Friday 4 October 2013

BIM in the UK - International Conference

Such is the world-wide interest in ‘BIM in the UK’ currently that today I attended my third international event on this subject in Aarhus Denmark. Previous events have included:
BIM in the UK day - NBS, Laing O'Rourke, Arup and Foster+Partenrs
I think it’s fantastic that UK organisations are being asked to share their experience with the world. Today in Aarhus, in front of 300+ delegates, it was the turn of Laing O’Rourke, Arup, Foster+Partners and NBS to speak.

I kicked off the event. It was nice to have a full hour to speak, it gave a great opportunity to take a good look at the UK Government BIM Strategy and the progress to date over the first couple of years. I then had a enough time to show off some of the free resources to the UK market such as strategy documents, PAS 1192:2, RIBA Plan of Work 2013 and associated Toolkit and the NBS National BIM Library. Telling this story, using software from ‘project preparation’ through to ‘hand over and in use’ is fun and although it is a little risky the technology didn't let me down.
Answering questions following the presentation
(Picture courtesy Claire Wanjiru Bay Jensen) 
Next up was Andy Radley from Laing O’Rourke (LOR). At LOR they talk about ‘digital engineering’ as opposed to ‘BIM’. The digital engineering part is not an ‘addition’ to the role – it is ‘within’ the role. Andy showed how all projects across LOR are assessed for their adoption of digital engineering and how it is now built into their staff training programme. It was fascinating to see how on a project the model had many uses from winning bids through to generating site health and safety induction information. The ‘Shard’ Leadenhall Building case study is always a fantastic story to hear. In addition, seeing how their ExpLORe manufacturing plant produces ‘Built off site’ elements and systems to lower risk and reduce build time is a real piece of industry leadership. Having BIM components that model these items allows their designers to work within these constraints for their designs.
Andy Radley from LOR shows their  BIM objects representing their "build off site" structural elements and systems
Health and Safety information is now delivered to site visitors via the BIM
It was then lunchtime; our hosts took us for a tour around the school of architecture. A few photographs from this tour are below…
Staircase in the school of architecture
Neatly stacked pile of chairs - art?
The students have a common room filled with Lego Architecture
Following lunch, Martin Simpson from Arup delivered his session look at BIM from an engineer’s point of view. Martin has worked on many sports stadium and some of the digital design work from Arup here was amazing to see. I'm not sure how many design firms around the world have internal programmers who write code in Microsoft Visual Studio to design buildings – but it was amazing to see what Arup are doing. Martin made a number of interesting observations. In terms of really pushing technology and design, he compared this to Formula One racing – the latest innovations here make their way down to the wider industry – anti-lock brakes being one of these. In terms of the new Formula E series, if this takes off, this should really drive the electronic car industry. I also liked Martin’s slide on why you should never try and predict how technology will go in the future. He included some quotes from the past:
  • Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons’ – Popular Mechanics, 1949
  • I think there is a world market for maybe five computers’ – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
  • There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home’ – Ken Olson, president and founder of DEC
Martin Simpson ARUP shows a few of their beautiful stadiums
With stadium like this - you have to think 3D
The final presentation of the day was from Stephen Holmes from Foster + Partners (F+P). The majority of F+P’s work is overseas and they have a truly international design team based in London. They have recently taken on additional construction professionals so they no longer simply offer an architectural service. It was interesting to hear how they work through the night at their London office to service their international clients.
Again, as with other presentations (and as expected from such leading construction organisations) some of the buildings and designs Stephen put on the screen were amazing.

One great thing to see in Stephen’s presentation was a mention of NBS Create as a key part of the information (the ‘I’) in BIM. Sometimes BIM presentations get sucked into the familiar design tools from the big international vendors – so it was nice to see a non-geometric BIM tool like our NBS Create getting a nice mention.
Stephen Holmes from Foster+Partners shows a stadium they designed
A bit blurry - but great to see "NBS Create" (top left) listed on a BIM slide from Foster+Partners
Unfortunately, the trip was a very quick one – less than 24 hours in Denmark – so it was back in a taxi and to the airport and home again. But still a great experience, and a real honour to be speaking about all of the great things that are happening in the UK BIM scene alongside such super speakers.
The speakers
(Picture courtesy Claire Wanjiru Bay Jensen) 
The evening before - perfect preparation - lager and Bew-Richards-Wedge
Early in the morning - plenty of construction work currently in Aarhus

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