Sunday, December 17, 2017

BIM 360: One small step forward for Autodesk = Two huge steps backwards for the global AEC industry

 Last week I went to an Autodesk Event.
No need to be telling me to ‘eat my words up’ and recalling my history of Revit-bashing on this blog.
Just because I do not enjoy modeling with Revit, I can keep an eye on what is happening in the industry, especially while the authors of my tool of choice are merrily basking in their achievements having ‘invented’ the ‘Year of the stair’.

It also helps when the event is free and comes with a dinner, though I had paid for a hotel room to stay overnight, committed to keep the local economy in some sort of equilibrium.
While lapping up the free Christmas atmosphere of one of the better venues of downtown Abu Dhabi, I was introduced to the ‘Next Generation BIM 360 Platform’ of Autodesk, designed to connect the Entire construction process into a seamless ‘something’.

There is nothing wrong with the concept.  Nor is it terribly new.
What is interesting is, how Autodesk is once again focusing on the ‘Information’ as opposed to ‘Model Based Information’.
Combined that with their new licensing model and I can almost deduct that they have given up on BIM, altogether.

Not that anyone is admitting to be doing this, of course -  hardly one sentence of the presenter was uttered without the favorite acronym in it, but the doom signs for BIM were ‘on the wall’.

In a way, I cannot even really blame them for the move.
Autodesk figured out (finally) something that so many can’t.
There are zillions of people employed within the global AEC industry, yet only a tiny fraction uses ANYTHING digital specific to the industry, let alone any form of a moderately sophisticated BIM.

So why bother trying to sell and further the development of this complex, difficult to understand, even harder to use multi-dimensional system, when they can go back to the basics and leverage their market monopoly to snatch away the good ‘cash-flow cow’ of the market, that of storing and sharing basic information.
Mostly 2D or text based and PDF formatted.

This Autodesk Platform offers everything under one banner, cloud storage, easy accessibility, one-point control, automated task tracking, intelligent reporting etc. etc.
It also gives the perfect excuse for the introduction of a per/seat licensing that touches many more bottoms that any of the authoring software licenses ever had, even in the hay-days of the Flat-CAD, AutoCAD of the late eighties and throughout the ninetees.

Indeed, this is the case of Autodesk realizing that the true bread and butter of the industry is based on doing large projects and clipping the ticket on shifting mountains of 2D documents around, with a bit of 3D thrown in for keeping up appearances.
And BIM is going on the back seat big time.

This is the case of Autodesk biting in the pie currently shared between Microsoft, Aconex and a conglomerate of smaller document management systems on the market.

Unless I missed something, the business model is based on charging each user on the project accessing the cloud based information, no matter on the type of information or the tool used to access (or author/edit) it.
So, the more users and the less sophisticated they are, the better off Autodesk is.
(Please correct me if I am wrong).

And it kind of gets worse.
For those that feel uneasy about the new model and select to stick with status quo, they will be limited to use the software for the current version only and forever. No backwards – no forward compatibility.
A reasonable ‘stick’ from the software supplier for the naughty users?

Not sure.
With virtual Monopoly come responsibilities.
And, one of those would be to treat the industry with a bit more honesty.
To have come out transparently saying that they entered this part of the market to generate more income for R&D, for say increasing the critical mass of BIM users would have gone down much better.

For me anyway.

I rarely do this, combining my responses to comments triggered by a blogpost, but partially because of LinkedIn ‘s limitations on the length of each response, partially because I wanted to have these recorded with the original writing, I have added them here, together with the original comments:

Bram Lyng Andersen
 Most companies make highly annoying "tough management decisions" (the quotes are for sarcasm), at some point the group and power of the people making these decisions gets larger than the group of people that are actually inventing/believing/working. It seems AD have hit this wall years ago. Problem is success is money and money attracts management types/sharks :)

This is a very interesting statement Bram, and I wish to expand on it:

First: You are absolutely right, this is a significant problem that soaks through the entire industry. I actually see (what you mention to be ‘larger’) to be ‘much larger’ – i.e. the difference  between the  numbers of ‘hands-off, decision-makers’ and ‘hands-on, dowers’ is HUGE and weighted strongly in favor of the first group.
Not only because, they are by default in the decision making seats and call the shots, but also because, they rely on ‘advisors’, almost as hands-off and indoctrinated as themselves, to back up those decisions. These ‘advisors’ are made up of the promoters/sellers of the tools, but also masses of in-house engineers, middle-managers, team leaders, coordinators…etc..,
who due to their hand-off-ness will naturally support whatever direction will least compromise their own positions.

Second: Not sue that ‘AD have hit this wall years ago’ – or if they have, I think they actually managed to ‘use it’ pretty well in the past.
Give me any reluctant entity, faced with the need to make a call on where to go (2D, 3D …XD) and it will go Autodesk way.
After all, it is the biggest, best and Americanest.
Could just about be a slogan, ‘if in doubt, use Autodesk’.

Third: let me quote Marek’s comment:
Marek Sopel: BIM in itself is not a goal of any commercial activity. And why should it be? 
From software vendors perspective there is no significant difference what product they sell, but what they make on it. All of businesses (including education business) involved in BIM are here for profits (even if sometimes they fail - note, you can look at Autodesk attempts to introduce BIM software since early 90s as a streak of failures. Still it can be promoted as a huge success in the end because the profits are being made);

Autodesk have ALWAYS been on the back-foot in developing and getting things to the market, from their very first 3D packages (in the eighties) then back to 2D (in the nineties, AutoCAD on DOS) then their own VR-quasi BIM (late nineties,- anyone remembers Architectural Desktop?)…then the hastily bought and rehashed Revit etc. etc.
They failed and failed but managed to make those failures look like successes.
Meanwhile, they totally missed to notice the achievements of Aconex and others paddling centralized, 2D focused document-systems over the last 1.5 decades and I contribute this to Autodesk’s lack of true understanding of the market, or worse even, INTEREST in the market, which is quite bizarre, considering how many companies worldwide are still purely AutoCAD users.
Finally, some clever dude with AD has recognized this and convinced the company to jump onto the bandwagon. Sure, maybe a good move, but is this innovation? No.

Jason Mounteer Information has always been the key to BIM. Why shouldn't they focus on it? Modeled shapes help many people, but not all of them. 
The information that model conveys is more important. I can get better data from a well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD set than I can from a poorly-executed Revit set. 
Communication and data presentation is what plan sets and specs are ALL about.

Jason Mounteer Additionally, I agree with the sentiment expressed by many, many, many of my clients and former colleagues: we ARE still in a 2d world. 

Architects & Engineers must still deliver that 2d data in the form of plan sets. We are a long way from municipalities and smaller subcontractors being able to get their hands on the models and pull information from them intelligently. 

Plan reviews are on paper. Estimating is done on PDF or Paper by these smaller, less tech-savvy subs. Customers/ Clients/ Owners still have back-end processes based on paper or (maybe) PDF output. We're still producing those "flat" files as regular order of business. 

Autodesk is behind the curve here in providing project managers methods to facilitate these workflows and get a handle on all this 2d information. Doc manager is a step in the right direction. Still a little behind its competition but catching-u

Jason, I read through your comments numerous times and while each sentence makes some sense – altogether I am not sure what are you intending to promote here.

The second comment is easier to address, as you seem to be more straight forward.
Still, the statement, that ‘we are still in a 2d world’ I can be interpret in two ways:
(one), yes, we are and proud of it, let’s forget all the attempts we (as an industry) had made to get out of it, and focus purely on workflows and tools to facilitate 2D,
(two), we aren’t overly happy with this state we are in, but kind-of don’t really know what to do about it so we pretend to be ‘in a transitional state to a full XD’.

My perception is, that the industry constantly (regularly) toggles between those two attitudes and by doing so, confuses the hell out of everybody.

Autodesk, never been particularly good at leadership (in spite of the fact they think they are) has been swinging in regular intervals over decades –
this latest, via the pushing of BIM360 is a swing to the ‘don’t really know what to do about it’ – direction with the underlining recognition that, others seem to know little as well, yet are making quite a bit of money of 2D (i.e. the more mature online document management systems do) – so why would Autodesk miss out on that piece of the pie.

Sure, they are calling it ‘BIM-something’, in case the pendulum swings to the other way in the near future – then, they can switch back and carry on fiddling with, and paddling on, the half-baked BIM solutions they produced so far.

Going back to your first comment, the part…

‘I can get better data from a well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD set than I can from a poorly-executed Revit set. ‘

While the above may be true, means absolutely nothing for the industry as a whole.
I.e. sure, I still know a number of extremely competent architects that design/document and detail buildings in their heads and with pencils on sketch paper and do this much better than a hundred of carefully selected Revit power-users can, but they will not get the industry out of the whole it is in.

Not only because my extremely competent, ‘old school’ architects re small in numbers and will likely soon die out and ‘well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD sets’ in reality are just as exceptional (especially on large projects) and require the same type of knowledge and skills that my ‘extremely competent old school architects’ have, but because the industry is in trouble not, because it is doing 2D or 3D, good or bad.

It seems to be relying on companies like Autodesk to provide them with ‘checks and balances’ when it comes to how information is created and managed (it should not be doing so but it does) and Autodesk could not care less to do so. (note again my previous statement: ‘With Monopoly come responsibilities’).

Don’t know if you are getting the idea, but it is hard to respond in a cohesive matter to statements that cover multiple facets of the industry, like the people, tools, approaches and somewhere down the line the manipulative moves of Autodesk where my post started from.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The case for architects with no hands – or why can’t the young of the AEC industry be successful without wanting to hand-sketch?

I am ‘a classically’ trained architect.
Meaning, through the 2+5 years of training to become first an architectural technician, than a Master of Architecture and Construction Sciences (a mouthful, I know) – I had all work done by hand, on paper, sketch and tracing paper, free-hand and/or using drawing instruments, with pencils or pens from design scribbles to full construction documentation.
These were the middle – to late nineteen eighties.

In the early nineteen-nighties, I started to work in real life and in parallel, dabbling with computers.
I got hooked very early on the idea of using the power of computers to assist the profession in design, documentation and construction management.
I was not quite sure then, how that will all happen, but it made a lot of sense to explore it.
Sure, I loved drawing by hand – I still do – but the process of developing designs via sketch paper and getting them documented onto tracing paper required a lot of wasted paper, scratching (with blades) and redrawing time.

Not everyone in the industry shared this enthusiasm for the emerging digital technology.
While the documentation part converted to its electronic equivalent ‘relatively’ painlessly, the idea of designing with no free hand sketching and paper involved, was an absolute no-no for most.
I’ll class the birth and growth of the FlatCAD industry to have been a ‘relatively’ easy and straightforward process for now, though it was not really either, but in comparison to the digitalization of the design process, at least it has achieved some sort of a critical mass in its uptake by now.

True, there has been some progress made into bringing technology into the design processes as well and numerous shining examples exist of digital design processes and outputs ‘happening’ within the industry.
Parametric modeling for difficult shapes and spaces, automated structural and mechanical calculations, environmental impact- traffic flow studies etc.

Yet, even the best examples that move beyond ‘one task based automation’ and into a somewhat holistic approach (like, what is generally classified as BIM) pale against the strongly upheld view that any process that is hand-less, sketch-less, paperless, yet claims to be ‘designing’  is somehow inferior to the old process of designing on the back of an envelope (throw in a smoke-filled bar and mostly men designers for effect too, why not?).

I have been listening for literary 2 decades to theories of, how those, that use ‘computers to design’ never develop the core skills of designing, because they never learn to sketch.
And scarily, this is one of the few statements that both the academia and the leaders of the industry (specially the architectural part of it) tend to agree on.

I tend to strongly disagree.
‘People’ that ‘use computers to design’ are likely to be young – or old but bitten by the techy-bug at a young age (like me);
I admit having observed, that the larger group, the young ones, when first hitting the industry are often truly lacking in many fundamental skills.
In fact, most of their real learning (just like ours had decades ago) comes while working and they will become useful 2-3 years into their career.

But this inability to fully contribute as fresh graduates must not be confused by their ability to learn anything and everything about design without the need to learn to sketch by hand.
Their capacity to carry projects from day one of their employment, design or document buildings successfully has nothing to do with the willingness (or lack of) learning to sketch by hand.
It has a lot to do, with the fact, that those that are charged to teach them the skills of becoming successful AEC professionals are out of synch with their charges’ affinities and force onto them the tools that are alien to them as well as archaic.

It may come across offensive to call a beautiful and quite romantic set of skills ‘archaic’, but I do stand by the statement, as this ‘unspeakable truth’ is highly damaging for the young people and stops them to meaningfully contribute and grow within the industry.

It confuses the software industry too, as they find themselves in the perplexing position of having to serve an industry split harshly across an age line. They tend to recognize who holds the drawstrings of the industry, consequently opt to provide for the oldies, and persist on ‘developing’ outdated products (like most CAD and even BIM software) – not to rock the boat too much.

Yet, the same people that frown on the young shunning the pencil and sketching are very happy to type their letters on word processors.
After all, architecture develops in the head and hand sketching is one tool to help, but just one, of many.
Technology should be encouraged to assist the head, as opposed to stigmatize those that attempt to use it or develop tools for others to use. Empower the abled bodies to get further (even the ones with fine-tuned hand sketching skills) and make the impossible possible for those unable or unwilling to hand-sketch.

I do not wish to exploit the often extraordinary skills, that people with disabilities develop to overcome their lack of extremities (for example) and become successful foot and mouth painters ( - do buy their beautiful Christmas cards), but I feel it appropriate to note, that while I do not know of any architects with such disabilities, I see absolutely no reason, while one should not be possible to become one with the help of technological tools.

It is scary to be needing to write these ideas in the current age, but sadly I feel it is still necessary and the urge to stand up (again) for the younger generation within the industry is with me and strong.

Picture from:

Monday, November 20, 2017

The average house in NZ will likely ‘earn’ much more than the average salary earner (person) this year!

 “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Point Chevalier home has increased in value by $350,000 in three years.
The 37-year-old is one of several notable Auckland homeowners whose properties have soared in price, revealed today in the council's new valuations.
Her house - co-owned by partner Clarke Gayford - increased by $350,000 from $770,000 to $1.12 million, a gain of 46 per cent, between 2014 and 2017.”

The above paragraph may suggest this post has little to do with BIM, but under the surface, it has everything to do with BIM.
Or, more precisely BIM has everything to do with the above statement.

Let’s play with the figures a bit:
According to official statistics in New Zealand, the year to the June 2017 quarter, for people receiving income from paid employment the median weekly earnings was $959, or about $49,868 per annum.
Take off taxes and that leaves around 42K/year.
Let’s divide the 350K (‘price increase’) by 42K and you’d get 8.3. Or the average kiwi salary earner would have to work for 8.3 years to match 3 years’ of ‘earnings’ of the current NZ PM’s house probably not doing much (i.e. not even rented out!).
Now, who would you rather be, that average kiwi or the (possibly not that flash) house?

And if you think, I am plucking out the extreme ends from the two scales, how about this:
“The average Auckland residential property value has jumped by 45 per cent across the region, taking the average house value in the city to $1.076m”.
Even if you triple the salary one might earn, the ratios are staggering.

I lived in New Zealand for 18 years. Almost all my working life I strived to enhance/innovate the Construction industry, including doing what is nowadays called ‘BIM’from the very early nineteen-nineties.
It did not work out for me, for us (my family) and one can dismiss that as a ‘sad story of a couple of losers’.

But, realistically, how can any BIM effort ‘work’ in an environment where one competes with such a crazy handicap?
Unfortunately, this is not a uniquely New Zealand issue – I have seen it happen around the world, although generally not to the same extremes.

Even though I left the country almost 8 years ago, it still hurts to see where it is going.
I once fell in love with New Zealand, for its promise of equality, opportunities and commitment to innovation.

(both quotes are from NZ Herald)

Image from here:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Free 3D PDFs :-)

Thank you all for coming to the Monthly Emirates BIM User Group Meeting on Monday. It was a great turn-out and a very attentive audience, I felt really privileged to present to.
The presentation had been recorded and will be made public soon. I will also work on fleshing out some of the details of the idea I presented, in a narrated Slide Show.
At the event I offered some fun examples of 3D PDFs to share – if anyone wishes to take me up on the offer, please message me through Linkedin.

Presentation now on YouTube, thanks for Stephane (the cinematographer), Florian and the Canadian University in Dubai

Friday, October 27, 2017

Next EBIMUG meeting on Monday, 30. October, 6:30pm at Canadian University Dubai

The Invite from the organizers, as far as I know you can turn up, no registration needed.

“Dear BIMmers,It is my pleasure and privilege to invite you to the October meeting of the Emirates BIM User Group.

We will meet Monday, 30th October at 6:30 in room B2-03 of the Canadian University Dubai. Upon entering the main entrance of CUD turn left and follow down the corridor to Block B. Inside Block B take the stair to the first upper floor and find room B2-03 at that level.

We will have two presentations: Zolna Murray will talk about “The future of BIM is paperless, literally”

Florian Techel will talk about “How (not) to convert a marketplace towards a new (BIM) paradigm

We look forward to welcoming you on October 30th.

The presentations will be recorded and shared afterwards.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Are BIM promoters guilty of underplaying the extent of self-development required from the ‘average Joe’ building participants to make even a relatively small-scale BIM project work?

There was an election in New Zealand recently and the country again has a woman Prime Minister, a young one too, full of charisma, charm and a promise to ‘make New Zealand a fantastic place (again)!’
I wish her and the country success. I really do. But I also cannot help but note, that what she needs to do is undo 20 or so years of damage and do that through measures that will be unpopular and possibly unacceptable for most of New Zealand Citizens.

So, the likely change in the things that matter (housing, education, health and poverty)? I’d say, very little. This has nothing to do with me being negative, but with people’s general inability to part with own privileges for some common good.

For small things, yes – we will have a home-bake to support this cause or that, we will crowed-fund for some poor sick kids’ surgery overseas, donate to build a Church Hall or School Gymnasium, but accepting (say) to have our own house’s ‘value’ slashed by a third so the property market is more accessible to the masses while locking the speculators out through special Government measures?
No way!

The entry to this blog is meant to set the tone, for another wakeup call in a topic close to my heart, that is the uptake of BIM within the industry and its relation to the chances of BIM exercises to succeed.

For a long time, I have been saying, that the real success of any BIM endeavor is the level of uptake of the people involved on the project.
If BIM is to succeed, it must become the language of the industry.
Any language that is spoken by a minority of those making up an environment, will struggle to make any impact and is likely to die out.
While we have highly capable BIM people across the board, the rest are at best ‘readers’ of the language (if trained to use viewers) but readers do not necessary make good language users as they really lack the depth of full literacy.

For example, if a house is built and the architect (maybe a sole, hands-on operator), other consultants and the builder can all meaningfully read and contribute to a BIM model, the uptake could be considered high.
At the other end of the scale, a huge airport development may have its own BIM department (of say 50 people) but the number of other ‘non- BIM literate’ people on the job will be in the thousands, therefore that percentage of BIM uptake will be significantly lower.

See, BIM can nowadays get introduced to almost any project, if you push the ‘right button’ (mandating, client pressure etc.) and most parties involved will ‘oblige’.
But that does not mean much really, as, as long it is possible both people and companies will try to conform to expectations without doing anything ‘radical’. 
Because, ‘radical’ means two things, enhanced level of risk and extra money to spend.
(possibly a lot of it).

People that have spent any time spreading the gospel of BIM, know in their hearts that there is no straightforward way around this. They must know.

Just like NZ’s new Prime Minister must know – that one’s own enthusiasm and wish for change can only go so far, if not matched by the masses putting their shoulders to the ‘wheel’.

Yet, they (the BIM promoters) are rarely seen explaining how truly difficult is to get one single person (from an age, say 30+) convert into a useful BIM-mer, let alone an entire project team or a company.
It is as difficult as making someone shed 10kg, be fit enough to run a half Marathon or learn a new language.

Yet, even those that know this, will hide it from their clients.
Instead, most self-styled BIM specialists will happily draw up implementation plans, with entries like ‘identify a BIM champion’, ‘train people in Nawisworks’ ‘set up internal libraries and standards’ etc. etc.

If challenged they will say things like, ‘change takes time’, ‘every little step matters’, ‘you can take the horse to the water, but you cannot force it to drink’….  

I disagree. There are times, places, issues where time is of essence.
Where half-hearted attempts to change, just will not cut, where little steps will end up being steps in place or going backwards, where someone needs to lead with honestly and real conviction, but also have the power and means to deliver, even through measures unappealing to individuals.

Going back to the language parallel, one can speak a language badly, poorly, incorrectly – but for someone to be considered fluent in it, there is a minimum threshold of competencies to have.

A similar threshold can be established for BIM competency for participants of any project, however this concept is something that most BIM promoters get extremely uneasy about. Because, they know (but are scared to say) that getting all of the non-BIM speaking ‘average Joes’ of construction projects to that minimum threshold is an extremely difficult job.

Yet, this would possibly do more good than all other attempts together to make a real breakthrough in re-establishing a speaking-reading-writing industry.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

BIM can’t change the industry, only the industry can change the industry!

I don’t often quote myself from the past (or I don’t think, I do) but when recently, FB popped up with a message from 5 years ago, I felt the need to do so.
The post was a link to an article that BIG Project ME (link at the bottom of the page) published on my blog 5 years ago.
Apart from the fact that almost every part of the write-up is relevant now, there were parts of the article that sounded quite ‘profound’ even when scrutinized by the self-mocking cynical BIM- self, of the present days.

Take the sentence from the title and its context:
“BIM can’t change the industry, only the industry can change the industry. The industry can change the industry and only by being determined to do so, as opposed to simply saying it wants to change.
BIM can help of course, by assisting those that recognize where the industry is lacking an ability to self-repair, by providing smart tools and processes.”

But the patting of own back for coming up with such ‘deep thoughts’ disappears as I do a bit of math.
I consider myself to be an active BIM practitioner since 1995. That is 22 years. 5 years out of 22 is about 22%. That is a pretty large chunk of a lengthy career where something I cared about deeply then (and now too, to some extent) had not matured much, in-spite of massive efforts by many, to get it grow and ‘change the industry for better’.
I know that many find this repeated statement of mine (how Global BIM has stopped growing some years ago) annoying and even deeply insulting to the good people of BIM, but for me it is what I see.
People also say, I read the situation to be so grim, because I ‘mix with the wrong crowds’ and am unaware of the exact shape of BIM globally, but if things were going that greatly by now the successes would have filtered down to the masses and ‘best practices’ become ‘everyday practices’ even in the unsophisticated circles I move in.

So, apologies for all the honest BIM folk out there, but the ‘one step at the time’ and ‘any improvement is better than no improvement’ does not sit well with me on this topic.

For the industry that is notoriously incapable on delivering on self-imposed targets within its core areas, to accept that its most heralded improvement program is totally underperforming and do nothing to acknowledge that and come up with a Plan B, is at the least disingenuous if not straight misleading.

‘Stop winging and come up with alternatives’ is the other most reoccurring comment I get – I believe I have in the past but to those that missed the little gems of positive suggestions within my writings, there will be a full lecture I will be giving to the Dubai BIM Group on the 30th October at the Canadian University.

The content will be made available on this blog in some form.
In the meantime, read the 5 year old article:   

Friday, October 6, 2017

Today’s Global BIM is in worse shape than the one we started off 20 years ago (Note to myself: Brace for hate-mail)

‘What is BIM?’ – is probably the most off-putting intro question to anyone listening to a BIM presentation that a speaker can pull up, yet it comes up time after time at BIM conferences and lectures.
In a way, I understand why that is – audiences generally vary in their understanding of BIM to such extent, that speakers feel obliged to always start from the beginning.
And then, there is another troubling issue about the question – the answer is actually NOT that obvious, and it varies from application to application.

For example, while almost everyone publicly agrees that no-one software (not even Revit) equals BIM – all sorts of other descriptions are likely to float around, from simple ‘one word’ depiction to highly complicated bullet-pointed explanations.

I used to like the word ‘approach’ for it, being a ‘language’, ‘a set of tools and processes’.

These days, if pushed, I say that BIM is merely a combination of a specific set of ‘Attitude and Commitment’ which leaves people usually dumbfounded and me alone.

Regardless of its name (I know, the acronym has been only around since Autodesk had invented it) or what it means for people, there are reliable ways on measuring its effectiveness and ‘maturity’ in the current day BIM market.

Still, while numbers should always reflect real pictures, statistics and surveys generally are a bit flawed and subjective, leaning to the expectation of their compilers.

So, those that claim BIM to be in a pretty good shape and maturing according to preset programs across the board, are likely to have some vested interest in making it look better than it really is.

Others, like me, that state, that the real impact (positive) on the global AEC made by the last 2 decades of BIM-push has been negligible are, also most likely blinded by their disillusionment due to the failure of their own endeavors.

Nevertheless, I stay firm behind the statement, that regardless of the good work of many people, honest intentions and lots of money, BIM had made not much more than a little dent in the ineffectiveness, sluggishness and generally archaic ways that the global AEC is run.

Worse even from that fact, it did little to improve the processes (don’t believe me, go to weekly meetings of medium to large projects), it had done almost nothing to increase accountability and decrease corrupt practices that plague the industry.

Yes, people create BIM bunkers, walk around with lasers, VR headsets and iphone models, but these are few and far between, are often just a gimmick, and most definitely operate below the magic line of real decision (and money) makers of the industry.

If I publicly ask for anyone to name a Project Director of a largish project with BIM competency, I am sure people will throw lots of names in the basket, but my experience (on lots of large and very large projects) is that there are NO Project Directors, Commercial Managers, Lead Planners, Control Managers, Project Managers that can be trusted with anything even close to ‘real BIM’ (or very, very few).
Sure, many will happily ‘chew the fat’ on the topic, but all their experience would be second hand, through others doing it for them.

Going back to the title, I seem to remember that 20+ years ago, when I started on BIM (that still had no name for it) it was much more fun to be involved with the movement.
Skeptics will say, that was no BIM, just 3D, but the fact is that I used 3D for documenting full buildings from the first day I learned ArchiCAD (4.5), applied appropriate materials (meta data!) – and jumped on the first opportunity of doing 4D models when I came across, the then extremely buggy and highly temperamental Construction Simulation. Furthermore, persisted using it for years, in spite of a scary number of failed movie making attempts and sleepless nights.

I also recall, that the BIM people of that era were approaching ‘issues’ with more criticality than the somewhat blind enthusiasm and misguided loyalty (to various parties)  of those now in charge do.
I hate to say (but must), the average IQ of BIMmers seemed to be a notch or two higher as well, even though the numbers involved may have been quite a bit lower, than now.

Internet was in its very early stage and emails still clunky, but the ArchiCAD worldwide support group moderated by Djordje Grujic was legendary.
You could put up questions at night New Zealand time and have numerous answers by real (not just self-styled) gurus next morning.

Sure, it was not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows – the industry shunned us, happy to hire AutoCAD seamstresses by the dozens instead, many typing faster in lisp than talking in their own mother tongues, rather than even consider anything more than flatCAD.
CAD managers taunted us for file sizes and line types and fonts and RAM.
We were the weirdoes of the time, but we still felt we were the future.
I did, anyway.

Nowadays, I see no future for BIM, the way it is being pushed by flaky mandates, super-large companies ‘polished up global BIM policies’ and across the board reluctance to accept any criticism, reality checks or change of courses set by ‘standard makers’.
I say, I see no future for current BIM. But I do see future for something else helping the industry and maybe, just maybe able to bring the spark of the ‘early BIM times’ back to the oldies and the new wizzes of the industry.

I will explain it all at a presentation I will be holding on the 30th October 2017 at the Canadian University in Dubai.
Still working on a possible webcast, but if that does not happen, there will be a youtube video for those unable to come, but interested.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The benefits that good Design Managers and good BIM Managers bring are by no means mutually exclusive.

 One of my daughters is aiming to become an architect. She gets a bit defensive about it, going in that direction, I supposedly have been putting her off the profession for a long time.
Verbally and otherwise.

That I am sorry about, I want the absolute best for my children, but there hardly is an escape from reality and that of the depths this profession has sunk to, in the recent decade or two.

Just imagine an ‘architect’ of the past (and not even that distant a past) waking up and presenting themselves for a construction project these days!
Imagine, Michelangelo, Alvar Alto or even any ‘average’ principal architect from before the eighties, taking up their position of the ‘project architect’ on a project and then getting pushed around by second grade project managers internally and/or from ‘client-side’.
Imagine them and their dismay of being lowered to be ‘just one’ discipline leader and fitted somewhere between the structural guys and MEP designers.
The celebrated conductors of grand building symphonies of past, put under the management of drawing checkers, box tickers, minute takers.
A grim picture, I know.

Still, for me, and others unhappy with these developments, but trained in the spirit of architectural masters that designed at ‘big picture’ levels but also understood construction details, for a while, (even while architect were sinking like torpedoes) there seemed to be a place to escape to, – a role, titled ‘Design Managers’.

These people (DMs) were still charged with scopes not dissimilar to those of architects’, pulling things together, checking across entire projects, understanding the big picture but expecting to be also detail literate.
Able to talk meaningfully to specialist designers from raw structures, through finishes ‘to high tech fittings and systems.
Understand costs. Read and comprehend schedules. Know construction, speak logistics.

I kind of found myself at home, in this role of ‘a DM.’

OK, not a ‘pretend’ architect any more, but someone that can still ‘conduct’.
Maybe not symphonies, but satisfying singsongs.  I liked it.

Chance would also have it, I got into BIM at a sort of early (professional) age and got hooked on it some 20+ years ago.
For a naïve mind, the two seemed complementary, a set of tools, supported by a strong philosophy of well-defined design.
Just what a good Design Manager would wish for.
Oh, how wrong I was to think that.

Roll on the present.

An HR person I talked to recently said, I cannot be both.
I had to decide, if I was a Design Manager or a BIM Manager.

Instead, I decided to write a little post, for all of those HR people (sorry, shall I call you “talent acquisition agents?”) that are operating within this industry, on the subject of, why I think that, a good Design Manager’s and a good BIM Manager’s skills are by no mean mutually exclusive.
I.e. I should not be forced to choose to be one, or the other.
In fact, I am certain that, they enhance the other, in the way the ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, i.e. 1+1= 3 or more.

A BIM enabled (literate) Design Manager is, like someone that speaks an extra language.
Someone that can pull hundreds of PDF drawings into a single file (given the right software) and check the entire design in one cohesive environment.
Someone that can model, to verify the design works.
Make library items, confirm or otherwise design compliance.

Therefore, a BIM enabled DM is, take it from me, not an ‘IT nut’ that knows nothing about construction, so should hide this knowledge and experience from his/her CV – as not to be pigeonholed into an ‘IT nut knowing nothing about construction’.

Conversely, a BIM Manager claiming (and being able to substantiate it) to have a DM background, should be considered to be a BIM Manager on Steroids as opposed to a DM with unnatural tech leanings.
Someone, that CAN pull the techy part off, but also knows what the bits in it are (translated to REAL construction), regardless of the discipline they have originated from.

I know, the composite beast, I’ve described here, is a rare find.
But, there are some out there in  existance still, so, cherish them.

Unfortunately, me being one of them makes me feel no more hopeful for the species survival than those that dismiss it.
It is an uphill battle, between HR managers searching for the ‘right fit’ (and I MEAN, right fit) for any a position and people sticking out of molds, left-right-and center.

So, here is an offer: For any HR person, manager, agent or whatever operating in the area:
if you ever want to find out what a Design Manager is/or should be and what a BIM Manager is or should be, please get in touch, I will happily assist with the details.
I will even explain you what the combination of the two SHOULD get you, or what to look for, at least.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The tale of two BIM-stillborns and the relativity of time in developing global BIM to a useful level

Sometimes, I wonder if Google and Facebook separately or jointly run a department with a sole purpose of digging out things from people’s pasts and stubbing ones’ noses in it again and again.
Or look at their current activities to spot bad things they can make feel even worse.
Maybe the departments moto is to ‘rub salt in the wound’ and the guys that work there are called the ‘spities’?

First, there were the endless ads from Google over the last month for various orthopedic surgeries, specialist, physio services etc. True, a month ago I did fall over.
Tripped one foot over the other and spread myself awkwardly on the gravel tucked with the right arm under my ‘slender’ body.
Two sets of doctor visits and x-rays later I feel much better – so thank you for asking, but due to some of the outputs of those visits (i.e. x-ray pictures) travelling over my mail system, Google still keeps on bombarding me with ‘targeted ads’. Painful.

Then, there is Facebook that reminds me regularly of the ‘good ideas’ I had 5+ years ago.
Many based on and around BIM. Most unsuccessful in one way or other.
Recently came up two of my (I believe) better ideas, that never made it past planning – one dreamed up 4 years ago, the other more than 10 (years).
For those, interested in how I looked before I aged ‘suddenly’ over the last 8 years under the desert sun, there is a link to a video made 8 years ago at the bottom of this blog.
Even those that are not interested in my looks ex NZ – there may be some ideas that are interesting to see, in a video (let me repeat it) made over 8 years ago, so check it out.

This time thing, that we were doing things 10+ (If not 20) years ago that others nowadays call new and revolutionary brings me to the topic I really wanted to write about, and that is ‘how important time is (or is not) in getting BIM really working within this industry?’ Time in real terms, measured against other industries as well as relative, to a starting point in a BIM implementation and its supposed ‘end date’.

See, time after time one sees company implementation plans for BIM that have a lose end – as in…well we don’t know what technology will be like in a year or two or five…so there is point of planning beyond what we will do in the next couple of months’.
Or the (for me) infamous fixed start of the wholesale BIM mandate of the UK AEC industry with no clear ‘end’ or ‘middle point’ to it.
Sure, ‘milestones’ do get peppered in these documents but the KPI’s (oh, I despise this TLA too) are so vague that can be achieved with just about anything (or nothing).

For another example, I have worked in big name consultancies that did set out goals by when the company would become ‘fully BIM’, but without a clear definition of ‘fully BIM’.

I never got clear responses to my question on the ‘full BIM’ (I did ask).
Would everyone in the company be comfortably practicing BIM at a level appropriate to their role by the nominated date?
(BTW the question above is a definition of ‘full BIM’ for me. Nothing less. And it does NOT mean that everyone is modelling in a 2000+ company, no,  but neither does it mean that only 5-10 people in that 2000 people company do the modelling and every project has ‘some modelling’ associated with it).
What it means, (expanding my theory), would be an environment where Project Directors, Project Managers, Project Controllers, Project Commercial Managers, QS-es, Planners and Document-controllers feel and operate comfortably with model based information and tools.
If you want an example what that means, observe how people use their cell phones.

Again, I do not expect everyone to be able necessarily to do modelling, some would model, some would model and manipulate, coordinate and/or manage models.
Other would read data from the models, analyze and repurpose. Others again would receive and share, measure and schedule.
But the word BIM in that sort of environment would be ‘real’ – not an over the top buzzword with a huge hot air balloon behind it, not a mythical goal (something the management wants to do, but we don’t give a hoot about it), not a ‘I heard AECOMor whoever is really good at this’.
Something we (or that 100% company) would just, well, DO.

And as I write this, again I am not even so much worried about the timeframe of BIM becoming real being excruciatingly long. For an individual, a company or an industry.
(Even though, let me rub a little salt in there, Yes, we DID ALL of that 10+ years ago.)

But, let’s be realistic. Let’s say, we do insulate the industry from the other digital based ones and stop piggybacking on them.
(i.e. 3d printing, VR views, cloud scanning and what-not – sure use it, but don’t promote it until it is working for the industry in real terms) – and let BIM develop at its own pace.
Let people celebrate the small victories, the so called ‘baby steps’ that are made supposedly daily by hundreds and thousands in the industry, clap for those that reach for that BIM viewer for the first time or spin the first Revit model they created at the intro course or check a handmade BOQ against a take-off from a model or discover a clash through Navis works.
Let’s be patient, nurturing, keep people in their comfort zones, doze them with BIM slowly, tenderly.

Maybe? The picture of the above working contrast strongly with the bullying nature of the industry I face daily, but let’s for the argument sake accept it being possible, positive and progressive an approach.

Let us carry on building BIM departments staffed and stuffed with badly treated modelers trying to match unrealistic expectations of their task-masters that ‘know what BIM should do’ and let brief but comfy attendances to flashy conferences entitle others to claim mastery of this complex art.

Let us carry on this road of widely accepted soft approach.
But make it come with something measurable to be made accountable against.
(if time is not the right thing, or we do not care about it – that is OK).

In the past, I floated the idea of establishing a means of having a generally accepted coefficient of BIM uptake within an organization.
I was leaning towards ‘a percentage’ type measurement derived from a couple of real numbers.
(how many people in an organization vs. how many do ‘read, read and write, read, write and manage BIM, sounding maybe complicated but actually relatively simple to figure out.)

I wish a company (independent) would consider setting itself up to develop a system, that would give the industry some sort of a benchmark to measure any company’s level of BIM-fluency against credibly.
However, I’m afraid, I will not attempt to get it off the ground myself and add to my list of my stillborn BIM ideas.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How to avoid being trapped by the British BS1192 and other immature BIM Standards?

People with BIM interests (but not necessary practice) like to muse on the ‘BIG questions’ of this field, like if this ‘BIM’ thing is a revolution or an evolution, a positive or negative disruption, the savior or the re-definer of the industry.
The same ones are often much less excited when it comes to the ‘how’ questions of the approach, and when those annoying questions do pop up, I see them often flippantly referring to various Standards, Booklets and Guides for (self) help, as if all that menial stuff has been so-over-resolved, that it is hardly worth mentioning.

Like, ‘Darling, go do your homework, after all the British, who are, ‘by all statistics that matter’ the leaders of this field, published their BS1192, like, ages ago, in fact it is mandated…
so why the question?’

Well, Standards can’t or should not be plucked out of the air based on theoretical knowledge of a handful of people lucky to be in the right place in the right time.
They can’t just confidentially pop out like fully formed baby giraffes running on their skinny little legs by the afternoon of the day they left their mothers’ bodies.
They need to develop slowly, mature like a good cheese or wine – improving every step of the way.

After all, the world ‘Standard’ means more than just, ‘we are important and we want you to do things the way we think they may work’.
Or should be.
Standards, should be a collection of best practices, that have over time been tested and re-tested and proven to be ‘the’ best.
There to make a world a better place for all (or at least the majority), nothing less.

As they are, most BIM Standards, Guides and How-to-do’s that are of ‘importance,’ do not tick the box mentioned above, but are the creation of some know-it-all person, like a dissertation on the topic, in disguise (or not even that,  check recent BIM PHDs).

For the sceptics, they easily can be called as ‘just another tax’ forced on the AEC practitioners at large and the details largely ignored.

So, where lies the truth about BIM’s real significance in the shaping of the global AEC?

Is this the truth?:
If anyone wants to take part in the industry, are these ‘handmade BIM standards’ the only way to go?  
Play the way we tell you to, or you are out.
That is what day say, these so called BIM standard makers – for a while – while they quietly move into cushy, corporate BIM directorships travelling the world.

But, think about, would you accept your 13 year old son coming home one day, with a set of rules headed ‘non-negotiable’ to run the entire household – and agree to implement them strictly without questioning?

Or, would you venture out to write standards, on how to run a fleet of fighter-jets for an aviation unit? Having never set a foot on one of them, let alone flown them?
No experience, does not matter, if you can see that the family (unit or whatever) is under- functional – and you have the right connections in high places, you have the credentials to do just that. In BIM circlers anyway.

Sadly, that IS actually the way in BIM worlds – people that NEVER ever modeled a single wall, column, screw or anything, write BIM Standards, Plans, Strategies for massive projects and do not even feel embarrassed about it.

And the rest pay for their endeavors.
They pay, because, sometimes it is easier to pay another ‘quasi’ expert to face off with the mandatory expert from within the company, than actually questioning the whole charade.

Still, there are some that feel uneasy about the trap – so I offer a couple of suggestions/advice:
Question them on their scope, standards, goals and methods. Point, by point.
Like a 2 year old, do the ‘why’ thing and do not accept ‘because I say so’.
Be prepared.
Don’t accept blindly the ‘we need this for F&M at the end of the project’.
That is a straight baloney – they have no idea how they are going to do F&M at the end, with what programs and file types, let alone LODs. But to make sure, ask them to show how they DO this 6+D thing nowadays (after all, they claim to be the experts) and how will they take it into the future.
Do not accept the excuse that ‘this IT thing is way over the top of your head’ – if you know, how to make real buildings, you are probably more capable of grasping the subtleties of BIM than you are giving credit to yourself.
Ask to see ‘best practice’ examples that their Standards are built on.
Don’t take ‘confidentiality’ as an acceptable answer.

And if the above hints for action seem even more onerous than the ‘play by the rules ones’ – then figure out how to deliver the mandated outcomes with the least of interruptions (and costs) to your own workflows.
Put your dumbest, cheapest CAD people on it and let them plot along – or outsource the whole thing and forget, until it grows up.

And then, here is my alternative.
To achieve a real, punching BIM capability, go paperless!
Choose your people carefully (on a project, in a branch or grouped in another isolatable way) – ‘lock them up’ (not necessarily physically, but seriously monitoring how they work) and ban all paper from their work areas. Then let them loose.  Magic will happen.
Or if not, fire them all and start again.
Standards can wait.