Thursday, August 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Women in Construction should stop worrying about the glass ceiling!

Women in Construction should stop worrying about the glass ceiling and focus on appreciating the glass cage they are afforded.

I rarely, if ever reach for the ‘gender’ card to boost arguments close to my professional heart.
You can look through hundreds of my blog-posts and will see, that it never (or really hardly ever) pops up as an issue, where I acknowledge the fact, that I am a woman and I work in construction.
I write up this approach, (or reluctance to accept gender issues within the industry) to the fact that I grew up in an environment where girls were encouraged to ‘go for the stars’, no matter of the traditional gender of their chosen profession.

The reason for me ‘reaching for the keyboard’ on this not very BIM-ish topic this time, is this sudden surge of companies I see, seemingly elevating their female staff to areas they were barred from before. 
I.e. pushing them through that proverbial 'glass' ceiling to show that this industry is not sexist any more. Giving them awards, certificates and titles.
Sorry, but it is. Sexist, The industry as such,

Again, do believe me, I am not by nature a good female-rights warrior. A bad cook, a mother, have not touched the washing machine in ages.
Yet, even decades ago, in the mid-1980s, I did feel somewhat uneasy when I first enrolled as an Architectural Student,
The Faculty I went for, 'the cream of the cream' of its host country, artificially controlled the ratio of male-to-female applicants it accepted (‘1:3 in favor of the boys’ –  as ‘we must not let the industry become overly womanly’).

Later, from half a globe away, and a fully qualified MSc Construction and Architectural Engineer, I also found myself squirming a bit at the statistics, that showed, that the majority of female graduate Architects in NZ got registered with the Architectural Board decades after their male peers or even more likely, never.
At the time when NZ's Prime Minister was a woman, women architects at annual conferences were still out-numbered by 5 to 1. (good for the ques in the loos, nothing else).

Still, I sort of marched on with my own agenda and plans, for decades, blaming my personal professional failures on anything but gender, lack of experience (early on) naivety (also) broken English, immigrant status, no local network, not well enough prepared for the tasks at hand, lack of technical knowledge, biting off more than I could chew etc. etc. etc.

But then, years went by, and I listened, studied and learned and learned and started seeing the gaps in the profession, gaps of knowledge, experience and expertise in colleagues around me.
Lack of skills they easily got away with, (with much lesser price to pay for it)
No financial penalties or setbacks to their careers.

I can't say often enough how uncomfortable I am to cry 'sexist',
I still truly (and probably foolishly) see myself first a person, a wife and a mother and within the industry a reasonably good BIM practitioner, a lapsed, once conscientious, competently registered but maybe not that talented architect, now a pretty capable Design and Project Manager with strong international experience.
Only last I would state that I am also a 'woman'.

Yet, I tread water when it comes to progress within my career, regardless of my efforts or achievements.
And I constantly make excuses, that excuse those that in fact fail me and the women of the industry.
That, really peeves me off.

Sure, I do not help myself by being perceived as obnoxious, offensive, insulting, provocative challenging, aggressive, disturbing, inconvenient, niggling, troublesome, annoying, difficult, exasperating and irking. 
A troublemaker if you've seen one,

Regardless of that (or even more) , I see people rush by me to higher and higher positions helped exactly by those characteristics.
And yes, they ARE my male colleagues. And they get applauded for the same qualities I am shunned for,

Yes, based on my own experience I do see and smell hypocrisy in this resurgence of the push to support female talent in the industry to 'shine' and 'reach their true potential'.
I may be doing disservice to my ‘engineer sisterhood’ by stating this, but my feeling is that the sudden ‘positive discrimination’ is not the answer we should be looking for.

Maybe, we should call these events for what they are: patronizing PR stunts, and not worthy of us, good, solid engineer-women.

The first step maybe is that the ceiling is not the start, but the cage that precedes it.
The cage that forces us to prove ourselves even on the lowest steps of the industry, time and time again (even though we were right 'on the spot' at the very first time we were examined).

Maybe we should break out of the cage first and then head for the proverbial ceiling.

Or maybe even better, we should leave the industry on mass.
Let it nurture its aggressive, yet dumb practices to full destruction.
Let it promote its obnoxious, offensive, insulting, provocative challenging, aggressive, disturbing, inconvenient, niggling, troublesome, annoying, difficult, exasperating and irking males until the industry implodes on-itself.

Now, that is an idea, my engineer -sisters!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Let them play BIM or force them to ditch paper?

Sometimes, I find that the most useless word, when discussing BIM implementation strategies, is the word ‘useful’.
People tend to over use it to justify ‘playing with BIM’.
Like, ‘BIM was so useful to reduce RFIs’ or ‘BIM was useful for clash-detection’ (my all-time favorite) or ‘it was so useful for our client to visualize the project’ etc. etc.
I don’t know, but for an approach (science?) to be only quantifiable as ‘useful’ after 30 years of active promotion and truckloads of money invested into it, sounds a bit weak to me.

I guess, I have no problem, with people playing with BIM, if it is acknowledged, that what is happening with most BIM-enabled projects is still, a sort of ‘made up play’. A small percentage of people on projects do activities that can be loosely called BIM and loosely qualified as ‘useful’.

But it does no good to the industry nor BIM, when people in high position of global AEC organizations claim ‘you know, we are all BIM’ and ‘it is very useful’. Sure.
And the sky is blue. That can be useful too.

On a parallel topic, a couple of days ago, I read an article from Balfour Beatty (one of my ‘favorite’ companies) predicting what construction will look like in 2050, all robotics, automation, smarts and glitz.
I think the year of 2050 they aimed for, safely places me in the group of ‘unlikely to be around’, yet I would rather happily bet a buck or two now, that none of that will happen, even then.
What any average biscuit factory is able to do now, will still be a struggle for AEC to achieve on a large scale for decades of years to come.

But, hey, we can be optimistic, positive and play with ideas.
Take 3D printers, as an example.
Many visionaries are predicting the true revolution of the AEC industry to be realized through these gadgets.
Just for fun, let me quote a Hungarian comedian’s joke about, how in the future, not only could we just buy a 3D printer and print everything that we need with it, but even better, borrow a 3D printer from someone else and 3D print our 3D printer to print then everything we need. And so on.

Cool stuff. Easy to sell as an idea.
What is not cool is my ‘mighty strategy of the secret weapon that COULD truly change the AEC industry, the strategy of going ‘paperless’.
Not cool, because it is simple, but bloody effective.

For those that like things told honestly, I will spell it out:
Want to change (improve AEC), go paperless!

There is NO better motivation for people to get off their bums, starting top down, from Project Directors all the way down to Document Controllers and change their behavior, then taking away their little ‘helper that helps them survive’.
It is ‘paper’. It is the magic ‘please print me off……’
mantra that gets them off, time and time, from being forced to  perform some true naval gazing and start innovating within the industry.

Get them off their bums and start using, searching, developing, demanding to be developed tools and systems that will assist them doing their core jobs in an environment that does not know of the command ‘Can you please print me off these CAD drawings..’.

For those that like mighty parallels I will spell it out that way too:

Imagine people buying meat in supermarkets. Cool.
Imagine, someone coming in (BIM department head) saying, that, ‘from now on, we will no longer buy meat at the supermarket but will need to hunt’.
Still, will do nothing to stop us going to the supermarket.
Would people suddenly be forced to hunt? No, sure not. (and a one day ‘hunt training’ means nothing either)

OK, maybe not a good parallel, but there is a message to ponder.

Yes, in a ‘mandated’ BIM company, people will parrot the mandated BIM mantra, because they are told to do so and it is good for the image of the company, from Project Directors down to Document Controller.
But none will change their own behavior, unless really forced or inspired.
They will remain to rely for their ‘BIM department’ to preserve the image of BIM-ness, and greatness and innovativeness,  while secretly (or not so secretly) go on with ways they’ve worked by, for ages before.

Using PDFs. Printing PDFs and marking them up.
Getting the few modelers of the BIM Department to create PDFs.
Getting them the print them out so higher ranking engineers and PMs can mark them up.

And you know what, there is nothing wrong with this behavior. But it needs to be acknowledged for what it truly is.
Bugger all ‘Change management strategies’ – ‘BIM uptake campaigns’, change makers and
catalysts, if all they can achieve is to make grey headed PD’s crawling around offices hoping someone will make their projects mandated, ‘easy to use’ 6d+ model somehow palatable and understandable.
(gosh, mate, do me some screenshots of it, would you please?).
But face it, this is not true BIM. This is pretending.

On the other hand, take away the paper and give them some time, and they will find their footing …and… innovate.
Not all, but most. The ones that will not survive in this enforced paperless environment, you will not need/want anyway.

The ones that do, will search and thrive.
Will search for tools that actually work (they will be seriously surprised how few of them do exist) – they will put pressure on developers to make tools that are truly useful, they will strive to continue to work in this new, paperless environment and be successful.

The concept of ‘Paperless’ is not cool, on the surface.
It is only about creating an enclosed environment and banning paper from it.

But would do wonders to the Global AEC industry.

Trust me.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

This must be the most brutally honest, yet logical BIM strategy you’d have the chance ever to read!

At least, I hope so.

It is not written for those, mildly committed to BIM, with their toes only just dipped into the BIM waters, feeling it out cautiously, yet ingesting with gusto and without healthy cynicism the axioms of BIM flavored roadshows that include word combinations like ‘BIM helped us with’ or ‘BIM was very useful for’.

This post is written for those that have, one way or other, really ‘walked the BIM walk’ by putting significant money, time or effort, or God’ forbid, all three into ‘making a real BIM work’.

I know, there are many of you out there – reading my blog, occasionally getting in touch – having your own doubts about mainstream BIM theories, yourselves pushing the official BIM carts with a lot of unvoiced, yet festering questions. Is this ever going to really take off? Is this ever really going to make a difference (against backroom deals at government levels in construction of almost any country)? Am I (you) really not pouring money and energy down the drain while others that know this to be a dead end road and can’t be bothered mastering it, just laugh it off?

When I talk brutal honesty, I truly mean it: in this blog, I will outline to you, that BIM, for it to be worthwhile (almost) of any money, it must be fully involving, has to be ‘all or nothing’!

There are certain improvements in one’s- or one’s business’ life that can be done gradually and fruits will be reached, healthier eating, more exercising, quitting smoking, being more productive in doing daily business.

BIM, really is none of those.

I have two examples to explain, why BIM must be everything, or nothing.

Firstly: BIM is like an old communist parade. Some people had the luck (or opposite) to grow up in totalitarian systems where for various occasions (usually in the honor of the dictator/leader) massive parades of music and dance were put together including the formation of various monumental pictures and words made by people’s bodies.
There were certain key elements of those parades that had to be met for them to work, regardless of the number of participants (and the numbers went into tens of thousands)
First, everyone had to do what they supposed to do, second, the entire show had to be designed to the lowest denominator (i.e. the capabilities of the lowest link) and third, the thing still had to fit in within the parameters of time and cost allocated for it (both finite).

Trust me, BIM is exactly like this. If you have a few people doing it and a lot just talking about it, there will be no parade to show to anyone.

Secondly: BIM is a language. Either everyone speaks it, or things get lost and any meaningful forward movement becomes impossible. Think United Nations, think Google translator, think you being in a meeting where a part of the room breaks off and starts chatting in an unknown to you language. A couple of people doing BIM is no BIM,

So, remember these two things, and test the ‘BIM’ put in front of you, every time someone claims to have achieved it.

Does it meat those two requirements? If it does not, you are fooling yourself.
Can I prove this theory to be true? Yes. Do I want to? Nope.

I have come out of so many scenarios, time and time again being right, and having earned the right to say ‘I told you so’, that I no longer accept the challenge to prove anything.
Is it ‘the true professional truth’ the way I say it to be?
It is. Believe it, or not, it is absolutely your choice.
So, let’s move on from forever questioning my credentials and clarifying my first statement a bit further: ‘Doing BIM is, all or nothing’ –

What I mean under this statement, is closely related to two things, and how they are set up: a segment of work (within a building creation cycle) and the people involved in it. But at the heart of it all is  simple premise; manage all information in digital environment with NO paper involved,  and if necessary police the latter rigorously.

Both can be tiny – like 5-6 people of a small office and a tiny house extension for the project, or huge, tens of thousands of people designing large infrastructures, cities and building complexes.

But, the operation has to be fully, 'hermetically' closed.
End-to-end (definable) and everybody included. I.e. everything and everyone BIMmed within those borders. Paperless, I say.

While, I indicated at the beginning, that I will not be giving a lot reasons and proofs for my theory (chalk it up to arrogance) I will give you a little set of helpers, thanks to the American judiciary system.

In U.S. criminal law, means, motive, and opportunity is a common summation of the three aspects of a crime that must be established before guilt can possibly be determined in a criminal proceeding. Respectively, they refer to: the ability of the defendant to commit the crime (means), the reason the defendant committed the crime (motive), and whether the defendant had the chance to commit the crime (opportunity). Opportunity is most often disproved by use of an alibi, which can prove the accused was not able to commit the crime as he or she did not have the correct set of circumstances to commit the crime as it occurred. Some crimes are motiveless, however proving motive can often make it easier to convince a jury of the elements that must be proved for a conviction.

Similarly (and a bit surprisingly) the ‘only possible’ way of growing real BIM’ – is to establish a paperless environment (small – medium or large, company, project or country based)that is FORCED to address these three questions:

Motive: you must choose people that will have to have the motive to stay in the company, country or project, no matter of the hardship they are put under to ‘give birth to a viable BIM (paperless environment of your choosing); They would (or at least should) automatically have the ‘motive’ to make it work, or they will lose their ability to belong to the group they really care to belong to.

Means: do not set them the ‘obligatory means of software, standards and LODs to use’, let them fly free and focus on the motive. (full, enclosed, paperless construction) You will be surprised, what you’ll find at the end of the day, they are capable of achieving without the shackles of the LODs and BS…..

(We’ve had it far too long for software developers to tell us how to do our job!)

And if your surprise is of negative flavor, replace the crew, no matter if we are talking 5 people or an entire sector of construction as with those people you will never get a meaningful BIM.

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.