Wednesday 4 April 2012

thinkBIM - OpenBIM Conference

After the sunshine of ecobuild two weeks ago we had the snow at Leeds for the openBIM conference at Leeds Met’s ThinkBIM conference.

First up was Nick Nisbet from AEC3. Nick was one of the key people that contributed to the UK Government Construction Strategy.

Nick argued that BIM is all about sharing structured information. From one input you can achieve many outputs. If the data is structured, you can use it and analyse it through the supply chain. The case study discussed here was the possibility of automated code checking. Singapore is the example of this in action, Singapore is ranked number 1 out of 212 in terms of places to do business. In terms of construction you can get building regulation approval in not 3 months, or 6 months, but in 30 minutes.

But the main part of Nick’s presentation was about the UK Government initiative. The hypothesis was that the government wants “improvements in cost, value and carbon performance through open sharable asset information”. Nick suggested that the reason the aim was for level-2 BIM was to keep the lawyers at bay. Nick clearly would like level-3 in the not-so-distant future. “Most of the industry will go beyond COBie”, were his thoughts.

Nick talked about the importance of not just the geometry but also of the specification – if you own a building and need to replace a pump – what is its specification?

The importance of the colour code of COBie was discussed – maybe a good topic for a blog post? – the spreadsheet is not colourful without a reason, what do these background colours mean in terms of requirements at the different stages?

Parveen Sharma then presented live on a web stream from India. Parveen has worked on over 240 projects world-wide. Parveen works for Intec Infocom and he explained that the move to BIM was happening in India just like we are seeing here in the UK.

The ability for all the design disciplines to work collaboratively through BIM was demonstrated, then for this data to flow through the project timeline to the construction team.

In terms of the software platforms used in India, it sounded like it’s the same worldwide, Autodesk, Bentley, Graphisoft all mentioned. Made me wonder whether the Indian market would be a good one for NBS, what percentage of jobs are specified to British Standards?

I then had the tough decision of which of four excellent sounding roundtables to join. The first one I picked was hosted by Rob Jackson who was demonstrating “Open BIM” – working to open data standards. One of Rob’s jobs at Bond Bryan was to sort out the best practice way of working with respect to BIM.
Round table #1

Round table #2

Round table #3

If you share data with collaborators on a construction project – there is no choice. You need to work to agreed standards and process. Rob admits that his focus to date has been putting information into their BIM objects that gives them benefits – but admits that this needs to change so that information is put into these objects that gives benefits.

The roundtable had a low-level of BIM experience, but Rob was great answering all of the questions from experience of “having done it”. Rob honestly believes that the profitability of his practice has increased – he got some pretty tough questions, but some really good questions on return on investment and who benefits most.

Also, some good discussions on who owns the data that is (a) used to create the designs and (b) then passed on down the supply chain? The openBIM roundtable discussion had gone completely off script - but in a good way. Fascinating to observe a discussion on BIM following questions from someone looking at it from a completely hard-financial return on investment point of view.

One of the most honest benefits that Rob discussed was the ability to show a design early to a client so they can actually articulate why they don’t like it. It’s much cheaper to receive this news early on – especially if it’s easy to take feedback on-board and re-work.

The second session I watched was chaired by Adam Matthews who is leading the Education Work Stream for the UK Gov. What education and training is required to up-skill the industry to deliver the BIM aspects of the construction strategy. Like the previous session, this was broadcast live over the internet – excellent use of technology by the Leeds Met team.
Adam's sketch on the incorrect weighting currently in education

Round table #4

Where does education come from currently? From the vendors, private training providers (PTP), higher education, further education and the institutions themselves. Adam’s team has been leading consultation into this and has found that the balance is far too weighted currently to the software vendors. Equally the education is currently nearly all around technical training – this has to change, we need more education in the strategic and management elements. Adam argued that the balance of all of this has to change.

Looking at the different disciplines, there must be training angled at clients, designers, contractors and facility managers. What documentation is required and how will this flow from brief to design to as built to operation and maintenance? Also, there was a triangle with three notes (1) Demand, (2) Define and then (3) Deliver.

There was a tongue in cheek half way through the session after Adam brings up Leeds, Salford and Newcastle examples – “Is BIM just happening in the north?”. Adam (based in London) was quick to point out that this wasn’t actually the case.

Full credit to Adam for not mentioning “Autodesk” once in the full hour – not sure if I’ll manage the same in my 6min40 seconds Pecha Kucha later in the day (update: I didn’t :) – fail on slide 9).

Whoever invented Pecha Kucha was a genius – five really good ones in thirty minutes. No chance to waffle, no chance to get nervous – just race on through.

First was from Dave Jellings on the open BIM movement, he argued that interoperability was the backbone of BIM and through open data standards the software companies will be able to compete and produce a better experience for the end user. Next up was James Austin from BIM Technologies, James spoke about how BIM is still in its early phases and we have to let the processes naturally evolve – and what we must not do is let complexity get in the end users way – beautifully illustrated with Homer Simpson on his iPad. George from BIM Academy then was next, he demonstrated how IFC had been used as a central source format to produce BIM content in multiple CAD vendor formats. Martin Brown from Fairscape then did a whirlwind 20 slides from his iPad (interoperability!) – I wondered whether maybe 20 seconds is faster in Apple-land though as the slides really did disappear. Finally, I did 20 slides on interoperability focusing a little on our recent TSB research project looking at how IFC can be used as an exchange format to configure concept BIM objects based on technical guidance, financial and environmental cost data and then round trip back into the model.

Then a fast walk down to the train station so I could get off for an Easter break in the sunny Lake District. Unfortunately, the pasty shop was closed in Leeds station – I am sure I heard in the news the other week that you could get a good pasty there?
The now famous pasty shop #pastygate

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