Questioning the Consultants

Posted: April 27, 2017 in BIM Information

Question: why are consultants fighting the use of a BIM Process that can save them time and coordination headaches?

 

I frequently work with my colleagues to coordinate consultants, and it’s part of my job to make sure that our consultants know what we expect from them. Although our office works exclusively in Revit and requires our consultants to do so as well, I find that Revit gets used as a drafting tool instead of a BIM Tool. Consultants complain that using Revit to capture information such as slab slopes, ramps, stairs and wood framing is ‘not part of the fee’. They may be willing to model the major elements but they do not want to provide a model for coordination with the architect or to the client.

The struggle is real: working with smaller consultant firms is a big problem when trying to facilitate interoffice BIM goals. If BIM is not required by the client most smaller firms would prefer to charge more for using a BIM workflow. I think that the use of Revit implies a start to the BIM workflow. After all, if you use the software as intended to incorporate information 3D coordination will occur.  There is an amazing advantage to all parties involved in the project.

Struggle

My response is always the same. Although our clients may not have explicit BIM goals, my office has an expectation that all consultants will collaborate on the project. We strive to deliver the best project possible to the client, and we need efficient collaboration to make this happen. Each project utilizing the BIM Tool Revit gets some sort of BIM Execution Plan (BIMeX) and I expect consultants on our projects to build models to a level that is documented in the BIMex and discussed at the project Kick-off meeting with all parties involved.

I am always confused by the consultant approach of using Revit as a 2D drafting tool. Revit is a BIM tool and it draws in 3D and is not a 2D drafting tool. Accurate modelling that all team members can use for coordination is the entire point of the software! Is this where BIM sputters? Is this the first edition of the software? Absolutely not: this is 2017 and we have been using this process for several years.

Understanding client requirements can allow the Architect to dictate the need for BIM Goals and create an in-house BIM Execution Plan. These requirements should be written into the consultant agreement and all consultants should agree to abide by the BIMeX. These meetings are meant to outline the use of software during the project timeline, the Level of Development within the model, what is modeled, how models are exchanged and who owns what elements in the 3D environment.

Once the BIMeX is created and agreed upon by the Architectural team it’s time to have a Project Kick-off meeting to go over the BIMeX and requirements of the projects modeling needs. It’s always best to sit down in person to discuss these requirements to make sure there is no confusion and everyone can agree upon the BIM Goals and deliverable. This documentation is used throughout the lifecycle of the project for a record of modeling responsibilities and requirements that all parties agreed on.

As Henry Ford said:   “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

A Year Later…

Posted: April 5, 2017 in BIM Information, Support

one-year

It has been a year and the journey has been rough at times, but I am optimistic the future is bright.

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new – Albert Einstein

A year ago I wrote about a New adventure I was starting at ZGF Cotter Architects: http://wp.me/p4aYOX-2j. A lot has happened in that year; we dropped the Cotter and are now fully established as ZGF, the Canadian branch of the Number One Architectural firm in America.

As a design firm, ZGF believes in utilizing technology research to help better the design. As the year has progressed I’ve discovered what that phrase actually means to the firm. I’ve heard people say “don’t get in the designer’s way.” I didn’t really understand this phrase from my perspective of process and support. I am not an architect and I do not design amazing buildings or come up with incredible solutions for a client’s building; I do not want to. My job is to support those that do.

What I love is to work with process. I believe that technology can be leveraged to give designers more time to focus on what *they* really want to do and do well. I believe creating standards for content and materials enables users to focus on design and forget about the technology behind the output. When I hear the phrase “stay out of the way”, I now understand it’s about streamlining the process so you can keep the technology out of the way.

This past year has been a period of learning and growth to discover the best ways to help my designer-colleagues use BIM technology. To date my job as Design Technology Manager has followed these three phases:

Phase One: Understand what currently is used to help the designer tell a story for the project.

  • Are there specific types of software that are used?
  • What is the workflow during the design process?
  • How does that differ from project to project?
  • When is the design process at a point for documentation?
  • Does design ever stop?

Phase two:

  • Learn how to link software together so the design intent and work remains intact.
  • Work with colleagues to identify where information management can be automated and streamline workflow.
  • Review different project types to make sure that universally applied processes still apply.
  • Create templates to assist team with process documentation
  • Ensure that technology process allows for updates and changes along the project timeline.

Phase three: Setup a BIM Implementation plan for the Vancouver office and focus on making it succeed.

The Danger of BIM Theory

Posted: February 28, 2017 in BIM Information

I was recently at a BIM conference and found myself listening to a presentation on a project I worked on at a past firm. This was a P3 project (Private-Public-Partnership) located in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Listening to the presentation was a bit surreal; their focus was how they had used BIM to manage  data. Once the Architect finished discussing data management and how information was used, my replacement started talking about how BIM was a key. His presentation focused on the theory of BIM and how it can be used on a P3, but included nothing about how BIM was used on the P3 project that we won.

Listening to the presentation helped me realize there is a serious problem with the implementation of BIM. I believe the issue starts with those in charge of BIM Implementation in a firm. I have met many professionals that lead BIM inside their firm.  Some have no experience with the tools; others have come up through the ranks using the tools but have no experience with setting up the process. These two types of BIM leaders have different types of BIM Implementation strategies. Those with experience in the tools tend to lean towards a CAD Management approach. Those without hands-on use and an educational background tend to come to the table with theories of BIM process and an unrealistic idea of its function on projects.

In order for BIM to succeed there needs to be a shift in BIM Leadership across the board. The BIM process should be implemented in a way that helps your firm succeed, not make projects less profitable. BIM tools need to be taught in a way that is easy for users and is not locked down to enforce standards.  BIM Leaders also should be included at the beginning of all projects and invited to attend meetings that discuss:

  • Project resourcing
  • Project/owner requirements
  • Project goals such as sustainability and life cycle management.

The BIM tools should never get in the way of BIM implementation but with the current trend of some BIM leaders around the globe, BIM has become dysfunctional and possible even a money pit.

I am currently working with the office Partner in charge to implement a working BIM process that will prove to the other 5 offices in my firm that when BIM is implemented correctly it is successful and profitable.

A quote from Albert Einstein sums up the role of all BIM Leaders: Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.

It was a great year for me in 2016; I started a new job at ZGF Architects in the Vancouver BC office, and I was able to give a few presentations around Vancouver.

The Vancouver office of ZGF Architects reached out to me in November 2015, looking for a someone to teach and develop Vancouver office BIM tools and implementation. I was familiar with the firm; when I started working in architecture way back in 1995 (in Portland Oregon) I applied for a job at ZGF because they were the best. Since I was trained as a drafter instead of an architect I was not able to join ZGF in 1995 when I first left college. I am glad that the zigs and zags of my career, including years in other firms and moving to Vancouver BC to perfect my skills in BIM, have led me to a place where I can bring real world knowledge and experience to this great design firm.

A big difference between ZGF and my previous firms is their focus on excellence in design. This is the first place I have worked where the focus is solely on the best design possible,  and where clients actually walk in the door and expect that excellence.  I am looking forward to developing and working on a process that can stay in line with the ZGF belief, “Technology should stay out of the Designers way”

Outside of job-related news, as part of my joy of sharing all things BIM and the power of process I was able to give a few talks.

I started the year off at CanBIM on February 17th.  I was invited to sit on a panel and discuss challenges in BIM production. I appreciated the chance to hear different opinions and approaches to BIM; it is always useful to hear how others are dealing with this struggle and what they have found works and does not work.

I was on another panel in February titled ‘The Broken Project Delivery Model” at Buildex Vancouver. I was joined by more of my BIM Manager colleagues to talk about our struggles with software and implementation and to discuss how BIM is working and delivered on projects here in Canada.

When March rolled around, I walked over to BCIT to talk to students about BIM as part of architectural practice. This was a great opportunity to teach the next generation about the importance of BIM in our field. This was the first introduction for most on BIM and how it works. I believe that if we can get BIM to be taught more in schools,  process development and implementation will become second nature to our new grades, leading to technological innovation.

In April, I had the chance to give another student presentation, this time at VCC. This talk focused on what architecture looks like today compared to when I started.

In 2015 when I went to ‘Live inside the Factory’ at Autodesk in Boston, I made several friends from around the world. One in particular ran the Charlottesville Revit User Group. She reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to give a talk. I polled the group and came up with ‘Rethinking the Design workflow in the AEC Industry’. This topic is something we all need to address in order to change the process and get closer to our BIM goals.

In November, I presented to the VRCA (Vancouver Regional Construction Association) at their Innovation Boot Camp. This was a great opportunity to explain BIM and its uses for Contractors and Architects. This is one boot camp of three; I will also be presenting in Prince George and Victoria BC this year.

I really enjoy these opportunities to share and help others on the road to BIM: presenting to both industry professionals and students is one of my favorite things to do. When I started my journey down the path of BIM education and process, I found it very difficult to find information and educate myself. There did not seem to be any answers out there in cyber space. In the three years since I started this blog, meeting people who have read and enjoy it has been priceless and I appreciate the chance to educate readers.

2017 is going to be another great year; after all, it started out with a bang. I was featured in the People profile of the Q4 2016 AECBytes Magazine. For my blog this year I hope to post more in my series on ‘Change in the AEC Industry’: there are more stages of change to cover. I will post some of the presentations I have made with the hope that you too can move your firm forward. I am also currently working on a new book about the why and how to be a BIM Manager in Architecture.

Looking forward to the ride and sharing the struggles with moving forward and progressing towards a better process.

-BIMFeak

Today I’d like to talk about how we can help the industry adapt to BIM. This is a big leap, and it’s useful to break down the changes into smaller steps. BIM is a popular idea that isn’t always well understood  and has yet to be fully realized.

bim-change

We start our journey to successful BIM implementation at Stage One (Precontemplation). At this stage, firms understand they have to change, but are trying to hold on for a while longer. This is often because they have been misinformed or have had a bad experience using BIM tools. A combination of miscommunication and unrealistic goals have many firms frozen between a desire to adopt new strategies, and a fear of out-of-control costs. The previous implementation of AutoCAD created a lasting scare for most firms, and offices that had bad experiences with the introduction of AutoCAD are more likely to avoid BIM.

Let’s start by addressing the role of the BIM Manager. CAD Managers are not BIM managers, and making a CAD Manager the BIM Manager by just sending them to Revit training will create a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what BIM is and what it can do. For example, this year I had a conversation with a PM who was telling me how good his firm was at BIM. He said “We are one of the best Architecture firms with Revit, so yes we are using BIM”.  He didn’t understand that he was missing most of the tools that BIM provides. That, my friends, sums up the reason why BIM Implantation is struggling.

A BIM Manager’s main task is to make BIM Tools as simple to use as possible. If the tool gets in the way of any part of the Design process, staff will resist using it and default to previous strategies for solving the problem. The BIM Manager must also be at the beginning of all projects. Every project in the office should start following a BIM process, no matter who else in the consultant team is also doing BIM: what matters is the practice of the process. If all projects proceed with a standard BIM Process implementation becomes second nature.

BIM Managers must have a working knowledge of the tools they provide to staff, and the patience to work with users to help them understand how to make these tools an effective part of their workflow. In a feasibility study, for example, the AutoCAD process is long and is prone to calculation errors. If instead we use Revit to create a feasibility study we can design a massing plan for each area, extrude to the height needed, add a mass floor and create an area schedule and then link that data into an excel table that calculates the areas for us. Each tweak and boundary shift is then automatically recalculated, giving the user immediate updates of information that can both streamline their process and allow them to focus more on design.

I was able to convert several Architects into using Massing in Revit for their FSR city requirements by simply showing them how efficient this process can be. If we can create and teach processes that help users understand and use the tools successfully, BIM Managers can guide firms from the Precontemplation stage  into the Contemplation stage.

As a BIM Manager you hold the power to transition your firm successfully into BIM, or to simply let them suffer in silence.

30 years ago the introduction of computer automated drafting in the AEC industry transformed how  projects were delivered. This change is a minor tremor compared to the earthquake created by the introduction of BIM tools. In 20 years the industry has been radically transformed: in 1998 a couple of guys in Wellesley, MA sat down and started writing code for a new piece of 3D software called Revit,  in 2000 Autodesk buys Revit and in 2016 we are still trying to get firms to change to a new workflow process.

A few weeks ago, I realized the most used phrase in my office is “Change is Hard”. I started to think more about it and I thought it was time for a little research, and so I’ve been reading paper after paper on the Stages of Change and how to modify behaviors/attitudes. The more reading I do the more I realize there is a need for a change in the way we initiate and implement BIM.

Unfortunately, the changes firms made 20 years ago to shift from drafting by hand to using CAD left a lasting mark on the industry. When we had to move to this new Electronic Drafting software, firms didn’t understand the need for someone to manage the software.  Adoption was painful, slow, and costly. In time, it became clear that larger firms needed a CAD Manager to create protocols and workflow and help team members control their drawings sets. When offices began to implement Revit, many assumed their CAD Manager could handle the new workflow process. CAD Managers were sent to Revit training and came back to the office crowned as BIM Managers. This trend led to Revit users being guided by CAD Managers who do not understand the complexity of the role of BIM Manager. The title has been degraded to the point some firms will not even use it. It’s time to take back this role and recreate the definition and position.

This brings us to my research and a better understanding of how the AEC industry can learn to take advantage of BIM Technologies.

Let’s start with adapting the Transtheoretical Model to match BIM. I will revisit this flowchart and adjust based on new information that comes to light. Over the next several weeks I will be outlining my ideas and plans for each stage of BIM adoption to review how to minimize the failure and maximize the success of every team adopting BIM.

bim-change

Time to be a BIM leader

Posted: August 17, 2016 in BIM Information

Tangled-Resistance-Network-300x300

It’s time to be a leader; time to take control of this BIM rollercoaster and set it on the right course.

To quote Wesley Benn “Is BIM Better… er… er?” Currently there are a lot of misconceptions in BIM and too much leaping before looking. As BIM advocates and innovators we need to educate our teams so that they can learn to harness BIM strategies instead of being overwhelmed.

“A leader has to bend and shape his or her leadership so people can be encouraged, engaged, energized, and mobilized in a way that works for each of them individually. It is not easy, but it does pay off.”

Mark Kiker, AUGI World, October 2014

So let’s get started… but how? The best way I know is to break the process down into manageable chunks.

Step one: Create an implementation plan that sets a clear path to BIM.

  1. Teach the proper definition of BIM to all staff. Many teams get stuck thinking that BIM is just software instead of a holistic project management system.  Using a 3D modelling tool is not BIM; using 3D modelling software that allows users to design a building and access building information from a database IS BIM
  1. Create a BIM curriculum for Lunch and Learns. I was able to tailor the curriculum based on my conversations with staff members. By laying out a curriculum based on staff knowledge (or lack of knowledge) of BIM, I was able to target their weak areas and present to their skill level. Each topic was presented at a lunch time session and recorded for those that missed the original presentation.

 An sample BIM curriculum:

1.       Understanding BIM and its uses.

2.       How to start your project using BIM

3.       BIM Tools

4.       BIM Design Methods

5.       Standardized Documentations

6.       Multidisciplinary Coordination

7.       Sustainability and LEED

8.       Extending BIM Beyond Design

Step two: Become an integral part of the project kick-off or project execution plan.

  1. If your company does not have a project start or execution plan, it’s time to put one together. BIM belongs on the table before any project starts, prior to software being used. The choice to use BIM will affect the information within the model, how the project will interact with all members of the team and the project requirements.
  1. Get the project team thinking about using BIM tools and working towards BIM execution requirements. Often teams don’t realize that BIM is just as powerful during the design phase as it is during documentation. During the design phase the team can link the 3D model to cost estimating software, allowing real time changes that keep the project on budget and on time.

Step three: Don’t let the tools or the idea of BIM get in the way.

My job as a Design Technology Manager is to make sure BIM is easily implemented and that users are able to use these tools effectively. Technology and how BIM is used is continually advancing, make sure you keep an ear to the ground and keep up with technology for Architecture.

Now lets all go out there and get everyone on the right road, stop all this BIM madness.