Running a successful BIM consultancy and architectural studio is a lot of fun, and we get involved in some truly exciting projects; however the very nature of the lifestyle leads to a lot of sitting at computer desks, sitting at meeting tables and sitting at those not so comfortable seats on trains. Even with efforts to be more active, the current iteration of the digital construction industry really does mean a lot of sitting down. Throw into the mix the Northeast’s dependency on Greggs and their rather delicious selection of goodies, the BIM life isn’t that healthy sometimes.
With this in mind I’m sure you’ll appreciate that the three of us from BIM Strategy and Niven stuio who have signed up for the Coniston Challenging of hiking, cycling a swimming all on the same day is going to be really tough and leave us all somewhat broken by the end of the day. But we are doing it for the Guide Dogs charity and would really appreciate your support if you can spare anything to sponsor our pain. https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-portal/fundraiserPage?pageId=932044
We’ve got less than a week now to raise a few pounds (and drop a few pounds) and get ourselves ready for the event whilst doing our best to ignore the weather forecast. We’ll be tired, sore and most likely soaked, but it’s all for the puppies and those blind and partially sighted people who need them to enjoy a full life.
I’ll be back on the blog afterwards to let you all know how we get on!
This is a post I’ve wanted to write for some time now, but it’s been a bit of a struggle to get the tone right. I’ve been around long enough to know that that the construction industry isn’t adversarial because we like it that way. There’s much more to it than that. So, writing about why we need to remember to play nicely to successfully deliver BIM could at best sound a bit preachy, at worst totally out of touch.
I attended a great CENE/G4C event at Teesside University where Darren Vipond, Director of Campus Services introduced us to their exciting masterplan and development roadmap. As part of his presentation Darren introduced part of his philosophy on how to be an effective construction client to get the most out of working with the industry;
“It’s all about people, patience and partnerships”
– Darren Vipond Director of Campus Services
A great statement in itself, but it also captures exactly what I’ve been wanting to say about BIM projects*. What most people are referring to as BIM projects, aren’t that at all; they are projects to build something using BIM processes to deliver value, reduce risk and improve handover. Whatever we are building and the ability for that to function and be maintained for it’s lifecycle is, as always, the best place for the project team to focus. The tension between this focus and commercial realities of projects can’t be forgotten of course, but when we become an industry that puts numbers above outcomes as our default, the battle will be sadly lost and the value of architecture also.
The BIM processes, standards and tools are new to many, but it is still about delivering to the brief and where possible creating a built asset that exceeds expectations. The over-focus on the new, on BIM, has led to a belief that these projects are wildly different and somehow the shift in technology and deliverables takes precedence over everything from root to branch. BIM deliverables are a new element to add to the mix and even more, than most elements of a traditional project need the people to pull together to share knowledge and learning and to help anyone who is struggling to deliver something they haven’t delivered before.
We need to drop the bravado around BIM, and outright stop the holier than thou approach that manifests itself on Twitter at times. BIM, when it’s done well is incredibly impactful to the point of governments around the globe implementing mandates. It’s not always easy, but we need to remember that good BIM doesn’t happen without people, patience and partnerships.
*The way I see it BIM projects are projects where improving BIM practices or knowledge are the intended outcomes. I love these projects.
Now here’s a trade secret from someone who sells knowledge-based services; fail to keep adding to your knowledge and you just become that guy down the pub going on about the superiority of minidisc players. Although BIM isn’t all about technology, as BIM consultant with a tech background I often get asked about software solutions. To ensure I can offer good advice I stay close to the construction technology scene; which in my opinion is a wise way to trade in time for knowledge.
Earlier this week I headed down to local document management specialists Opentree in Stokesley to get a deep dive* into their Cabinet solution of which I’ve previously only skimmed the surface.
*A deep dive is taking software way beyond the demo you’ll get as part of a sales pitch, you get the guys who designed and built it to show you specific task being performed whilst you ask difficult and industry-specific questions to see how deep the solution goes. I won’t name names of course, but this does find some companies out.
Digging into Cabinet for the morning revealed a narrow, yet deep and powerful toolset. Most of all I was impressed by the focus of Cabinet in solving a real problem of forgotten waste which is pretty well-hidden in plain sight.
Where’s this waste then?
All of the activities around the creation and issue of technical information have always been a time pit. From signing and folding multiple drawings and ticking off the drawing register for each pile before driving them to multiple offices, right up to the modern incarnation of this waste which takes the form of uploading a file for approval and then having to go through the processes of reopening that very same file only to change its issue status to do it all again. Perhaps because we’ve always lived with this waste we are blind to it.
The team at Opentree have been aware of this waste for a lot of years and developed some neat tools to help the rail industry before bringing their technology into the construction sector. I’m not trying to write their sales pitch for them, but when I see useful and robust software I’m happy to point it out. If you do read this blog and decide to look a little closer at Opentree, I won’t get a penny, I’ve put a link at the end (if you’re wondering why I bother please re-read para #1).
Now for those of you who are thinking what’s this actually got to do with BIM, here are the key things to consider. The BS1192:2007 common data environment process requires introduces the WIP > Shared > Published > Archive cycle which works best when delivered in shorter iterations, especially from WIP to Shared because this breaks down information silo issues and allows everyone to work on the latest information. This is great, and I’m a big fan of this process, but it does mean more admin for each piece of information to ensure status codes, QC signatures and metadata are all in place so people understand what they have. With added admin comes time not spent designing as well as the risk of human error, which if we’re honest both are things we are trying to remove through the implementation of BIM processes. So rather than just pulling the waste earlier in the process, it’s worth considering deploying tools to remove it.
I’d like to thank Andrew and Dan for the time and the coffee, so here’s a link to their website and I hope this post helps a few people take fresh look at using BIM to reduce waste, rather than just move it around.
After a brief exchange with John, I made my way down the stairs into the heart of NXTBLD, fake ID in hand. The first thing to catch my eye was, the Enscape stand, complete with Oculus VR headset… I knew this was the place for me
The first session I attended was hosted by Bruce Bell of Facit Homes on Digitally manufactured big wooden ‘Lego’. What’s not to love? I’m sure every grown man has a guilty pleasure for Lego! What really hooked me here, was how Facit have integrated tech and software into their everyday workflows, greatly benefiting their outputs, efficiency, and accuracy. These processes haven’t broken the bank, using Revit for architecture and manufacturing models coupled with Enscape for quick and easy VR experiences. Google Hangouts have improved team collaboration and a 360° camera has made virtual site visits possible, proving that collaboration and digitalisation is achievable to all.
Next up was Smart Concrete. 3d printing is commonplace in the industry, but to be brutally honest, I wasn’t overly excited at the prospect of this session and wondered how smart concrete was going to wow me. Fast forward 10minutes into Andrei Jipa’s slot and I was frantically snapping photos of the concrete skeleton, boats with precision detailed bones, created via 3d printed casts, at less than 1mm thick!! Equally amazing were the concrete floor slabs ETH Zurich have created. Made up of millions of facets, these slabs dramatically reduce the volume of concrete used in production, whilst simultaneously remaining load bearing and sustainable. Why isn’t everyone using these?!
After a bite to eat, I sat down to the one I had been really waiting for ….Epic Games. If you were following the @BIMStrategy twitter feed, you will know that I am a self-proclaimed Fortnite fan, alas Marc Petit wasn’t handing out free v-bucks. He did, however, showcase the unbelievable possibilities achievable with Unreal Engine, it’s is no wonder that adoption has been so high, with 1 in 5 users already using UE4 for real-time render. This session, coupled with the Soluis stand, really impressed me; interactive, immersive experiences, such as the new Spurs stadium experience, (showcased by both Epic and Soluis) are such important and engaging tools for the client. John and I agreed that whilst in-house, we are capable of providing excellent renders with Lumion, anything on this level we would advise opting for the experts like Soluis.
Just before the beers came out, I managed to squeeze in an extended demo of Enscape with Moritz plugging me into VR tours of the Villa Savoye, the German Pavilion and an enormous red building in China (the name totally escapes me). Being a Revit technician by trade, I was blown away by the speed and ease – native Revit models were only a click away from a VR walkthrough. Intrigued and impressed, I made my way to chat with the Lumion guys and, low and behold, I wasn’t the first person to ask when they would be integrating Xbox controller and full VR capability. I look forward to release 9.
After spending the good part of an hour gushing over Lumion (a software we have implemented at Niven little over a year ago) and picking up a few tips and cheats, I worked the room, chatting to interesting individuals comparing views on the afternoon’s sessions and the exhibitions.
Before I knew it, it was time to make a late, mad dash to Kings Cross to catch my train home, where I had the chance to sit and digest everything I had taken in at NXTBLD. Its safe to say I headed home feeling totally inspired.
If you’ve not read Pt1 of the BIM Strategy NXTBLD review, click here and we’ll take you there.
NXTBLD2018 is a conference of two halves for the BIM Strategy and Niven team, and so is this blog post. I took the first shift at the evening do in a great London pub last night, enjoyed the morning content, and then tagged in my trusted colleague James. There will be an update to come from him later… but whilst you’re here you may as well read my bit and come back later, we’re not going anywhere.
This years event had more than twice as many sign ups as last year, which doesn’t surprise me because I’ve spoken to plenty of people who followed it online last year and saw that it had a very different focus than the other BIM events. It’s not about standards or schemas and not one person mentioned file naming conventions; it’s about tech being used to visualise, prototype and engage people with how we can improve what we do. It’s true that none of this works in practice without good models, and good models don’t happen without good processes, but sometimes it’s exciting to explore the art of the possible once you’re in a situation where the ability to model and collaborate effectively is taken for granted.
Some of the conversations at last night’s gathering found their way into the details, like which Uniclass table goes into COBie fields and why haven’t the CDEs delivered integration with each other. I’m happy in the weeds, because it creates opportunity to provide pragmatic advice which solves day to day issues at the coalface. But once this mornings first session by the highly engaging Hedwig Heinsman from Aectual kicked into gear, the weeds were a distant memory. I felt like I’d walked into an architectural toyshop with the ability to create my own toys with their specially designed 3D robotic arm printer. The sense of relief when the printing material was a combination of linseed oil and recycled plastics was enormous too, no waste, no guilt, just pure design freedom and joy.
At this point I was already coming back next year. Then Andrew Watts from Newtecnic raised the bar by looking at optimised dashboards for complex construction without losing a grip on what construction really is. Which is a difficult and unique challenge every time we design and build, which has dangers to people and risks to business at the forefront of our thinking. The work his team are involved in is so exciting because it is genuinely removing risks by using tech to do the things people can’t, rather than simply looking to replace human processes with AI and robots.
With some modular construction themes for the emerging build-to-rent market in London for co-living and co-working, Dipa Joshi brought the architects in the room back into their comfort zone with some thought provoking concepts about digital ways to address the changing needs of city space. She did tick off a bit of digital bingo with IOT, Blockchain and Fortnite, but these were more like side-notes to an enjoyable architectural journey ending in a coffee break.
After the break I caught Dr Max Mallia-Parfitt’s whistle stop tour of VR, which was packed full of anarchic advice on which threads of visualisation matter in construction and which are frankly useless. Unfortunately this was time to duck out and pass on the baton for the afternoon and evening networking event, but I’ve been keeping up through Twitter on the train; the printed concrete presentation looked almost to cool for words. But I’ll leave that for James in pt2…
I’m certain I’m not alone in finding the Grenfell Inquiry incredibly challenging: the testimonials from the victim’s families have been heartrending and, as a construction professional, the preliminaries about what happened on that awful night have been difficult to listen to.
As a member of Construction Manager’s Reader Panel, I was asked recently for a comment for their ‘Grenfell one year on’ article. Whilst considering my response I reread my blog ‘A heartbroken disruptor’ written immediately after the fire and was immediately struck by the following;
‘By the day I retire I want to be able to say I was part of a construction revolution that removed the possibility of another Grenfell Tower, as well as creating the diverse, vibrant, socially valuable and innovative construction industry which feels so close to being within reach.’
Has there been any progress within the industry since it happened? CM’s article makes sombre reading with most contributors pointing to the lack of any significant cultural change and much greater focus on quality management: ideas echoed in the Hackitt Report.
Judith Hackitt pointed to ‘deep flaws’ in the current system warning that a combination of ignorance, indifference, a lack of clarity on responsibilities and inadequate regulation had created a culture described as ‘a race to the bottom’.
The construction industry needs to brace itself for the intense criticism the Inquiry will bring and prepare for a new and better future. I continue to believe passionately that digitisation and collaboration will bring about significant changes to the culture of the industry and bring wide benefits to the lifecycle of construction projects. It was pleasing to hear Judith Hackitt recommend that, going forward, BIM should be mandated in the design and construction and operation of all new high rise residential buildings over 10 storeys and their refurbishments.
Hopefully – well before I retire – construction will have taken on board the painful lessons of Grenfell and created ‘the diverse, vibrant, socially valuable and innovative construction industry’ I mentioned a year ago.
I thoroughly enjoyed representing BIM Strategy in London this week talking to Viewpoint customers at their annual customer summit. It was a great event and as always, the UK crowd showed how committed they are about great process and squeezing every bit of value out of their software for their projects. Amongst the detailed learning sessions, there was a couple of big announcements at the conference.
Firstly, was the launch of Viewpoint TEAM; a new release in the UK which is the product of thousands of hours of software development. It looked great on the web interface and mobile devices and the live demo made it clear that TEAM is ready to use, which is always the first thing I consider when choosing new technology. There are many many apps out there that nearly work, or would add value to our business if they only did one or two extra functions.
In my mind, this new solution fits into places where perhaps a full Viewpoint For Project (formerly 4projects) set up would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Think projects in that £1-4mil bracket, whether that’s smaller new builds, extensions, or a significant maintenance project. There are also opportunities deploy this alongside the other Viewpoint solutions, but I would advise caution here as the integration work isn’t complete so you’ll have to design your processes around this. If you want to take a look, here’s a link.
The other big news is that the UK now has a dedicated Customer Success Team with a significant BIM knowledge base built in. Former colleague and long-serving BIM evangelist Ben Wallbank is part of a team a team who are there to help viewpoint customers deliver efficient BIM projects using their knowledge gained from working with some of the most experienced team delivering BIM Level 2 today using Viewpoint software. They are even delivering fantastically valuable, yet terribly named, BIM Audits for their customers to go over their approach to delivering BIM and suggesting areas where improvements could be found. This is much more of a review-come-health-check which is intended to shine light on the art of the possible based on unique experience in the new team.
Where We Fit In
What is also exciting about these health-checks is that Viewpoint are identifying specialist partners to provide any follow-on support and services to make sure customers get much more than a list of improvements and a handshake. This means they can signpost their customers to the right people to help them get the most out of their BIM Journey. The first partners announced at the summit were BIM Strategy, BIM Academy and PCSG, which between us offer a fantastic variety of BIM services from half day support right up to business level strategic implementation.
The reason this is exciting for the team here at BIM Strategy is that these potential new customers are already bought into the need to digitise construction processes and tasks because they are working with their software partners to transform their business. This means we’ll be able to hit the ground running and deliver great value right from the start.
I very kindly got a copy of the National BIM Survey 2018 through the underground network of BIM tunnels that run beneath the North East – (now you know how we do it!). So I had planned a to deliver a blog post about the survey as a whole today to give you all a flavour of the report from an independent view. However, I’ve been distracted by the chart above which is jumping out as an incredibly provocative result. Just 4% of the respondents believe that the BIM mandate has been ‘very successful’and more than 3 times as many believing it has been ‘not at all successful’.
Frankly, I don’t know how to feel about it…
I’ve always been aware that being part of the BIM-o-sphere, there is a positive confirmation bias that can become a bit of an echo chamber. This usually manifests itself in the Nation BIM Report each year with some wild results like 70% of organisations reaching BIM Level 2 (Spoiler Alert…they’re not). But there is a massive disparity here, do people really believe their adoption of BIM has not been impacted by the mandate?
I do have a feeling that some of this result can be put down to schadenfreude. Simply because it was government-led rather than industry-led there are some who want to point and laugh at the areas which have been least successful, like all government departments being able and ready to procure in a manner consistent with BIM Level 2 by 2016. But surely this only explains a minority slipping towards a negative response.
In my mind, the UK Government BIM mandate has been a huge success in accelerating a much-needed digitisation of our industry in a structured approach. Did they hit every coconut they aimed for in 2011? Well, no they didn’t, but to claim the work of the BIM Task Group and the #ukBIMcrew to make BIM Level 2 practically inevitable over the next decade is deeply unfair and IMHO way wide of the mark.
I’d love to debate this further, especially with anyone who believes they are reaching Level 2 and their journey was totally independent of the mandate.
Engaging manufacturers in the world of BIM is one of the unexpected joys of my role here at BIM Strategy. In my previous roles the only real contact I had with the world of construction product manufacturers was with their sharp end sales and CPD teams which to a degree hides the light of these businesses under a bushel. By visiting manufacturers to talk about BIM, I get a detailed look at the work that goes on to bring us the sophisticated array of construction products available in the UK today.
Recently we worked with Proctor Group to deliver some new model families to make design changes including their membranes much simpler and quicker. We had such a great time going on a BIM journey together we decided to deliver a webinar together to share the learning. You can find it here along with their BIM content https://www.proctorgroup.com/bim-webinar.