buildingSMART International Summit

When I first jumped into BIM and worked to understand what it all meant I quickly realized the array of tools could be an issue. I found the website and dove in reading about a worldwide industry body driving digital transformation of the built asset industry. Imagine an organization that brings the worlds visionaries in the built environment industry. After being a part of teams that continually fought over internal company standards and how to protect people from stealing them yet getting others to use them it was refreshing to read about a collaborative community from around the world.

My recent move to an international company gave me the opportunity to attend one of the summits held twice a year. This year I was able to attend the spring session held in Dusseldorf Germany.

buildingSMART Dusseldorf

buildingSMART focuses on standardizing processes, workflows and procedures for BIM on a worldwide stage. We are a community of volunteers from around the world made up of industry users who have a passion in BIM and want to create Open Standards. I could spend several blog posts discussing the value and the goals of buildingSMART so please take a look at their website to see if your company would like to submit a project for use case, or better yet,  win an award.

The Spring Summit began with an opening Plenary. There were 4 keynote lectures:

1st Keynote lecture: Industry insights on the state of digitization by Carsten Lotz (McKinsey & Company),

2nd Keynote lecture: Digital Twin for buildings by Peter Löffler (VP Innovation and Industry Affairs, Siemens Building Technologies),

3rd Keynote lecture: The Digital Twin for Infrastructure by Mark Enzer (CTO Mott MacDonald)

4th keynote lecture: Future of Cloud Technology by Andy Verone (Global VP Industry Strategy and Innovation, Oracle).

Being able to hear from different technology companies from around the world helps give perspective.

The second and third day are about ‘Rooms’, the rooms are divided into 2 categories; Technical Focus and User Focus.

The Technical Focus Rooms includes; (from the buildingSMART website)

Building Room’s core mission is to create open digital standards and solutions by enabling intelligent data that either contributes to the planning, design and construction of buildings, or the ongoing operations and maintenance. This will enable process and data integration for the buildings for the entire lifecycle.

Infrastructure Room’s purpose is to combine, enhance and develop open standards for intelligent data, which enable process and data integration for infrastructure.

Product Room’s purpose is the development and provision of processes, templates, tools and functionality to enable the robust and efficient use of the product data, relevant third party standards, classification system and other forms of structure content for openBIM

Technical Room has overall responsibility to explore and coordinate the investigation and where desirable facilitate buildingSMART’s engagement with fundamental technical advancements which may enhance or accelerate the provision of robust openBIM solutions to users.


The User Focus Rooms includes; (from the buildingSMART website)

Airport Room’s purpose is to develop and deploy open digital standards for the airport environment. The unification of digital airport standards will enable more efficient working form the common supply chain and create a uniform approach to the industry.

Construction Room’s purpose is to advance site productivity, lower construction costs, and improve construction safety through the use of BIM and the application of open data standards.

Railway Room’s purpose is to accelerate and exploit new digital opportunities for railway systems and create a comprehensive and applicable digital representation of the entire railway ecosystem that will support all phases of the lifecycle.

Regulatory Room’s purpose is helping project owners and regulatory authorities benefit from the use of openBIM.

There is also a bSI General Room where we received updates and overviews of what bSI is implementing and working on. Each of the rooms have a steering committee to create the work goals and remits of the room. Going to the rooms give us the opportunity to hear where they are headed, ask questions and give any feedback they require.

In order to advance the notion of OpenBIM we need to collaborate as a whole. Getting everyone from around the globe who are passionate about open standards and getting the industry to move forward is exciting.


Industrial AR/VR Forum Skype Presentation

I go to Autodesk University almost every year. It’s a great way to keep up with BIM trends and people, and I love learning about all the new things they are working on. A couple of years ago, I played with an AR app they had in the Hub. Ever since then I have wanted to learn how to create an app for my company that would project a building on a client logo. Unfortunately, I’m not good at learning through Youtube or by reading books online; I need someone watching and showing me.

So, late last year I looked up a class I had heard about at the AR/VR Summit held here in Vancouver BC called “VR/AR Development with Unity” by Circuit Stream. There are two classes a week, and it’s geared to anyone who wants to learn Unity and create VR/AR apps. This class also gives the student 1 class a week spent one-on-one with a trainer who helps develop your app with VR or AR. I loved the class, and think it’s fantastic.  I learned how to use Unity and to program actions in the scenes. The class showed me what was possible and how to get there. The class includes 20 online sessions online – my class has 4 students. I had never used Unity prior to the first session, but by the end of that session I was able to create a landscape.

Circuit Stream approached me a few months ago to talk about my experience in their online class, and I was delighted to present at the Industrial AR/VR Forum held in Houston on Monday March 4th. It was a pleasure to support Circuit Stream and their AR/VR Unity class.

Unfortunately I was unable to go to the conference as I already had a vacation booked to New York City with my Mom, and we all know vacation comes first. The conference was very accommodating by allowing me to Skype in so I would be able to promote this fantastic class.

My opportunity to talk about Circuit Stream was focused on:

    1. What I was building
    2. Why I was building it
    3. My experience with the class

1. What I was building:

My first goal was to develop an app that would allow the client to “take” the building with them. I wanted to find a way that I could get their business card or another graphic to show them their building. Once I started to learn Unity and and understand this idea was possible I moved into  building a floor plate and developing sliders to cut through the model. I am continuing this work during my one-on-one instructor time.

2.Why I was building it:

I’m always looking for a way to improve my ability to sell our design and concepts to the clients with 3D representation. A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of AR and VR in our industry, and since then I’ve been thinking about ways I could use this technology to help advance our firm. It is very difficult for our clients to visualize the end product or even understand what we are trying to accomplish with our design.

3. My experience with the class:

When I started this class, I had never opened Unity. I can now create AR and VR apps. Now I know how the software works I’ve got lots of new ideas about what I can create. The online class format lets you ask questions and work through problems you are having on the homework as a class, which makes the learning fun. The students in my class had different backgrounds and so asked questions I had never thought of, which helped me think differently and understand several parts of Unity.

Once I’ve completed the class I am going to focus on my own VR app that will let my client to see how equipment works in their space. Proving design concept is key for owner/client approval. Now I can put a headset on a client and show them that the 60 ton and 20 ton crane have enough room to lift the enormous Rad from the ship and put it in the maintenance area (for example) – this is going to make it a lot easier to get their approval.

Unity is a powerful tool, and harnessing that power to give clients better access and understanding to the project has been a goal of mine for several years. Thanks to this class from Circuit Stream I now understand how Unity works and how I can use it to better explain my projects to my clients.


Creating my BIM Manual Part 1

In my last post BIM Manager Superstar I talked about my presentation for Ideate Software. My presentation touched on the creation of my BIM Manual. As I mentioned in my last post I will begin to explore the creation of my BIM Manual for Infrastructure Engineering, Complex Buildings.  

Although it may not cover every situation, your BIM manual should outline what happens at each step of your project. It should also include standard contractual deliverables from your firm. For example, your office may decide that every project created will deliver 4 rendered elevations, or all projects must be capable of O&M handoff.

Putting this part of the BIM Manual together is a team effort. The contract language for BIM should be discussed and understood by those doing proposals and reviewed and discussed with BIM Manager.

Your manual should start with BIM Use deliverables in contracts. Next, you will need a section that covers non-standard BIM Uses. In my BIM Manual I have two sections for each.

BM_BIM Use Standard

BM_BIM Use Extra

Being flexible with your BIM Manual will allow your firm to be adaptable during new BIM requirements from clients and government entities.

One of the best ways to achieve this flexibility is to list deliverables without specifying software. Don’t tie your Manual to a single tool. Make your tools work towards the deliverables and come up with processes and workflows to use them effectively.

For example I used Revit server setup by my IT department. Each Revit Server has to be on a separate Windows Server in order to maintain project security. There are specific security settings the IT department setup and maintain in order to secure the projects. Once BIM360 became our preferred resource we removed the Revit Server workflow in our BIM Manual and replaced it with a BIM360 workflow. I did not have to change any of the information in the BIM Manual; I only had to replace the Revit Server worksheet with the BIM360 worksheet.

The key to every BIM Manual is keep your manual flexible enough to be universally applicable to all the types of project in which your office is involved.

BIM Manager Superstar

A few months ago Ideate came to me and asked if I would give a presentation on how I use their tools for my projects. Given I love to share and help others, I agreed. I discussed how to create a BIM Manual and use Ideate tools to help maintain my BIM standards.

The presentation BIM Manager Superstar was very well received, with some great positive comments.

Laura’s explanation of how to create a standard process made a lot of sense. That with how she used Ideate tools to get productivity out of the workflow helped me better understand what I can do to improve my own BIM process. Tadeh Hakopian, HKS

It was a great presentation. we are already using ideate. This presentation gave me more confidence to work with the software more. thanks Laura. Janhavi Padalkar, MC

Just a fangirl and wanted to say hi to Laura Kay Smith 🙂 Jennifer Thomas, VIATechnik

The section on BimLink was useful. I’ve had a hard time understanding the usefulness of this tool, but Laura’s example helped me to understand. Melissa Hansen, Tiscareno

I like seeing how she combines both bimlink and sticky to get accurate information in the correct format. Erica Spicer, Gensler (she’s the one asking if they can hire the programmer 😊)

I found value in her problem solving skills. She has given me ideas to further leverage Ideate Software. Doran Smith, Limbach Engineering and Design Services

The BIM manual suggestions were very helpful. Gustavo Amaris, Severud Associates

I like what she said about you kind of have to get lost in potential solutions to figure out what works for you and your workflow.  Not one answer for everyone. Travis Vaughan, Klai Juba Wald

Thanks to Ideate for giving me the opportunity to share. This presentation made me think more about what goes into creating a BIM Manual.  and since I have received lots of questions on this topic I will explore the creation of my current BIM Manual at my new firm in my next posts.

Collaboration of the Many

OPEN BIM is a universal approach to the collaborative design, realization, and operation of buildings based on open standards and workflows. OPEN BIM is an initiative of several leading software vendors using the open buildingSMART Data Model.

I am a strong believer in helping all colleagues, going to conferences, and networking to better understand what others are doing in the field of BIM. I find asking questions and having conversations about the processes I am working on and how my role works helps me learn about approaches I would never have considered, and this in turn makes me better at my job.

A couple of weeks ago at Autodesk University I was having a beer and conversation with a couple of colleges. One had never been to AU and was talking in amazement about people presenting their projects, process, or workflows. He was amazed people would be so willing to share. The other colleague and I had been to AU several times in the past, and better understand why someone will stand in front of a crowd of strangers and present ideas that might be valuable if kept to themselves: sharing makes us better.

Resources, information, processes, and workflows all start somewhere.  Sharing your work makes everyone advance. My friend, Rodigo Freig, told us a story about his first Revit project and how he started out. He explained that while working on this project he was struggling using Revit. Another colleague of his knew a structural technician using Revit, Michael W. Sullivan and said that Rodigo should give him a call. Rodrigo followed through. Michael didn’t just offer to help Rodigo – he invited Rodigo to his office for a discussion and information session on how he was using and implementing Revit in his firm. Even though they were competing companies, neither were worried about intellectual property or had any problems with open collaboration.

When BIM managers from several different companies and disciplines get together to collaborate and share out workflow and process, magic happens. These opportunities move us forward to create a better BIM environment in our industries. These discussions enable us to share information between companies and share ideas which is the key to Open BIM.  This is what makes us move forward and makes us better.

I want to share the knowledge I have to help people in the BIM community. Sometimes I get pushback from my own office: there is a lot of discussion on intellectual property. I get a lot of questions on why my company would let me tell people what I do.  I usually respond that while I share my ideas, only my office has me, my style, my routine and my process, and that’s what makes my company successful.

Today’s projects are riskier than they used to be: they are more complicated and require more information. The tools, processes and workflows used today are different then they have been in the past. This collaboration of the many helps ease this risk and create a leaner and more

Value of BIM Support

Understanding your value and the value you bring to the firm is an important piece of providing quality BIM Management.

As a BIM manager It is likely you will find you are undervalued and the service you provide are not considered an integral part of the business. Some of you may get lucky and find a manager that understands your value and the importance of BIM and what you bring to the firm, but that is rare.

Throughout my career I have worked as a CAD Manager, Consultant, and BIM Manager. Each of those roles come with a challenge to prove my worth. From the start of my career I have heard comments like “the company sure is wasting money on your position.” Or “I can’t believe the company pays you.” Of course I hear the negative comments far less often than positive comments. The positive comments always consist of two simple ideas: “how could I have done that without you?” and “you saved me so much time.” I hear this from the staff I support and help day after day. People who work with the tools and process day in and day out understand my value and the need for BIM Support. Management, on the other hand tend to look at my role simply as overhead and the value I can bring to the projects. Of course management tends to have a different idea of value from the users.

So today’s question is: how do we show our value to Management? There seems to be a lack of return on investment (ROI) help out there for BIM Support, so let’s provide proof of our worth so management can understand where our value lies.

First Step: try to get costs for the following on a job you did not support:

  1. Design coordination
  2. Time spent remodeling
  3. Consultant coordination
  4. Document coordination
  5. Visualization of any kind, even if you are just providing backgrounds for others to work with.

Second Step: compare these numbers with a job that DID have your support. You may find that design coordination time was a bit shorter, or that less time was spent remodeling.

Third step: try to track if any items used in previous jobs have been used in other projects. Your team might be able to help you with this. It’s likely that components you helped develop have spread to other projects, or that the page setup or typical details have been quietly saved to be used by another team.  It may take a few projects for your value to become clear: as team members start to absorb your training and use the tools and files you have developed with them, their work becomes more streamlined. Find out if your office is developing any similar projects to the one you supported, and talk to this team: can you see how your support is affecting how they work?

It can be difficult to quantify time savings, so try to note when team members mention they are using your technique on a different project, or mention that they have saved a component to their desktop. Each time your work is reused and shared, it saves your team time (and money!). Work done by a truly great BIM manager will stand the test of time: even years after you have left an office, your files might still be used.

Fourth step: look at the breakdown of your time. Is it hard to get work done because people keep interrupting you? That’s actually a great sign. You may want to keep notes of what kind of help people need: in addition to being able to point out how you saved time for each of these people, you may find that there is a common thread in questions that you can address either with a new tool or more information.

Always remember on your journey whenever you feel under appreciated and wonder what is wrong with your manager, remember their focus is usually value-for-money. When you can show your value (and give them the tools to show your value to their boss), you help them see support saves money.

Success of soft skills in BIM

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” – JK Rowling “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” Harvard Commencement address June, 2008


A long long time ago I started out as a CAD Drafter in Architecture as someone who loved the process of Computer Aided Drafting. In my first job I learned all about creating CAD standards and getting staff on board with changes in the drafting process. Although I immediately understood why this was important it took many years of frustration and a lot of patience to get to a point where I understood how to make this happen. I had to develop my Soft Skills.


Soft skills are just as important,if not more important than developing and creating process. The success of BIM in a firm depends on the adoption of the tools by your staff.


The first thing to remember is that the way you use the software likely isn’t the same way as your target audience does. To effectively teach you need to understand your student’s point of view. I had to learn how to teach process and steps without restricting the way a user accomplishes the task.


Every day in the life of a support person is spent trying to better understand the staff’s needs and abilities. A great way to learn is to talk to people. Discussing non-BIM subjects, such as how their day is going or how they are feeling creates a comfortable environment for them to ask you questions. My motto has always been that no question is stupid, the only stupid question is the one not asked.


In order to understand how your user interacts with the software you need to stop and watch them work. It was difficult for me to keep my hands down and mouth shut to watch the user model, but it’s the best way to understand how they approach tasks.  Always remember that your way to model isn’t the only way. If you let the user build the way they feel comfortable it is easier to guide them.


When your team of modelers/users have “successfully” delivered projects before working with you a different tactic is required. Listen and watch how they develop their model, and learn about the process they use.  Once you understand how they work, suggestions that fit with their workflow will nudge them towards efficiency.


For instance they may show you how they model walls the full length of the building and just use the edit profile to adjust different areas. Of course you don’t want this to happen! But unless it is going to cause an immediate model failure, start with incremental suggestions. Ask, don’t tell. Give your team the opportunity to explain their process so you can better understand how they use the tools


Remember your job is to guide and teach, and know that you will continually learn. When a user describes their usage or process you might hear and see a different perspective and perhaps a different way of addressing a problem shared by other team members.


The hardest and most important skill is patience. This skill takes practice, and trust me you will need an outlet for those hard days.

  1. First step: find your outlet. there will be long and very hard days. My outlet is all about keeping a consistent routine. I have a gym routine, I go 2 days a week in the morning before work – my favorite exercise set is ball slams, ropes, and the Bulgarian bag.
  2. The second step to getting those soft skill in tune is to prepare and always be ready for questions. I tend to get into work at 6am on my non-gym days. This gives me time to assess the projects and check the Revit modeling usage/needs. I can write some training material, prepare a training session, even write an outline of my path forward. This time before the questions starts helps me get all my frustration out on what I’m seeing in the Revit models. Sometimes I simply review on documentation and perhaps write a process for those things they keep doing wrong.
  3. The third step is to harness patience; remember you are support, not the ruler. BIM can only be successful if projects are guided. There is no reason to force users to use the software as you do when there are so many different ways to complete the task at hand. That expression “you can catch more bees with honey” is something you should have in the back of your mind whenever you are answering those questions from users. It can be really easy to lash out at a user that has asked you the same question over and over again and can’t seem to get it. Unfortunately I don’t have a tip for that process, I just keep answering the questions. I encourage you to try ways to help that user learn. The important thing in harnessing your patience we all so desperately need is to understand that some users don’t want to learn, they find it easier to rely on you.
  4. The fourth step is to make yourself seen and use your voice. I always keep my ears open to what is happening around me. Users will often ask their neighbour for help before they come to you — they may not want to interrupt you, wait for you to finish with someone else, or they might not want to stand up.  Help everyone feel like it’s no bother to help and it’s what you enjoy doing. If people get the vibe that you are frustrated or irritated they could likely stop asking for your help.
  5. The fifth step is to remain open minded. Keep your eyes wide open. Let users guide you to new ideas, or developing new processes. I’ve learned a lot from users who have different ways of using the tools. I have been showing a user how to accomplish a task in Revit when their neighbour told me the way they did it, which I had never thought of or seen before. This process they used ended up being quicker and allowed for an easier transition to the next piece of the model.


Just remember we are not perfect and users are usually frustrated. Keeping a cool head and following your path will make the job more enjoyable. Find those little joys during the job that will help you keep going.Let the passion drive you, thrive to do it better than those before you. I work hard to find a way to make it easier for others to understand, and a way to make it easier to complete.


Working in BIM is a journey to exciting new technology and possibilities in building. The AEC industry is a place that has a lot of potential,  using technology intended for other tech services to take us to new places. However, you need to have a ton of patience and a lot of willingness to adapt to new things. I don’t want to scare anyone who wants to follow this path, but I want to give you an idea of what you may struggle with. I am grateful so many of you have found value in my posts.


Those of us out there that have worked in the industry for the past 20 years or so have learned to adapt. Those who did not adapt are no longer in the industry! This  adaption is about having the ability to support staff in their transition to BIM. It’s not an easy transition: there can be resistance, there can be anger, there will be struggle. Engagement of staff is key to the success of BIM and the need to prevent BIM from failing. I think of the BIM Leads and Managers as the gate to success and the prevention to failure.