Friday, September 28, 2007

BIM Discussion at Global Design Alliance

I was recently asked to participate in a panel on BIM implementation and experience for the Global Design Alliance (GDA), an "international network of dynamic design, planning and construction firms who are committed to growth and change." Our panel consisted of experts from Zetlin & De Chiara, Marsh, Lexington Insurance, Turner Construction, Beck and KPF along with me from SOM. So what do lawyers, risk advisors and insurance companies have to do with BIM implementation? Plenty.

One of the major factors in collaboration with building information modeling is risk management. As I see it, there are two basic methods of categorizing these types of risk - design/build consortia and design-bid-build. If a single company operates in design/build, risk management from data collaboration is minimal; however, when design firms and construction companies work together to deliver a project, risk management is critical. In many countries around the world, different approaches to project delivery such as the "Project Alliance" are being used to acheive goals and avoid litigation. You can read more about Project Alliances in Lachmi Khemlani's article on the 2006 AIA Integrated Practice Convention. This type of delivery approach is different than design-bid-build and can be described in a simple way.

I've always heard the expression, "throwing drawings over the fence," when referring to collaboration between design team, bidders and contractors. With BIM tools, we are now able to throw a complete (but scaled) model of the building over the fence. Hopefully, the receiving parties will have a much better understanding of the design intent with the model instead of a bunch of 2D drawings. Does BIM eliminate the fence? No. The fence remains and can be seen as a safety barrier if you equate the fence with your Digital Data Disclaimer. A properly written disclaimer ensures that the design team is merely sending a better and more complete representation of the design intent. The BIM data does not imply means and methods of construction and is being shared as a courtesy to the other project team constituents. Results of estimates, schedules and analyses derived from the Architect's or Engineer's 3D model are still the responsibility of the contractors, fabricators and estimators. The design/build or Project Alliance approach eliminates the fence, thus the data is more closely integrated.

While companies such as Lexington Insurance offer coverage for project teams such as "cyber risk insurance," the insurance industry is taking a 'wait and see' approach to BIM. This is not unexpected because new types of insurance seem to appear only after something bad happens. An interesting summary of the most common claims in building project lawsuits include the following:

  • Deficiencies in detail

  • Inadequate coordination

  • Deviations in submittals

  • Excessive changes

  • Failure to meet requirements

Today's BIM tools can serve to address these issues in a variety of ways. Deficiencies in detail are reduced with a better understanding of the proposed design through virtual construction. Tools like Navisworks, in concert with 3D modeling tools, facilitate coordination with automated interference detection. Deviations in submittals should be reduced because the quality of data being "thrown over the fence" is greatly enhanced. There may be nothing a design team can do about excessive changes by an owner/developer; however, these may be reduced by the design requirements being adequately addressed. This can be acheived through integrated program design tools such as Trelligence Affinity and energy analysis tools such as Ecotect or IES <Virtual Environment>. Hopefully, insurance companies will recognize the risk avoidance benefits of BIM tools and begin to offer discounted rates to the AEC industry.

Some other important tidbits and open questions from the discussion:

  • Michael Zetlin Esq. reminds us that "standard of care" is not defined by the client, rather by similarly practicing professionals. Use of BIM does not require architects and engineers to address means and methods of construction.

  • How 'front-loaded' should the BIM process be? Is the design team responsible for coordination? This must be defined in the scope of work!

  • Should risk be allocated across the entire project team including the owner who may have required BIM data delivery in the first place?

  • Is open sharing of model data the best risk management task as is distributes risk?

  • Under BIM, are deliverables now considered 'products,' not 'services' thus exposing the design team to additional risk?

  • Building information modeling is not a standardized process yet. All project teams handle it in different ways.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Archicad vs. Revit

A shootout or bake-off between Graphisoft's Archicad and Autodesk's Revit has been proposed in user forums more times than I can keep track of. A recent thread in the AUGI forums titled "Put up or shut up" outlines some of the inherent flaws in such a demonstration. You would need different types of similar projects, expert and novice users for each platform and a realistic set of criteria to judge the performance of each program. A few years ago, we launched an investigation into the three major BIM platform providers - Autodesk, Bentley and Graphisoft - with a series of questions related to functionality we think we would need based on an extensive inward discovery process. To no one's surprise, the questionnaires returned stating that each vendor could achieve most if not all our requirements. The proof would be in HOW each platform performed these tasks.

When I want to buy a new washing machine, digital camera or television, or perhaps see a newly released movie, I will do some research and dig into user reviews on the most populated websites. I will not go see "Hot Rod" just because the critic in the Post gave it 3 stars (purely fiction, no offense to the Post). In my opinion, surveying public opinion makes for better decicions.

What's this have to do with the post title? After receiving a trial copy of Archicad 11 from Graphisoft, I was recently made aware that they now offer a free 30-day trial to anyone with an internet connection (see link below). Way back around Version 7, I attempted to learn a little about this program to gain a more objective view of competing programs, but Graphisoft insisted on participation in a training program before any testing or trials. I'm glad things have changed and as a result, I'll be embarking on a journey to review the interactive training content and teach myself Archicad. I spend about 2 hours each workday on the train during which I'll be taking copious notes and sharing them here in regular installments.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Implementing BIM

In a region dominated by Autodesk products, the adoption of Revit has been steadily growing for the past couple of years. According to the Rogers software adoption curve, we seem to be moving into the zone of "early majority" where the program is more commonly accepted and the masses are seeking guidance, information and anecdotes from the early adopters. In recent months, I have been frequently asked in no specific do I get started with BIM? This post will outline some resources and tips to help you begin implementation of a building information modeling tool.

Assuming your company has done its homework and is familiar with what BIM is and how it is transforming our industry, the task of implementing and managing change begins. In my opinion, the best results can be acheived with BOTH a top-down and a bottom-up approach. First, the leaders within your organization must take a public stand on the technology objectives, providing support if only on a conceptual level. A clear and decisive mission statement goes a long way in convincing reluctant project teams throughout the company. Second and equally important is the identification of those individuals within your organization who could learn the new tools, guide project teams and groom future leaders. These needn't be experts in the particular software you're trying to implement; rather people who are fast learners, have excellent communication skills and exhibit some form of leadership ability. These 'mavericks' should be personally involved in the first few pilot projects undertaken during early implementation.

For your first few projects, it is wise to consult with extenal resources offering both technical and business expertise. While most viable sources (see list below) can be costly ($1,500-$2,000 per day and up, not including expenses), we have found it to be a worthy investment. Such consulting resources can analyze your current business practices and help you focus on the results of your first projects by customizing essential elements such as training, best practices and manuals. I've listed a few consulting resources below based on our experience, but you can always start with your software's reseller or dealer.



Other Suggestions

  • Regularly scheduled internal user meetings

  • Monthly reviews of BIM projects

  • AUGI Local Chapter meetings

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