future of the job market

Earlier this week, Brian Myers posted a thread on the BIMForum titled "How BIM Affects the Job Market". It got me thinking. I know that I've discussed ideal future practices, but that is a little different than considering the job market.

Architects will still design, but they will use a tool like Revit. A small team of modelers will work add detail to the architect's model and create objects. The position of 'modeler' might become looked upon like the current 'drafter' position, but a modeler won't be able to mindlessly draw lines and add line weights. A modeler will have to think, because they are virtually constructing the building.

Structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing designs and models will all be created in a similar way.

A position like mine (Building Information Modeler/BIM Coordinator) will evolve into a position that manages models throughout construction. The BIM Coordinator will manage the integration of cost and schedule into the model and will supervise clash detection and resolution, along with all of the other activities that relate to the use of the model.

BIM will reduce the number of drafter-types (modelers) required for each job, but will increase the skill and knowledge required of each modeler.

As for outsourcing, some companies will eventually look to other countries for a large supply of cheap tedious labor. But many are already doing that for drafting work, so the idea of out-sourcing can't be too surprising.

That doesn't mean that there isn't a place for us, the orchestraters of BIM implementation. According to Alan Eustace (Google vice president of engineering), "One top-notch engineer is worth 300 times or more than the average."

I apply that philosophy to "BIMers" as well. So, just make sure that you're top notch.

Revit Systems

A few days ago, I received an e-mail update from Innovaya (a middle ware that facilitates estimating and scheduling with Revit) - Visual Estimating and Visual Simulation now support Revit Systems.

It's exciting that middle ware software programs are supporting all of the Revit platforms, but this particular update to Innovaya seems almost useless. Revit Systems is on its 1st release; it isn't full developed (with respect to both content and support of all MEP systems). In fact, the focus of Revit Systems isn't to model to produce documentation; the focus is on designing MEP systems. What good is it to estimate or schedule MEPs that aren't completely modeled?

This isn't to say that Innovaya didn't make a good move; supporting Revit Systems is a positive thing.

My message is for Autodesk: please catch up to Innovaya.


Since I'm still cramming for my LEED AP exam, I'm going to write one more cop-out post.

RevitCity version 2.0 was launched recently. I haven't had a chance to check it out extensively (and I have to admit that I only used the old version for downloading objects), but it looks much more functional.

While you're checking out the new site, notice the first blog listed on the Resources page!

LEED AP Exam v. 2.1

Some non-BIM news:
The deadline for the LEED AP exam v. 2.1 exam is closing in, but not as fast as I had thought: USGBC has extended the exam until November 30.

If anyone plans on taking the LEED AP exam v. 2.1, I have several different practice exams along with other study materials. E-mail me if you'd like those materials.

I am taking the exam tomorrow night - wish me luck!

more support from the architectural world

One of the unanticipated benefits of my blog is all of the networking I've been able to do. It has really opened my eyes to the architects who using BIM. I received the following in an e-mail from an architect at a design firm that is part of the LFRT:
There was a survey done a couple months ago that was published in ENR, its amazing to me how many excuses architects come up with as to why they shouldn't adopt BIM, I think it reflects poorly on our ability to run a business and look to the future. Architects that fail to adopt and embrace BIM will loose out to contractors. BIM requires us to re-examine the current contractual, legal and risk relationships that exist in the construction industry, and re-tool our business practices so that we can work together to build more efficient, better, higher quality buildings, with less overall negative impact in a host of areas. There have been numerous studies, and research done that prove the ROI that comes from BIM and we must press ahead. While certainly the cost can be prohibitive to some practices, that is fine, however saying that we're waiting for owners, or its not our responsibility, or whatever, are all excuses that fail to be forward thinking, all change has cost, failure to change usually has far greater cost.
I couldn't have said it better myself.

a (slightly biased) review of AGC BIM Breakfast

This morning I, along with a handful of other Tocci staff, attended the AGC's BIM Breakfast, which featured presentations from:

Markku's presentation reviewed BIM from the national design perspective. He had some interesting content (for instance a review of all of the AIA/CURT papers on BIM), but for the most part, he repeated things that most of us already know. His presentation further reinforced that on the national level, architects seem to be all talk and no BIM.

However, Jill did a great job of proving me wrong: ADD Inc is using BIM. Not just BIM for visualizations, but for document coordination, change management and some clash detection. She reviewed several of their projects designed in Revit, and at one point challenged the contractor for one of the projects (who was at the presentation) to utilize the Revit model for the project and collaborate with BIM. Jill also reviewed some of the steps to implementation, encouraging future implementers to learn from their successes and failures. Her advice:

  • Educate everyone in the company on BIM.
  • Get buy-in at all levels; since it is a process change, everyone needs to believe.
  • Train at all levels.
  • Pick the right project; sometimes a complex project isn't the way to start.
  • Make sure that there is an open dialogue between the design team (including the client, consultants, contractor, architect, etc.).

She also warned about some of challenges:

  • There is a learning curve.
  • Using BIM does have an impact on the schedule, team, task assignments and deliverables.
  • Software interoperability is still a problem.
  • Perception: it may be hard to believe, but not everyone thinks BIM is a good idea.

Mike discussed the content of the Contractor's Guide to BIM; he was one of the major contributors to the guide. He also touched on his company's philosophy of BIM ("It's when, not if.") and what his company is doing with BIM. Holder seems to use BIM in the field quite a bit; although, I wasn't sure to what extent. He showed some examples of clash detection and other applications of BIM, but they (like Tocci) seem to still be in the exploring stages (for instance, he referred to one project where they found 81 clashes, but wasn't able to quantify how many they avoided).

John eloquently reviewed both the AGC BIM activities (including BIMForum activities, BIM training workshops and other programs) and Tocci BIM activities. I won't go into great detail about John's presentation, mostly because a lot of the topics have been covered in previous posts (and those that haven't been will be covered in the near future!). He reviewed our efforts in:
  • 2D Conversions
  • Clash Detection
  • Primary 4D models
  • Partial 5D models
  • Streamlined 5D

His presentation, much like Jill's, was honest; he talked openly about our failures and successes. He also talked a lot about the issues that we've faced while implementing:

  • resistance to BIM from field personnel, architects, owners, etc.
  • problems with BIM software
  • high costs associated with BIM
  • time-consuming uses of BIM
  • lack of industry standards

Despite covering all those negative points, John kept his presentation upbeat, accessible and inspirational. He also captured the audience's attention with real examples of our successes and failures. (This is the part that I might be slightly biased about, but he is an amazing speaker!)

Although I already knew about most of the topics and issues that were addressed today, it was a great event to attend. It definitely renewed my excitement about BIM, which sometimes wanes during the day-to-day implementation tasks.

the opensource prototype

Imagine if cars were built the way most houses are. A procession of trucks would deliver materials and parts to your driveway - sheet metal, spools of wire, screws, pistons, a roll of carpet, bumpers and a steering wheel. Then day laborers would arrive to put it all together. In the rain.
So begins Building Blocks, an article in this month's Popular Science. The article discusses a new pre-fab housing project: The Open Source Building Alliance. The team (which includes MIT's House_n lab led by Kent Larson and Tedd Benson of Bensonwood Homes) plans to build 4 prototype homes that basically "plug and play". The first one was built this summer.

The concept behind open-source homes is based on pre-fab panels that are joined with industry-wide standard connectors (think USB ports). In theory, open-source homes would streamline both construction and renovation because every panel from every house would fit together.

Building Blocks discusses this concept for homes, but I see it working in a number of markets, specifically multi-unit housing and hotels. Different panels would have to be designed for different hotel brands, but the repetitious nature of hotels (not only within one building, but across the country) is a perfect match for the open-source homes concept.

update to the Revit google earth connector

With a budget for a new project due at the end of this week, I was too busy to write a meaningful and witty blog entry for today. So, just check out the new add-in for Revit/Google Earth.

The updated connector has improved material colors on compound structures, improved handling of curved surfaces and now supports Revit 8.1, 9.0 and 9.1.

I played around with it a little bit, but haven't quite perfected the link (as you can see below, I didn't quite line the building up correctly). If you haven't used it before, try it out. It is pretty easy. Enjoy.

the (one-sided) race to implementation

The e-mail I referenced in my last post also brought up another issue:

Unfortunately I do not see Architects liking the BIM because of the change they will have to do. On the other hand I do see the Contractors really jumping on the band wagon.

I am pleased to hear someone from a design firm addressing architects' resistant to BIM as well as contractors' acceptance; it makes me sound less biased. (Clarification: I don't mean all architects or all contractors; I'm speaking generally here.) I'm aware that the AIA has produced the majority of the public documentation on BIM, but that doesn't mean they are implementing. And the reverse applies for contractors; we haven't been talking about it a lot because we've been doing it.

I have had several experiences with introducing BIM to architects:

  • We modeled one of our projects to utilize clash detection. After running the interference check (and finding 20 real clashes in one floor), we presented the information to the owner and architect. We were hoping that the architect and engineer could propose solutions to some of these clashes, so that the owner could realize some savings. What was the architect's response? He "didn't have the time" to address these issues in a timely manner (timely meaning, 2 weeks).
  • We created a basic 4D model for an owner meeting to a project that we were bidding. We showed the owner the model and then presented some of the benefits of a full model. After hearing about clash detection, the architect claimed that "coordination was his job", but we "couldn't expect him to completely coordinate all the trades".
  • We presented the benefits of BIM to an architect who was thinking about Revit (and remember, Revit is currently a tool for architects). Their response? They will implement after owners start requiring tools to support BIM. I think one of them actually said they would implement only if "forced".

I don't want to criticize architectural practices (I might be too late for this); everyone and every industry has its own pace. But I implore architects not to be offended when we implement this first.

We aren't trying to point out flaws in construction documents; we are merely trying to efficiently build a building. It doesn't matter when we find the "pipe running through the beam"; trust me, we're going to find it. We'd just prefer to find it ahead of time so we can avoid additional costs (contrary to popular belief, contractors don't make money off of change orders) and time delays.

where is this going

Today I received the following e-mail:
I work for a large AEC firm, ASCG Inc. I am presently our region's CAD Administrator. I am currently testing Revit Building for use in our company. I have a friend who is also just starting to use Revit. We both come from an Architectural background. We are constantly arguing over where BIM will take the industry. He believes BIM will empower the Architects to become the Master Building again. (Which we both agree he is not)! I am in the belief that the BIM will force the Architect to rethink his role in the industry. Unfortunately I do not see Architects liking the BIM because of the change they will have to do. On the other hand I do see the Contractors really jumping on the band wagon. I know I seem to be rambling here but my question is this: What is your Career background? How long have you been using BIM software? Do you plan on attending Autodesk University? I really enjoy your blog and your thoughts on BIM.
The future of the industry with BIM is a hugely complicated debate between a number of professions including architects, contractors, manufacturers, subcontractors and CAD managers. I actually did a research project on how BIM will affect the organizational structure of construction projects, so I feel fairly prepared to address this topic.

I tend to agree with your view of the future; I envision a shift to a project structure where the architect, contractor and owner share liability and ROI. Currently, I think the contractor and owner financially put themselves on the line more than architects do, which is why architects may be more resistant to BIM than contractors. As part of my research, I referred to this diagram, which is a little too idealistic and simplified.

However, it visually demonstrates shared responsibility and benefits, as well as the place for the BIM in the project. All of the project participants should be able utilize and contribute to the BIM.

(In answer to your other questions, I will not be attending Autodesk University and I updated my profile with some information on my background).

revisiting Autodesk Revit for contractors

First and foremost, I am not taking back anything that I said in my previous post about Autodesk Revit. The Revit team has some work to do before it can be considered a contractor's tool, but there are a few ways to use Revit as a contractor's tool. It just isn't pretty. I will be the first to admit that I have done (or could do) quantity takeoffs, visual schedules, logistics plans and interference checks with Revit.

comments on my previous post (from China!)

This morning, I recieved the following e-mail:
I wanted to comment on " the goal: to build a building" but blogspot appears to be blocked in China. So I am sending my comments like this.

I notice in your last paragraph that manufacturers figure as an etcetera in the "entire project team", but it is they who have the level of detail needed to manufacture and promote their products. If they were to produce the models (or digital counterparts, as I prefer) then other members could choose whether to view images in 2D or 3D, or what data (cost, timing, specs, standards etc) to view or analyse. I have tried to introduce this idea in the BIMForum (under xuriwan) ... no reaction so far.

Designers should be responsible for assembling counterparts of real things (within defined constraints), selecting from options, defining modifications (cutting, trimming etc. where practical), positioning and reviewing results. If no thing (say, a product) exists in the form required, the designer should take up the role of manufacturer and assemble a counterpart from components much in the same way ... and so on.

Links within the Web represent a counterpart library not only of product options but machinery needed to assemble and/or process. "Models" and "replicas" conjure up images, whereas as "counterparts" seems less visual and more comprehensive. More importantly "digital counterparts" can be used for any physical thing or assembly of things, and thus not be constrained to what is subjectively seen as the building industry. For example, is a spindle moulder part of the building industry or joinery manufacture? Provided the library is appropriately linked and crosslinked it doesn't matter, and that leads on to the question of creating unique linkable identities.

Sorry not to be able to use your system, but hope you find my seemingly off-the-wall ideas interesting.

I don't find this idea off-the-wall at all. I have to admit that I don't completely understand it, but I look forward to corresponding with the author of this comment to fully grasp the concept.

I do agree that manufacturers should create BIM-compatible 3D objects (or "digital counterparts") of their products. This will take some time, as manufacturers need to see the value in creating objects. (Anderson windows has started this on the Revit Web Library.) Or perhaps a third-party software needs to be developed to convert manufacturers 3D models (which are created using a number of software programs) to Revit/ArchiCAD/Bentley Systems objects.

Either way, the author of this comment is correct: manufacturers should be included in the project team. This will be especially important when objects from the BIM are exported and used to create CNC code for automatic-manufacturing.

That's right: when, not if.

the goal: to build a building

Today, the Tocci BIM team attended a MicroCAD Revit training class that we found out about from here. The class (taught by Paul Aubin and attended by 90% architects) covered the following topics:
  • basic and advanced use of the family editor
  • detailing
  • design options

Let me start off by saying that the class was great. I learned a lot about family editor and am excited to start creating some of the custom objects we need. Paul did a great job of teaching family editor (along with the other topics).

However, as Paul reviewed 2D detailing in Revit, something he said stuck in my head (and I'm paraphrasing here): "You shouldn't model everything in 3D; if you want something shown in only 1 or 2 views, don't bother. It's easier to use 2D drafting components for those views." From what I can see, 2D drafting components are "unintelligent" components; there is no way to incorporate them in the BIM-derived schedule, cost analysis or interference check.

Internally at Tocci, we are in a constant state of discussing "LOD" (level of detail) and have found (after input from the field) that we need to put as much detail as possible in each of our models. So I tend to disagree with Paul's LOD viewpoint (nothing against Paul - like I said, the class was great today!).

Perhaps it isn't currently in the architect's best interest to model every detail in 3D; after all, their purpose is to produce a set of construction documents as efficiently as possible. However, it is in the contractor's (and probably the owner's) best interest; our purpose is to build to the building as correctly, efficiently and economically as possible. So, we model every detail.

Eventually, I believe the entire project team (owner, architect, engineer, contractor, subcontractors, etc.) will act as one unit, with a single goal: to profitably build the building. Until then, the forward thinking contractors will continue to do as we do: model every single detail.

cost of a clash

An intelligent building information model enables us to virtually fail and then coordinate the building systems. After the interference check is run, instances of colliding beams, pipes and mechanical equipment can be resolved with the input of the architect, engineers and subcontractors. All of this can be done without setting a foot on the job site.

Without BIM, subcontractors attempt coordination
independently of each other and then run into problems in the field.

An example of a clash is an
8" PVC pipe colliding with a W8 x 28:

This particular clash comes from Togar Suites, one of Tocci's jobs in Union, NJ. It is one of 20 that was found in the ground level of the 400,000 sf project.

With the help of Stephen Burkholder of SR Enterprises, I was able to figure out what BIM saved us in this particular instance.

If this clash wasn't detected ahead of time, the following costs would have been associated with it:
  • $1300 (the cost of a W8 x 28)
  • $2500 (the cost of a W24 x 55 to replace it)
  • $205 (removing the beam with a crane - if the beam had to be removed by hand, the cost would have been $356)
  • $195 (installing the new beam with a crane - if the beam had been installed by hand, the cost would have been $705)
  • $464 (the cost of cutting the hole for the penetration in the field)
Those costs don't even include other concerns with replacing and cutting the beam in the field:
  • An analysis of the beams is required to detemine if shoring would be required
  • Structural systems status (is the W8 x 28 supporting anything that will need to be supported or replaced)
  • Field penetrations are typically required after erection is completed, causing delays to other trades such as
    • Spray on fire proofing
    • Finish work
Since the clash was detected prior to steel fabrication, the only costs associated with it were:
  • $2500 (the cost of a W24 x 55)
  • $210 (the cost of cutting the hole for the penetration in the shop)
Which would an owner rather spend on one beam:

$4932 or $2935

modeling philosophy . part 2

In my earlier post, I focused on Tocci's in-house discussion of modeling philosophy.

It seems that other people are thinking about this as well:

In a recent e-mail thread with Davis Chauviere of HKS Inc. (a forward thinking design firm that uses Revit to create BIMs), he mentioned the need for communication between architects and contractors regarding this topic. If architects were aware of some of the methodology behind "modeling for construction" (my term, not his) and software was able to support the model's transition between the designer and the contractor, BIM might work out a little easier for all of us.

According to Lachmi Khemlani's recent review of AGC activities, Graphisoft's Don Henrich considers the design model and the construction model completely different entities. To quote Lachmi:

"The premise behind Graphisoft's construction solutions is that the building model required for construction is substantially different from the model generated during design, and that in most cases ... a BIM model ... generated by the architect and engineer ... is not very suitable for construction and will have to be substantially reworked—to the extent that it would be easier to simply start from scratch. This viewpoint has, so far, not been endorsed by others in the AEC industry."
We at Tocci also disagree with Don. Although it seems that some modification of the architect's model is required, it is certainly not easier or faster to start from scratch. Good thing that Lachmi and Davis back me up on that.

modeling walls for construction in Revit

I'm not big on software "tips and tricks", mostly because I think there are a lot of people out there who can do much cooler things in Revit. However, I think I can contribute a few things, especially since Revit doesn't fully support contractor's efforts. In my last post, I discussed modeling philosophy and brought up the example of modeling walls. Here is how:

First, create a wall type in Revit for each layer. (in this case, "Basic Wall: CMU" and "Basic Wall: Gypsum"). Model each wall type as a separate object:

Align the interior faces of the gypsum walls to the faces of the block wall (using the "align" command):

When I first did this, I thought that is all I would have to do. Until I tried to put a door in the wall. Because Revit is "smart", it knows that doors don't span 3 different walls:

So, join the walls (using the "join" command):

Modeled for construction. Voila!

modeling philosophy

Recently, much of our in-house BIM discussion has been about something that I refer to as modeling philosophy. The first time this came up was about a month ago, when we recieved our first 3D model from an architect (aloft from Fruchtman).

At first, I was thrilled beyond belief, but when I started navigating through model to integrate the construction schedule, I was a little disappointed. The reason? Fruchtman modeled aloft using a different philosophy.

When we model walls (or anything) in-house, we model the building how it will be built. Using the wall example (a block wall with gypsum on both sides): I model each layer (block wall, gypsum laters, insulation, etc.) as separate objects. My reasoning behind this: the block wall is built months before the gypsum is put up. I "model for construction".

Most architects model differently; they model the easiest, most efficient way possible. It makes sense for them, as most contractors don't have the capability to utilize a model. The Fruchtman model (I'm not picking on them here; it's just my only example of an architect-created model) was no different. The same wall (block wall with gypsum) was modeled as one object with several layers. They "model for design".

I'm sure there is probably another way to model as well. Consider the future, when we present owner's with an as-built model instead of as-built drawings. A sophisticated owner might use that model to assist with facilities management; they might want objects modeled a little differently. I guess I would call that "modeling for operations".

Contractor's Guide to BIM

The AGC's first publication on BIM is now available via the AGC website; members can download it free from here. The publication is kind of pricy, but as Lachmi Khemlani pointed out in her review of the Contractor's Guide to BIM, it is a one of a kind publication: There is no such guide for BIM for engineers or architects.

The first draft of the Contractor's Guide covers a number of practical topics including software tools, 2D conversions, partial uses, benefits, responsibilities and risk management.
Lachmi's review is more extensive that anything I could come up with, so I recommend reading that for more details.

The Contractor's Guide isn't perfect; there are a number of issues that it doesn't address (specific methods for contractor's BIM use, for one) and a number of issues that I disagree with (it claims that a 2D conversion takes 2 weeks and costs between .1% and .5% of the total construction cost; I have been working at Tocci for 5 months and we have yet to complete a 2D conversion). The authors do recognize that it is a first draft; hopefully we will see more content developed in the future.

In the meantime, I commend their effort and appreciate the additional proof that contractors are using BIM.

ideal practices

I am working on an article on BIM for MM&T, an online resource for the AEC community. One of things they'd like me to address is my (and Tocci's) idea of the ideal practice for a design-bid-build job:

Bid Phase

We, along with several other contractors are invited to bid on a new project. The next day, the architect sends us the complete Revit model, containing components from Revit Building, Revit Structure, Revit Systems & 3D Civil, and the e-Specs file.
The department administrator sends the model and e-Specs file out to subcontractors for pricing. The e-Specs file allows our team and subcontractors to easily review the specifications and view the places in the model that each specification section applies to.
Meanwhile, the other team members work on extracting quantities for an internal takeoff and scheduling the model. This work may be done in Revit or Navisworks.
After the quantities are extracted, they are linked to the Timberline estimate. An estimate populates, using Timberline's GC databases. As bids from subcontractors start coming in, we already have quantities and pricing to compare to.
Once the model is scheduled, we will produce scheduling deliverables which will later become contract documents:
an AVI file that shows what looks like a movie of how the building is going to built and a series of images, showing what the building will look like at specific dates during construction.
We will also use Revit to come up with some suggestions for value engineering (VE). We can compare design options in Revit & then extract the associated quantities from the model. This allows us to present multiple budgets to the owner.

Construction Phase
After we win the job (because with accurate and user-friendly deliverables like those described above, how could we not), the project team (designers, subs & team Tocci) would have a meeting to review model sharing strategies, chain of communication and VE items.
From there, the subcontractors each develop and then submit a model (instead of shop drawings) for their trade, basing it on the designer's model. Those models are merged in NavisWorks and then used to develop a clash report. A series of coordination meetings and model updates resolve the issues that were brought up in the report. If all of that is done correctly, it should greatly reduce the number of field coordination issues as well as the number of change orders.
We will also continue to use the model for scheduling and quantity takeoffs. The visual schedule will allow us to easily compare the actual construction progress to the schedule. We can also update the model to reflect actual construction progress. With respect to quantity takeoffs, we can notify the superintendent and subcontractors the quantities of items they will need onsite each day, enabling them to take advantage of lean construction principles.
As we proceed, I'm sure we will find dozens of other ways to use BIM. The difficult part is figuring out how to share the model and collaborate with other project partners.
We are years away from being even close to this; out of the 43 architects that are designing projects we are building or planning to build, only 2 have provided us with architectural 3D models. Maybe 2-3 more have approached us for advice as they consider using Revit or another 3D intelligent modeling program. Out of the thousands of subcontractors in our database, only a few are using 3D intelligent modeling. We have yet to recieve any models from any of them.

Well, it's nice to dream.