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!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

BIMocrisy: forgive me; I have no patience to tolerate it at this level any more.

How on earth can an architectural company claim any type of BIM-enablement when they can’t get their 2D areas right?
Let’s not name names.
It could happen to anyone, really.
Any old architectural firm could be asked to prepare a quick study of possible future space-uses in a highly complex job for one of the world’s most prestigious clients and to get it wrong.
After all, it is ‘just’ numbers we are talking about.
The timeframe was tight, they did their best.
They copied ‘areas’ as numbers over numerous floors into a spread-sheet without checking them and presented it to the client. Twice.
This is the same company that is regularly in attendance at BIM conferences and I can quote one of them personally speaking as a VIP guest, from such an event last year:
“Harnessing and leveraging innovative tools, has enabled our global studio to lead the design industry in producing cutting-edge solutions that are resulting in a new type of architectural engagement”…
The same esteemed professional has been quoted somewhere else too: ….” He spoke about Zero Emissions Design (ZERO-E) and how the next generation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and parametrics integration is being applied to this leading research project …”

Note, we aren’t talking  3D zones or intelligent objects of any complexity!
Simple, 2D fills, sorted by space-categories.

Could someone please introduce them to the idea of integrated schedules?
And keep them out of BIM until they do learn to use them?

(pictures here were created for illustration of my point and done in the matter of seconds - all changes to the fills were instantly reflected on the spreadsheets too!)


Sunday, October 7, 2012

The story of the truck that got stuck…

(and three unrelated North-point incidents)

My husband’s old Teachers College building got into the news a couple of days ago.
The 140-year-old building was badly damaged in the Christchurch earth-quakes and is likely to be pulled down.
The former institution is made up of 31 individual apartments, though his fond memories of learning (from the 1970s) are tempered by the cold designed into the building.

The design came from the North Hemisphere, for a South Hemisphere location, making the corridors with their sunny aspect much more enjoyable than the classrooms.

The old buildings to the north of Cranmer Square were pretty; they used to be known as the Normal School and the Teachers College. Yet in their education period, being inside was less lovely. A corridor on the east side meant two lines of stone blocked the sun from reaching the classrooms till after everyone had taken their days’ worth of cold hard facts. However, the residential makeover would have brought people into sunny rooms at the end of a day’s work and this is the loss being lamented.

Now, you might think that omissions like these from a couple of centuries ago are no longer happening.
By chance, I had been staring at a North Point on a drawing today when the thought came, that something was wrong with it. –

A very pretty graphics (attached), yet wrong for the location somewhere in the Gulf.
The symbol would be appropriate for places south of the equator.

It shows the sun rising in the east and taking a northern track across the sky, before setting in the west. The sun is on the meridian at midday, north of the EW line.
Pondering this little product of a likely ‘copy-and-paste’ exercise I thought it would be interesting to see if the other ‘North points’ within the same project exposed any further anomalies.

I mean, the siting of the place is something everyone should get right?

Oh, there was a little beauty waiting to be discovered.
Architectural and structural plans for the building, each showing the same type
(this time unadorned) North point.
Ecept, they were rotated by 180 degrees from each other.

(attached picture; another reference I checked: the set-out grids matched)
Not that anyone will get overly worried about the competency of the consultants we are employing  on this project (as the main contractor).

We will not be splitting hairs with them on minor issues, like the direction North has on the project.
Or to rephrase this, the spatial orientation the building will have.
We have much bigger fish to fry! If the sun does not rise at the side you expect it, only the sun can be blamed for that.
Why is it so hard to get the basics right in this industry?

To bookend the first story coming from New Zealand, here is the one about the truck:

A couple of days ago a disqualified truck driver caused the closure of the Paekakariki Hill Road (a bit north from Wellington, NZ) after his truck got wedged under a pine tree.
GPS instructions directed the driver onto the road, which police said was unsuitable for the 20-metre-long truck.
If you’ve ever driven on that road, you’d be surprised that someone would actually attempt to get a large truck up the hill, still we often take electronic gadgets as correct even when what they say makes no sense.

How does this last story relate to the first three?
Very loosely, really, all hinting somehow to ‘blind leading the blind’ phenomena and relevant to navigational issues.
And professional services...
and competent AEC design consultants.

Check your North Points!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Future-proofing one’s career through BIM

As my middle daughter is contemplating her future career-options and is seriously leaning towards architectural studies, I prepare my list of topics she must also absorb too, to ‘future-proof her career’.
One: construction law; Two: project management; Three: BIM.

To prove to her how good BIM as a personal investment has been for mummy, I google ‘BIM Qatar’ for jobs, expecting that there will be hundreds on offer at the moment.

Cant’ be any other way, considering there is at least one, 10 billion US$-sized project under way there with a full BIM requirement mandated on it.
Let’s not go into too many details on why I would classify it as a ‘full BIM’ project  – let’s just agree that the fact of the guiding standard being BS 1192 makes it a pretty ambitious BIM-undertaking.

So, sections of this project are currently under tender-stage, 18 consortia bidding for various parts of the cake.
To see how truly global they make this tender, refer to the picture attached.
Imagine each of these consortia consisting of at least 3 companies.
Then, consider, that being a D&C bid, most of them would drag in at least 1, but most likely more consultant-firms, bringing the number of sub-companies to at least 18 x 4 = 72;

According to my simple logic this means that, there are 72 large, most likely multinational companies bidding for a highly ambitious BIM project within the region at the moment, with the view of proceeding with it within the next 3-6 months.

There must be hundreds of ‘demanding BIM jobs’ on offer on the market at the moment!

Before anyone gets over-excited about me leaking confidential information, I declare that all the data I’ve used for this little post is ‘public knowledge’ (i.e. freely available on the internet);
Apart from my daughter’s career plans, I guess.