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A provocative question.
Of course, one can.
Why would the good character or even the BIM knowledge of a person be undermined by a paper-notebook and a pen?
Or a stack of A3 drawings?
Or owning bookshelves full of ring binders stuffed with paper?

None of the above should be an embracement to those actively promoting BIM?
Surely, not?
One must keep things in perspective, the industry is in a (forever) transitional stage –
of course paper is needed and allowed for, even in the most sophisticated of operations.

So, why do I feel uneasy to reach for an old-fashioned pen even for the most mundane of tasks?
Am I being overly zealous? Because of my ‘paperfreeconstruction’ movement?
Or a bit hypocritical?
The perfect illustration of the old saying of “people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"?

As recently as a month ago, I had a desk-full of post-it notes alongside my keyboard at work.
I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of multiple note books and kept paper copies of critical documents handy.
I still have a bucket of coloured pens and pencils in front of me as I type this.

Surely using paper is not a capital offence.
Moderate  consumption must be acceptable even in a strong push for digital progress of the AEC industry.
Or, should it?

No, let’s draw the line in the sand! (but not on paper…oh, what a feeble pun)

You BIM? You must be paperfree!
If your title has BIM in it, you ought to go paperfree!

Lead by example.
And the best of all is, that you can start on this journey without big announcements or pledges to make.
Just ditch the paper.
If your date-to-date activities are preventing you to do so, the problem is bigger than the medium.
Start examining those obstructions in detail.
They could be tasks, arcane processes or dealings with particular individuals within your organization.
Regardless, it is likely that you will be able to hit a pretty high percentage mark of paperfree within a month of focused work.

You should try it.
And, if you claim to be any-sort of a BIM professional, you ought to.
For the sake of credibility.

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My 10-year-old nephew Viki communicates with the world through drawings.
His latest masterpiece presents a series of occupations. He is self-thought and copies from various sources, nevertheless the illustrations are uniquely his.
One profession noticeable missing from his line-up, is that of the architect.

The absence of my own ‘calling’ on the drawings reminded me, how in popular representations of the architect, the accessories of the job are still the drawing board and the T square (or parallel square) while I have used neither for over 2 decades.

That though led me to explore my memory for films with architects and I quickly came up with a handful: Liam Neeson in ‘Love Actually’, Pierce Brosnan in ‘Mamma Mia’, Steve Martin in ‘It’s Complicated’ and one of (the very few) women, Michelle Pfeiffer in ‘One Fine Day’.
Then, I searched online and found lots of references to other movies and actors and characters...

But back to me. Naturally.
While I rarely consider myself to be ‘typical’ of anything, I do carry some of the usual characteristic of fifty-something architects, in that, I started off my career on the above-mentioned board with the T and parallel squares and using pencils and pens.
Still, the majority of my career has been spent with a computer mouse in my hand (wired) and tapping at a keyboard.
I kept up with sketching, doodling, scribbling and note-taking, but these latter activities were on paper.

Then, recently I went strictly paper-free.
Joining up the Movement toward paperfreeconstruction, I have committed to do all my work without the use of paper.
Cold turkey, no transition period.

I have been pretty good with the mouse for over two decades, drawing, modelling, manipulating models.
However, I have a way of ‘thinking with my hands’ I was very aware, that I had to find an appropriate digital pencil-pen and become comfortable with using it.

I had two versions to choose from.
The first was an HP pen that accompanied my work HP Elitebook (laptop).
The second, an Apple Pencil that came with an IPad, I inherited from my daughter.

It is early days, and I am getting to know both, but one thing is already obvious, that, there is very limited (or no) compatibility between the various media makes and supporting pens.
The other, that I already have a strong preference for the Apple Pencil if for nothing else, no batteries needed.

I’ll get my nephew to draw me holding an IPad and Apple Pencil, next time I see him.

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My mother has been a solid supporter of my BIM journey over the last 3 decades. She speaks very little English but has lived with us for long enough and attended enough of my Serbian/Hungarian presentations to get the gist of what I am about.
She has no idea what the ‘BIM’ acronym stands for exactly, but is closely associating it with all my professional ups and downs.
She loyally shares my blog announcements on Facebook and looks over Slideshows, YouTube movies, PP presentations I make. I can say, she is a fan of mine.

Launching the ‘paperfree’ movement, I managed to unsettle her.
She is confused.
Sure, she is happy, that I am again enthusiastic about the BIM-thing, the apathy that was consuming me over the stagnation of its development, worried her.
She is just not following the logic.
Almost thirty years ago, I was first talking about computer modelling of buildings.
I ‘drew’ the first axo chair in AutoCAD 25 years ago and showed it to her.
I documented full houses in 3D ArchiCAD 20 years ago in our design studio, while she looked after our children.
I designed and modelled iconic commercial buildings in Teamwork Architecture when we moved to a bigger town 15 years ago.
I built a business based on super-clever construction modelling some 12 years ago.
I taught how to BIM globally 10 years ago.
I’ve been writing a blog on the topic that is widely read everywhere over the last 5 years.
She could see the technology developing, my ideas maturing, the stakes rising.

And now? My blogposts keep coming up with the same hand-phone logo? And talking about paper?
She is curious, of course.
I tell her this is exciting. It is radical.
What can be more radical that all the ideas I presented over the years, many we pushed through fruition even at high personal price?

She questions, wants to understand.
So I say, this is not really radical.
This is nothing new.
It is the old BIM. The same BIM. The BIM that many have been selling and few doing.
Or not even BIM, at all.

I am just trying to get rid of paper from my working life and am encouraging others to do so.
Just asking people to work paperfree.
Keep doing the same things as always (draw, model, write, read, sketch…) just don’t use the paper.

She understands but remains puzzled.
Same, same – but different?

In time, I will be able to explain to her the logic of going back to basics and eliminating the paper from the processes.
I’ll tell her the theory, that a large portion of the industry, that is by and large ambivalent to BIM-ish changes, I believe would respond to positive development given the push in the right direction.
Rather than ‘forcing’ people through BIM training, modelling courses, even just theoretical seminars,

I’d love to see them ‘just’ go paperfree.

Think before you print! (good for the environment too, but my major objective is different, here).

Can you get by doing everything on a laptop? Or a tablet.
Save to a cloud straight away?
Mark up drawings on screen?
Sort them, check against models?
Is it hard? Why? Is it the tools? Or something else?
Can you get rid of your paper note book?

I’d love to hear what keeps you hanging onto paper?

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Despite BIM having been around for 3+ decades, it is by no means embraced by the global AEC.
There is a thin layer of participants that push the idea for various reasons (usually superficial), and there are people (in a very small minority) that practice it wholeheartedly. (my respect is with them).

And then, there is the rest.
Most of the industry is uneasy about the BIM thing, yet there is rarely meaningful discussion about it. It is kind of un-PC to question it, those that do, get often passive-aggressively BIM shamed.

Many, that have at some point jumped into it with enthusiasm had since pulled back and are holding on the non-BIM approach even stronger. They are usually not very vocal about their disillusionment but manage to get by in their daily work without needing to engage in BIM activities.

Often these are the ‘better’ people of the industry, the ones with more technical experience, insight and risk management skills.

As someone that has a lot of affinity with both those that are BIM enthusiast as well as those that are BIM doubters, I feel entitled to offer up an approach that might just counter the indignity of a ‘BIM laggard label’ and fulfil one’s own need for self-development.

Become a self-sustained paperfreemodule!
Ditch the paper in your work no matter if you are pro-or-against BIM.

I believe, that no real progress in the overall construction industry will happen as long as we have ‘the’ paper present in and around our core processes.
I am referring here to the ‘real paper’, in its physical representation, not documents that ‘look like paper documents’ but can just as well function in purely digital forms (letters, contracts, drawings etc);

I have an issue with the ‘medium’ and not the content.
(in fact, I have many issues with the content as well, but here I am focusing on the ‘medium’).

My reasoning goes like this:
For the AEC to modernise itself, (and in fact any type of BIM to succeed), it needs a critical portion of its participants to fully embrace digital information creation and management.
Most will not do it, because they do not have to.
Most will not do it, as ‘they get by’.

Someone else will find the file.
Someone else will print the drawing. (or create a PDF and then print the PDF)
Someone else will CADup a markup.
Someone else will update the model from sketches.

If we take the ‘paper’ out of the industry and out of reach of the ‘average’, non-BIM-literate participants (engineers, contractors) – they will find themselves ever-slightly out of their comfort zones, having to ‘figure out’ doing usual work with unusual tools.

They will not by miracle all start modelling at once or walk around with VR headsets on sketching construction details in the air.
But they will sketch on tablets. And keep their files in the cloud so they are available on all of their devices.
And learn to use flat PDFs in conjunction with models.
And pay attention to models on screens at meetings.

They will in turn also push the ‘supply chain’ to develop meaningful tools that will support everyone, not just the born-and-bred BIMmers from the beginning of this story.

There is much, much more to this concept than what I’ve just described, but for now, let’s assume that the theory has legs.
Let’s also suppose, that even the best breed of self-proclaimed BIM gurus of the industry are only functioning at half speed when they aren’t strictly paperfree.

I’ll have to digress a bit here.
Many, many, many people of the AEC industry will, heaving read my thoughts above jump up and be dismayed on how ‘out of synch with reality I am’ and how old ‘this news is’.
There are many, many, many successful examples of paperfree processes already in place everywhere, they’d state.

I stand by the theory.
Claimed ‘Paperfree processes’ in the AEC are extremely rarely truly paper free.
(or even ‘somewhat’ paperfree)

Look around and the pesky thing is everywhere.

Ring-binder folders of claims.
Marked up (and outdated) drawings.
Printed (and impossible to read) Programmes.

I am an optimist at heart and I believe this reality can be changed.
I am going fully and absolutely paper free in my own working methods and am inviting others to do the same.

The paperfreeconstruction groupon LinkedIn is to support the Movement.
Get involved and you might just find this BIM thing much more palatable.
And the best of all, you don’t even have to announce anything publicly, just start doing it.

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Paperfreeconstruction is a goal, an idea, an ideal to work towards, something to believe in.

The road to it is via building up paperfreemodules, that are self-contained, autonomous and self-sufficient.  

Paperfreemodules can be created at any level within the industry.
A construction site can become a paperfreemodule, an engineering company, a large development or an individual.

I am starting with the individual.

So, what I managed to come is the Manifesto of the Movement.
I do know the ‘why’s too, just find it harder to put it into one sentence.
Am working on it;

In the meantime, if you have 1.5 hours free time look at this youtube video:
This slideshow might add a bit more food for thought:

And of course,… there are 8 years of blog posts here that one way or other lead to the same thing: paperfreeconstruction

Join the freshly set up group on LinkedIn!

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DebunkTheBIM by Zolna Murray - 8M ago

For 8 long years, I’ve been writing this blog.
While its impact on anyone else has been less than miniscule, the act of writing helped me out of some rough patches.
And for the latter, I am thankful.

I stumbled into the industry of creating buildings in my early teens.
First, I just wanted to learn everything I could while working in it.
Gradually though, fixing the small and the big issues that plagued the industry became my mission.
The ‘Big BIM thing’ I’ve been immersing myself in for over 2 decades is one of the manifestations of the urge to make a positive difference.

These days, I am thinking small.

I am starting up a Movement.
A small and slow movement.
A movement of ONE.

The idea behind the movement is a concept I’ve fussed over for years, a theory that survived many a crash I endured through my roller-coaster-ride like career.
It is simpler and, on the surface, less compelling than any of my other ideas, theories and models.
But, it is a beauty.

It is a Movement towards a World of paperfreeconstruction.
A World where buildings are designed, documented, constructed, occupied and maintained without any use of paper.

I haven’t been able to change the industry.
I worked hard, yet I could not get ONE paperless project off the ground.

Nevertheless, I am still working in the industry.
I have a job, so I can live and work by my own mantra.
I am setting out to become totally paperfree in my daily work.

I will keep using this blog to share my ‘journey’ (a cheesy habit, my apologies).

I also set up a LinkedIn platform for the likeminded, individuals and companies to join in and share their own experiences in working towards a paperfreeconstruction.
But only if they want to, I am quite happy paperfreeing on my own.

This is not a business idea, not a commercial venture.
Just a Movement.

For updates on how I am doing, join up here or follow the blog.
It Only Takes One Person to Start a Movement, people say.

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One day, I will publish the post I wrote in my head yesterday, when I read the article, referenced below.
No, I am not chickening out of tackling difficult topics, it is just not in the interest of my self-preservation to do it, right now.
Still, considering the relatively loyal and global readership of this blog, I think it is in the interest of the worldwide participants of the AEC industry, to at least give the article a bit of a focused boost.

So, read it!
While NZ may think that their troubles are local – there are many critical elements of its troubles that are very much global and also relevant to others.

In a vice-grip: Construction sector grasped by turmoil

Image from here:

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When it comes to BIM, the industry seems to split neatly over two groups:
One, a tiny one is made up of those that publicly accept to know absolutely nothing about BIM and are happy to stay as such.
The other, a significantly larger group consist of almost everyone else and they are the ones that know ‘everything’ about BIM.

This state of affairs has its amusing side, mostly for those that truly know ‘something’ about BIM (but are of course in the ‘know everything’ assemblage) – at every opportunity when the ones that ‘know very little’, expose their BIM ignorance lavishly, through stating/discussing/teaching ‘facts about BIM’.

I’ve spent many-many years patiently (or less so) debunking some of those ‘facts’, with very little impact on their ability to grow and flourish and reach incredible levels of fiction by now.

Not surprisingly though gradually, self-preservation has triumphed over my altruistic tendencies to create a ‘well informed – BIM literate industry’ and I stopped trying to put right every BIM-mislead soul I come across in my day-to-day work.
Let them eat their make-believe BIM cake, what do I care?

But even with my newly found ‘better bend than break’ attitude, I can’t help having this misplaced feeling of responsibility to ‘do the right thing’, from time to time.

Like now.
So, here we are, a quick and easy takeaway for all that work in the AEC industry and can be defined as, building-project owners.
This term (for me) includes everybody that purchases from the AEC industry, from small house-renovators that rely on small scale designers-documenters and builders, through groups of people making up boards of trustees of schools, hospitals and other organizations that procure building works from the industry, all the way to unscrupulous developers that get their millions and emotional kicks from screwing anyone that comes across them.

All of you building-project owners, through your journey in realizing some sort of a building-related goal/dream will come across people ‘selling you BIM services’.

They will be wearing the uniforms of architects telling you that you must pay extra, so they can produce their drawings by ‘drawing in 3D’.
They will be kitchen designers that will argue, that you should consider giving them a bit extra for your joinery to be documented in 3D.
They might also be respectable, large contractors claiming to give you a better process (and less variations?) if their P&Gs were expanded to cover some BIM offerings too.
They might be specialist BIM consultants wanting your dollars to check on the design consultants work, or they may be QS’s claiming to calculate quantities better when paid for a BIM-enabled service.

Whoever they are and as much as they are respectable, trustworthy and genuinely nice people, don’t fall for this ploy!

Standard BIM should not cost extra.
iIn fact, the cost of ‘standard services’ of document manipulation within the industry (this includes everything to do with ‘drawings and design’) should be priced to deliver a fit-for-purpose product (usually a building) at an agreed level of quality and at an agreed cost within and agreed time, regardless of how the documents are produced.
Whether done on butter paper in pencil, by flatCAD or full-blown BIM, should have no impact on the services’ cost.

True, each of the three types of media I just mentioned would give the end-users (i.e. the paying client) a different level of ‘enjoyment’ through the process, nevertheless for any of them to be worth paying for, they must be fit-for-purpose.
Building design, at any scale or discipline flavor is not a hamburger meal that can be up or down sized.
It is pretty much a one-size fits all.

So, again, if you are a building-project client – as an individual or part of an organization, you should not be asked (or forced) to pay extra for ‘standard BIM’ even when you are burdened by a government mandated (dog’s breakfast of a) BIM.

BIM, standard BIM. What is (a) STANDARD BIM?
Now, the definition of “standard BIM’ will unlikely to be in any official BIM standard.
Though, I have not checked – reading those makes me depressed.

According to my own, unofficial understanding of everything BIM, the meaning of “Standard BIM’ is everything that is BIM but is not ‘value added’.
Clear as mud?

Think of it like this, if the argument for BIM is that it will foster better communication and co-ordination, identify errors early, reduce rework, reduce costs and overall improve quality of deliverables – then you’d have the right to ask if the pre-BIM delivery of the said service provider was in fact poorly coordinated, full of errors, costlier and of questionable quality?

Unless the BIM enabled deliverer is going for its very first gig, it is unlikely anyone working in pre-BIM era would admit to having produced less than perfect services before they got all BIMmed up, even though we all know, that they all have been and still are, BIM or no BIM.

If you want to easily clarify if something is (or is not) a value-added BIM, here is a tip: was this part of the ‘standard services’ (of the architect, other consultant, contractor etc) before BIM came on board?
If yes, then it is not a value-added BIM (i.e. fully coordinated and buildable drawings, fully accurate as built documents or reliable quantities).

One that is a value-added BIM, addition of FM data into the model (and making the model fully available to the client). Another is providing a ‘buildable’ model, something the contractor can really build off. (very risky and not for BIM amateurs).

Internationally, the role of BIM (Building Information Modelling) is growing exponentially within the construction design and build industry and there is strong momentum to implement and realise its benefits.
Building project owners are responsible for supporting the ‘good intentions’ of this approach as much as the other industry participants. However, it can not become a simple ‘tax’ where any and all costs of BIM-enablement is passed onto these owners.

Unless, of course there is an industry-wide admission that the last 20-30 years of pre-BIM offerings of the industry were less than adequate, i.e. not fit for purpose.

Picture borrowed from here:

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