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.