Friday, June 16, 2017

Confessions of a BIM practitioner of a ‘dystopian leaning'

First, let me introduce you to the term of ‘a dystopian BIM practitioner’.
I never knew I was one of those, until Mr. F recently called me such.
Don’t get me wrong, I was not offended one bit, just got me pondering over the possible meaning of the term.

True, over many years now, I have been cementing my image in the field, as being forever negative about BIM and its immediate prospects to grow, help productivity, cooperation and innovation.
Still, I always laced my grumblings with a some optimism and hidden signs frozen in invisible snow, for ways forward, in even the most of my negative of outbursts in the blog.

Maybe, that wink at a brighter future was missed by others.
Maybe, I have gone a bit too far with criticism of those involved with BIM and overall the outcomes of their endeavors.
Maybe, I hurt too many of well-meaning, little BIM ants.

First, many years before it became live, I predicted, that the ‘British wholesale BIM Mandate’ was not going to work – even though the letters behind the names of those driving it, could complete the entire alphabet, I guessed, that all of them  put together could hardly model a barn or a small outhouse at any LOD, even if their life was depending on it.
Let alone schedule things out of it, or COBie it.
It was a lot of theoretical BS (and I do not mean ‘British Standard’), spread over aggressively in a country always eager to lead the world, and the slight whiff of it is still hanging on. 

Then, I’ve been forever poking pins in the voodoo doll of ‘Building Smart’ and its voodoo baby, the IFC – pointing out all the issues of the BIM equivalent of the ‘United Nations’ trying to run one of the largest global industries, based on a toxic mixture of corruption and ignorance.

Then, I got even more brand specific, called Revit a ‘dog’ (many times) and analyzed/described its impotence in minute details, hurting the feelings of many a follower of that particular software.
(I am feeling really bad about that now, many are good folk, just totally misguided that sold their souls and abilities of critical thinking for the sake of their careers).
My guess is still, that once they, themselves will feel sill, when they truly face up to the fact that for decades, they have been pushing a ‘horse-cart’ under the cardboard mockup of a Ferrari and pretended to be at the forefront of the industry.
(their own children may help in this realization in times to come – comparing the super-duper Revit's lack of capabilities to cheap-or free off the shelf applications these children use).

Bizarrely, I have been even more cruel on my truly beloved ArchiCAD, treating it as a clever and sleek, but mostly useless gadget, when put to the task of shaping the future of the Global Construction Industry.
A often see the direction ArchiCAD is following as if putting a pair of designer, round glasses or a black turtleneck on an (professionally impotent) architect. And selling this achievment to the global AEC world, time and time again, as a true innovation.

Still, rather than thriving to be ‘the Banksy of the BIM world’ (how pretentious that would be!) or secretly dreaming of streaking naked through an international BIM conference with a provocative slogan scribed to a sign,
I do spend substantial amounts of my thinking on positive thoughts and search for the solutions on how the potential of ‘this BIM thing’ could really be realized in this industry, taking into account all of its weaknesses and limitations.

Consequently and purely expressing my own judgment, I think that makes me much more of a BIM-mer of utopian, as opposed to dystopian qualities.

For example, I still believe that ‘paperless construction’ is a viable way to go.
Starting from a smallish, but hermetically controlled (full cycle) construction project and growing it bigger and bigger, it is truly possible to rattle the cage of speculative building practices that thrive globally, given the right people and environments.

I have a fetish for American law dramas, for one reason only.
You do get two sides of any one story, almost no matter what the price of it is, or outcome.
Sure, some may involve weak, court appointed fighters but the fight is still real, two sided, even if uneven.  (I would settle for that in the current BIM arena).

I do everything to make people stop buying into a ‘BIM dogma’.
BIM has long become a dogma? When there is only one way, one solution, one thinking.
The innovation and positive change stooped happening. The truly useful people, left the field.

In summary, me still being here, writing blog-post after blog-post, when I do not feel like writing any more, is not about being positive or negative, dystopian or utopian,

It is to urge people to fight for the ability to, without fear and negative consequences, challenge decisions that cut through the day-to-day life of their work and the future of the industry, that is bloody big.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Debunking another BIM myth: FM enabled BIM models do not automatically pop out of Construction BIM models

For years I’ve been consistently preaching that BIM can be started at any point of a construction project lifecycle and it can be successful. Unfortunately, the level of success is closely linked to skills, motivation, depth of participation etc., but regardless of the multitude of variables, I am still comfortable to state, that given the right tools, people and attitudes any BIM (started at any time in the project) can be made at least cost neutral if not a significant source of savings in time and/or money.

With the potentials of early ‘clash detection’ wearing off a bit, and contractors staying lukewarm on fulfilling their ‘mandated BIM requirements’ let alone strongly leading the field of adoption, promoters of BIM tools and services are nowadays returning to the easiest of ways to convince clients (building owners) to put their money into the black hole of BIM, that is the ‘final’ outcome of the process, the FM-ready models.

In all mainstream BIM strategies, FM models sit at the end of the chain of Ds – numbered from the 6th D onwards, following the 3 spatial Ds, cost and time.
They are often used as the motive (excuse) for forcing BIM onto projects in the first place – i.e. during design and construction. Especially in cases where BIM is not mandated, the contractor not skilled in it and/or the client is reluctant to take the risks associated with the approach, the carrot of an 'FM ready model popping out at the end of the process' is often the one to tip the scales towards doing BIM.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with this approach, especially when one believes in any of the zillion carefully crafted ‘BIM lifecycle diagrams’ on the internet (and presented at conferences by respected BIM specialists - see a random selection below) most of them circular and never ending.

Unfortunately, principles and theories are often at odds with reality and there is a fundamental flow in the above line of thinking, that ‘a’ model will roll around the colored circular board of the host building's lifecycle without a significant ‘waste’ of efforts.

‘Waste of modelling efforts’ is a major ‘thing’ among those that know little of the realities of BIMming but are deeply invested into it. I recall many horrified faces of the past, when I suggested a model get built ‘from scratch’ for one reason or other. One such event I am reminded of daily, as I drive past on the way to work is related to the now almost fully finished Mafraq hospital.

Some 6 or so years ago, there was a huge push to make history with the ‘full BIM-ing’ of the project, mandating it across all disciplines during construction. Having surveyed the skills, capabilities and general environment, I did ask the Project Director of the Main Contractor what was the primary goal of the exercise. (apart from rocketing two shiny-suit BIM experts into regional BIM stardom and discrediting anyone that was brave enough to ask questions – like me).

Her answer was, that the main reason to do BIM, while the construction was going on is ‘to end up with an as-built model ready for FM’.
My suggestion to her then, was to employ a carefully crafted 2D/3D environment for the creation and assessment of shop-drawings (yes, I already was hooked on the concept of ‘virtual’ skeletons) and then, just before the completion of the building, build a NEW FM ready model.
Needless to say, I was laughed out of the door, and soon enough, I lost my involvement on that particular project.
But as I drive past the building complex these days, I do wonder if they have a working/operational FM model in place.

Rather than taking a ‘I told you so’ moment, let me illustrate my point in two ways – one a bit flippant, then with some substantiation;

BIM models are not transformer-action figurines and one must understand that the ‘Horses for Courses’ rule definitely applies when one gets into BIM. A good design BIM does not necessary leads into a good construction BIM (model or process) nor does a successful construction BIM effort finish off (automatically) with a FM ready BIM model.

Therefore, FM BIM models must not be thought of as construction models with another coat of data added to them
It would be like gradually dressing up a bride with all detailed, heavy accessories, jewelry, make up, hairdo, shoes etc. etc. and once she is fully geared up, make her run a marathon in this attire.

On a more serious side, let’s really look at the ‘type’ of BIM models.
I crudely classify them under two groups:
A/ Hi graphics, low data
B/ Hi data, low graphics

In Group A, are the ‘standard’ models most people are familiar with, the ones that change through various LODs from design through construction. Walls modeled by architects morph into construction elements created by contractors, conceptual trusses get replaced by full Tekla models done by steel subcontractors, mechanical zones allocated by designers, filled by highly detailed HVAC elements provided by specialist software used by D&B parties.
Meta data (the non-graphics stuff) can be added into these models but it is rarely done and even less in a controlled manner. (forget COBie).

In Group B, are the models that are rarely made, but have their purpose especially post construction for FM. They are light in graphics for ease of manipulation, but have lot of meta data connected to elements, in various forms, Word documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, website links, movies etc.

In an ideal world, an A type (say LOD 5) as-built-construction model would easily convert into a B type (LOD 300) FM model, but this is not the case, even though various software developers and library manufacturers promote the ability to scale up or down their model parts. Even the concept of ‘purging’ down a construction model to an FM-one is not very practical in reality – once man hours needed to this are compared with those necessary to build a model from scratch.

There just does not seem to be a lot of interest in understanding and resolving this issue within the industry.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The lifecycle of a detail – BIM and butterflies

This post started off as a response to a comment on a previous one, then, coincidentally I had to deal with a ‘what LOD and when to specify – why remodel the same thing over and over – who is doing what – what is the point of it – etc’ type of (very typical) BIM question somewhere else and decided to give another go to bring the ‘fairy tale BIM’ sphere closer to the real world of design, procurement, construction and post construction O&M.

And to do this using a description of the lifecycle of a (fairly) typical construction detail.
Now, anyone with 2 feet on the ground of the real construction world will say, that everything written (and illustrated here) is no rocket science, but common practice.
Yet, a lot of these well-grounded gentlemen (and a few ladies) will make the ‘leap of faith’ when they get sprinkled with the golden dust of the BIM fairy and expect/believe that, the same lifecycle will not happen once linked to the magical BIM box, or if it does, they will have little to do with needing to aid the creature through its development stages, since this BIM will make it all ‘automated’.

Admittedly, my main and real reason for writing this post, is to float (again) the belief that buildings are ‘A set of 3D grids and critical points‘, that define it and the management of those will make the info management of the building succeed or fail, no matter if the approach is fully manual, pure 2D CAD, a forced conglomerate of 2D/3D or a sleek real BIM (of as many Ds you like).

That sentence I just wrote, is a mouthful, but do read it again.
Trust me, zillions of dollars (and other currencies) and just as many man hours are flushed down the loo daily all over the word, because of those involved in the process do not understand this little ‘secret’.

In the past, I tried to use all sorts of parallels to explain this idea, from the ideas of visual skeletons, to coatracks fixed in space, but I still find myself meeting blank stares when I try sharing this as the ‘BIG secret’.
So, today, I will make another attempt to describe the concept of the ‘internal grid’ of a building (any building) through the lifecycle of ‘a detail’ (any detail).

First, a little bit more musing on ‘grids and points’. Grids within buildings are not new and have been used for centuries. Those are the setout lines that drive the way building elements are spaced and relate to each other. These grids are 2D and represented (mostly) in plans. They are then, complemented in the space with the 3rd dimension (that are usually represented by stories and levels). So, with the help of these references, in theory at least, anything within a building could be located exactly within the space.
For a successful project, these references get fixed as soon as it is possible, and are not moved. Ever.

Of course, one must stop here for a moment and note, that in the current world of squashed-up design timeframes, speculative developments and general fluidity of (not just) the design but the brief and even the fundamental end-use of most construction projects, this goal of a permanent virtual skeletong it is often an almost impossible thing to achieve.

Designs evolve, grids get moved, storey levels get changed – entire floors added or deleted etc., in spite of all of that, critical efforts must be made, that the internal grid (skeleton, coatrack) is maintained and controlled. Because, if it is, the rest is sooooooo much easier.
And I mean, everything, getting IFC drawings, as-builts, shop-drawings, or magical, know it all 3-7D (+) models.

So, imagine a detail. Any detail, really, scooped out of a finished building.
Now, think of it as the cliché butterfly from the ‘caterpillar-to-butterfly’ story of your biology classes of the past.

This detail of yours will (must) evolve in a similar way, but with many more stages involved, and a ‘hell-of-a-lot’ more human intervention and a ‘hell-of-a-less’ predictability than its natural parallel.
But, it is still a pretty good example of how any part of a building must to go through its development, no matter what approach you choose, from a traditional Design-Tender-Construct, fast track to D&B.

You can bring in the ‘magic painters’ that will paint the dots on the butterfly early in, but with little use, if your caterpillar is still merrily chewing on the green leaves.
You could try though, to hasten the process by having the ‘dot painting magical painters’ being in the right place when the right time arrives, by say fixing the caterpillar to a certain place so there is no time wasted in chasing it, at the correct time.
I know, this sounds loopy, even to me.

Let’s try again.
Think of a precast wall. Someone (likely an architect) will set out, that ‘a wall’ will be a precast type.
That wall will then (possibly by a structural engineer) chopped into pieces and the sizes determined. Then, likely the pieces will be designed by a specialist subcontractor, who will prepare connection shop drawings for someone to approve.
Before that happens (or in parallel), a main contractor will likely prepare shop-drawings linked to those precast elements piles, connecting slabs, roofs etc. Hundreds of people will be involved in creating drawings, models, drawings-and-models describing this particular wall from the time it was only 2 lines drawn by an expensive pen through (maybe) a smart, but still linear 3D+ wall element, through lines again as a set of plans and elevations to (maybe) a smart prefab model for the specialist subcontractor.

People that devise sophisticated BIM workflows spend a lot of time, trying to line up the above participants and force them to use one, or at least a small number of fully-integrated and compatible models. They go into significant efforts to use and reuse models and not ‘waste them’.
Yet a properly used and discarded model part, like the chrysalis’s shell is totally acceptable collateral ‘damage’. It is the retaining of the critical spatial position of various elements and their critical relationships that will truly guide a wastage of time and efforts.

Aiming for a fluid BIM approach I still see as an honorable goal, but is unlikely to work without, (you guessed) the proper management of the virtual building skeleton (the grids and points).
So, if you want a good BIM manager, you may ask at the interview from the proposed candidate, ‘How he/she maintains the health of her building skeletons?’ (you will need to know what answer to expect too, but I leave that for another time).

As a read through this post, I feel it disjointed and all over the place – so, I do try to pull together a meaningful end. I also look for a good illustration of the point I wish to project here.
Believe it or not, I have practiced this mantra of the ‘sacred skeleton’ I am preaching here for you over at least 2 decades and on hundreds of buildings and have many good examples.
In my search I found a little 3D PDF file that I will share with whoever would like to look at (email it. You can use LinkedIn messaging to ask for it too.

I hope Naylor Love will not mind me sharing the file, but take the gesture as my nod of compliments to their visionary director Scott Watson, who some time ago walked for a while with us on our journey to reshape the world of construction.

So, rather than giving you a meaningful ending, apart from the message that I sprinkled through the post ad nauseam, I am sharing you an example of a 3D PDF – that was made a good 10 years ago (this is just a ‘make believe one,’ but we made many of real and important buildings too) – an approach and technology I am yet to see anywhere else – even close to it.

Make sure you enable the 3D features of the pdf and remember, it is a PDF.

Monday, May 8, 2017

ArchiCAD 21 – New Stair Tool

Sorry Graphisoft, I can’t get enthusiastic about your new stair tool.
Not just because Andrew Watson (from a place even less known than Palmerston North, NZ – and that means a truly tiny dot on the map of NZ) has created a pretty serviceable stair tool some 15+ years ago and Cadimage had spent over a decade in promoting it and selling it to the ArchiCAD-users’ world, but because, while the stakes are so high in the industry of what way (if any) it should be heading to get out of the dark ages, you could/should be doing some really groovy stuff in showing the way.
Yet, you launch a ‘stair tool’.
I mean, really?
How about a pen -colour manager or layer selector or text aligning tool?
I said it before, and not just once: repackage your product, call it an ‘all encompassing, constructing BIM tool’ and you’ll do more good to the industry than any type of new tool development.
Get out of this comfort zone of “we are the architects’ tool’’ and the ‘designed by architects for architects’, once maybe cool but now extremely dated mantra, and attack the industry head on.
Show us, your party faithful that have stuck with you for 1, 2 even 3 decades, that you still know how to spin the wheels in the industry and will not be relegated to the lower ranks of solution-providers that craft entire road shows around pitiful improvements on previous releases.  
Show us, and the world what you truly are made from!

I know, you do not listen to me, you have never, not over the years.
I know, you do not care about the personal investment of many (like me) that mastered your tools to exceptional levels at high personal price.
You may care a bit (but probably not enough) about the investment companies made into purchasing your tools and shaping their own workflows around it over year (if not decades).
But you should care about the future of your own product as its development, marketing and generally placing on the market is seriously getting off the track, even in ‘safe’ countries like your (and my) ‘own Hungary.

My dear, beloved, ArchiCAD and Graphisoft. Please wake up!
Promoting a stair as the central innovation for this year, really?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The biggest secret, those with vested interest in BIM do not want you to know!

If you are, or have been involved with BIM in any sort of form, move past the cheesy headline of this post and think: are you truly confident that this ‘BIM’ thing is working?

That an approach that arguably has been in existence for 3 or thereabouts decades, had everything going for it in the way of technological developments (hardware, software) and is serving one of the biggest global industries – made almost no impact on the world-and its targeted industry in real (and even less positive) sense.

Sure, people involved in it (including myself) are able to rattle lists of areas where BIM ‘is useful’, ‘may save money…xxxx % or more’, ‘raise productivity’ or ‘help achieve targets’, but these claims are often fuzzy and unsubstantiated and never scientifically quantifiable.
After all, there almost never are two projects available with exactly the same set of base conditions, done in parallel, one with and one without BIM.
And even if there were, who is to say that the personnel of one would not make one work (there are still plenty on non-BIM projects that perform well) or the other fail, for a successful and valid appraisal of the entire approach.

There are many BIM professionals, that have managed to squeeze out a career of BIM, spanning 1-2+ decades and had done well from partaking in never-ending travelling circuses called ‘BIM conferences’. Most have instinctively learned, to fine tune their stories that accompany the same set of 3D slides of pipes, columns and complex staircases, to the ultimate BIM truth, they themselves have figured out: they’d done everything they could, but the industry is ‘just reluctant to change’.

But, that is an easy way out, both for the said practitioners and the industry.
Surely, there is more to it, than ‘just’ accepting that an industry that employs zillions is purely made up of the type of people, that cannot recognize, what is good for them and ‘do as they are told’.

So, here is the secret, I was referring in the headline:
BIM is not working, because, it is a fundamentally an approach designed and built for a ‘collective psyche’ while the industry on all levels (from very small, to very large) works mostly on the success and even more, failure of the ‘individual’.
In an environment where the existence of the individual is constantly threatened, the individual’s focus is on survival as opposed to investing in skills and efforts for a ‘better (BIM) world’.
Sure, some people will train in BIM to enhance their chances of employability, but ‘one Revit modeler will not make global BIM’ not even a hundred thousand of them.
A company, similarly may write an elaborate BIMmisation Plan to enhance its market presence, but all of that is just window dressing, when it comes to true BIM empowerment of the industry.

If one carefully examines the fundamentals of the approach as presented by ‘leading BIM practitioners’ to identify the reasons for its failures, one must wonder if this is some sort of a bizarre, left over virus, that escaped from the dying communist era and is relentlessly sharing the mantra of ‘play together nicely’.
Even more bizarre is that they are targeting the global industry that is probably up there with international politics on its inability to ‘play nicely’, at any level.

So, let me say it simply: BIM does not work, cannot work, unless every part of the organism it is applied to practices it in full. Meaning: buys into the philosophy of it and works it ‘hands-on’.
Let me not elaborate on the exact level of ‘hands-on’-ness here, as there obviously are different levels allowed for different parts of the ‘organism’ but it is important to note as illustration the cliché, that the ‘chain is only as strong as its weakest link’ - or the one that refers to absoluteness as ‘one cannot be partially pregnant’.

There cannot be functional BIM projects with partial uptake – no matter whether they are single houses or international airports. Similarly, companies cannot claim BIM success, with uptake of less than close to a 100%, again, regardless of the scale, a 2-3 people boutique architectural studio or an AECOM-type giant, spanning the globe.

If this claim of mine does not ring true for you, then maybe ‘you’ are better informed than me and have seen ‘real’ improvements in the industry from partial BIM dissemination here-and-there, through selected trainings, single-digit software purchases, pilot projects and government-mandated showcases – or maybe are just blinded by own vested interests in the above trainings, software development etc. etc and unable to see the truth.

Hoping and promoting that ‘gradual’ improvement will lead to high levels of uptake from the above named endeavors, is also false if not straight misleading to those less informed on the topic. If a company of 200 trains 5 people in any BIM software, than the company gets just that, 5 people that had done a training (not even sure that those will grow into anything BIMishly useful).

If an airport project, that employs thousands mandates an ‘evolving BIM modelling approach’ that is created and truly accessible by a small ‘BIM group’ (and often totally out of whack with the rest of the project), than the project is getting exactly that: a handful of people with some modelling skills playing forever catchup within a real project.

In reality, nothing wrong with either as long as everyone knows what they are getting for what.

Let me close on a positive note: I am a BIM believer, have been for 3 decades and I believe that where close to 100% uptake is achieved, its success is inevitable. Nothing less, nothing more.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

(possible) Roles of BIM in managing Variations

Variations are the bread and butter of the industry.
This is, of course not something that people will willingly admit to, after all it gives a bad image to accept that the ‘oil’ of the industry is something that should be eliminated by all logic of fair markets.
Add to this, that for years almost all BIM promoters used the ‘No Variation’ promise to sell the idea of the industry (or at least their direct targets) upgrading to BIM – and considering the advancement of Mandated BIM in recent years by that logic, there should be little left to combine BIM and Variations, apart to keep promoting that when BIM works, no Variations will occur, or if they do, they happen so early in the project that their cost/time impacts are insignificant. (visualize here those curvy graphics that give absolute ‘proof’ to this theory).

Yet, I think that those prepared to analyze and understand the reality of the industry without constantly looking through rose-tinted glasses, and what variations do to all participants on a daily basis will find BIM (in almost any shape or form) useful when tackling variations, regardless of what side of the ‘variation fence’ they may be sitting.

One area is ‘Visualizing Claims’.
Nowadays a claim for a variation (and/or EOT) will include massive numbers of drawings, BOQs, complicated P6 schedules and often lengthy narratives. Yet, a series of screenshots of even a rudimental 3-4D model will tell the same story in a much more powerful way. For the latter to happen, one would of course need someone that had the ability to make or at least manage models, be able to interrogate and eyeball commercial managers, planners, delay analysist and the like, while often being mocked and  looked at as techy-jockeys of pretend-sciences.
Regardless, if one is prepared to go beyond these somewhat unpleasant treatments and persevere and win the support of the claiming – or claim assessing teams – the results could be really pleasing for all.

So, BIM-mers out there with a bit of ‘oomph’ give it a go and plant yourselves within your organization’s Claim teams. Trust me, nothing beats the joy of successfully visualizing a screwed up critical path or uncovering the knock-on effects of a small omission in a Claim. It does help to be highly conversant in modelling and have a good handle on how buildings are put together as well as be aware of the tactics QS-s and Planners usually use to pull the wool over each other’s eyes – but some of these skills can be developed even while the BIM Claim exercises are under way.

The next step of BIM involvement would be assisting in ‘Quantifying Claims’
This part is definitely not for the faint hearted of the BIM practitioners. No matter how much is said in BIM promos on ‘Automatically Getting quantities off BIM models’ – one needs to know how to model ‘construction style’ and derive quantities comparable to traditional BOQs understood by average QS’s. Still, when it works, it works beautifully. In a supporting environment aligning the two sides – construction modellers and claim (creating or assessing) QS’s could be and should be possible.

I kept this post pretty generic, I do know, of course how to write very detailed ‘how to’ instructions, for both approaches (could be called Standard and Advanced version of BIM support to Claim Management); Anyone interested to know more, contact me through my LinkedIn profile.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Playing with fire – the high risk of forcing uncontrolled BIM to vital infrastructural and other important assets

Well, 2016 is behind us.

From the point of big BIM success stories, this was meant to be the big year, the one delivering the UK-spearheaded, Government Mandated ‘solve-it-all’ BIM.
And the plan to set it in motion may have achieved everything it was supposed to do, I am in no position to tell. Years ago, I lost my interest in watching/reading/listening the insincerely fashioned, and over time regularly re-fashioned BIM experts, telling and retelling the same story of how BIM was the big thing, but  only in the way they did it, in the meantime little real improvement was felt in the trenches.

As 2016 was crawling to its kitschy, shiny end, I occasionally did get worried, that by failing to rub myself close enough to the shiny-suits that matter, I will totally miss out on the real action when it finally truly happens in BIM, but somehow also clung onto a philosophy that if things ‘really were happening’ amongst the innovators, some morsels would trickle down to the ones like myself and would entice me on time into pulling on the BIM-fighter clothing again, just to keep putting the proverbial bread on the table.
Based on the evidence of people I meet daily in my real work, I can state, that 2016 has not delivered the ‘BIM revolution’, and it has a long way to go, for it to be able to make any real impact within its host industry.

Based on this perception of the state of BIM, so BIM-apathetic had I become, that my once busy blog – I have all but totally neglected – while its readership is (almost bizarrely) constant (and growing!)

Consequently, I had no intention  in starting the New Year with writing a blogpost on anything BIM-ish when I got out of bed today, and would have likely spent the day mosaicking, had I not just returned from a two week holiday.
A half-a-globe holiday trip on a cheap has its certain characteristics, meaning a lot of airlines and airports have been involved. Watching airline security for hours did something to me.

Strange that, Even the make-believeish part of it, that is visible for the average Joe, like me is not that exciting – one could say. Since 9/11 we have learned not to make silly jokes while being tapped down or up, or mock or treat with understated importance of the officers on duty. Apart from, maybe my mother, who at 76 and having criss-crossed the world a couple of times, still has the guts to place a full size canister of hairspray in her hand-luggage and shrug it off as something she did know once caught. (true story).

OK, I know, we know, everyone knows, that emptying my husband’s 300 pockets 5 times before you let him on the plane; make him pull out his belt while holding up jeans not meant to stand up without them and fishing his laptop from the bottom of a bottomless bag  IS ALL part of a pure psycho- strategy to get us all behave like sheep but believe to be ‘looked after’.  Most of the real security happens behind the scenes, based science and pseudo-science, on algorithms, risk calculations, tip-offs and simply picking up the guys that tend to be trouble, or something like this.

Still, one thing came out of me watching these procedures performed in various location and using numerous languages over the last couple of weeks.
It reminded me of a blogpost (serious one too) that I have been meaning to write for a long time.

So, here we are:
For numerous years Governments internationally have been targeted as the possible biggest beneficiaries of the ‘mainstream’ BIM pushed by the shiny-suits.
These ‘shiny-suits’ being the paid experts of various companies taking on the roles of BIM-pioneers, yet often lacking in appropriate knowledge or experience for such roles.
It is hard to find an airport, metro, hospital, museum, mall sport or cultural centre globally under development  without a ‘living’ BIM plan attached to it and zillions spent on consultant’s fees, on making them look like there was a functioning BIM guiding the process.
According to the shiny suits, BIM is not only supposed to save a lot of money on these undertakings (remember: clash detection) but also bring ALL sub-contractors to create a singing dancing (anything up to 7D) coordinated digital model.
A model that was managed by an often uncertain party (you know, the CAD guy from the main contractor that speaks one of Autodesk’s many languages) while construction going on, and than handled to FM guys to ‘make use’ of all of the charmingly and so aptly named BSxxx, COBIE and other adages given to the model parts by the highly-competent (not) outsourced subcontractor modellers.

While I was still somehow involved in setting up or managing the implementation of plans described above, I often set through ‘cutesy’ meetings where various people in the know, argued about the ‘ownership’ of parts of the model, mostly parts they themselves created and were unwilling to put in the pot. Yet, rarely I remember discussing the security risks on behalf of the owners of the final products of creating, good/or/bad, but still highly detailed, information laden digital replicas of vital infrastructural and other important assets without having a lot of clue on how these files will live on once the buildings are finished. Seldom was it mentioned of the risk of the creation, storing, managing, sharing of data and given believable assurances that sound steps were taken.
So mesmerised (even the otherwise savvy) owners of these BIM mandated-assets by their technological advancement tended to become, that even normal questions of data security was left unasked, and the specialist got away by serving up straight BS mumbo-jumbo to the ones brave enough to ask.

I did have one different experience, more than 10 years ago, where the PM acting on behalf of the Government Client did seriously question the process – to the extent that he wanted to lock up our modeller in a secret location 24/7, but that was definitely the exception to the rule.

So, the point of this blog today is to raise this question, motivate those that write, read and implement ‘War&Peace’ sized BIM Plans for vital infrastructural and other important assets to include realistic, proven, doable sections on how the modelling data will be managed in a way not to get into hands they shouldn’t, or how to behave (the data) when they actually do get into unprofessional hands or people set on causing damage.

The idea of Digital cities have been a tantalising one for a long time, even I’ve seen a city major or two get all teary eyed by the idea of all its infrastructure and building work digitalised, but when this data is managed by quasi experts or those with hidden and questionable agendas, the BIM-thing starts becoming much less of a good idea on a large scale and those acting to protect their clients’ interests should do everything to come up with their knowledge and fill the holes.

Now, I could close this post by saying that I am a perfectly experienced and qualified expert to advise exactly those client representatives, but then, who would believe me?
By no means could I claim to know the answer on every question (just as no other ‘security expert’ could) – but if the questions are not asked, there is little chance of the risks being rightly identified and dealt with.
Seem to be easier to just cross fingers behind ones back and hope everything will be fine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

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

Digital Platform based Shop-drawing assessment

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

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

Luckily, there exist an approach practiced by some on the fringes of the BIM fraternity that helps with this issue.
This particular approach, described below is also shown graphically here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

But no, it is not ‘just’ a tool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

It never got off the ground.

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

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

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

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

Nice ideas, sadly unrealistic.

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