And so it begins

And my journey into BLM (Building Lifecycle Management) begins. I think I might have found my own little geeky slice of BIM heaven.  

 

This new chapter in my BIM career is at a huge Engineering firm. I am pretty excited to learn about the other side of building design, and am now a BIM Manager for Infrastructure. Although BIM is transferable to all disciplines and all aspects of projects I still feel a bit of a fish out of water.  My mandate is to understand and setup a process for the Vancouver Complex Building department on Building Lifecycle Management using BIM. This is a mandate from the top!

 

I’m also looking forward to sharing my journey as I create processes and pipelines for a division that is a blank slate. Imagine my giddiness: I am responsible for setting up BIM standards from scratch!

 

Engineers approach software from a completely different perspective than architects, but I found that my traditional start-up process only needed tweaks to transfer to this new discipline. I started by trying to understand what the engineers need in their Revit setup.

 

My first impression is that Engineers don’t care much about how drawings look and feel. This means there are less endless meetings on line weights, symbols, and sheet layouts,  and more about how to streamline our process. I was a little taken aback when the response to my questions about standard symbols, text, and line weights was “we will do whatever you setup”. My new coworkers focus on a simple and straightforward drawing process that provides essential information in the model for the Building Operations team.

 

While I was directed to start a BIM execution plan I found it more pertinent at this stage to create a Revit Execution Plan. This document is more about how Revit is setup and focuses on:

  • Revit Model names
  • Worksets
  • Text and Dimensions styles
  • Content location
  • Model Configuration

The BIM execution plan will contain:

  • Project Information and Team
  • BIM Goals
  • Scope of modeling
  • Level of Development
  • Design coordination
  • Collaboration protocols
  • Facilities Management usage
  • Model uploads and shared information

 

I felt the BIM Execution plan can be developed at a later date since the only consultant on the team is the Architect. We shall see if that bites me in the arse.

Model Risk Assessment

Thinking outside the box is always been a key in the Improvement and development of been processes and tools. For example, today in Vancouver BC, I was part of a joint health and safety committee meeting. This meeting  was convened to review workplace safety requirements from WorkSafeBC. One of the tools WorkSafeBC has created to simplify this is a website that helps you report incidences and track assessments, along with a risk matrix. When I saw the actual risk assessment tool that they use I realized it would be perfect for model assessment.

Risk Assessment

Every office has a slightly different system to help them model in Revit, but most of these systems do not help teams manage risk. A poorly modeled project can cost both the designer and your client money, and any systems you use needs to mitigate this risk.

The WorkSafeBC tool kit for a safe environment is a great starting point for a system that includes risk assessments in Revit models.

  • Modeling can cost a lot of money
  • If a project is incorrectly modeled it must be fixed, which will cost more money.
  • Mistakes in models and drawings can cause problems on site that result in unsatisfactory compromises.
  • Modeling errors can also provide misinformation to contractors and subconsultants.
  • Modeling omissions could cause a contract requirement to be unmet.
  • Poor modeling hampers lifecycle management, and project analysis.

A risk assessment audit of your model should help prevent all these issues. This assessment should include:

  • Review the detail level of model: Is it appropriate for the project? Does it meet the required Goals set out in the BIM Execution Plan?
  • Are there 2D families or an abundance of detail lines and filled regions?
  • Is the information in the model useful for the BIM Goals set out at the beginning of the project.
  • Review of legal and contract document information. Start with the basics: is the legal address and client information correct?
  • Do the families function correctly for Energy analysis, clash detection, scheduling, and tagging.
  • Can the model flow from phase to phase without a large amount of re-work or even a rebuild?

This list can be expanded and customized for each project as each project would need specific risk assessments according to the contract.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. This kind of cross-pollination of ideas will make BIM systems more robust and useful: it doesn’t matter if your ideas come from a government website or a presentation on the Transtheoretical Model of Change.

“One who takes the road less traveled earns the rewards most missed.” – Matshona Dhilwayo

BIM and 2018

“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that never were.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

You know that saying “careful what you ask for?” I am ten years into my BIM life. Last year I asked my office for the following things:

  • Complete inclusion into projects.
  • The ability to help control building model organization, including everything to do with BIM and data that is required to achieve higher BIM levels.

When I got back from AU 2017 I was given that control. I was also given the opportunity to be a part of every project from the proposal phase to construction wrap up. With this new responsibility came a new title: associate.

The last couple months of 2017 have been a very exciting time, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you everything I learn as part of each project team from the very beginning.

When I returned from AU I was informed that our company was going to be collaborating with leading Vancouver contractors and engineering firms. Our goal is to enhance the building performance of our design by sharing information between architects, engineers and contractors. This includes electrical, mechanical and structural engineers; before beginning design our whole team can get together to discuss building performance and how it can affect material choice and massing. I believe this collaboration will lead to great buildings. It’s very exciting, and although I truly believe it is the best way to move forward I never expected it would happen in my lifetime as a BIM manager

This new opportunity is already giving me insight into the tools Architects need to harness BIM. I’m working on ways our team can access building performance stats to improve performance. This will not only fulfill client requests but also show provide options that demonstrates how we can exceed client requirements (and expectations).

I want to keep technology in the forefront of all projects, but not have it get in the way. This is a huge task. I also want to find strategies to keep or projects on time and on budget while also providing the client with an exceptional building… which will mean each project will need different delivery methods built to suit differing circumstances.

I am really excited about this. My team will have the chance to get better results with more collaboration and less blind alleys. I am already working to find new tools and strategies that will change how we use BIM.

I look forward to sharing my process as we work it out. I hope it will help at least some of you out there begin a new chapter of collaboration and gain a better understanding of BIM.

Popping the hood

Acting as the Mechanic in an Architectural Design firm requires openness and an understanding of the design goals and needs of your team.

Think of when you take a car to an auto mechanic:  it’s rare to hear that you are driving the vehicle incorrectly. Instead, the mechanic will listen to your description of the problem before popping the hood or taking a test drive to gather information. The mechanic needs to put aside ideas of proper use to focus on what their team needs to make the project move ahead.

Popping the Hood

The best BIM managers work as a visible part of the office team. To be visible is to be open-minded and continually have your ears open. As I stated in my post Thinking outside the box you need to get the team comfortable. Remember continually checking on your team and having the regular chats gives you more information than waiting for them to come to you.

I use the following list to embed myself into project discussions and ideas. I make sure all questions are phrased as such, and make sure my tone is not accusatory or brisk:

  • Walk the office looking at computer screens and asking what they are working on.
  • Ask team members  how they got the information they are using.
  • Review the model prior to people starting their work day and make notes on what I see.
  • Keep my ears open to conversations happening around me and interjecting if I can add any useful information.
  • Keep a positive attitude and inquisitive nature; you might learn a new process.

The other key to getting involved is to train the BIM tools efficiently: train to people’s needs and abilities. Without an understanding of the baseline skills of your team you may inadvertently allow some to struggle without understanding while others become frustrated with what to them feels remedial.  Keys to successful BIM Tools training:

  • Don’t teach them the same way you teach the person next to them, everybody has different learning styles.
  • Only use 1-4 hour training modules; don’t make them sit all day
  • Record the training so they can review later.
  • Create handouts of your process.
  • Review company projects to see the gaps and train

Make sure your team knows there is a role for BIM in every project, even when it is not in the contract. As BIM manager there is nothing more satisfying than to talk with a team and realize you can provide assistance with a new tool to facilitate a proposal to the client.  There is always something you can provide to help create amazing presentations for the client.

This is the most important role of the BIM manager to teach your team. Teaching them about these tools specific to their needs will improve all the work your office produces, while creating a true collaboration between the mechanic and designer.

BIMFreak in the World – Sharing is caring

It’s been a pretty eventful year so far for the BIMFreak:

  • I was the people profile in AEC bytes Q4 2016 publication
  • In 2015 Ideate Inc. invited me down to present in San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland at the local Revit User Groups. Due to the amount of requests for me to come back from the users they have asked me to return the week before AU; November 8th and 9th to present the topic that formed from my blog post The Mechanic and the Designer. I will focus on the disruption in the Design workflow – post to follow.
  • I am collaborating on a BIM curriculum with the Department Head of the CAD and BIM Technology Department at Vancouver Community College in the fall semester. CAD and BIM Technologies
  • I am working with Scott Chatterton (BIM Jedi) for the VRCA to create a BIM 101 class that I will be teaching in the fall to help contractors in the Vancouver area understand and use BIM tools on projects. The goal of this course is to encourage an understanding of BIM, it’s technology and how it can enhance projects.
  • I will be presenting at Autodesk University November 14-16, check back for the schedule when it comes out, hope to see you in the audience.
  • I have begun work on a new book that will help you in becoming a BIM Manager, with a focus on:
    • Teaching BIM to an office
    • Strategies to understand and respond to design needs
    • Adjusting working strategies to suit different processes, personalities and project needs.

My new book is a continuation from my previous exploration on Becoming a BIM Advocate, the next step towards advancing your office in BIM.

ASK

I have also taken a step in a new direction, learning a new language and a greater understanding of how to implement BIM in a Designers world. It has always amazed me that I started this journey supporting in Architecture firms back in 1995. Of course the digital landscape changed very slowly from 1995 to 2008 simply using 2D software, once we took that hard turn towards the 3D world we have had an explosion. Looking back it is amazingly the same problem yet we all look at in a different way, the fact that Architectural firms now regularly employ Technology staff alongside the design staff proves the importance the digital tools have become.

Thinking outside the box

As a BIM advocate I have found myself trying to pull others into my linear workflow instead of working with their design workflow. In my last post  “the Mechanic and the Designer“, I talked about my breakthrough on how I can support the less direct workflow used by designers. My new struggle is; how can I do that? I’m a geek that loves BIM process and the idea of Open BIM (yep, it’s what I dream about), it’s hard for me to understand and anticipate the needs of designers.

So how do I support the non-linear workflow of designers?

I’ve been working on the basics of this for a while: this kind of support always starts with trust. I need the designers I work with to feel comfortable chatting with me about what they need and what will help them move forward with design. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this — designers need the space and time to work through a project and find the best approach, and often aren’t aware of the Revit support that’s available. Regular chats about the direction of the project and design options gives me information about what tools I can provide, and providing designers with simple tasks using BIM tools can encourage team members to be more adventurous in their BIM strategies.

Once I understood designers don’t use the BIM standard workflow and I decided to try to support a design-based non-linear workflow, I realized the only way to promote and encourage BIM use is to help designers find new (and BIM-based) solutions to their design problems. My opportunity to test this came when one of my teams needed to present a large multi-phase, multiyear project to a group of investors. The challenge? They needed to efficiently show phasing and construction for the site. When I learned of this need, I suggested using a 4D timeliner to show each phase as it is built. The team had never considered coming to me for help with this because they didn’t know this type of presentation tool was possible.

I took this opportunity to show them the power and interoperability of BIM tools by providing them a timeline video building massing for each phase of the design. This lead to questions of “how can we do that on more projects?”, and my favourite, “you mean I can get all the areas in real time using this massing and develop something to present?” Suddenly I was working with a team that was interested and excited about using BIM for presentation, and who wanted to learn more about how BIM could be collaborative and assist with the design of their project.

I broke down the steps for the designers and showed them that Revit massing is not very different from Sketchup, once you know how to put the different parts together. The benefit to using Revit is that it is designed for easy data extraction: there is no need to export to CAD and draw a polyline to figure out area.

I provided a simple massing process, and I didn’t try to convince them not to work in Sketchup. Instead, I let the designers start in a software with procedures where they were comfortable, and I asked them to let me move the work into Revit when they were ready to start calculations. Instead of asking them to start the Revit model from scratch, I took the Sketchup model into Revit and massed up the buildings.  I think because I don’t know Sketchup and I’m skilled at Revit it took me very little time. Once I had their model in place they used it to generate area numbers, and found they were comfortable enough in the model to edit the massing to review the impact of different floor plates on their maximum area calculations.

Now that team rarely opens Sketchup and they have used Revit to develop their design and take the model onto Design Development documents.

Funny how having passion to teach and drive BIM in the industry creates opportunities to lead designers into BIM without even planning it.

The Mechanic and the Designer

I have always struggled trying to understand why BIM is so difficult to implement. It makes sense to me –why doesn’t everyone else see that?

In a recent meeting with a Design Partner I finally had my big ah-ha moment. That moment came with the realization of why BIM never quite seems to work the way it should: the basic principle of BIM throughout the project workflow misses the needs of the Designer. There always seems to be a breakdown between the Designers toolbox and the documentation software. I’ve never understood why the Designers can’t use the software provided as intended, but it turns out the flaw is in my understanding of the Designer’s thought process.

This is where I have had a difficult time understanding why the word BIM makes some roll their eyes. BIM is used to capture information within a modeling environment using tools to create documentation. It’s being used by a designer who wants to be able to iterate, work out and mess with design throughout the process of the project. These two strategies are not fundamentally opposed, but my discussion with the Design Partner made it clear that the designer needs to have a tool kit that includes an array of different options. To unlock the potential of BIM, Designers need to be able to collect and test ideas to learn about how the information available to them can be translated into an amazing project.

This idea has set me on the path to re-educating myself in how BIM and design can work together. I think the key to successful BIM implementation is finding a way to help designers explore different ways available data can been used to generate form. My goal has always been to simplify information capture in the BIM model so the designer can focus on the essence of the project, so the question becomes how do we give the designers the toolkit the need and get to our BIM goals?

What we need is a two-way connection between our documenting software (which is usually Revit) to our design pipeline. This can include paper sketches or work in SketchUp, Rhino, 3D Max, and whatever exciting and new visualization tools that make our product look amazing and beautiful  — something historically been lacking in Revit). BIM software is designed to incorporate a tremendous amount of information, and it can be difficult to use with the limited amount of information that is available at the early stages of design. The work of design needs to be fuzzy and incomplete so the design itself can be reviewed while it is incomplete.

These soft edges to the design allows us to work within constraints with the information provided.  Providing data from within a model that we’ve already begun allows the designer to maintain design intent while reviewing the results of visual or functional iterations of the product. A live link in our documentation can give our designers a workflow that allows them to follow the standard design practice of a general idea becoming more and more specific. This reviewed and tested idea can then be placed into the documentation process.  This is winning at implementation.

The whole process was described to me as follows: the project is like a car.  I’m the mechanic. My job is to make sure that the engine continues to run and the design can still maintain visual aesthetics. Seeing this image drawn by the design partner (who is in essence an artist) completely changed my perspective on the project.  Illustrating the need in BIM management is that simple: we need to create a workflow that feeds the design intent into the documentation process throughout the lifecycle of the project.  Does that not blow your mind?

To further emphasize the communication barrier between designers and BIM managers, I explained to the design partner that I can see this as a cake.  This cake is built with layers:  my work is the layers underneath the icing.  The software and tools support the process. Although this metaphor worked for me, it wasn’t a fit for the design partner. For him the design is a car and I’m a mechanic.  His argument was with a cake the icing can be removed. It may not be the most delicious cake, but it’s still edible and therefore serves the basic function of a cake. You can’t have a car without an engine, and that’s an important distinction.

BIM managers need to learn to use language and metaphors that speak to designers, otherwise we will continue to have difficulties convincing teams to work with us on projects. My challenge is to mediate between the process-driven linear development that makes sense to me, and the less direct creative method of designers: we need to find a way to bring them together so that each can better communicate their issues and concerns.