Sunday, October 28, 2018

Can one trust a BIM-mer, that is not personally practicing ‘paperfree’?

A provocative question.
Of course, one can.
Why would the good character or even the BIM knowledge of a person be undermined by a paper-notebook and a pen?
Or a stack of A3 drawings?
Or owning bookshelves full of ring binders stuffed with paper?

None of the above should be an embracement to those actively promoting BIM?
Surely, not?
One must keep things in perspective, the industry is in a (forever) transitional stage –
of course paper is needed and allowed for, even in the most sophisticated of operations.

So, why do I feel uneasy to reach for an old-fashioned pen even for the most mundane of tasks?
Am I being overly zealous? Because of my ‘paperfreeconstruction’ movement?
Or a bit hypocritical?
The perfect illustration of the old saying of “people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"?

As recently as a month ago, I had a desk-full of post-it notes alongside my keyboard at work.
I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of multiple note books and kept paper copies of critical documents handy.
I still have a bucket of coloured pens and pencils in front of me as I type this.

Surely using paper is not a capital offence.
Moderate  consumption must be acceptable even in a strong push for digital progress of the AEC industry.
Or, should it?

No, let’s draw the line in the sand! (but not on paper…oh, what a feeble pun)

You BIM? You must be paperfree!
If your title has BIM in it, you ought to go paperfree!

Lead by example.
And the best of all is, that you can start on this journey without big announcements or pledges to make.
Just ditch the paper.
If your date-to-date activities are preventing you to do so, the problem is bigger than the medium.
Start examining those obstructions in detail.
They could be tasks, arcane processes or dealings with particular individuals within your organization.
Regardless, it is likely that you will be able to hit a pretty high percentage mark of paperfree within a month of focused work.

You should try it.
And, if you claim to be any-sort of a BIM professional, you ought to.
For the sake of credibility.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The new trinkets of my paperfree adventure

My 10-year-old nephew Viki communicates with the world through drawings.
His latest masterpiece presents a series of occupations. He is self-thought and copies from various sources, nevertheless the illustrations are uniquely his.
One profession noticeable missing from his line-up, is that of the architect.

The absence of my own ‘calling’ on the drawings reminded me, how in popular representations of the architect, the accessories of the job are still the drawing board and the T square (or parallel square) while I have used neither for over 2 decades.

That though led me to explore my memory for films with architects and I quickly came up with a handful: Liam Neeson in ‘Love Actually’, Pierce Brosnan in ‘Mamma Mia’, Steve Martin in ‘It’s Complicated’ and one of (the very few) women, Michelle Pfeiffer in ‘One Fine Day’.
Then, I searched online and found lots of references to other movies and actors and characters...

But back to me. Naturally.
While I rarely consider myself to be ‘typical’ of anything, I do carry some of the usual characteristic of fifty-something architects, in that, I started off my career on the above-mentioned board with the T and parallel squares and using pencils and pens.
Still, the majority of my career has been spent with a computer mouse in my hand (wired) and tapping at a keyboard.
I kept up with sketching, doodling, scribbling and note-taking, but these latter activities were on paper.

Then, recently I went strictly paper-free.
Joining up the Movement toward paperfreeconstruction, I have committed to do all my work without the use of paper.
Cold turkey, no transition period.

I have been pretty good with the mouse for over two decades, drawing, modelling, manipulating models.
However, I have a way of ‘thinking with my hands’ I was very aware, that I had to find an appropriate digital pencil-pen and become comfortable with using it.

I had two versions to choose from.
The first was an HP pen that accompanied my work HP Elitebook (laptop).
The second, an Apple Pencil that came with an IPad, I inherited from my daughter.

It is early days, and I am getting to know both, but one thing is already obvious, that, there is very limited (or no) compatibility between the various media makes and supporting pens.
The other, that I already have a strong preference for the Apple Pencil if for nothing else, no batteries needed.

I’ll get my nephew to draw me holding an IPad and Apple Pencil, next time I see him.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Same, same but different – My mother is not getting paperfreeconstruction, the concept.

My mother has been a solid supporter of my BIM journey over the last 3 decades. She speaks very little English but has lived with us for long enough and attended enough of my Serbian/Hungarian presentations to get the gist of what I am about.
She has no idea what the ‘BIM’ acronym stands for exactly, but is closely associating it with all my professional ups and downs.
She loyally shares my blog announcements on Facebook and looks over Slideshows, YouTube movies, PP presentations I make. I can say, she is a fan of mine.

Launching the ‘paperfree’ movement, I managed to unsettle her.
She is confused.
Sure, she is happy, that I am again enthusiastic about the BIM-thing, the apathy that was consuming me over the stagnation of its development, worried her.
She is just not following the logic.
Almost thirty years ago, I was first talking about computer modelling of buildings.
I ‘drew’ the first axo chair in AutoCAD 25 years ago and showed it to her.
I documented full houses in 3D ArchiCAD 20 years ago in our design studio, while she looked after our children.
I designed and modelled iconic commercial buildings in Teamwork Architecture when we moved to a bigger town 15 years ago.
I built a business based on super-clever construction modelling some 12 years ago.
I taught how to BIM globally 10 years ago.
I’ve been writing a blog on the topic that is widely read everywhere over the last 5 years.
She could see the technology developing, my ideas maturing, the stakes rising.

And now? My blogposts keep coming up with the same hand-phone logo? And talking about paper?
She is curious, of course.
I tell her this is exciting. It is radical.
What can be more radical that all the ideas I presented over the years, many we pushed through fruition even at high personal price?

She questions, wants to understand.
So I say, this is not really radical.
This is nothing new.
It is the old BIM. The same BIM. The BIM that many have been selling and few doing.
Or not even BIM, at all.

I am just trying to get rid of paper from my working life and am encouraging others to do so.
Just asking people to work paperfree.
Keep doing the same things as always (draw, model, write, read, sketch…) just don’t use the paper.

She understands but remains puzzled.
Same, same – but different?

In time, I will be able to explain to her the logic of going back to basics and eliminating the paper from the processes.
I’ll tell her the theory, that a large portion of the industry, that is by and large ambivalent to BIM-ish changes, I believe would respond to positive development given the push in the right direction.
Rather than ‘forcing’ people through BIM training, modelling courses, even just theoretical seminars,

I’d love to see them ‘just’ go paperfree.

Think before you print! (good for the environment too, but my major objective is different, here).

Can you get by doing everything on a laptop? Or a tablet.
Save to a cloud straight away?
Mark up drawings on screen?
Sort them, check against models?
Is it hard? Why? Is it the tools? Or something else?
Can you get rid of your paper note book?

I’d love to hear what keeps you hanging onto paper?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bullied by BIM? Fight back! Go paperfree!

Despite BIM having been around for 3+ decades, it is by no means embraced by the global AEC.
There is a thin layer of participants that push the idea for various reasons (usually superficial), and there are people (in a very small minority) that practice it wholeheartedly. (my respect is with them).

And then, there is the rest.
Most of the industry is uneasy about the BIM thing, yet there is rarely meaningful discussion about it. It is kind of un-PC to question it, those that do, get often passive-aggressively BIM shamed.

Many, that have at some point jumped into it with enthusiasm had since pulled back and are holding on the non-BIM approach even stronger. They are usually not very vocal about their disillusionment but manage to get by in their daily work without needing to engage in BIM activities.

Often these are the ‘better’ people of the industry, the ones with more technical experience, insight and risk management skills.

As someone that has a lot of affinity with both those that are BIM enthusiast as well as those that are BIM doubters, I feel entitled to offer up an approach that might just counter the indignity of a ‘BIM laggard label’ and fulfil one’s own need for self-development.

Become a self-sustained paperfreemodule!
Ditch the paper in your work no matter if you are pro-or-against BIM.

I believe, that no real progress in the overall construction industry will happen as long as we have ‘the’ paper present in and around our core processes.
I am referring here to the ‘real paper’, in its physical representation, not documents that ‘look like paper documents’ but can just as well function in purely digital forms (letters, contracts, drawings etc);

I have an issue with the ‘medium’ and not the content.
(in fact, I have many issues with the content as well, but here I am focusing on the ‘medium’).

My reasoning goes like this:
For the AEC to modernise itself, (and in fact any type of BIM to succeed), it needs a critical portion of its participants to fully embrace digital information creation and management.
Most will not do it, because they do not have to.
Most will not do it, as ‘they get by’.

Someone else will find the file.
Someone else will print the drawing. (or create a PDF and then print the PDF)
Someone else will CADup a markup.
Someone else will update the model from sketches.

If we take the ‘paper’ out of the industry and out of reach of the ‘average’, non-BIM-literate participants (engineers, contractors) – they will find themselves ever-slightly out of their comfort zones, having to ‘figure out’ doing usual work with unusual tools.

They will not by miracle all start modelling at once or walk around with VR headsets on sketching construction details in the air.
But they will sketch on tablets. And keep their files in the cloud so they are available on all of their devices.
And learn to use flat PDFs in conjunction with models.
And pay attention to models on screens at meetings.

They will in turn also push the ‘supply chain’ to develop meaningful tools that will support everyone, not just the born-and-bred BIMmers from the beginning of this story.

There is much, much more to this concept than what I’ve just described, but for now, let’s assume that the theory has legs.
Let’s also suppose, that even the best breed of self-proclaimed BIM gurus of the industry are only functioning at half speed when they aren’t strictly paperfree.

I’ll have to digress a bit here.
Many, many, many people of the AEC industry will, heaving read my thoughts above jump up and be dismayed on how ‘out of synch with reality I am’ and how old ‘this news is’.
There are many, many, many successful examples of paperfree processes already in place everywhere, they’d state.

I stand by the theory.
Claimed ‘Paperfree processes’ in the AEC are extremely rarely truly paper free.
(or even ‘somewhat’ paperfree)

Look around and the pesky thing is everywhere.

Ring-binder folders of claims.
Marked up (and outdated) drawings.
Printed (and impossible to read) Programmes.

I am an optimist at heart and I believe this reality can be changed.
I am going fully and absolutely paper free in my own working methods and am inviting others to do the same.

The paperfreeconstruction group on LinkedIn is to support the Movement.
Get involved and you might just find this BIM thing much more palatable.
And the best of all, you don’t even have to announce anything publicly, just start doing it.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Why is the absence of paper so important for paperfreeconstruction?

Paperfreeconstruction is a goal, an idea, an ideal to work towards, something to believe in.

The road to it is via building up paperfreemodules, that are self-contained, autonomous and self-sufficient.  

Paperfreemodules can be created at any level within the industry.
A construction site can become a paperfreemodule, an engineering company, a large development or an individual.

I am starting with the individual.

So, what I managed to come is the Manifesto of the Movement.
I do know the ‘why’s too, just find it harder to put it into one sentence.
Am working on it;

In the meantime, if you have 1.5 hours free time look at this youtube video:
This slideshow might add a bit more food for thought:

And of course,… there are 8 years of blog posts here that one way or other lead to the same thing: paperfreeconstruction

Join the freshly set up group on LinkedIn!

Thursday, October 11, 2018


For 8 long years, I’ve been writing this blog.
While its impact on anyone else has been less than miniscule, the act of writing helped me out of some rough patches.
And for the latter, I am thankful.

I stumbled into the industry of creating buildings in my early teens.
First, I just wanted to learn everything I could while working in it.
Gradually though, fixing the small and the big issues that plagued the industry became my mission.
The ‘Big BIM thing’ I’ve been immersing myself in for over 2 decades is one of the manifestations of the urge to make a positive difference.

These days, I am thinking small.

I am starting up a Movement.
A small and slow movement.
A movement of ONE.

The idea behind the movement is a concept I’ve fussed over for years, a theory that survived many a crash I endured through my roller-coaster-ride like career.
It is simpler and, on the surface, less compelling than any of my other ideas, theories and models.
But, it is a beauty.

It is a Movement towards a World of paperfreeconstruction.
A World where buildings are designed, documented, constructed, occupied and maintained without any use of paper.

I haven’t been able to change the industry.
I worked hard, yet I could not get ONE paperless project off the ground.

Nevertheless, I am still working in the industry.
I have a job, so I can live and work by my own mantra.
I am setting out to become totally paperfree in my daily work.

I will keep using this blog to share my ‘journey’ (a cheesy habit, my apologies).

I also set up a LinkedIn platform for the likeminded, individuals and companies to join in and share their own experiences in working towards a paperfreeconstruction.
But only if they want to, I am quite happy paperfreeing on my own.

This is not a business idea, not a commercial venture.
Just a Movement.

For updates on how I am doing, join up here or follow the blog.
It Only Takes One Person to Start a Movement, people say.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Forget BIM, ECI, drones and 3D printing, move the capital to Timaru! (a placeholder for an unpublishable blogpost)

One day, I will publish the post I wrote in my head yesterday, when I read the article, referenced below.
No, I am not chickening out of tackling difficult topics, it is just not in the interest of my self-preservation to do it, right now.
Still, considering the relatively loyal and global readership of this blog, I think it is in the interest of the worldwide participants of the AEC industry, to at least give the article a bit of a focused boost.

So, read it!
While NZ may think that their troubles are local – there are many critical elements of its troubles that are very much global and also relevant to others.

In a vice-grip: Construction sector grasped by turmoil

Image from here:

Friday, May 18, 2018

There is ONE critical thing every building-project owner should know about BIM!

When it comes to BIM, the industry seems to split neatly over two groups:
One, a tiny one is made up of those that publicly accept to know absolutely nothing about BIM and are happy to stay as such.
The other, a significantly larger group consist of almost everyone else and they are the ones that know ‘everything’ about BIM.

This state of affairs has its amusing side, mostly for those that truly know ‘something’ about BIM (but are of course in the ‘know everything’ assemblage) – at every opportunity when the ones that ‘know very little’, expose their BIM ignorance lavishly, through stating/discussing/teaching ‘facts about BIM’.

I’ve spent many-many years patiently (or less so) debunking some of those ‘facts’, with very little impact on their ability to grow and flourish and reach incredible levels of fiction by now.

Not surprisingly though gradually, self-preservation has triumphed over my altruistic tendencies to create a ‘well informed – BIM literate industry’ and I stopped trying to put right every BIM-mislead soul I come across in my day-to-day work.
Let them eat their make-believe BIM cake, what do I care?

But even with my newly found ‘better bend than break’ attitude, I can’t help having this misplaced feeling of responsibility to ‘do the right thing’, from time to time.

Like now.
So, here we are, a quick and easy takeaway for all that work in the AEC industry and can be defined as, building-project owners.
This term (for me) includes everybody that purchases from the AEC industry, from small house-renovators that rely on small scale designers-documenters and builders, through groups of people making up boards of trustees of schools, hospitals and other organizations that procure building works from the industry, all the way to unscrupulous developers that get their millions and emotional kicks from screwing anyone that comes across them.

All of you building-project owners, through your journey in realizing some sort of a building-related goal/dream will come across people ‘selling you BIM services’.

They will be wearing the uniforms of architects telling you that you must pay extra, so they can produce their drawings by ‘drawing in 3D’.
They will be kitchen designers that will argue, that you should consider giving them a bit extra for your joinery to be documented in 3D.
They might also be respectable, large contractors claiming to give you a better process (and less variations?) if their P&Gs were expanded to cover some BIM offerings too.
They might be specialist BIM consultants wanting your dollars to check on the design consultants work, or they may be QS’s claiming to calculate quantities better when paid for a BIM-enabled service.

Whoever they are and as much as they are respectable, trustworthy and genuinely nice people, don’t fall for this ploy!

Standard BIM should not cost extra.
iIn fact, the cost of ‘standard services’ of document manipulation within the industry (this includes everything to do with ‘drawings and design’) should be priced to deliver a fit-for-purpose product (usually a building) at an agreed level of quality and at an agreed cost within and agreed time, regardless of how the documents are produced.
Whether done on butter paper in pencil, by flatCAD or full-blown BIM, should have no impact on the services’ cost.

True, each of the three types of media I just mentioned would give the end-users (i.e. the paying client) a different level of ‘enjoyment’ through the process, nevertheless for any of them to be worth paying for, they must be fit-for-purpose.
Building design, at any scale or discipline flavor is not a hamburger meal that can be up or down sized.
It is pretty much a one-size fits all.

So, again, if you are a building-project client – as an individual or part of an organization, you should not be asked (or forced) to pay extra for ‘standard BIM’ even when you are burdened by a government mandated (dog’s breakfast of a) BIM.

BIM, standard BIM. What is (a) STANDARD BIM?
Now, the definition of “standard BIM’ will unlikely to be in any official BIM standard.
Though, I have not checked – reading those makes me depressed.

According to my own, unofficial understanding of everything BIM, the meaning of “Standard BIM’ is everything that is BIM but is not ‘value added’.
Clear as mud?

Think of it like this, if the argument for BIM is that it will foster better communication and co-ordination, identify errors early, reduce rework, reduce costs and overall improve quality of deliverables – then you’d have the right to ask if the pre-BIM delivery of the said service provider was in fact poorly coordinated, full of errors, costlier and of questionable quality?

Unless the BIM enabled deliverer is going for its very first gig, it is unlikely anyone working in pre-BIM era would admit to having produced less than perfect services before they got all BIMmed up, even though we all know, that they all have been and still are, BIM or no BIM.

If you want to easily clarify if something is (or is not) a value-added BIM, here is a tip: was this part of the ‘standard services’ (of the architect, other consultant, contractor etc) before BIM came on board?
If yes, then it is not a value-added BIM (i.e. fully coordinated and buildable drawings, fully accurate as built documents or reliable quantities).

One that is a value-added BIM, addition of FM data into the model (and making the model fully available to the client). Another is providing a ‘buildable’ model, something the contractor can really build off. (very risky and not for BIM amateurs).

Internationally, the role of BIM (Building Information Modelling) is growing exponentially within the construction design and build industry and there is strong momentum to implement and realise its benefits.
Building project owners are responsible for supporting the ‘good intentions’ of this approach as much as the other industry participants. However, it can not become a simple ‘tax’ where any and all costs of BIM-enablement is passed onto these owners.

Unless, of course there is an industry-wide admission that the last 20-30 years of pre-BIM offerings of the industry were less than adequate, i.e. not fit for purpose.

Picture borrowed from here:

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Here is why Autodesk’s monopoly over the Global AEC is not good, not even for Autodesk:

The fact, that Autodesk rules over the Global AEC is not new, it has been in the making for several decades. It started off with CAD, then, when BIM was getting strong enough to stay – it extended over almost anything to do with Construction Information Management.

Almost, I state – as the non-graphical data management is still somewhat outside its claws, i.e. project, people and time document management.
Not that it is not trying to move into those fields too, since there is only so many BIM-CAD licenses the industry can absorb (pay for) at any time and the money-making machinery must keep growing.

Autodesk (and its supporters) will argue, that their supremacy is well deserved, funded on industry-best products and support, but we all know this not to be true, and some of us will even admit to it.
Ever since the first CAD hit the market, there had been viable alternatives for users to chose from and by doing so keep competition live and the suppliers honest.
Almost miraculously, some competition survived over decades and even in the more complex field of BIM, a couple of real contenders for big accounts still exist.

However, this competition is of little use for the industry’s ‘everyday man or company’ as it provides little real choice, in fact by pretending to be there yet having ‘no teeth’, competing companies strengthen Autodesk’s monopoly.

I’ve been known for criticizing Autodesk for many years and people tend to brush it off as ‘sour grapes’ – me being jealous that they’ve beaten Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD into ground – the current software of my choice.
But this is a stand too easy to take and misleading again, as I have been an Autodesk product user (as well) for a long time (longer than ArchiCAD) and at some time or other I used Vico, Sketchup, Tekla, Microstation and numerous high-performance parametric design offerings.

I am a self-confessed ArchiCAD lover but I have also been critical of its owners/developers/promoters for years and have only given up lately on this hobby, given their defeat being so obvious, that is no longer fun trying to cajole them into better performance by public shaming.

So, by all logic, I should also declare defeat and unconditionally succumb to the Autodesk Church, but – no surprises there – I just cannot.
We are being manipulated in every aspect of our lives, pushed towards single choice (or no choice) options where ever that is possible. So, accepting to have a sole source toolset in my everyday work should be easy to do. Yet, I can’t help thinking, that it is in every industry participant’s interest for this to stop happening, in a bizarre way even Autodesk’s followers and Autodesk itself.

Many Autodesk users/supporters will argue, that they are happy with what they have and need no competition.
Their skills and knowledge are global and easy to adapt to almost any country. Autodesk looks after them well, even invites the best to their annual mega-get togethers (for a little bit more bonding and brain washing).
It has nicely sewn up ‘global CAD and BIM standards’, COBie and other possible ‘performance management tools’ thus guarantee across the board use of Autodesk tools.
But I challenge those same people to answer this: if Autodesk told you to wear only black shoes for the rest of your life, would you?
After all, Autodesk knows what is best for you, why stop at your information toolset?
Maybe some would be happy to wear black shoes.

I know many clever, capable, innovative and altogether wonderful people that are swept under the Autodesk spell and that makes me sad.
Sure, they may feel like they are being valued, listened to, paid well and fully satisfied in their serving of the behemoth but, are they really?
Kind of, you are free, can run anywhere, if it is within the confines of Autodesk-land.

What about the young’uns? The ones that are just entering the industry? Is the rigmarole of the Universities’ Autodesk-brain washing effective enough for them to slide into the machinery with no questions asked?  On the lines of any BIM is better than CAD and any CAD is better than hand drawing?
(note: my daughter is going through one of those Uni courses).

And how about the ‘old and wise’ ones? The ones managing companies, projects and countries.
Before they put their signatures to another big Autodesk commitment do they ever ask what alternative there might be and take a real effort in understanding the status quo they are supporting?
Or, are they just happy sticking a company that makes them look legit and forgives them for not being that great in information management, anyway? In a ‘don’t rock the boat’, sort of way.

I can go on, bring in Autodesk’s competitors themselves, too afraid to offer any radical change to the market but focus on hanging to their piece of pie just a bit longer, even when there hardly is a piece to talk about any more, merely crumbs.

Then, of course, there is buildingSmart, with its endless international gatherings and self-back patting that does nothing more than give credence to Autodesk, for ‘playing nicely’ in the Global IFC arena.

And then, sadly, I must mention the tens of thousands of people within Autodesk itself that are possibly and highly likely decent people with good intentions that are unable or unwilling to do anything to level the playing field for the good of all of us.

And talking about the playing field, it can’t be that much fun to be Autodesk (the company) either, a leader in a game this uneven, no matter what money comes from it.
And I am almost sure that the company still feels it is not making quite enough money. The motivation to innovate is not there, only to sell more of the same. (maybe repackaged a little).

But even if I am wrong because, ‘naturally’, zillions of Autodesk fans can’t be wrong in that Autodesk does everything that this industry needs and to the best standard it deserves, there is still an observation I make, that Autodesk and the decision makers of the industry are in a too close a relationship.
Together they stop better and more universal data accessibility and transparency.
Two things that are even more important than innovation and progress and are essential for a clean-and-healthy industry.

I struggle to think of any other major global industry that knowingly prevents a high proportion of its participants meaningfully accessing vital data, yet this is exactly what is happening day in and day out in most of the construction projects.
Sure, company marketing will show engineers pouring over drawings in mud and rain on paper or on their smart tablets, but it remains a well-kept secret what percentage are able to dig to any depth beyond the PDFs?

Autodesk does not seem to be bothered about that percentage possibly (likely) being extremely low either.
The competition is left fighting over the crumbs, themselves unable to initiate real change in real uptake of the tools and the creation and access to quality data.
Consequently, the industry keeps chasing its tail staying the most in-bred, corrupt and murky of industries.

So, going back to my statement from the title, I do not think that the unbridled monopoly of Autodesk on the global AEC market’s graphical information management is good for anyone long (or even medium) term, starting from the industry, through Autodesk, all the way down to the users and consumers.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The straw that broke the camel’s back! The final post for (the first incarnation of) debunkthebim!

Being unemployed is nothing to be ashamed of, one would think. Especially, when one considers it as a short interlude between two highly rewarding positions. After all, one has not spent over 3 decades of one’s own life to hone one’s skills  and then be thrown out as a piece of garbage at the time one is probably best able to fully commit to one’s career without feeling the guilt of underplaying the role of parenthood.

But, of course it is. Being unemployed is to be ashamed of, society dictates.
It is a stigma that one carries, and it becomes heavier as time goes on.
One does not like talking about it and I don’t (to the surprise of many) like to chew over it publicly either.
Even beyond the uncomfortable first couple of weeks when the boot was so strongly edged in one’s backside that is physically hurt, it is hard to accept not to be wanted, let alone stating it openly.
But as so often in the past, I have this (possibly misguided feeling) that sharing one of my stories of the unemployment experiences, may help someone feel a bit better about themselves.

Actually, it is not the fact that one’s skills are no longer valued or wanted, that bothers me so much. These can be rationalized (even by the bitterest of souls) as the workings of the market economy.
Nor is the financial hit that hurts the most.

It is the apparent lack of motivation by others, to treat one as a person any more, the apparent ease, those that have the power to change the ‘unemployed’s’ status one way or other – to seemingly parade this power by …. wait for it… using the strongest of weapons: silence…
That is the real killer.

So, let me share a short, personal story!
For the good fortune of this blog, it is very much a BIM story too, so very fitting to have it published here.
Because it is a real story with real, international and powerful companies involved, I will attach references to relevant communications embedded within a slideshow, with a link added to the end of this post.
A couple of names are blanked out, these are the people that offered their hep out of the goodness of their heart and I do not wish to put them up for any unpleasant exposure.

So, here we go.
I am a BIM person, most people that know me, know that.
(If they don’t know that, they don’t know me).
I have had various titles in my past, starting as an architect, registered architect, project and design - to innovation and BIM implementation managers, but, put simply, I am an ‘old fashioned’ architect trained professional with quite a bit of global, large project delivery experience and in-depth, practical (hands-on) knowledge of BIM use. (call me modest too 😊).

When the opportunity to become a BIM manager for BAM (I know, BIM /BAM) for their freshy awarded, 5 star, YAS, Stadium project in Abu Dhabi, UAE (ref 1) happened, about a month or so in my unemployment, I got very excited.
It came about from a personal referral (ref 2) and soon enough, I got a call from a very pleasantly sounding (I guessed, HR assistant) lady to indicate the company’s intention to have a Skype interview with me.
The lady was upfront enough to say, that she had little insight of the role or project itself, but indicated that both my CV and salary expectations would be passed on straight to the regional BIM Manager of BAM.
(I know, sounds silly too, but this is not an appropriate place to make jokes about the acronyms).
I would be soon (I read: within hours) be contacted about the Skype interview, the lovely lady chirped.

It did not happen.

I would be dishonest to state, that I was not hopping for it to happen, with all my heart, even though I knew the moment the lady said the decision for the person hired to be this particular BIM manager (for BAM) will be made by the (I guessed) general/regional BIM manager (for BAM) as opposed to a clued up and capable Project Director, I knew my chances to get the job were ZERO.

Still, for a further self-torturing exercise, I did a research on who this possible person might be, and all directions pointed to a Mr. Derek Bourke. (Ref 3).

Now, Mr. Burke is possibly an extremely likable chap with a hefty 4.5 years long BIM career under his belt (hmmmm, Ref 4), fortified with a short burst of CAD technician-ship, but no one in their right minds would have expected him to recommend me join the company in any capacity.

OK, my husband did, but he really wanted me to get this job and be happy again.

Moving on.
Nothing happened.
Having past another milestone of applying for yet another 100 or so positions with little or (mostly absolutely) NO feedback, and feeling pretty miserable for it, I retreated back to my trusting old blog and set down to write down the BIM-BAM experience.

However, this event NOT being just another ‘give us a break, we get zillions of applications and who the hell you think you are, to expect special treatment’ case, I though, let’s give the guys a fair go (Ref 5), the opportunity to opt out on a ‘budget for the role is low’, ‘lack of stadia experience by me!’ or whatever other PR statement they’d wish to throw into my direction, yet… surprise, surprise….
Why bother? – A blank, crude and rude ‘silence’ would suffice just the same.

So, here we are.
I did not get the job. Did not even get that blimming Skype interview.

Hey, I can always say, I never wanted it anyway…
Which would be so untrue, as oh, I so did want it.
But will anyone care? of course not…

Yet, (again) I hope, that this little writeup may make someone feel a bit less miserable about being treated like an invisible, yet persistent annoyance, and trust me, most of you are sooooo much more employable, anyway – if you are a man for a start….
Not really keen to get into the big gender debate, but I have still both of my ears buzzing from my past job’s cocky construction managers saying how they come to work to GET away from their blimming, winging wives not to listen to another nag them on. (like me) . Oh, did I say CMs? One was a glorified carpenter with a lot of self esteem problems.

And, while many may think that this writing is pure ‘sour grapes’ – let me instead, call it the turning point.

As indicated in the title, this IS the last of these posts in the debunkthebim.
The squeaky wheel of my self-mockery will no longer need to be oiled, it is to be terminated with this post.
From now on, I intend to dedicate what remaining professional career I have, to something ‘fundamentally positive’.
The naivety of this last statement might make you cringe, but, just for the off chance that I actually get this one right, watch this space.

Some, or most of the past content of the debunkthebim blog will go – so, this could be the time to copy the juicy bits you liked from it or just enjoyed for the guilty pleasure of me taking someone to task you thought deserved it too.

The platform will remain in one form or other, so do stick around.

And again, here is one for all you poor, non-volunteered, unemployed buddies out there! And another for those of you that read this blog over the last 7 or so years.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

HR and the unemployed within the global AEC

I’ve been reprimanded by some, for taking the Mickey out of Carillion’s people laid off due to the giant stumbling a bit and failing a bit and well, going down the tube a bit.

Ok, being unemployed is nothing to joke about.
But surely, HR people can be a fair game. Specially when they are employed.
When they are not, statement one about unemployed applies.

Since there is so little real news in the fields of the mighty BIM these days, while the unemployment market of the industry is ‘enjoying’ yet another of its unacknowledged heights, let’s put the focus on the HR sector of the AEC industry.

Fundamentally, I guess the AEC people-traders are not that different then the ones operating in other industries – which actually is a problem on its own, but I’ll park this issue for now.
I will also not delve into the various (sometimes frankly hilarious) role descriptions they have been operating under, since I started ‘working’ with them over 30 years ago.

Ok, let just mention some, for the fun of it:
Personnel, human resources’ custodians, head hunters, talent acquisitionists…

Before I get into the real fun bits, let me very clearly state TWO things:
1/ I know off, have dealt with and enjoyed the acquaintance, services and generally relationship of numerous (more than one, but say less than 20) exceptional people operating within this segment.
(You know who you are, I value you greatly)
2/ These people (not) mentioned above are so outnumbered by the others that "The exception proves the rule" truism could be taught at schools purely based on this example, so clear cut it is.

I also accept, that the internet made the numbers of applicants these guys must deal with almost impossible to handle, but I refuse to agree to have millions of unemployed treated as idiots because of this.
Maybe they should be forced to list at the bottom of their ads “We are just the gatekeepers to our paymasters. Whether or not you get selected has nothing to do with your training, experience or skills. It is just the luck of a draw – might as well buy a lotto ticket instead”.

These are my other bugbears:
·        The entire HR segment uniformly pretending to have a foolproof science for finding the perfect person for any role. (algorithms, people skills, whatevers)
·        Companies having their own websites that one must fill out with all the details that are in their CVs anyway.
·        Companies using job ads to advertise their own companies at the cost of explaining what the job is about (KEO jumps to mind here as one great offender, but most of the other multis are guilty too);
·        Inability of HR people to understand skill cross-overs, looking ‘out of the box’ for malleable candidates and catering for people not fitting the mold.
·        Abusing the words ‘innovative’, ‘free thinkers’, ‘inventive’, ‘pioneering’ while wanting people that will ‘fall straight into lines without challenging them’.

I also despise:
·        Offers to improve my CV (why not learn to read it, CVs as well as people instead?)
·        Offers to improve ones’ interviewing skills
·        Telling the candidate that there were others much better than him/her, but they will be keeping them on file; (if they do, they will hardly if ever look you up)
·        Repeatedly advertising the same position even after the position is closed.

Even more:
·        Telling people, they are unsuccessful.
·        Not telling people, they are unsuccessful.
·        Being nice to people when telling them they are unsuccessful.
·        Not being nice to people when telling them they are unsuccessful.

When it comes to searching for and placing BIM people into roles, things get even more fun.
Or maybe not fun, actually really scary!

I am yet to meet ONE truly BIM literate HR person, even after 30 years of work all around the world.
I have been interviewed (or decided not to be interviewed) by many totally unqualified on any/all intricacies of BIM.
I have patiently (or less so) set through and answered to checklists of tens (or many-tens) of software packages the ideal candidate was supposed to be versed in to the same group of BIM illiterates.

I often ‘feast’ on all of the BIM roles they invented (sure with a little bit of help of their just as BIM-ignorant clients)
Revit Architects
BIM Design Architect
Senior BIM Project Manager
Revit Drafters and CAD Modellers… (and many more)

Actually, this is now getting really painful.

My real intent with this blog was to show my support not (just) for the Carillion unemployed but for the unemployed of the Global AEC.

Footnote: I have been looking for a nice little illustration for this blog – but could not go pass this HR lady’s profile and all the letters behind her name …. (she MUST know her job)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Carillion goes bust and guess what, it is no one’s fault! In fact, we should all unite to support those that are left without a job!

‘Carillion PLC was a British multinational facilities management and construction services company headquartered in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. It was the second-biggest construction company in the UK.[4] Listed on the London Stock Exchange, the company experienced financial difficulties in 2017, and went into compulsory liquidation on 15 January 2018.’ (Wikipedia).

As someone that watched with interest how Leighton (a similar Australian ‘giant’) went down, or pretended not to, but still did, I experience a lot of feelings of a de ja vu in hearing the news regarding Carillion.
Having followed the machinations of Balfour Beatty and numerous other global counterparts over the years, I have formed my views on what is behind this ‘little stumble’ of Carillion.
(note, the UEA partnership is in no way effected – say the news, so Al Futtaim guys, rest easy).

Yet, and entirely predictably, the good Brits are all very sorry and compassionate with the ones left without a job due to the unfortunate turn of circumstances.
HR consultants are falling backwards to give these souls a leg up into another career somewhere just as lucrative and (hopefully) stress free as working for Carillion was.

After all, it was not their fault.
Or was it?
Was it management?
Or was it not?
Where had management came from? Who put them in their cushy chairs?
What about the clients?
Oh, no, it was the industry.  The crises.
We had a crisis recently, haven’t we? We must have had. The AEC is all about crises.
Unpredictable too. Crises and all. Did I say crises?

I am sorry, but this is all so ‘back to kindergarten’ behavior.
No one to blame. No one to fault. No responsibility. Hold hands tight. Sing loudly.
Or keep your mouth shut, make sure the circle survives intact.

Please, do me a favor. Let Carillion sink.
Let the good people employed by it join me and others looking for work and fight the fight for the right to work out on merits, capabilities, credits, experience.
Let the good ones thrive, let the bad ones drop.

Yeah, I know it will not happen. Not this time. Maybe not even next time.

But I keep trying.

Footnote: Large ‘national’ construction companies had never been too far in their attitude to life from banks and financial institutions. Too big to fail, too big to care. Ocean liners, built for fair weather sailing only, when it gets a bit rough, leave the passengers in the water as fish-food – the captains are the first to flee. Again, the industry is littered with them, they lose nothing, move to the next ocean liners to blob on until things get rough.

Footnote 2: Quoting Paul Gibson: ‘If it wasn't for the fact that genuine hardworking individuals weren't caught up in all this and decent well-run companies also then it would be bloody laughable.’ After 30 years in the industry, where I always considered myself to be a ‘genuine hardworking individual’ – (and show me one, that does not think that of themselves, my ex-Leighton mates Hamish and Jeremy come to mind, not to talk about a lot of top Brit executives too) – I do lean towards the idea that we all (within and outside the industry) have the industry we deserve. After all, the behavior that causes these ‘shocks and after shocks’ is in no way new or concentrated to any particular country or area – so why aren’t we doing anything about it?

Monday, January 1, 2018

AEC Millennials, where are you? Where is your voice? Here is a New Year’s resolution you might like to consider!

I am 52 years old. And not a particularly young 52 either. My hair is grey, and my body shows the age. I forget things, can’t read without glasses and am not particularly agile.
And I work in the AEC industry. Have been for over 30 years. And all this time, I have been fighting a non-winnable war against its global cronyism, corruption and archaic ways of doing things (even of its mundane tasks).

I have done both theoretical and practical research over 3 decades, across all phases of design and construction and spanning almost all continents.
I written many, many words in my blog and upset at one point or other almost every major player (design or construction firm, software developer and HR provider) that there is.

I made enemies and secret admirers. I get open treats and couched support messages.

Yet, what still takes me by surprise, is the action or lack of, of the young people, entering the industry and functioning within it.
While I accept, that it takes a long time to understand the carefully hidden corruptive practices of the industry, the backwards ways of its information management must be obvious to anyone that had spent even the shortest time within it, let alone the Millennials, that have grown up ‘digital’.

“The most popular definition says, that Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.” (Wikipedia)

So, they are now in their late thirties at most and late teens at least.

Without going into complex statistics, as a rule of thumb, if the industry employs people from 18 to 65 years of age, there should be at least 40% of this workforce that falls age-wise into the Millennial category.
Sure, university training will mess up the numbers (though the trade part is often entered at an even earlier age than 18) – and at the other end, some hang around for longer than 65 – but even if this percentage is a conservative 25%, we are still talking about large numbers.

Having 3 daughters within this age-category, I also know from a personal experience that they vary greatly in how they handle digital information, but it is common for all, that by default, they take their information ‘digitally’.
The arty types will, of course venture into pretty diaries, hand written journals and within the architectural corner of the industry hand-sketching, physical model making etc.
But by and large, when it comes to ‘fundamental’ information creation, management and exchange, they will use their phones – pad – laptops – watches….etc.

I intended this post to be for them, so let’s switch to ‘you’.
What interest me, is why do you, when you enter the AEC industry fall so easily and without much noise into its archaic ways of information management?

Why are you prepared to use ‘word’ and ‘excel’ when you likely have ideas, what tools could be developed to do the same tasks more effectively and likely more enjoyably?
Why do you accept that the industry splits into those that create the technical information (draftsmen, modellers) and those that use it (everyone else) and don’t push for more hands-on, engineers and managers? Why do you accept that having a bit of access to Grasshopper or Rhino is the pinnacle of coolness on offer? Why do you ever settle for AutoCAD?

Let me make some guesses, why that is.

Firstly, I know you get hammered with the ‘lack of technical knowledge’ mallet.
It is likely true, that you come into the industry with a significant deficiency in comprehending how buildings come together, but that is not a ‘fault’, it is just the way several things collide to work against you.
(i.e. the education system, the unwillingness of knowledge sharing by those in the known, the relative uniqueness of buildings, the myriad of potential ‘problems’ you face etc. etc.).

Secondly, you get quickly put into a position to pick between furthering your ‘real career’ or carry a label of a CAD-guy (or even BIM-guy) for the rest of your life.
And, if you elect to climb the ‘real’ ladder, you will likely learn better not to question the tools and processes cemented within the system.
On the other hand, if you go the CAD-BIM direction, you may find some satisfaction in being amongst similarly ‘techy’ ones, but you soon find out that you might as well kiss goodbye to engineering or other serious management progression as well as picking your own tools (you can chose anything, as long as it is Autodesk).

If I were you, I’d be really peeved off, having these choices on offer (and only these choices).

But having selected and arrogantly pursued the ‘have your cake and eat it’ mantra over 3 decades at a price too high and bitter for most people to accept, I understand why you do it.

Yet, I can’t help thinking that, the power is there in (and with) you, all of you individually and as a group, just somehow you are not quite seeing it.

So, let me put some bugs into your heads.
The generation that owns this industry has no right to ‘own’ it.
It has no right to blackmail you into submission based on your ‘lack of technical knowledge’. Building buildings is after all, not a rocket science, everything that there is to it, can be collected, recorded, and made available to others.
Create a knowledge database and share it.
Challenge the idea that being a hands-on manager (i.e. creating your own models to supervise construction or project manage others) is something to be ashamed of.
Use the tools on hand and develop new ones to give you an advantage and expose the bluffers.

You tend to be informed customers when it comes to your food and clothing, so don’t just accept blankly that your buildings are documented ‘somewhere else’ (and this is not a blank statement against outsourcing).

I don’t necessarily advocate that you individually risk your employments by being revolutionary and non-conforming, but if organised in a group, you can be a huge force in smartening up the industry, cleaning it up of its dead weight and free-loaders and making it into an industry that the smartest will want to join and be proud to be part of.

So, rather than making a big ruckus, though haven knows, the industry needs it, get yourselves organized and revolutionize by stealth!

Happy New Year AEC Millennials!