Wednesday, March 6, 2013


This is an experiment

That was hand written shortly after I typed the following notes on my Surface

The surface camera is struggling with hand-written text in poor light, so I have re-typed the next bit of the story.

In the earlier one-note session I had drawn a diagram.
(PIS = product information system)  (DIC = digitally informed construction)

The hand-written page was interrupted by breakfast. I got as far as this.

The Surface is becoming a useful tool for catching early morning & late night thoughts while they are fresh in memory.  I like it a lot & enjoy the ease of transferring files to & from my laptop. 

That was my desk soon after arriving at work.  The experiment is some kind of "reality TV post".  Just throwing bits and pieces of my thoughts at you in the raw form that I captured them in.  Here is the view from the back of the surface while it sits on my desk.  The orange cupboards are full of project files.  So much for the paperless office.

So I have this idea that the "single building model" is great for designers (drawing-ers as they say in France) but only part of the story for builders & suppliers, who can certainly use the model, but don't spend their waking hours MAKING models.  So perhaps the classic "spokes of a wheel diagram" is not the full story.  Hence my "love triangle"   I can hear some of you saying, yes put that is the traditional process, we need a new process (IPD etc etc)  Fine.  But firstly many of us are stuck with the traditional process for some years yet & we need to find ways of involving suppliers & contractors in our BIM process.  Secondly even with IPD, most of the suppliers will be outside the Integrated Design & Build team, and there will still be a subtle shift of roles when the project moves from "drawing board" to site.  Perhaps the diagram will be more of a T square than a Triangle.

So I am just thinking aloud, don't get too stressed, but perhaps we are trying too hard to shoehorn everything into the BIM box.  BIM is Building Information Modelling.  You are making a virtual 3d building with intelligence.  So you can do that with Archicad or Revit.  It's an extension of the long & extremely worthy tradition of visual thinking (drawing/design)  People talk about BIG BIM, meaning that "BIM for desiging with" starts to suggest ways that other activities in the world of construction might also change.  So you get terms like "field BIM", "5d BIM" ... (not sure why field BIM isn't called 6d BIM :-)  No problem.  People like Newforma have been a bit bolder and labelled their processes PIM (Project Information Management)   We even find people referring to "BIM authoring" to distinguish this part of the process from "BIM collaboration" or "BIM costing"   I can't help thinking, what's the difference between BIM authoring and BIM modelling ? 

Just stand back for a second.  We have drawing tools, costing tools, filing tools, programming tools.  We used to do this stuff manually, now we have digital processes that transform the way we work (like letters & email).  What we are struggling with a bit is getting everything to work nicely together.  I have been guilty of banging away at suppliers, "you need to get on the BIM train, you're out of date, why aren't there any Revit families on your website ?"  Fair enough, but perhaps we should also be listening to them.  Don't you think they have their own digital revolution going on ?  They have web sites where you can interact with their products.  Do we have web sites where you can interact with our buildings ?  Well maybe, sort of, but they tend to be glorified FTPs. Can an ironmongery supplier get on to our web site and populate our building with door hardware interactively ?

By and large we have managed to sell the idea that BIM is the catch-all phrase for where we are heading as an industry.  But it's a term that originated as a description of software for architects.  Applied to what engineers to it works fairly well.  Applied to what Quantity Surveyors do ... yeah maybe ... financial modelling perhaps.  Applied to what contractors do, document controllers do, materials suppliers & product manufacturers do ? ... not so sure.  BIM is becoming a term that is so all-encompassing and generalised that it starts to lose it's freshness & vitality.  Just look at some of the definitions out there.

Perhaps the design team should be saying "this is what we do. We called it BIM because we build an intelligent model of the building inside our computers.  We can give you access to this model.  We could even let you fiddle with some parts of it.  What tools & processes have you developed ?  How do they work ?  What do you like to call them ?  How could we imagine these systems talking to each other ? "

In short: maybe we should be listening more and shouting less.


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  2. A quantity surveyors may work for either the client or the contractor, working in an office or on-site. They are involved in a project from the start, preparing estimates and costs of the work.


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