The Danger of BIM Theory

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.

Happy New Year and thank you all for following

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.


Part 2: Change in the AEC Industry

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.


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.

Changing in the AEC Industry with BIM

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.


Time to be a BIM leader


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.

Time to stop the BIM madness

I received an email last week asking me for some advice on BIM Requirements in a contract. I guess I should say lack of BIM Requirements in a contract. This is a prime example of what we face today, MISINFORMATION. When a client says they require BIM on a job you need to know what goals, and development they are talking about. BIM is a big umbrella so what exactly are you required to provide. Usually when someone comes to me and says the client requires BIM my first question is “did they tell us the goals and the development they want?” Usually the answer is no, so the we simply model in 3D, which after all is the basis of BIM. moving forward

To me the biggest reason BIM is so difficult to implement in most firms is the misunderstanding of what is required form the client. Personally I would love to have a BIM conference for Owners, Operators, and AEC Management. There needs to be something that can help with this kind of misinformation.

  • Is it required to submit the Revit models for the client if it is not stated in the contract?

No it is not, we did not submit AutoCAD dwg’s until they put them in the contract, in fact most companies still charge to disperse the dwg’s. The Revit model is used to produce the required documentation for the project: 2D flat drawings, be it CAD or Paper. If they client wanted the Revit model they should have stated the LOD of the model elements and the requirement in the begining. BIM is a process not a file, therefor you delivered per the contract using a BIM process.


  • Even if the client requested to have a BIM model what wouldbe the submitted format (.rvt, .ifc or any other format)

If the client requested a 3D model at the end of the job, and since BIM requirements weren’t laid out at the beginning I would have given them a dxf. This is a 3D model, it’s just not editable, it still has the information but a little cleaner.

  • If the contract does not state the LOD requested, what shall be done at this stage where we have finished the project

If no LOD requirement was put in the contract, or there was not a BEP developed for the job you would model the project using your office standard LOD. My office standard LOD is between 100-350. No model can be fully 300+, it is not possible to make all elements in the model to that Level. I would argue with the client that the LOD, and the BIM goals were not stated in the contract, therefor you cannot be held to his “idea” of BIM requirements.

  • What is the common protocol regarding the clash detection report, and is it required to submit a Design Model having a clash report with Zero clashes at (0”) tolerance. When I checked some blogs, they all mention that clashes to be highlighted but couldn’t find what our client requested, a clash free model at 0” tolerance when running the clash detection.

It is impossible to develop a model with a tolerance of 0”, you can’t even do that in the real world. The standard clash tolerance is set out at the beginning of the project by all consultants. Correcting clashes can end up costing the team a lot of money. There needs to be a list of clashes and requirements for each in the BEP. Most Engineers will only work to certain clashes, for example pips and columns, and depending on the pipe diameter the clash tolerance is set.

It’s time to move forward, and stop throwing around BIM Requirements without understanding what we are asking for.


Time to move forward

AU 2016 Proposals submitted.

Of course I had to wait until the last day to submit, and now the waiting game starts. Having finally made it into the speaker realm at AU last year I want more. My experience was amazing and the people I meet in my class where great. Whether or not I get chosen I plan to start a blog series on these topic in the coming weeks.

BIM excites me, and the progression of BIM and the technologies is exciting. However if we want to successfully get to our Level 3 BIM Maturity we need to change the old school thought of project workflows.

Quotes About Moving Forward 0004-6 (6)

I came up with these proposals because of my transition, or awaking in 2016.

My year started with interviews, and me writing a proposal for a new role in a different firm. Coming to a new firm has given me new perspective on what my world looks like. The change has rejuvenated me. The freedom within an Architectural environment that believes in Technological advancements and understands the value of spending money to make money (in Technology), has opened my eyes to new workflow ideas. This new adventure is where I came up with my proposals, and hopefully the Autodesk people will focus on the needs for new workflow in Architecture and not just on their products.

My first proposal is on rethinking the Design process and workflow in the AEC industry. I think it’s important that industry take a step back and rethinks how the projects are delivered. more to come on that can of worms.

For my second proposal I jumped into the deep end explaining the importance of BIM Leads. No longer can the AEC industry believe they only need to hire Architects. Time to open our eyes and look for those people that can lead BIM and all its glory to the project finish line. Time to understand BIM Leads are not overhead, they are an integral part of the project.

These two topics are similar in the fact the Architecture world is changing and it’s time we all take that giant leap forward, as Henry Ford simply stated:  “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Let’s all collaborate on a BIM future and make our project better