2011 BIM Resolutions

by Randy Deutsch

Don’t worry. I’m not about to list two thousand and eleven separate BIM resolutions. But I will share with you 11 really important questions that you ought to ask yourself as you enter the year ahead. Start off by asking yourself:

  • What will you accomplish in the next year?
  • Will this be another year of the same ole, same ole? Or will you attempt to accomplish something great?
  • Will you make it your goal to take BIM to the next level in 2011? If you are stuck in third gear of 3D BIM, do what is necessary to re-familiarize yourself with BIM scheduling. Move your game up a gear to 4D or 5D BIM.
  • Who will you teach BIM to this year? How well do you understand BIM? Really understand it? They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Do you understand BIM well-enough to teach it to someone else? To someone who is eager to learn? To an individual or a whole class?
  • What will you do in the next year to promote and help spread the word of BIM? Will you participate on online conversations or add your comments to LinkedIn discussions? Will you write an article for an online or print journal? Will you guest-post on a BIM blog? Or better yet, if you haven’t already done so, start one of your own? Will you be willing to give a presentation on the topic to your own firm? Already on board? Are you willing to take the show on the road and present on the topic at Autodesk University (AU) in 2011? AU call for proposals to be announced in March 2011.

Here’s what I’ll commit to in 2011. On April 27-28 I will be giving a talk about what went into the making of my new book, BIM + Integrated Design: Strategies for Practice – at KA Connect 2011 – a knowledge and information management conference for the AEC industry where thought leaders from all over the world come together to share best practices, stories and ideas about how they organize information and manage knowledge in their firms. KA Connect 2011 will be held at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, CA.

  • Will you determine to work on improving your BIM weak spots or on substantially reinforcing your already considerable strengths? Most people resolve to improve their weaknesses, while experts advise that it is a far better use of your time, energy and resources to make your strong suits even stronger. Which will you commit to?
  • Will you make it your goal to always bring your BIM A-game to work? What does it mean to bring you’re A-game each and every day? To bring your A-game means that you need to bring your best attitude and best abilities to each an d every situation. Are you willing to give this a consistent go at it?
  • Will you embrace change in 2011? Are you committed to exposing yourself to the latest technical and business information concerning BIM? And how it is used by both professionals and, through case studies, owners? A new, updated edition of The BIM_Handbook comes out on April 19: will you make it your goal to get your hands on a copy? And once you do, to read it?
  • Will this be the year you give away what you know? Are you hording information that would do others a world of good to be aware of and to know – if only you were willing to share what you know? You may not even recognize or appreciate that you have an unusual grasp of a certain topic or skill set. Transparency is the name of the game. Don’t go down with your knowledge intact. Spread the word, share what you know, and see how by doing so it all comes back to you – many times over.

Here’s how I’m giving away what I know in 2011. Later this year – sometime in summer – John Wiley & Sons will publish my book, BIM + Integrated Design: Strategies for Practice, exploring the collaborative work process enabled by the new technology and resulting social impacts on individuals, organizations, the profession and industry. I pull out all the stops on this one, not holding anything back. And that goes for the many people I interviewed for the book, too. We’re giving it away, for a nominal price, so that others may benefit.

  • Will you define BIM for yourself once and for all? The other day I overheard a colleague explain to a client that “BIM is essentially AutoCAD on steroids.” It took a lot of self-control on my part to restrain myself from jumping in and fleshing-out his definition for the benefit of all involved. What would you do in this situation? How would you respond if asked to define BIM off the cuff?
  • What will BIM mean to you? Whatever BIM means to you now, will you commit to a clear definition for yourself in 2011? One that you are willing and able to convincingly communicate to others, and defend if necessary? Is BIM just a tool – a vehicle for getting you to meet deadlines and achieve your goals? Is BIM a process, impacting workflows, performing best when used collaboratively with others?

Some additional questions to consider as you kick-off another outstanding year working in BIM:

What makes you interested in working in BIM? How has that changed from year to year?

Why does it matter to you? What personal values of yours does working in BIM fulfill?

What’s your long-term vision for how things will change as you, and others, continue to work in BIM?

What is the first thing you are going to do to work toward your goals?

What small daily changes are you going to make (think kaizen)?

What strengths do you bring to working in BIM? Do you have a firm understanding of where you contribute the most? How have you communicated this to others you work with? How will you do so more effectively moving ahead?

Categories: 4D BIM, 5D BIM, BIM | Leave a comment

BIM Doesn’t Come in a Box

by Holly Allison

We need to dispel the myth that by buying a couple of software licenses your firm can do BIM.

It takes guts to change the status quo. Buying some modeling software, some clash detection software, and hiring a recent CM graduate simply isn’t a viable BIM strategy. The true adoption of BIM takes guts because it won’t happen overnight; people will feel threatened, departments won’t want to share data, and the firm will need to map out process change. Is that what you’re ready to sign up for?

The good news is that GCs are stepping up to the plate. According to the recent McGraw-Hill SmartMarket Report, 49% of GCs report doing some sort of BIM in their projects. And we see it with our customers, too. Firms who had gotten their feet wet with modeling and coordination are deciding to “go 5D” and push BIM processes through to their scheduling and estimating departments…even out to the field with production control.

Why would CEO’s want to knowingly inflict process change onto their firm? The answer is simple: BIM wins business. “98% of BIM users say that having BIM capability is having an impact on their companies winning new work.” (page 18, BIM SmartMarket Report: The Business Value of BIM)

We’ve seen it time and time again: all the GCs today can show models in the Owner Presentation, but only a couple dozen can take it to the next level and show the Owner several scenarios and see the impact on schedule and budget. And only a handful can manage the entire project with BIM-based deliverables: a cost-loaded schedule; project risk analysis; resource forecasts for major subcontractors; and updated cash flow forecasts.

We spend a fair amount of time with CEOs and their executive teams once they’ve made that decision to “go 5D” and here is what we’ve found:

  1. It does take executive sponsorship, complete with incentives. The best leaders also provide a way to recover after a major mistake. Without this safety net, the team might not stick their necks out or take a chance. Yes, good people and teams will face challenges with BIM, but recovering will make the team stronger. We can help you establish ground rules and workflow, but you have to provide the leadership.
  2. You’ve got to “talk the talk and walk the walk.” More often than we’d care to admit, the deal is won with BIM gobbledygook, the celebratory toasts are made, and the very next day the paper and Excel creep back into the process and it’s business as usual. Any other software company might not care how you run your business, but we would like to think that you’re not just Hollywood BIM, you’re the real deal. This software company wants you to dig your heels in.
  3. Your team is tired of “winning the game in overtime.” How many times has your operations team performed heroically in order to save a project? And how are you going to keep these key players on your team? We’ve found that BIM can be a rallying point for these key employees and help them dig into project details to make them run as smooth as possible from preconstruction out to the jobsite to turning over keys. Again, it isn’t a magic bullet, but it affords a different way to manage a project for success and your talented players will stick with it.

Categories: BIM | Leave a comment

The Dimensions of BIM

by Holly Allison

“So, do you do BIM?”

How many times have you been asked that question during presentations to Owners?

BIM stands for Building Information Modeling. We’ve all seen the fantastic models that architects, GCs, and subs produce to help the Owner visualize their work; now let’s break down the dimensions.

2D BIM: As much as we would like to change commercial construction contract law, the 2D drawings remain the cornerstone of the contract. The BIM model is typically used to produce these 2D drawings.

What tools do you have in place to organize the 2D drawings you receive? Do they land on your desk with a thud at the eleventh hour? And is it your job to catch all the changes made between this version and the last version you received? It would be advantageous to have a Drawing Registry which automatically collates and compares the different versions of 2D vector-based PDFs and DWGs. It would locate the changes so you can mark up the drawings with clouds, comments, questions, and even provides a collaborative workflow so you can assign teammates to investigate the changes.

3D BIM: This model represents the geometry of the building and is a collection of objects such as walls, slabs, columns, doors, windows, etc.
As more models become available, coordination and clash detection come next in the workflow. Clash detection is all about BIM objects and where they intersect each other. Constructability combines clash detection with 2D and 4D information to provide a much richer and more comprehensive coordination process.

4D BIM: the combination of time and geometry creates the fourth construction dimension. We define 4D BIM and the integration of quantity takeoff, location-based quantities, resources, productivity rates, and labor costs into the BIM, thus making the 4D BIM vastly more powerful and valuable to the Owner, CM, and the GC’s Preconstruction and Operations teams. We also automatically produce a cost and resource-loaded schedule from this workflow (to the delight of the Owner and his or her CM).

5D BIM: Recall that the 3D BIM is a collection of objects (which have their unique polygonal geometry from which we can extract construction-caliber quantities). These elements have what we call an assembly structure: the cost of the item, the cost of the crew to install it, the tools and materials necessary to install it, and its quantities per location. Pulled together, this produces a cost-loaded schedule for earned value analysis.

You should be able to compare cost plans to the original project budget at any point in time. Integrating this information back to the 3D model helps Owners understand which decisions have the largest impact on the budget. And all of a sudden, your 5D BIM model becomes the hub for each project decision, your go-to source for what-if questions, and a true reflection of your organization’s understanding of the project.

BIM-Based Production Control: Once you break ground on the site, you’ll want to check your progress, post look-ahead schedules, identify crews who are working slower or faster than planned, and make the appropriate adjustments. “Controlling” the schedule is critical to an organized and on-time completion of the project! The easiest way to remember this is that 2D is paper, 3D-4D-5D-PC BIM are all models. The models all look the same, it’s just that they are referencing different information from your knowledge base of cost and time elements along with your estimating database.

So the next time an Owner asks “Do you do BIM?” make sure the answer is a resounding YES!

Categories: BIM | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Cost Planning Versus Estimating

by Marcel Broekmaat

When a budget is prepared for a project, the cost calculation tends to go through a number of phases. Typically the estimate goes from a “back of a napkin” cost calculation to a highly-detailed cost estimate that can later be used for cost control in the production phase. The AACEI (Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International) rates cost estimating work in 5 classes, starting at “Concept Screening” (Class 5), followed by “Study and Feasibility” (Class 4) and “Budget, Authorization & Control” (Class 3). The final cost plans are either a Class 2 or a Class 1 cost plan, based on a 30%-70% complete project definition or on a 50%-100% complete project definition.

The results of the cost estimating work, done throughout the phases defined as “Classes” by AACEI, are often autonomous. Relations between cost estimates do not always exist and it can therefore be hard for project teams to understand what the impact of a certain design decision is.

Also, because preparing a cost estimate is a laborious effort (especially during bid and tender checking phases, when the set of project information is most detailed), the number of estimates that can be completed during the design and bid phases is limited, which may lead to large variances between versions of the cost estimate for a project, due to the amount of significant design decisions made in between.

This situation could be improved by building on a previous estimate to create the next version of the estimate, which results in “evolving” the estimate to the next phase of a project. Benefits of this approach are that the variance with the previous budget can be analyzed immediately, as line items (or “allocations”) are gradually replaced with more detailed information. In addition to this, “evolving the estimate,” or “planning cost” as we like to call it, allows for releasing an unlimited number of cost plans, because a 100% complete cost is available at any moment (items that have not been replaced with more detailed cost items continue to be part of the overall cost plan). Using the approach, a theoretically unlimited number of cost plans can be created with the same amount of work.

Because the 5D platform is integrated, a change in the model geometry is reflected in the quantities which drive the schedule and estimate.

The gradual increase in cost plan granularity allows the cost planner to determine when additional information can be added to replace previous assumptions and where this is needed – typically in those parts of the project that carry the highest risk. The ability to generate a 100% cost plan at any time provides benefits for project team and owner, because “cost variance surprises” are reduced to the individual line item level, which has the potential to dramatically improve cost status awareness situation in projects for all participants.

Categories: 5D BIM, Model Based Estimate | Leave a comment

The Simple BIM Concept

by Mark Mergenschroer

Building Information Modeling (BIM) enables unprecedented Team Work of building design and constructability. The power of BIM to bring together the client, architect, engineer, and contractor into a singular team, centered on project execution, will transform our industry.

The design team’s mission for a BIM project should be to create a realistic simulation of working conditions necessary to produce a realistic BIM Model that will enhance time and effort to produce construction documents, maximize time available for design development and optimization, and thereby provide our clients with a better project development process.

The BIM deliverable focus should center on how, not, who, when, where or why. For the design team to have an effective deliverable, they should involve the client in team communication during every phase of design. Part of the process should be to hand the client a model viewer and supply training on use of the viewer, so that the BIM model can be viewed as the model is being developed. The team focus should be on delivering not only a quality BIM model, but a quality, high performance building, that will be functional for the client.

The first stage of the BIM Model should include information gathering. During this phase, information will be collected and developed into a BIM Model that contains conceptual and schematic level information about the project. This typically produces a conceptual model with key elements in the BIM Model, so that the client can get a visual understanding of the design intent.

The second stage of the BIM model is the analysis stage. This stage will focus on “The Right Fit” for the client. The client’s requirements will be fully developed during this stage, with all analytical analysis being included within the BIM model. During this stage, the team populates the BIM model with all the proper systems, equipment, information, and requirements for the facility. Constructability will be a key concern during this stage, with conflict checks being run by the entire team. User group meetings really help define this stage of the process.

The third stage involves implementation of BIM construction documents to construction of the facility. With the team having placed an emphasis on the constructible BIM model, the construction documentation process should be fluid. Since everyone has worked as a team from the beginning of the project, delays and surprises during the construction phase are greatly reduced.

The fourth stage consists of the facility management aspect of the BIM Model. A BIM model can be more than just a tool for construction. Having an accurate As-Built or As Constructed BIM model can lead to many advantages for the facility maintenance personnel. Part of the BIM deliverable should be to train the maintenance personnel on how to use the BIM model for future facility maintenance issues. Facility maintenance from a BIM model is a growing trend in our industry, as well as, a powerful tool for our clients.

This is a very simple approach to a BIM project. Let’s not try to complicate BIM. Let’s try to make it as simple as possible, so that our clients can reap the benefits.

Categories: BIM, Collaboration, Constructability | Leave a comment

Owners Want Integrated BIM

by James Salmon

More and more owners are following the lead of the General Services Administration (GSA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and demanding BIM, BIM Templates and, ultimately Integrated BIM that carries critical data from site selection, design and construction through to facilities management.

More and more states are looking into the use of BIM and more and more private owners are as well. While it is great that more owners are demanding more BIM and more sophisticated levels of BIM, there are very few who also demand Integrated Project Delivery. Too many owners view BIM as an end in and of itself and fail to recognize the need for IPD and value of Integrated BIM.

Collaborative Construction and its affiliates work hard to deliver Integrated BIM solutions to owners. We understand the need to utilize Federated BIM when that is all a team is capable of achieving, but we constantly push the envelope and press clients, affiliates and others we come in contact with to seek Integrated BIM solutions.

Too many Owners are demanding BIM and receiving something that looks like a Rubick’s Cube in Braille. Until Owners take the time to integrate their BIM Guidelines into a comprehensive IPD strategy and craft effective BIM Implementation Plans they will continue to receive BIM in a form that is at least as frustrating as a Braille Rubick’s Cube.

Categories: BIM, Collaboration | 1 comment

The Rebirth of Common Sense

by John Stebbins, Assoc. AIA

As a member of several discussion groups on LinkedIn related to BIM and the Building Industry, we witness daily many great perspectives from around the nation and the world, helping us keep our “finger on the pulse” as our Industry goes through rapid transition. Not only is BIM technology transforming the way we all do business, but the relationship between owner, architect and contractor is changing and evolving as well. The following post (June 2010) and an immediate response, summarize why there is a change in the relationship and the opportunities that await those ready for the shift.

Phil Adams, VP of Architecture at J & S Construction, Nashville, TN observes:

“As an Architect, I had the chance to join a Design-Build firm several years ago. Unlike many Design-Build firms, we actually have Architects on staff, however our main job is to interface between the Owner, my firm and an outside Architectural Firm that is selected based on the particular project and client. As an Architect, I can bring all of the parties together understanding all sides of the design and build process.

We have a good amount of work which is almost all negotiated. We sell VALUE, not price. We find the typical client wants his money to go into the project not into plans. However, we believe we still sell a high quality design as well as a high quality building and we are able to reduce the design fees substantially.

How? The Architect is assured of payment and ease of working through the design documents as we buffer him from the client regarding those items, but he still has full design control and client access. We also work with him to ensure the design works within a predetermined budget window. Clients are very cost motivated in this current economy more than ever. We don’t ‘value-engineer’ drawings AFTER they are mostly done, we ‘design-engineer’ drawings AS they are being prepared. A huge difference and one that is only possible with a Team Approach.

My firm Guarantees to the owner that we take full responsibility of all aspects of the project – as we are on a team with the Architect, there is no finger pointing – again, we assume all responsibility. Clients want that. As an Architect, I never guaranteed price; in fact, the AIA document releases us of that. The worst case is that I would have to redesign their building and often I could charge again – not a win-win case for the owner.

My current firm also Guarantees that the price will not increase after schematics are presented unless the owner changes something as plans are being finalized. If I forget to get something on that plan, that is my fault, not the clients fault.

Also, as an Architect, I know that most Architects and Engineers only have a vague idea of costs – Means and Dodge books just don’t cut it in real life. Clients want to know cost before they have fully paid for plans and then have to use them as scrap paper.

Conclusion? Architects need to form relationships with Contractors and build alliances to help their clients in all areas of their project.

In my experience, the client either hires an Architect first to design and then hires them during construction to protect them from the G.C.; OR, they hire a Contractor first who doesn’t understand design and wants to just build something cheap and he doesn’t understand why an Architect is needed and the same fight ensues.

Clients want a project, not a fight. And they will pay for value. My last client, a local government city manager, said he was done with ‘Design-Bid-Build-Sue’ and would only use ‘Design-Build’ from now on.”

Gary Radzat, President of Shell Building Systems in northern CA, chimes in:

“This has to be one of the most coherent and objective comments about the Design/Build process, as it should be managed. We find that the idea of working together as a collaborative, dedicated team provides everything that you mention in your comments. The adversarial situation that is created when an Architect, Owner and Builder are all coming on board at different times with different intentions is the formula for disaster and cost over-runs. You support our belief that no one knows the costs better than the party doing the construction and what a great time to discover those costs DURING construction vs. AFTER…this is WAY TOO MUCH COMMON SENSE FOR ONE DAY!

The bidding process is fraught with mistakes, both intentional and unintentional and the result of bidding is often decided by the lowest and not necessarily the most complete and efficient construction method(s). My hat is off to you!”

Our hats off to both of you. May common sense prevail as we invent the future with BIM.

Categories: BIM | Leave a comment


by John Stebbins, Assoc. AIA

In a word, BIM is “collaboration”.

Co-labor-ation (co=with; labor=to work)…working together around a data-rich single intelligent model (or series of models), with a WILLINGNESS to share openly, and with a goal of greater efficiency, resulting in less waste in time, money, and energy.

That being said, even if isolated stakeholders embrace the BIM process on their own (lone-wolf BIM), like an architectural firm that uses the BIM process to create more complete, efficient and communicative working drawings, the process is well worth it for them, even if the deliverables are only via paper; if the contractor pays a third party to create a constructability model to use as the basis for collision detection and persuades their sub-contractors to participate, it can save huge amounts of time and money in change orders and minimal re-work.

Eventually, lone-wolf BIM will turn to more social BIM as individual firms see the beauty in sharing and co-labor-ating.

Categories: BIM, Collaboration | Leave a comment

BIM Will Change Everything

by Dennis Neeley, AIA

I am an architect. I loved practicing architecture and often wonder what I would be doing if I had not moved into the world of technology. Our firm, Neeley/Lofrano Architects, practiced in San Francisco for over 20 years. Our firm stayed at about 20 employees most of the time. We started our practice in 1970 and were very lucky, we had very good clients and were able to stay busy and make money. We lived through several down turns in the economy, and interest rates for mortgages that were above 15%.

During those years we watched other firms do better and some worse, but in all those years I never saw architects take the hit that they are taking now. Several hundred person firms of a few years ago are now sixty person firms, many small firms have disappeared. I talk to architects that are not working and they are wondering if they should even try to go back into architecture when the economy gets better.

Architects do not determine when the economy will become stronger, until it does we wait. We serve our clients, when they have a need and money for buildings we are hired. The current situation is: Owners, 1) do not have money, 2) do not need new or remodeled buildings, 3) cannot borrow money, or 4) are sitting on their money waiting for the economy to get stronger. Some building types are being designed and constructed, schools and hospitals come to mind, but if you have not done schools and hospitals it is doubtful that you can compete against all the experienced and very hungry firms that are going after this work.

Clearly I believe in technology and more specifically in BIM. “BIM will change everything for everyone dealing with buildings.” We are at the start of a new era, so if BIM is going to change everything and we are at the start of a new era, there must be some opportunities now and in the future. I know that none of the ideas below are easy to undertake, but the more you can do now the stronger you will become and the more likely your firm will be the ones getting the work, or if you are unemployed the more likely you will be the first hired.

CAD mainly touched those who were drawing; BIM touches those that are drawing, but also designers, project managers, interior designers, specifiers, field workers and principals. I have some thoughts on what can be done now. I would also like you to contact me with your ideas.

Step One — Become a BIM expert. If you are not busy, or unemployed take the time to become a BIM expert. Vendors are allowing the free download of their software, get it, follow the tutorials and master the software. Learn how to create great renderings. Download the analysis software and master the links between the BIM project and the analysis programs. Learn how to create objects and attach data to the objects. Master the creation of schedules. When the economy comes back the people with the most skills will be the first to be hired. If you master the items in this paragraph you will essentially be a one person architectural firm.

Step Two — Become a building type expert. Figure out what building types are going to be in demand when the economy gets stronger and learn about those buildings. How are they laid out, what are the spaces, how much do they cost, what are new approaches to their design and use, etc. The baby boomers will have a major effect upon our immediate needs, will they abandon the suburbs and move to the city to be close to more activities. Their medical needs will require buildings.

Step Three — Become a “green” expert. Buildings use too much energy. Government agencies and many owners are demanding LEED certified buildings. Become LEED certified; learn what it is, how it works and what it will do for the country if we have more energy efficient buildings. Research what is being done in Europe, research what is being done in the universities; learn about new materials and new approaches to manufacturing.

Step Four — Think “outside the box, or at least make the box bigger”. The definition of what is an architect has changed throughout history. At one time we were the “master builder,” the designer and the contactor. At the start of the twentieth century we created the designs, but not many of the specific details, the craftsmen knew how to finish spaces. In the mid twentieth century we designed the structure, mechanical systems and electrical, now most often that is done by consultants.

What is going to happen next? Perhaps the architect will be only the designer and the contractors will do the detailing. Perhaps we will hire the construction experts and we will generate the types of contract documents that are being created in the IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) approaches of today. GSA is hiring architects to create BIM models of their existing buildings so the information can be used for operations, maintenance, future renovations, etc. This is great and will bring cost savings over time. If this is a great idea for GSA it should be a great idea for other owners, get a presentation together and start calling.

Figure out who you can team up with. Controls and HVAC companies are going after existing buildings for retrofitting to save energy, they will need BIM models. Think of areas where it would be better to have BIM models instead of 2D drawings, such as rooms full of equipment, valves and switches. Building maintenance is a huge industry; they need information on areas, locations of equipment, types of lamps and fixtures, etc.

Conclusion: Out of adversity comes opportunity. Out of struggle comes creativity. Times are tough but it appears we are going in the right direction and times will get better. BIM will have far reaching consequences. Think 25 years into the future, predict what the profession will look like, could it look like your prediction in 5 years, and if so implement your ideas now.

This article appears courtesy of Reed Construction Data.

Categories: Architecture, BIM | 2 comments

Inventing the Future

by John Stebbins, Assoc. AIA

There is an emerging need for a professional service that can certify that the BIM model being handed over to the owner is indeed correct. A certification would show that there is proper consolidation of all BIMs (yes, currently there are many, not one) with all of the INFORMATION that the owner wants either already embedded or capable of being embedded. If owners really want a BIM deliverable at the end of the construction process as part of the hand over of the building, someone needs to create what I would call a “Federated Master Model.”

What is often handed over to the owner upon completion of a building is a DVD from the contractor with a coordinated model left over from the MEP Coordination process in Navisworks NWF or NWD format with a Freedom Viewer. With all the talk about BIM for operations and facilities management, a reliable, open (IFC) and integrated BIM model will be necessary. The big question is…who will provide this service…the architect, the contractor, a third party, the owner or owner’s agent, or the IPD Team before it devolves after completing the project?

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

Categories: BIM, Collaboration, Integration | 2 comments

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