Thursday 5 December 2013

thinkBIM Leeds – December 2013 Conference

Today was the final thinkBIM conference of the year. Held at the fantastic WSP offices in Leeds it was a fitting way to bring 2013 to a close in terms of UK BIM events (for me at least).

The keynote presentation was from David Philp, Head of BIM at Mace. David is also part of the HM Government core BIM team and he delivered a progress report on how UK industry is performing against the Government BIM strategy.

David started by expanding on the acronym BIM and said what the Government approach is all about is essentially ‘collaborative working in a digital environment’. The 2025 construction strategy published this year was summarised in a single slide looking at the headline targets. These targets are lower costs, faster delivery, lower emissions and improved exports through the government and industry working to the digital strategy. As the construction industry is 6.7% of GDP it is something that is given focus and it offers the opportunity for further growth if the industry can deliver against the strategy.
The UK construction industry in 2025
David also delivered a clear message in terms of education and development opportunities for young people who will seek a career in construction. He gave the example of a young child now purchasing an app on a tablet, designing with digital Lego, ordering the ‘parts’ and then constructing the design. This digital generation will come through into the construction industry and we must now innovate and adapt to meet the digital revolution.

Second to present was Robert Klaschka from Studio Klaschka. Robert looked at open data and the comparison between the software environment around the internet and BIM software. Developing for the internet, pretty much anything is possible and opportunities are there for all - innovation happens at an incredible pace. Due to the open standardised data structures, a (what was) small organisation like Google can create amazing applications and grow into one of the biggest organisations in the world. This is possible due to the open platform. Robert asked if the same can be said of construction software?

Two inspirational quotes from Tim Berners-Lee were used:

  • Customers need to be given control of their own data – not being tied into a certain manufacturer so that when there are problems they are always obliged to go back to them
  • Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves
Robert also talked about the pace of technology advancements. For example, who would have thought that when taking photographs on their digital camera ten years ago that ten years later there would be software that digitally arranged those photographs based on face recognition technology?
Big data
Following Robert, there were a number of round-table discussion sessions that the delegates could choose to participate in.  These were:

  • Ben Wallbank – ‘The responsible client’
  • Me – ‘The new RIBA Plan of Work 2013 Toolbox’
  • Adrian Malone – ‘Putting BIM to work – lessons learned from live projects’
  • Gillian Smith – ‘Developing intelligent objects for the market’
  • David Philp – ‘Digital collaborative working aids better supply chain efficiency and added client value’
  • Robert Klaschka – ‘How data management is key to any design organisation’
An overview of the subject behind my round-table is at the link below:
The associated RIBA Plan of Work guidance publication is at:

When talking about the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 Toolbox there were many ideas as to how this could be taken onto the web as a digital application working off structured databases. The sort of questions and suggestions asked where as follows:

  • Could the project roles and schedules of services feed into professional agreement documents?
  • Could the design responsibility matrix also note those team members that were to be consulted in addition to those being given responsibility? (Sort of a RACI matrix for construction)
  • Where aspects of the templates are not required on a project, could they strike out to see that an active decision had been taken?
  • Could a permissions model be provided so that the project team members could write to and read from their relevant areas?
  • Could the design items be grouped into work packages for projects where the contractor design manager comes on board?
  • Could worked examples and suggested templates be provided for different sectors?

However, most of the discussion was around the level of detail/development/information for the design items and how this should be agreed and delivered. This was no surprise as it seems to be the hot topic of conversation at the moment in the BIM world. The UK seems to be a little behind the likes of USA and Australia on this (see my BIM and LOD blog post). So in preparation for this I had prepared some sketch proposals as to how LOD definitions and associated guidance could work together to provide the industry with a robust template.
Do we need LOD reference guidance for the UK?
The sketch above would have a definition that could be placed in the design responsibility matrix against an item at a particular stage. Then the project team could refer to the associated guidance to see precisely what this definition meant in terms of level of geometric information and specification information.
National BIM Library objects could potentially be used to develop the geometry guidelines and the NBS Create specification system could be the template for the key property sets and information.
This idea seemed to be warmly received, but at NBS we’ll have to do further user testing before progressing further.

The final part of the conference was the Pecha Kucha sessions and we had Rob Jackson, Paul Coates, Paul Wilkinson, Mark Stodgell and Peter Morton presenting. Pecha Kucha is exactly twenty Powerpoint Slides each progressing after twenty seconds.

First up was Rob Jackson from Bond Bryan Sheffield presenting from Las Vegas Nevada via Skype. Rob was at the Autodesk University conference – which admittedly  is (probably) not as glamorous as Leeds, but he didn’t seem overly sad not to be at thinkBIM.

Some pictures below from the Pecha Kuchas…
It's work, work, work for the guys in Las Vegas
Paul from InfraProject looks at the BIM ROI

Paul looks back at 1987
Mark from BIM Academy and the 'Information Manager' hat
BIMCampus - have placed 13 out of their first set of 15 students in jobs
Finally, the Leeds Brewery had provided a keg of beer again – so it was nice to finish the day with a couple of beers before getting on the train back to Durham again.

Well done to Claire and all of the thinkBIM team for another set of superb events throughout the year.
I recognise this WSP project
R Klaschka, not only a fan of the 'internet guy', but also the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 publications

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