Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When 3D + 2D = more than 5D!

Digital Platform based Shop-drawing assessment

Construction Information Management has been an interest of mine for a good 30 years.
Over this time I become a fairly competent BIM implementer and had been involved with some pretty large projects all over the world. While I missed the glory of the almighty BIM projects supported by the BIM-cream of the industry and stayed out of the limelight of the mega-ambitious and fake attempts to speedily BIMitize the global industry , I’ve had the pleasure of delivering some very cool and cutting-edge stuff.

While BIM is all about the ‘I’ of the Information, BIM or no BIM, when it comes to Construction Information Management, one issue keeps failing to get enough attention.
In the attempt of fixing the industry in one big swoop is, the workflow of producing and managing shop-drawings by numerous construction participants based on design documentation in a pretty archaic way seems to be generally overlooked..
This is the case even in the majority of otherwise BIM-mandated projects, though a parallel, quasi-sophisticated modeling workflow may exist, for ‘show’.
The shop-drawings, that end up used for building off are still, more often than not, 2D based drawings (regardless of their origin) and get assessed and approved (or rejected, corrected and then approved) by client-appointed parties, in a tedious, long-winded way before they are let to proceed to construction.
Regardless of the skills and qualifications of the assessors, or even time spent on these exercises, experience shows, that there is an unfortunately large number of issues buried within these shop drawings, that do not get unearthed in the assessment process and end up going to the construction to be resolved on site.

Luckily, there exist an approach practiced by some on the fringes of the BIM fraternity that helps with this issue.
This particular approach, described below is also shown graphically here: http://www.slideshare.net/zolnamurray/3-dplus2d-rev2

The way construction projects usually work, (design – tender – build, for example) the contractor submits the shop-drawings, the technical team, either the design consultant or someone independently appointed by the client, assesses, comments and returns for amendments or approves for implementation.
The process is linear and mostly broken over disciplines.

The various assessor engineers typically work with flat (2D) PDF or AutoCAD files, and consider individual sheets, marking them up or adding comments. Sometimes, but not always they overlap various sheets from their own disciplines (digitally or just over the window glass) and sometimes, but not always they cross check information against other disciplines.
Due to the large number of shop-drawings, each assessor is pressed to process each sheet in the shortest possible time and there rarely are processes in place to capture typical issues that may impact on future packages.
The results are often missed technical problems of spatial coordination or the nature of ‘under developed-design’ that will have to be resolved on sites at more cost and time delays than necessary.

While a truly functional BIM would probably fix these problems, the strategy described here is by no means a ‘pure BIM approach’ but rather a ‘hybrid’ one.

For the example to explain the methodology on, a set of buildings is used, part of a development completed a couple of years ago, where the number of shop-drawings created went into thousands. (in fact close to or OVER 20 thousand! Or was it 35.000+?)
It is also important to state, that the concept works on both very small and extremely large projects.

The process starts at the point where shop-drawings get created and submitted by contractors for assessment.
The assessment team (appointed by the client) is expanded from the usual cocktail of specialist-engineers with a new position, that of the Virtual Assessment Model Manager.
This person will work closely with all the individual discipline engineers, but also manage the Platform, the center feature of the Digital Project Environment.

At the outset of the project, the Manager sets up the ‘ghost structure’ within the platform. This structure has the digital equivalents of the key spatial drivers of the ‘real’ project, grids, stories and the positions of section and elevation lines matching the ones on the drawings.
The main elements of the ghost framework are grids, sub-grids, section-elevation lines and stories. These combined define the 3 dimensional skeleton of the project. It is important to understand that these elements are intelligent objects, not just lines, circles and text.
It is the digital skeleton of the building and it is critical for it to be as accurate as it is possible.

The next step is to feed onto this Digital Platform  the shop-drawings as they become available. There is no hard rule on the order of imports, but it is logical to follow that of the construction’s needs, so starting with foundation drawings makes sense. As the shop drawings arrive, the Model Manager places the sheets within the ‘correct place’ of the Virtual Environment on the Digital Platform. Plans over the appropriate grids, elevations, sections in the right planes, specific details in their original positions.
The Model Manager, given the correct software has numerous tools to assist the work with large number of drawings, going into hundred and even thousand, including filters, layers, views and work spaces.
While not all drawings can be placed in a specific spatial position (i.e. typical, generic details, schedules etc) there is always area within the Digital Environment for these to be stored and referenced from.

The Model and the Digital Platform are continuously available to all assessors, so they can review these drawings almost as soon as they have been placed within the Platform. Drawings from one discipline can be referenced to each other or against other discipline straight from the beginning of the populating of the Digital Environment.

Parallel with the placement of received shop-drawings, the Model Manager creates the virtual model of the building(s) itself on the Platform, constructing it up in a similar sequence to that of the real construction.  This developing model is another feedback to the accuracy and completeness of the shop-drawings and provides up-to date information to the assessors to act on in a timely manner.
The beauty of the Platform is that one can have numerous buildings in one file or closely referenced to each other as well as it all been centrally located and updated.

Should there be contractor supplied 3D (shop-drawing) models available as parts of submittals, the Model Manager has the ability to import them as well and assesses their integrity against the live model and all the other shop-drawings.

The Digital Platform should be user friendly and offer many tools for visual assessment like, traces, sliders, colours, modifiable transparency etc etc.
On the first look, the interface of the Digital Platform presented here is pretty similar to any CAD (or BIM) interface. It has a ‘model space’ type of area with a square grid and is also equipped with what looks like a 3D window. While the approach is somewhat software-agnostic, the global AEC market has a lean offering of platforms that are well suited for the simultaneous manipulation of (many) 2D drawings and one or more live 3D models.

Here,  Graphisoft’s platform is used and it is not unusual for it to carry 200-500 drawings dynamically linked in within a complex, construction level, detailed 3D model.

For more information on this approach, check out the supporting PP:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Of course one can do BIM with Revit, but why should one even try?

I know. Every time I write about Revit, its shortcomings and my relationship with the software and its supporting people/companies, I lose another BIM friend or an interested in BIM -blog-reader otherwise supportive of my ramblings on the current status of the AEC industry.
So be it.

I must have matured (or got to be pickled) enough to find the ability to have all sorts of (seemingly) contradicting things living in harmony within my head.
I can admire clever people of certain skin colour, even be friends with many of them and despise others for their arrogance, again irrelevant of skin colour (same or different). I learned to enjoy painful experiences for what they are teaching me, have simultaneously opposing views on political situations and possible resolutions to them and I can maintain genuine friendships  with people that practice or ‘Havens forbid’ – even like (love) Revit.
And I accept, without holding grudges when they eventually stop being friends with me because of my dissing the named software.

Add to this the fact, that I am getting close to completing 3 years  of full-time employment within my (beloved) industry where my role has had nothing to do with BIM, confirming that I still have some marketable skills in the industry that do not rely on 20+ years of feverishly intensive self –development in the BIM field.
So, I can openly be anti-Revit.
The latter may also indicate same some other things about the industry too, but let’s leave those conclusions for another post.

Just a tool, one would say. And they do say it, regularly. ‘Them’ being those in the know, using the ‘tool just being a tool’ as the foundation to build up many an argument on something terribly sophisticated and BIMmish.

But no, it is not ‘just’ a tool.

For me (note: for me!) it had become the symbol of everything that is wrong with the AEC industry and its attempts to improve itself through a forced BIMalisation of its masses.
A word that opens doors if one wants  to look BIM-literate and shuts the same fixtures squarely in one’s face,  if uttered in a wrong sentence.
(like, ‘I find Revit to be an inferior BIM tool, at a job interview).

A word that conjures animations of Pixar quality in the minds of clients that want to look refined and as a result will mandate BIM on their projects.

A word that makes me skip over any BIM-Manager’s role advertised in the main media of AEC jobseekers.

Revit is not Autodesk, they also like to say, assuring the ‘above-the boardness’ of their BIMmish statements, so clearly soaked in everything Revit and therefore Autodesk.

But, of course it is.
In anyone but Autodesk’s hands, the promising but underdeveloped predecessor of Autodesk  Revit would have either died quickly in obscurity or got its act together and become a useful tool to a minority of discerning practitioners. Unfortunately for Revit it got selected to be the ‘front face’ of Autodesk’s BIM invasion of the last 2 decade and while achieved large coverage, failed to grow up.
No, Revit survived in its half-functioning ways, only because of Autodesk and the power it has over the global industry.

So what?
Don’t like Revit, don’t use Revit, it is a free world when it comes to software, one could argue.
What is the point in analysing the software shortcomings, its supports deficiencies the politics of its longevity?
What is the point of nailing oneself on the proverbial cross and declaring time and time again that I’d never touch Revit in my professional life again (unless to convert the data from it to something more palatable)?
What is the point of tempting faith and push oneself into a situation in life that one may want to beg to be given a BIM role with everything Revit?

There is not a lot of rational reasoning for all the whining from me on the topic of Revit, of course. Apart from maybe just creating another opportunity to publicly declare:

Want to do BIM? Don’t use Revit.
Want to use Revit? Don’t try to do BIM (seriously).

Friday, August 12, 2016

BIM for fixing up Distressed Projects and/or using as a Weapon in AEC Claims

Ever since BIM raised its pretty multi-dimensioned head within the AEC industry, most talk and action has been focused on its role in prevention, rather than cure of construction projects.
I.e. developing and applying processes of information management, using the principles and tools of BIM to ensure building projects finish on time, to expected quality and budgeted costs.

Even seasoned BIM promoters’ stance is usually, that introducing BIM to a project is worthwhile only at the start-up, followed by the comment, that ‘a particular project is too far down the track done the traditional way’, for any BIM implementation to be successful.

I have been challenging this assumption for years, by successfully performing small and large BIM type exercises on projects, either to get them fixed up mid-way or (dare I say?) once completed, illustrate who was to blame (and by how much) for its distress in the first place.

So good I got at this particular use of BIM (I thought) that the idea of a consultancy service based purely on using BIM tools and techniques to assist parties in distress (on building projects) seemed like something worth exploring. The services I had in mind were less the type of the ‘lovey-dovey-clash detection’ but more like supporting successful variation claims, defending EOT claims or preparing proper recovery plans that would give clients full transparency and actually bring projects back on track.

I toyed with the concept of calling the services collectively ‘Forensic BIM’ and prepared a pretty workable strategy for getting a start-up off the ground.

It never got off the ground.

Not because, nothing I ever start I complete well (‘don’t be so insecure’, my husband would say) though ones should consider it with my BIM-records – but because this whole BIM thing has still not reached a maturity to function in a realistic way. Not locally, nor globally.

While millions of funds, all around the world are invested daily into quasi BIM ‘things’, to meet mandated requirements, look sophisticated (leading!) and keep up with one’s peers, the idea of having Forensic BIM departments within major Consultancies and/or Contractors is looked at pretty squeamishly by almost everyone I encounter.

Those, that are at least prepared to argue their points against Forensic BIM practices, say that it is unproductive to spend BIM efforts on the ‘cure’ of the ills of the industry (or perish the thought, create Weapons of Claim Management for individual parties on projects) but must keep the collective focus on ‘prevention’ and aim for the ‘idealistic, everyone works together playing nicely BIM industry’.

As if, there would be no point curing the ill, or supporting the infected, while we were waiting for ‘some magical prevention approach’ to be fully developed and in place.
Or to use an analogy from a different sector, to actively ignore any smart tools potentially available for prosecuting/defending criminal cases and force everyone working in the legal field to put their efforts into the creation of environments with zero criminal occurrence.

Nice ideas, sadly unrealistic.

Furthermore, while BIM promoters wearing rose-tinted glasses dismiss ‘Forensic BIM’ approaches as dead-ends, an opportunity is lost to give the entire BIM fraternity (rosy coloured – theirs, grey/black – mine) to develop some real polarity within, that could possibly nudge it out of this state of perpetual infancy, it badly needs to move from.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Doing BIM right: My way or the highway!

If there is one advice I would like anyone to take from me on the topic of BIM, it would be:
Do it my way or don’t do it at all!
Now, that is an arrogant statement even coming from me, someone that over the last couple of years has become more-less known in this field of Global BIM for putting out subjective, flippant statements that the BIM majority did not like and often publicly declared as simply ‘untrue’.

A couple of days ago, my middle daughter turned 20th.
This fact brought home the realisation, that it is exactly 20 years since I bought my first ArchiCAD licence. That date did not mark my introduction to (what much later become) BIM, for a number of years before 1996 (about 5) I dabbled with 3D AutoCAD (fully modelled buildings with it in DOS).

So, this birthday became the trigger for another realisation, that it is time to stop being the ‘Nice Girl of BIM’ – pussyfooting over the ‘herd of elephants’ in this field that Global BIM is and once for all, write up my list of 5 musts for a BIM system to work at any scale.

The following 5 points cover the essentials of the ‘who, what, how and what with’ of a working BIM system. There could be variations on the build-up (yeah, yeah, the devil is in the detail)  of the system, but these are the fundamentals:

1.       Main, modelling tool must be ArchiCAD; Revit is a dog, and if you are not going for Revit for political reasons, might as well go with the best tool still on the market.
2.       Your workflow must be set up for constant cross referencing of 2D-3D data. No matter of the level of ‘mandated BIM’ on a project of any reasonable size, most of the data will keep on flowing on PDF’s. Your modelling tool must be able to handle PDFs well – and many of them in one model. Again, you must use ArchiCAD.
3.       Ignore any meta-data until you model with construction integrity. This applies to Cobie and other super-duper ‘i' strategies. They all sound good, but if the foundation of your BIM is shaky because of your model integrity, you will be wasting a lot of money with very little benefit for anyone. (hint: employ someone to manage these magical ‘i' flows, but keep them away from the ones that are doing the real work);
4.       Your key person is your Chief Model Manager and you must not have more than 2 people sitting  in that role even at the biggest of projects. (2 people will give you the redundancy you need to manage the risk). Your Chief Model Manager must be a fully hands on modeller and interested and  know how buildings go together spatially and logistically.
5.       Don’t burden your Chief Model Manager with writing or implementing mainstream type BIM plans, get someone else do it, if mandated by the project.

There. You are welcome.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Want a BIM Manager’s Job in Dubai? Just be very enthusiastic!

Now, this is not a job-ad.
Not even a crafty-title designed to entice into reading the post those that are currently feverishly looking for a new position in BIM field in Dubai or around the region.
Anyone that has lived here for a while knows that jobs come and go – or more precisely roles are gained, held and lost at regular intervals for just about anyone regardless of place of origin, work-type or skillset. So, at any time – a number of people I know, both BIM-mish and not, are looking for work here in the UAE. Therefore, I do not like to make fun of job searchers, I do support those I know and respect in searching for new positions. But, being an enthusiastic BIM practitioner seems to be the winning ticket to those out of work in the GCC these days.

OK, that was an over-simplified statement, but where I was going with it, was setting the scene for the next statement: that even as construction roles are thinning out a bit around me, and many poor souls are left out of work at a short notice, needing to scramble all their strategic connections to secure a new, albeit often just as precarious ‘lilli-pad landing’, BIM Manager jobs seem to be still coming on offer in oodles in the UAE.
Me, not actively on the market, still get approached at least once a week, offering to be put forward for one of those.

And this is the interesting part of the story. While I am still a bit ‘underground’ when it comes to BIM and am mostly impersonating professions in real life where BIM is not part of the core curriculum, I get intrigued but these roles, so I poke into them a bit.

My findings are somewhat odd.
For a start, with these roles, like with most others, the ‘predetermined’ package size (i.e. salary + benefits) is the king.
I was called last week by someone looking for a top BIM person for an X Billion Dirham (even when divided by 3 the budget still comes to billions of dollars of many flavours) project, who was shopping for someone with particular software experience (unquantified) and was prepared to pay a package of a maximum X Dirhams.
When I told him what I was earning now and was looking to earn in the future, should I get interested in his role, his reply was ‘that’s a bit much for a BIMmer, ain’t it?’  (with a smooth British accent, I might add)

Now, let’s analyse this issue a bit. The guy knows nothing about BIM (he told me that) – the project is huge, the role is at the top of the BIM pyramid.
BIM must be a strategic tool of the project (otherwise, why bother) yet the HR person is adamant, that the person, that would be the right fit for that role should only earn ‘x’.

Or, more precisely he is told, that that is his shopping ‘budget’. Someone, even more knowledgeable than him, was able to gauge that the BIM market of the world would spit out someone tailor-made for the top BIM role of this X Billion strategic (BIM) project in the UAE for Y AEDs/month.

Cool. I am impressed.
Oh, yes – did I mention that this ‘just right BIM person’ will be on the job within a short notice period?
Naturally, meaning no one should question that the HR company’s client, the winner of this super-duper high budget project with super-duper BIM requirements has no  ‘ready to plug in’ BIM person on offer to start  the project with.
Roughly in the same time when the above mentioned BIM-HR approached, there was another call to interview for me, this time with a classy consultancy shining in the GCC, BIM oozing out of its pores.

I was no fit for them, thankfully turned out – even though I realize this before I was told – too jaded, realistic – not enthusiastic enough.
I should have known from the start of course, not waste at least 3 people’s time, they talked about a CEO that had magic insights of the industry, he was often quoted of recognising that the ‘AEC was behind other industries in taking on technology’ – (have I heard this one before?) – and their in house BIM manager was just wonderful. He was so full of enthusiasm he could hardly be contained.

What? I claimed to not like Revit? Well, that was just too bad wasn’t it, the super consultancy was soaked in it up to the top….
Could hardly wait to get out, back to my pretend DM job.

And I did.
But the term ‘enthusiastic’ stayed with me longer, I thought a lot about it, for days afterwards.
What does it says about a mature professional of any flavour to be labelled, first and foremost ‘enthusiastic’ about his core subject?
Not experienced, knowledgeable, skilled, proficient  or competent, but enthusiastic?
What does that say about the company? The industry?
When the main characteristics that stick out about a person competing for a role are not any of the above listed, nor even the lesser valued one of software knowledge (i.e Revit), gender, age or nationality but the apparent level of ‘enthusiasm’ that one expresses about a topic.

Little encounters with BIM in action like the snippets  described above these days makes me even more worried about the future of BIM in this industry than I was before taking on my self-imposed BIM abstinency.

But, I can not help coming up with an appropriate looking suggestion to the people I described above:
How about hiring BIM people on weight? Ask your HR people (if you must hire BIM managers) to get the most kgs of BIM for AED (or other currency) that they can.
Could turn out to be quite satisfying approach for all.
I am also rounding up nicely in case someone takes up the idea.
(can’t really ramp up the enthusiasm any more).

Friday, July 1, 2016

The fat controller that knew nothing about trains – BIMmers vs Project Controllers

With the birth and rapid rise of Project Managers within the AEC industry, including an almost full takeover of it by them, over the last 2-3 decades, came also the approach of managing Construction projects the ‘hands-off way’.

The technical knowledge of ‘how buildings are put together’, once an essential tool of architects (the predecessors of PMs as the captains of the industry) has become obsolete for the new stars of the show, in fact any practicing PM worth their salt would go to great lengths hiding any such capability. So, no direct relationships were drawn to their architectural backgrounds (if that was where they were infected by such capabilities) jeopardising their metamorphosis into PMs and rise within the ranks. Those PMs that were once engineers of any other sort were also encouraged to forget what they knew about their first disciplines, lest it clouded their ability to manage projects in a ‘detached’, even handed way.

Training institutions worldwide recognised this trend and jumped on it by producing non-technically contaminated PMs by the thousands. The magical title of the PMP was born too and the rest is really history. Construction Project Delivery Meetings are about tasks, percentages, numbers and completeness of drawings, KPI and MOMs.

I guess as a natural development of this ‘new profession’, an even more peculiar flavour of the PM breed has emerged and is stealing the show nowadays, the ones called ‘Project Controllers’. They seem to have the mandate of the almighty with zero tolerance for the un-measurable or subjective components of the game.

As  a hands-on, practicing BIM-mer and the owner of a ‘Virtual Construction Company’, I once had my own ambitions to build a business around the idea of ‘full control of project information’, providing smart management of project information, with up-to date, intelligent reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs!). We went down the road of developing numerous (first in the world)  tools for nifty 3D-4D-5D information management and invested in ‘multi-headed’ people that could manage project information in true, holistic way.
We were unsuccessful, needless to say.

My husband and partner in the business still maintains his views on how the PM fraternity of our then location conspired to push us out of the business, my take on what happened is much simpler and sadder.
The way construction projects are delivered these days all around the world (apart from very small scale buildings) do not favour those that want to – need to - know things well. It is designed for and run by those that ‘can manage things, aggressively, often with procedural perfection’ but with no interest in what is actually being built, how and by whom.
In fact, they are deeply aware, that any such knowledge would prevent them being the ruthless slave-drivers of projects, deadlines and KPIs. A bit like politicians knowing too much about their constituents day-to-day lives would be unable to pull off tough decisions.

The still current, typical relationship between the PMs and BIM-ers of the industry is a very good indicator of the way the power-struggle between knowledge and ignorance, problem solving and problem managing has been settled already.
Having easily beaten the practitioners of ‘traditional disciplines’ (architects, engineers) in the 80s and 90s, some fragments of the BIM promoting fraternity proved a bit more resilient bunch. Maybe partially due to the fact that the truly good BIMmers, that I admit are few and hard to find, but still exist, have often grown out of those disillusioned architects that were unprepared to just hand over their previously held captaincies to technically illiterate PMs.

Or, those that grudgingly joined the ranks of PMs in order to maintain some presence in the industry but refused to ‘just manage’ half-blindly and continued to employ their other, despised by new PM’s, capabilities of technical nature.

In the course of my work I regularly get supplied a real PM mentor to personally lecture me daily on how I should do things the right PMP way – I often visualise theses lecturers as the Fat Controller from Thomas the Tank Engine giving out illogical orders to the good natured Thomas crew.

This was a figure once quite liked by me.
In the past – when I had my own ambitions of becoming the equivalent of such ‘pulling together everything smartly’ figure of Construction Projects using best of tools BIM can offer – I even contemplated making it the mascot of the business that was the vehicle for delivering this dream. (I did not, so no copyright infringements to worry here – but do check a post from 5 years ago: http://debunkthebim.blogspot.ae/2011/06/control-is-bad-word.html);

My feelings about the said Gentleman have changed a bit recently, partially due to an article:
(--- Quote from: The Daily Mail ---PC controller gets steamed up over Thomas 'the Sexist' Tank Engine)

“If you thought the television tales about Thomas the Tank Engine were merely light-hearted fun, think again.
In fact, they portray a world blighted by a 'conservative political ideology' and a rigid class system which stifles self-expression. And they are sexist.
That, at least, is the view of a female academic who took the trouble to analyse 23 episodes of the programme inspired by the books of the Rev W V Awdry.
According to Professor Shauna Wilton, women are under-represented in the stories and what few female characters there are tend to have 'secondary' roles or be bossy.
What's more, she has warned that such negative messages about society subconsciously gleaned from the show might even drive its young fans off the rails in later life.
The learned professor was inspired to carry out her study after watching Thomas videos with her three-year-old daughter. While the child was enthralled, her mother was dismayed.
She was left feeling 'uncomfortable' by the way the colourful steam engines are punished if they show initiative or try to change their rank or role.
Her research also highlights the class divide, with Thomas and his fellow engines including Percy and James at the bottom of the social ladder and the Fat Controller, Sir Topham Hatt, at the top.
Any attempt by the downtrodden workers to show initiative or dissent is met with punishment, she found.
In one episode, for example, Thomas whistles impatiently at a police officer and is replaced with a different engine as a punishment for showing dissent

PC aspects of the story aside, this take on the character (especially the underlined part) did make me feel Sir Topham Hatt being much better suited to represent the masses of Project Control Managers that rule this industry then the under-dog BIM-mers I associate myself with.

Maybe he knows nothing about trains after all, and is just managing them anyway.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I stand corrected. Google never really cared about the Global AEC industry.

And that is sad. Even sadder than my initial statement, copied below from my last blogpost. Following it, is the response from an anonymous reader in the know about all things Google.

"After all, even giants like Google once enthusiastically targeting the global AEC industry (buying, then further developing Sketchup) have given up on it as something far too IT-immature and ruled by anti-innovation bigots to be worth spending efforts on."

“The way you are summarizing it here is not quite correct. Google never targeted the global AEC industry. SketchUp was initially designed for designers to help visualizing their ideas by a small company called @last. Google bought it because SketchUp's user interface is very intuitive. Even amateurs were able to pick it up in no time. That is what Google was after: they needed amateurs to contribute 3D models to one of their major projects at that time: Google Earth.
As technology has improved over the years, Google is now able to generate it's 3D models via 3D image capturing, which made SketchUp obsolete for them. That is why they sold it on to Trimble.

Sketchup Pro was more of a side business for Google to maintain it's already established professional user base they inherited from @last.
But claiming that Google once "enthusiastically targeting the global AEC industry" is not right.”

So, let’s accept that I was not correct in claiming that Google had lost interest in (what is one of the biggest of industries in the world) but that they never actually targeted it in any meaningful way. What does that say about Google and what about the industry?
Is it a proof that Google strategist actually saw through all of the fluff that Global BIM really was and could tell from the outset that it was never going to work and as such not worth the trouble embracing it, keeping up with it, integrating with it?

Or was it the industry? So entrenched in its own importance and commitment to the sophistication of its chosen digital future that Google did not even made it to the trusting circles of possible global BIM enablers, of the likes of Autodesk, Trimble and the others?

Not in my court to answer the questions any way – am too small, insignificant, too much on the fringes.
I do wonder though the ‘why’s’ still, maybe no longer in a na├»ve, ‘lost opportunities to do something great’ ways but in more along the lines of ‘surely there is a hell of a lot of potential in that Google treasure box to rattle this stuffy industry out of its smugness’!

A cursory Google search brings up an article that suggest there could be:

“Secret Google Project Could Transform Construction Industry

According to Globes, a report from Genie's development team, addressed to Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, describes the invention as a cloud-based collaboration platform with "planning applications to help architects and engineers in the design process, especially for skyscrapers and large buildings. The platform includes planning tools of expert architects and engineers and advance analytics and simulation tools." 
The report also emphasized Genie's potential to transform the conservative construction industry, one of the most profitable and the most wasteful, by making it more efficient and environmentally friendly at the level of design, construction, and maintenance. The report suggests the invention could save 30-50% in construction costs and 30-50% of the time spent between planning and market; moreover, it could generate $120 billion a year.”

But then, I see the article was written in 2013 – three years on and still not much of an impact from it….Had it really got off the ground, even I would have got a whiff of it by now…

Friday, May 20, 2016

Who am I to tell anyone not to waste time on (anything to do with) BIM?

The picture attached here was taken exactly 3 years ago, or so tells me my FB memory jogger.
Must be right – the moment bidding farewell to a lovely team of HLG BIM-mers, almost fully coincided with the time when I lost all my belief in anything BIM. Not just in the highly idealised airbrushed version of the ‘our way or the highway – mandated’ types but even of the more down to earth, pragmatic – ‘let’s pull together enough parties that genuinely want to make things better’ flavoured BIMs. I just stopped believing BIM functioning on any meaningful scale beyond the involvement of a couple of people on a project.

True, I gave the idea and various strategies to get there, another couple of goes following the captured moment, including taking the family through a 4 month long, tormenting Hong Kong saga – but then, went back to making a living where a living can be made….
This blog too, once very enthusiastic about, I gradually pushed aside, to finally get to a stage a couple of days ago when I made the decision, to close it down.
Then, I did have a look at the stats of the readership and was genuinely surprised to see, how steady it has been, even in the last half of the year, when I published only two entries, both highly cynical, verging on being upfront flippant.
Maybe it is just a sign that anything on the net will get its share of idle browsers these days of constant staring at the little window into the web. Or, that so flat the writings have become on this topic that anything out of the mainstream mantra gets some following… It is hard to say.

While I personally all but stopped following any media on BIM, crazy ideas do emerge still of some alternative BIMs, prompted by reading words in passing like ‘revolution’ and ‘disruptive technology’ in relation to the industry and what BIM is doing or will be doing to it.
Rather than figurative revolutions, my mind conjures pictures of young (or not so young but progressively thinking) people taking literary over the industry with technologies to describe buildings, design and construction processes totally unlike the stuffy and boring AutoCAD, Revit and even my once beloved ArchiCAD.
These revolutions are likely forceful take-overs, as who would expect the generation of stiff, white collar rulers of this lucrative industry to let anyone in on the bounty they so enjoy, but the most obliging and unthreatening of the ‘innovators’ that may make a bit of noise with their ‘modelling’, and ‘technologies’ and ‘disruptions’ but will hardly ‘hurt a mouse’ when it comes to where real powers lie.
Let them have their LOD’s and British BIM standards (whatever their number is) and BIM conferences and BIM pilots and….

As long as these false pioneers exist within the industry preaching and practicing disproven ideas of false improvements, there will be no room for those that may actually come up with something really good.
Sure, you can call me bitter and taunted and generally a ‘has been’ or even a ‘wish to have has been’ but I do get some comfort from ideas that I know could still work if …and when the industry was prepared to embrace them.

But, maybe it is OK like this – this industry is stuck where it wants to be.
Who am I to tell anyone not to waste time on (anything to do with) its BIM?
After all, even giants like Google once enthusiastically targeting the global AEC industry (buying, then further developing Sketchup) have given up on it as something far too IT-immature and ruled by anti-innovation bigots to be worth spending efforts on.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The ‘toothpaste’ highway of the (near) future

I drive to work daily, on the Dubai – Abu Dhabi highway.
On this, ‘one-plus a bit of an hour’ drive, I pass numerous highway constructions, where complex spaghettis of roads, bridges and overpasses grow seemingly in front of my eyes.
One cannot be anything but impressed as the skeletons of delicate supporting structures give way to massive piers with snaking road-structures above them, almost daily.
The disruptions to us commuters are minimal, almost non-existent as various scenarios of keeping the ‘flow-through uninterrupted’ are enacted by those in charge of building these infrastructures.

As impressive as these processes have been to watch, on my long drives to and from work, I have often fantasised about the creation of a ‘toothpaste-type’ machinery, suspended on adjustable legs and fed with feather light material that moulded into the correct shape, self-supported in the air needing minimal scaffolding, to then within minutes harden into a material not-unlike reinforced concrete, ready to take on the traffic.

Optimistic, fanciful? Surely, but also why not?
In the country of the ’Tallest building of the World’ and numerous other engineering feats, I often wish I could myself contribute to something revolutionary like the toothpaste highway technology or even something less ambitions but still cool, like a decent way of using digital technologies in day-to-day, ‘normal’ construction.

A week or so ago, there was an announcement that I caught on my drive to work:

“A quarter of buildings in Dubai will be based on 3D printing technology by 2030 under a new strategy launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.”

Hearing the above statement made me feel good about the career prospect for within the region for the next decade or so.  
As ‘a girl’ with moderate skills in a number of aspects of the industry, including reasonable modelling competency, combined with 2+ decades of project/contract and design management, I am very positive about what HH’s goals and plans will do to the industry.
Add to this, that I work on a VIP Project, with Consultants that boast about their global rankings being in double digits and my craving for the ability to innovate within my daily work is sure to get a bit of a boost.

One would think so.
One would expect international engineering consultancies active within the region to jump onto the opportunity of making this vision happen eagerly, and urgently explore ways to partner up with relevant manufacturing entities to secure a good chunk of this future and likely very lucrative market. After all, they are already, by and large making a decent living on pretty average offerings charged at astronomical international rates, greased with juicy per diems .
So, stretching those expensive engineering brains that are busy making hay while the sun is shining a bit further into creative thinking, i.e. to move beyond the millennia old technologies of ‘sticks and stones’ of creating buildings, should not be too difficult and equally serving self-interest to these elite consultancies.

After all, we know that the rest of the global AEC industry is pretty sluggish, might as well put the cream of the expertise where big ideas have the right backing and likelihood of happening, not just ensure that the visiting engineers have the latest model of cars to drive.
I add my support to the 3D printed construction vision!


Friday, February 19, 2016

The Caterpillar challenge – Make BIM and the global AEC cool!

My friend, DjG shared a promo on FB a couple of days ago (link at the bottom of this post) that made me stop and read it with interest.

Now this is my kind of a phone!

Interesting self-revelation, as everyone knows I’m not much into gadgets, the length I hang onto my old dumb Nokia is probably only rivalled by my dear friends in India. Currently I’m nursing a 3 year old Blackberry, hoping to last the year out without having to learn to get by with a newer version of it.
What tickled my fancy was not the list of unique features this device offered but the fact that it was mothered by Caterpillar and is looking ‘construction cool’.
In spite of the huge amount of money sloshing within the construction field globally, it is not a ‘cool career choice’ and consequently not the ‘sharpest’ of industries. The higher one goes up the food-chain of it, the thinner the ‘air’ gets – as my personal encounters with many heavy hitters of the industry over the last 2 decades have proven.

The whole ‘BIM thing’ has been trying to change this trend, entice the elite of the young thinkers, the cream of the technology developers and together shake the industry through innovation into a new, cool force to reckon with.
Unfortunately, this ‘BIM thing’ has been anything but successful. After good 2 decades of momentous efforts and moneys spent, the industry still is a boring old slog-for daily survival for the most working in it and an easy dirty road to the riches for a very small minority manipulating within it.

Over the years I have written a lot, on why the currently available (and often mandated) mainstream BIM is doomed to fail and will not repeat myself again. I will pull out one factor though to illustrate the hope a possible alternative might show:
The extremely low percentage of hands-on involvement on any working BIM measured across the project (or company claiming to be BIM enabled);

Simply saying – on a ‘BIM project’ how high a percentage of the people involved can claim to be able to make ‘real, hands-on’ use of the employed BIM approach?
10%, 20%, 90%?
The emphasis is on the ‘real’. Not forced, not pretended, not indirect, not….

Like, ‘it is part of my work and I can handle it by myself and it is a meaningful tool for me’.
I am pretty confident, that even the biggest of biggest of BIMmest of projects currently have a percentage in low single figures, especially if you bring in the construction end of those building.

That could be changed with a 4-step process:
Make the project truly paper free, make Caterpillar phones the official phones of the project, put Adobe into charge of all the data outputs (2D, 3D, 4D…) and link everything to a central model built by and on ArchiCAD.

Not only will this model grow into a global industry success, it would make it cool for young and old too!