these drawings have come from, prepared by whom and how?

So, does it matter if you can tell or not?
The hardcopy is the contractual document - that is all that matters?

Well, if the game truly sharpens up within the industry, it will matter.
Just as by opening someone's CAD file 20 years ago and seeing pen-colours not set to ‘by-layers’ indicated a sloppy organization, a good set of eyes can read numerous things from drawings nowadays.

Give me a couple of sheets of your drawings and I’ll tell who you are!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Now, these are nice! (Archicad at its best)

I can cut a slab with a mesh and a roof, simultaneously.
I can punch a curved wall with a stamper-object made out of pieces of slabs!

Now, if you think these are no big deal, read the statements again, slowly.
If you still think they are no big deal, stop reading all together.
You are either too young and take every modelling feature offered by whatever software as a given, or too old and don’t really care about the challenges people trying to smartly model construction elements still face.
I know Max can do anything, Cartia and Rhino are magic tools, even good ol’ 3D AutoCAD could reproduce the same, but following these two operations via Archicad my slab stays a slab and the wall is still a wall, even though the slab has a wobbly bottom and the wall looks like a lace curtain.

Experts that preach on the subject of BIM often overlook this ‘type’ of capability of the software they favour (or not);
The ‘data richness’ of a model starts here: a wall has to stay a wall, a slab a slab.
A complex piece of furniture, a bracket or other widget may still get made of ‘construction walls, slabs and roofs’ but by turning them into ‘objects’, this clean logic of virtual-construction-representation is retained.
A must for any meaningful BIM.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stop shouting: learn BIM instead!

A strong vocal cord is a useful tool. However, it should not be the only one in your toolbox.
Unless you are an opera singer, even then a good stage presence is helpful to have.
Sadly, AEC is an industry that has a 'one-tool-in-the-toolset' modus operandi.
That tool being: 'shouting'.
If things aren't done the way you want them, shout!
If they are still not done well after this, shout louder!

Even if I put aside the unpleasant work environment this management strategy tends to create - there stays the uneasy feel that this can't be the smartest way to manage projects.
All the time, anyway.
Raising one's voice here and there could do wonders, but a 'forever-yelling-boss’ gets soon ignored and even when afraid, people learn to tune-out.

So, for those managers operating within AEC projects that the ‘gambling-construction-era’ has deserted or landed them on the receiving end of an unfairly advantaged counterpart, I have a suggestion:
Learn BIM!

Monday, April 2, 2012

We are going to win in the end Diego, aren’t we?

Mr. Maradona and I have a lot in common.
Both seasoned practitioners of our crafts, experienced and wise.
Presently we share a country of residence and we both are a bit vertically challenged.
Our bosses expect miracles from us on the ‘press-of-a-button’, while we know that the secret to success is in hard work.
We get groups of people perform magic. Some of the time.

So, no wonder I take an interest in his endeavours, sadly I doubt that he knows much about mine.
However, his team is not winning and neither is mine. I suggest we exchange notes!
A nice chat over a cup of herbal-tea could reveal strategic moves that one has tried while the other overlooked, share some tips on how to lift our spirits or just listen to the other tell stories of failed motivational camps and teambuilding exercises.

I do admit, he’s had more successes to show up in the past then what I get given credit for.
His main goal is for his team to score goals, while mine is still at the stage where I must get my players to come to the field even, let alone practice.
Still, there are so many other parallels that a meeting of ‘similar minds’ is well overdue.
If you think your job is hard Diego, you try to get BIM implemented!