Thursday, October 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roll on the present.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.