Let’s Make History Together

by Caitlin Leal

Collaboration is in our nature as human beings. We work well in groups; we thrive in aspects both personal and professional when we act on behalf of the greater collective good. We are not meant to be solitary creatures. Nor do we prosper living selfishly in solitary silos. Creating disparate group mentality only furthers negative attitudes and ‘me versus you’ ideology.

No matter which BIM tool(s) you choose to use, I believe collaboration is key. Truly, BIM in only one word is collaboration.

In our industry, the largest in the world, will there ever be a situation in which everyone will use the same software made by one single company? Of course not! We need competition, and I believe it is healthy. However, having a common file format is useful, and I believe necessary. Interoperability between software tools allows for easier flow of information, and greater connectedness among peer groups.

As leaders in BIM technology, our team at Digital Vision is constantly surprised with how little people understand the common file format created by our industry, for our industry: IFC.

Here is a good primer on IFC & Interoperability.

And this AECbytes article, though dated, is still very relevant, and gives a good overview of the IFC building model.

As a group, we have the power to make history – together! Therefore, I leave you with this challenge: let the entire AEC industry come together under the banner of collaborative effort and make IFC and interoperability the new standard. One way to get involved is by joining us in becoming a member of the buildingSMARTalliance.

“The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”
– Juliette Gordon Low


Categories: BIM, Collaboration, Interoperability | Leave a comment

Change is the only Constant

by John Stebbins, Assoc. AIA

The forces that will encourage the architectural profession to change in response to the opportunities BIM presents:

  1. Leadership from within the Noble Craft. Get involved with your local AIA, join the buildingSMART Alliance, join the Association of General Contractors, etc.
  2. Losing jobs to other architects that are more BIM-powered
  3. Give up fear: of change and of releasing the digital model as part of the “new deliverables” (yes, make sure you get a signed waiver from whomever you release your intellectual property to)
  4. Get trained and don’t look back
  5. Become change leaders within your own firms (realize that leaders often take people where they do not want to initially go, so expect resistance)
  6. Realize that we have always been in the information business (drawings have always been information) and learn to leverage the “I” in BIM
  7. Never stop learning! “In times of change, learners inherit the earth.” – Erich Fromm
  8. Plan your work, work your plan, for successful BIM implementation
  9. Invent the future: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay
  10. Discover new ways to place value on your work, beyond fee for service, hourly rates, percentage of construction…how about a percentage ownership in the building or project…an ongoing income stream, for starters?
  11. Dare: take more risks, be bolder, be more introspective; for example…work more closely with contractors; ask them what they want to see in project deliverables and to critique your profession…then respond accordingly.
  12. Use the slow time in the economy to reinvent yourself and your business.

Categories: BIM | Leave a comment

Reinvent to Remain Relevant

by John Stebbins, Assoc. AIA

As a 3D technology provider to the AEC industry for the past 22 years, I have been in a unique position to observe architect’s complaints and fears about their own profession being marginalized, especially now that contractors and owners are positioned to benefit from utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Architects often wonder: “Why should I go along for the ride?”

The architectural profession in the US is at a crossroad. Architects could and should be leading the BIM revolution, but hesitate because of their fears, marginalizing themselves, net result, even more. Architects need to “go along for this ride” because nothing less than the future of the profession is at stake!

As my very enlightened architect client/colleague Kimon Onuma, FAIA (of BIMStorm fame) says: It’s time to “Evolve or Dissolve”. And, Tom Mayne FAIA of Morphosis (Pritzker Prize Winner) says: “Change or Perish.”

I personally believe that architects will win ONLY if they establish more of the leadership necessary to pilot the entire AECO industry through the immense changes BIM and IPD are stimulating!

This means taking on more risk and letting go of fear.

The big opportunity I see is to take the lead on more design-build and IPD projects, where collaboration is king and someone has to lead and orchestrate The Team. What AEC profession is traditionally best known to orchestrate this type of collaboration? Answer: the architect. More and more, I am seeing that BIM and IPD are about leadership more-so than software or technology. BIM and IPD are PROCESSES, not software. New processes need to be led.

I observe that one of the main reasons architects hold back in leading this change is that their piece of the AECO pie is relatively small (in terms of money to be saved) compared to the contractor or the owner which, as I understand, is a disincentive to lead or change. Currently, owners and contractors are the driving force behind BIM.

Another way to say what Onuma and Mayne have so aptly said above is “Reinvent to Remain Relevant.” The future of a whole noble profession is at stake here. Therefore, lead on and reinvent your future. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

One last thought…when I was a kid, my neighborhood friends and I used to play a lot of the conquer-the-world board game “Risk”. We would say to each other “He who hesitates, fails.” We coming-of-age-kids somehow figured this out as we played the role of make-believe generals. The time for hesitation’s through!

Categories: BIM, IPD | 1 comment

Characteristics of Leadership in BIM and VDC

by Mark Sawyer

Characteristics that influence international leadership in Building Information Modeling and Virtual Construction (in no particular order):

  1. The degree to which the competition is truly open vs. the winners of the competition being predetermined or heavily favored. Open competition fosters innovation.
  2. Industry and Higher Education Partnerships
  3. The customary role of the Architect
  4. Societal litigiousness.
  5. Culturally Programmed Problem SolvingThere are many cultural differences in problem solving; for example, how planners vs. experimenters tend to approach something as new as BIM in construction differently.
  6. Ratio of Government-to-Private Sector SpendingIn most countries the government is the largest building owner. I’ll point to Singapore as an example – their government is the largest building owner. It’s a heavily regulated industry and they can mandate change overnight. If there is a very large private sector that pretty much defines the economy (as in, for example, U.S., U.K. and Western Europe) it’s harder for everyone to get together on the same page. The GSA has done a great job trying to drive initiatives in the U.S. and they are, as far as I know, still the largest building owner in the country. But they cannot mandate change overnight and they know it.

I hope the influence of each characteristic listed above is self-explanatory. You can probably guess what constitutes good and what constitutes bad on each scale, so I won’t take the time to discuss them further. I will however comment on two of my favorites…..

Litigiousness plays out much as you might guess. If the project team habitually relies on lawyers to solve their problems, there is not much incentive to drive new methodologies like Virtual Construction into the project. Highly litigious societies are held back, and less litigious societies have a better chance of leadership. This holds true up to a point. Taking the USA (definitely a litigious society) as an example, it appears that decades of legal fees and client dissatisfaction have driven the industry to a tipping point. The backlash is led by a super-involved generation of owners whose appetite for positive change is accelerating the adoption of BIM. So too much of a bad thing can eventually lead to a good thing!

One’s approach to problem solving has a big impact on Virtual Construction leadership. Whether we are talking about a region, a country, a culture, or a single construction firm there are norms associated with the way they routinely approach problem solving. On my scale, there are ‘planners’ at one end and ‘experimenters’ at the other. And when it comes to Virtual Construction, experimenters are leading. The reasons are entirely clear as construction projects are complex undertakings involving many disparate firms and interests. Combine that with the relative infancy of BIM in construction and you can appreciate that one can plan only so far ahead. Those implementers who cannot take the first step without a three-year roadmap immediately become non-implementers. The experimenters, however, are undeterred. They try things one step at a time and course correct as they go. The time for long-term planning based on codified experience and intellect will come, but right now international leaders are experimenting their way forward, and it is producing great results.

This article appears courtesy of Vico Software.

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Gratitude: Our Gift to You

by Caitlin Leal

As a New Year approaches the horizon, we look forward to new endeavors, new challenges, and new successes.

We are deeply grateful to each of our clients, our fellow BIM evangelists, our readers, and yes, even our competition.

The gift of gratitude and thanks is a wonderful thing; it can be given so freely, yet, when it is received from an honest source, holds great value.

With that in mind, we give a gift to each of you this season: our heartfelt thanks.

Continue to spread the benefits of BIM, keeping open minds and open hearts, in the creation of great buildings. And let us toast together to a future of true collaboration.

We appreciate the opportunity to be of service this past year and we are looking forward to Digital Vision’s twenty-second year of service to the Design and Construction community in southern California.

Expect great things!

The Digital Vision Team

Categories: General | Leave a comment

All Together Now

by Caitlin Leal

I have noticed in recent weeks that many of the forum discussions about Building Information Modeling contain the word ‘versus’. This accomplishes only one thing: it pits people against one another. In the age of information, we have such a vast amount of knowledge and connections available to us, yet we still resort to limiting tendencies.

In the building industry, collaboration between all disciplines is the healthiest practice and the best hope for the future.

Rather than bickering about which tool is superior, or waging software feature wars, we need to open our minds and change our habits. Many people and talents are needed to build a building, so why not use many tools to design and document that building?

Collaboration and Integrated Project Delivery are the hot-button topics in the emerging world of BIM; and in order for projects to be truly collaborative, we must set aside our penchants for favoritism, and our egos, and make ‘open’ the new standard.

Be open to change, be open to learning and using multiple tools, be open to exchanging information in more ways than one!

Categories: BIM, Collaboration | Leave a comment

Reactive vs Proactive Approach for 5D Models

by Marcel Broekmaat

While the use of Building Information Models is getting more and more popular, it seems that the full advantage of using the model-based approach for informed decision making when it comes to cost planning and scheduling has yet to be experienced. In my opinion, the reason for this is that many building models are created with a “hit-and-run” approach: Building Information Models are created for projects without considering what the desired output should be.

The models that are created this way can be great for visualization and maybe even for coordination. But, because there is no defined set of requirements before the modeling work takes off, may be useless for estimating and scheduling…

Why is that?

It all comes down to quantities. It’s the construction-caliber quantities that drive the estimate and the (integrated) estimate and schedule and when some of the quantities that are needed are not available, the “5D Mission” fails: only some of the quantities extracted from the model are useful. Some quantities are too detailed for the stage of the project, other quantities are simply missing. The only use for the model for estimating purposes in this case is to find opportunities to find model-based quantities that happen to be useful. I call this the “reactive approach:” trying to find some good use for the model that was created when it’s done.

There’s a simple remedy for missing the opportunity to extract quantities from models that do match the requirements at a certain stage in your project. At Vico, we call that remedy the Content Plan. The Content Plan is nothing else than a document that captures the information needs of all of the members of the project team for the deliverable at a certain stage in the project. (Think of it as a model progression specification for only one stage of the project.) When the project team gets together to define these goals before the model gets built, it is much easier to build something that fits and really turns into a tool that helps your team make those important decisions.

Categories: 5D BIM, BIM | Leave a comment

Attitude and Perception: Key Factors in Successful BIM Transitioning

by Sherry Whetten

As Director of Technology at an Architecture and Planning firm, I was responsible for developing and maintaining office processes. Initially I was hired as a contractor to help complete one specific project in ArchiCAD. The firm deserves recognition for jumping in feet first! They did what most firms do… buy and go through the 3-day basic training package. They then considered themselves ready to tackle a billable project on their own; quite impressive.

I have seen several firms take the transition as far as training and then ultimately decide that they are not ready to do a project in BIM and so it collects dust in their programs folder. The purpose of this post is to call attention to the response that I noticed from the employees and how their attitudes affected the transition. As a result of walking into a transition mid-way through, losing the majority of the staff associated with the initial transition and then having to start all over with new staff, I have noticed a couple things that might help the next firm transition.

1) Create office standards and processes for BIM and then test them for efficiency BEFORE they are implemented into the general project processes. A majority of these standards should be identified prior to starting the first project. When people are learning something new, frustration comes easy and to give them a broken process only elevates the frustration.

2) Document the processes and create a way for everyone to have access to it. Encouraging staff to use these tutorials is as simple as responding to their ‘how do I…?’ question with ‘What does the office manual say to do?’ This document is a dynamic book and the correct expectation needs to be set in order to limit negativity in the form of comments such as ‘everything is always changing, how do you expect us to accomplish anything?’.

3) Set up a way to have weekly training sessions. Sometimes it is appropriate to have a general Q&A session. This training time CANNOT be sacrificed. Not just because your staff is learning but because this creates the perception on behalf of the staff that senior staff supports them in this effort and wants to help them succeed. No meetings, no clients, not anything should conflict with this reoccurring session.

4) Establish bench marks for your staff to meet and reward them when set benchmarks are met. The most crucial part of a learning process is the student recognizing they are learning or have learned something new. Rewarding them accomplishes this. This eliminates the feeling of ‘spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere’ because the employee has been recognized and awarded for getting somewhere.

5) Finally, seamless communication is necessary from the top down. Create a unified front and a go-to person for this process so that employees aren’t finding themselves getting different direction from different people and becoming frustrated by the question ‘whose advice do we follow?’

The key to a successful transition lies in the attitudes of the staff that are making the transition. It is all about their perception; and if efforts are taken prior to the start of the transition to ensure that their perception is positive then the office will transition quicker and more effectively.

Categories: BIM | Leave a comment

BIM is a Process by Sherry Whetten September 22 ’09

by Sherry Whetten

In the last couple years of the BIM transition, I have come across several interesting misconceptions among the general AEC population about the abilities and potential of the BIM process. One misconception in particular is that a software, one tool, is a full BIM solution. It is as though the AEC industry wants to ‘get rich quick’ and avoid the effort and thought behind developing their own process. In the last year several platforms have noticed a weak point in regards to the BIM process and have tried to prove that they have the solution. This one weak point is that of Lifecycle Management. Software vendors have begun to tout that their platform can manage the lifecycle of the building effectively, simplistically, and of course better than any other platform. Asset management and other aspects of facility management is easy! They call attention to their IFC and XML format capabilities and claim that therein lies the secret and that is all you need. What has been even more interesting is that Architects, Engineers and Contractors that have not taken the time to become as familiar with BIM as they need to be, believe this claim. So here they are, seasoned professionals, and when I say seasoned I mean they have executed the design and build PROCESSES almost an infinite amount of times and have had to adjust their processes continuously to arrive at a more efficient PROCESS, are believing, for the first time in their professional careers, that a tool, one tool, would be their solution, as opposed to a process that specifically meets their needs by relying on multiple tools. When this doesn’t work out for them they decide that this new idea of BIM must not be fully developed yet and not ready for the mainstream AEC industry.

Any software with parametric capabilities has the POTENTIAL to offer a start at lifecycle management. Any software with parametric capabilities has the POTENTIAL to offer a BIM solution; but any one platform by itself is not going to get the job done alone and only costs more of a firms resources than if they would have purchased the right pieces to begin with and then obtained assistance in helping them develop their own office processes.

Categories: BIM | Leave a comment

BIM Has Arrived by John Stebbins September 1 ’09

by John Stebbins

BIM has arrived? Hasn’t BIM been around for a long time?

It is true that BIM ‘authoring tools’ have been around a long time. In fact ArchiCAD has been in use world-wide for 26 years, Autodesk Revit for 10 years and Bentley’s solution has been with us a while too. I have been saying for years that BIM, in a word, means ‘Collaboration’. Historically, BIM collaboration has been based on a multitude of models and most projects have relied on several BIM models that are ‘federated’ or consolidated into one 3D environment using programs like Autodesk Navisworks or Solibri Model Checker…better than flat CAD and light tables, but still not efficient workflow.

In an open letter to the AEC vendor community, published in March 2004, the AIA Large Firm Roundtable CIO Group requested the following capabilities for “next generation” BIM technology: give project team members the capabilities of editing data simultaneously, facilitate the prevention of conflicting errors, and let changes to the project be available to users immediately. Graphisoft is the first vendor in the world to meet this challenge by bringing Next Generation BIM Technology to the marketplace.

The optimum in collaboration would be a form of real-time workflow between all project team members working IN the same model. For years, this has been the Holy Grail of BIM. With Graphisoft’s new patent pending Delta Server technology, announced as part of ArchiCAD 13, the Holy Grail of BIM – the real-time BIM Collaboration Server – has arrived.

Graphisoft has created an industry-first active server database management solution that maintains and updates the central project by passing to and from the user’s machines only the ‘delta’ or changes the users make, and in so doing, effectively achieves a real-time dynamic workflow between all members of the project team.

This execution of next generation BIM technology not only has the potential to transform how BIM projects are created and delivered, but WILL transform the way architects practice their craft. The benefits of real-time BIM Server technology can streamline the workflow of any practice, from the sole practitioner, boutique, mid-sized, or mega-firm.

Anyone on the project team can now work in real-time on a project from anywhere in the world. Team members in a remote office can work as if they were in the next cubicle. It is easy and natural to collaborate with consultants, since everyone works in the same model contributing their discipline’s building system into the model in parallel. The need for backgrounds and worries about whether you have the latest file versions disappear. FTP sites acting as ‘file depositories’ can be reduced or eliminated; any computer on the internet can now be a BIM server.

It is easy to work at home by simply logging onto the project on the office project server. There will be no need to transfer files from a desktop or file server to a laptop to work outside the office. Memory sticks and CDs are no longer needed. One can work off-line, on a plane for example and log on from one’s destination to send and receive changes. One can be in a meeting or a presentation and have access to any project, any time, via the Internet. Non-CAD users can participate directly on a project by working on the clerical sides of production like inputting project info, general notes, and other text-intensive information.

For contractors and owners, the benefits are huge. On design/build projects or Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), contractors can participate early on constructability issues. Estimating can happen on the fly. MEP and Structural Coordination can happen in real-time, starting during late schematic design and the need to do costly MEP Coordination during pre-construction by the contractor can be eliminated. Owners can participate by watching the project evolve virtually in real time via the 3D viewing capabilities built into the software. It will be easier to provide an accurate as-built BIM model during construction to hand over to the owner for operation and facilities management, since the contractor has been participating from the beginning.

A BIM Server solution the Industry has been waiting for has finally arrived from the industry veteran Graphisoft, purpose-built for real-time BIM collaboration.

Categories: BIM, Collaboration, IPD | 1 comment

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