Monday, 24 September 2012

BIM Summit Qatar - Day Three

I’ve been to a few BIM conferences over the last few years, but this was arguably the best line up to date.
View from above
Tahir Sharif President of buildingSMART Middle East chaired the day and introduced Dana Kennish “Deke” Smith who is Exec Director of the Building Seismic Safety Council. Dana is one of the main guys behind the United States National BIM Standards through the NIBS organisation. He talked with a lot of experience of managing buildings – he has been in charge of 570,000 facilities in his time. Some interesting points below:
  • They hit a point in time when they had all the data from their buildings in a wall full of 9 track tapes and a computer system that became obsolete. This was the point where Dana said he recognised that data for his facilities needed to be in an open source digital format that would be future proof. Ideally stored/backed up in the cloud.
  • A nice quote “BIM is a team sport – you have to rely on others to be successful”
  • He believes that the biggest improvement buildingSMART can do is to certify the IFC import/export from the main CAD vendors to ensure quality.
  • The next “big step” has to be the standardisation of more detailed product libraries. The buildingSMART international DataDictionary.
As chair Tahir quoted an interesting stat that from their recent survey that 40% of the industry in the Middle East “want to use BIM, but don’t know where to start”. buildingSMART are across Middle East, India and Africa and are opening regional areas this year in India, Qatar, Saudi and Egypt.

Throughout the day there was a consistent theme that the UK was now one of those leading the world on approach to BIM. It was timely that the UK’s own Lee Zebedee from Ramboll was next up.
  • Lee commented that those saying they were doing level-3 BIM were not. But there are some doing level-2. A nice case study was Birmingham City University where the architectural, services and structural models came together to produce a single model for the construction team to use. Open data in the form of COBie could be generated from this single model.
  • All of the UK Government Strategy stuff was presented really well to an attentive audience. The social media and the communication side of this was rightfully given a big mention too – I thought this was a nice touch as this sort of thing is often overlooked. @BIMHubs and also @ThePhilpster were given as examples of not just putting down a document and leaving people to it.
  • There was a cry for help to the software vendors to improve their ability to export information to an open data format. Having the VP of Autodesk 5 yards away was nice. Lee’s slide showing the first UK trial project was “warts and all” – 500,000 rows of data (are they all really needed by the owner?) and 40% manual entry needed due to technology limitations.
  • Finally, there were some good examples of private clients that were demanding BIM now from the UK retail sector – “it makes financial sense”.
COBie in the UK
COBie trial 
Can the big UK circle overtake the Finnish circle?
I then had the pleasure of listening to Phil Bernstein, Vice President of Autodesk. I’d heard he was a great speaker and he didn’t disappoint. I also got a chance to ask a question in the Q&A. Some bullets below:
  • When asked about interoperability with other software the response was “we have to play nicely” - “not one company is ever going to control the whole process”.
  • The panel discussion prior to his presentation was all about the “owner being the most important”. I think Phil’s opinion here was to agree, but to remind the delegates that the vast amount of BIM software sold across the world is currently to designers – so let’s not run before we can jump.
  • He did warn designers on when they pitch to owners. “Do not say ‘We have some really cool tools - can we use them on your project please’. But do say ‘I can save you x on the operation of your asset and on sustainability issues – it’s about outcomes, outcomes, outcomes”.
  • I had my chance to ask my question, the best I could come up with was:
    SJH – “We heard earlier than owners need stability in file formats when they manage thousands of facilities over many years, how can this be squared with innovation in the development of tools such as Revit where the file format changes each year?”
    [maybe not word for word quote but…] PB – “When it comes to software tools for owners we have had five failures, I really do not want to work on a sixth. But when owners agree what they want and what standards they agree on then all of the software vendors will be scrambling to deliver the software to meet their needs. But I don’t think they know what they want yet.”

Phil’s presentation then covered five areas:
  1. What exactly is BIM?
  2. What does BIM mean for…?
  3. Why is BIM important?
  4. Where is BIM going?
  5. Implication for the Middle East?
The “where is BIM going” part was particularly interesting. Six predictions:
  1. Modelling and simulation – do a design, analyse, simulate, refine and iterate – rapidly get the best answer
  2. Cloud – we are rapidly coming to a situation where you can affordably have infinite processing power and infinite storage – exciting times
  3. Mobile – No longer stuck on a PC only (interestingly Phil presented off an Apple Mac using an interactive visual tree view).
  4. Social Media – the way we share and communicate has changed forever
  5. Analog to Digital – laser scanning takes the physical and makes it digital
  6. Digital to Analog – fabrication takes the digital and makes it physical
Phil from Autodesk's six big technology predictions for construction
Phil’s concluding comments were inspirational. [again, maybe not exact phrasing but] “The Middle East now has a huge opportunity. But please do not repeat the mistakes we have made with construction in the western world. We miss our schedules. We go over budget. We put too much carbon into the atmosphere. You have an incredible opportunity here in Qatar with your infrastructure, your museums and the World Cup – by using really modern technological techniques you guys can build a truly modern construction industry.”

Heikki Kulusjarvi the Chief Executive of Solibri was next up. Finland is a smaller country than the UK, but they made their moves with BIM first:
  • In 2007 the government mandated BIM (IFC) for architecture
  • In 2009 for services and structure.
  • In 2012 the big private client bodies came on board too
  • Use open standards, say exactly what format you want and then digitally check this.
  • All of the documentation is online in English too: 
Heikki and an upside down house
The second half of the day had a number of case studies and technology promotions. One item of note from the Gehry Technologies/Dassault Systems guys. Gehry Technologies are often credited with digitalising and making possible some of the most inspirational designs. When most speakers compare BIM with other industries cars and aeroplane design and construction are used. Well for this session a comparison with “Iceberg Farming”. Hmmm….


  1. Enjoyed reading your experience at the conference. We definitely agree with the quote, "BIM is a team sport – you have to rely on others to be successful." BIM forces collaboration within departments or industry trades. We are a stone manufacturer based in Texas and often use BIM technology for our projects in design development that carries through to the manufacturing of our product, StoneLite®. Learn more about us on our own blog:

  2. Hi, does anyone know the name of the presentation tool Phil Bernstein was using?

  3. Awesome blog, thanks for discussing the details. I will come to look for upgrade. Keep up
    the great perform.

    BIM Modeling