back to defining BIM

This morning, I received an email that contained a link to this article, by Nigel Davies. I agree with much of what Nigel has to say about what BIM isn't, but I still prefer the term VDC (virtual design and construction).

Unlike BIM, VDC actually explains what we are doing: virtually designing and constructing the building.


Rick Smith said...

I whole heartedly agree with you regarding BIM. It is an acronym that from the beginning did not include the whole process, specifically the construction aspects. It was coined by Autodesk’s marketing organization to define what their new product REVIT did – Added textual "information" to its 3D/2D "building model!"

My company has been calling the process from design through construction the Virtual Build process. Very similar to what you have called VDC. Because you "Virtually Build the project before it is Built!" Taking it from design through construction within a virtual data base.

We are the group that taught Frank Gehry how to use this technology beginning in 1991 and have used the process on over a dozen projects. Check out website:


Tomislav Zigo said...

It is worth saying that Virtual Building, Intelligent Building Model and numerous other definitions of the same intent and the same process have existed and were discussed amongst practitioners and in the academia for last 25 years. The premise of BIM should not be whose process is better but how to enable those same processes to communicate within the set of standardized parameters. Due to its complexity and the high level of demand for coordination, one can just fear from finding out how many firms that claim successful BIM methodology adoption never managed to adopt even a modes set of CAD standards. Are we facing GI-GO syndrome of unprecedented proportions?
No one can doubt that future of construction industry is virtual, and that virtual characteristic will transcend its industry need for the greater benefit of any society, but to get there we need to do more work and less marketing.

bimpod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bimpod said...

AEC Technocentrism?

If geocentrists tend not to look outside of their own universe and regard the earth as the center, and all else inferior, can the same also be said about technologists within specific disciplines? Do they always hold up their methodologies on pedestals?...(of course they do, we live in capitalism.) Do software developers carry the torch for the methodology behind the product, as much as the practice they wholesale to? Or how about the product's effect on the trade - is it as important as the number of seats sold? Do trade software wizards maintain slow progress while regarding each product version as their absolute best, never to be too much improved upon, too quickly (even when progressive methodological practice has proven otherwise - with advanced standardization)?

Doesn't any of this interfere with what an ideal AEC community should strive to create: a utopia - through technology.

Is there such a thing as technocentrism in the AEC industry? Is there even such a thing as *technocentrism?

In the case of CAD methodology vs. BIM philosophy, perhaps.

The fact that the sometimes ineffable BIM (Building Information Modeling), today, versus established AEC "emerging technologies", over the past 10-20 years, is what might have been - what too often collected dust on the shelves of the CAD managers' and IT departments' quarters. This will probably never happen with BIM programs, but what if it should? Can BIM fall short of our expectations after all the hype dies down? In terms of revamping our current digital architectural standards, probably not. Because BIM is open minded in terms of outside influence - more so than CAD has been in the past. For example, when you take into account IFC (Industry Foundation Classes), IDM (Information Delivery Manual) and AECxml, these systems are based on ISO and information technology benchmarks. With these, there seems to be much more, in place, to insure that BIM won't dry up at all - perhaps even significantly replacing the need for new CAD information altogether.

The attempts to mitigate architectural standards haven't always been easy and many programs and plug-ins have gone by the wayside either because their potency was unrecogonized and untapped, overshadowed by what seemed to work best because everybody else was using it. Other reasons might have indicated that past technologies just weren't successful because no one was willing to give them a fair try, or explore their potentials. Usually they became obsolete because something better was available as soon it was released. In each case: popularity is a contest.

Could this also be happening with our recent CAD-BIM journey? My answer is yes, if we regard our specific technology as "the way"; no other way but ours. Because within a technological transgression, technocentrism is rampant. It should never get too comfortable with itself because improvement is right around the corner.

I have worked for many years in the AEC industries specifically as a CAD Technician with top architecture and a construction company, and have seen technologies come and go. Five years ago I had been asked to assess a new quick modeling technology that was unfortunately never widely used. Today, such a technology would be known as a prototype for Google's SketchUp. I have normally used CAD based technology from 1998 up until 2004 when I was introduced to BIM software by a very diligent and passionate architect, a past colleague of mine, Albert Zulps, AIA. He had influenced me to use Graphisoft ArchiCAD for work at Skanska USA Building, Inc. As a 3D modeler I had mostly used AutoDesk Architectural Desktop 3.3, prior to my work at there. This marked my first use of technology outside of what I considered practical. Much to my surprise, the relative ease of ArchiCAD's intuitive interface provided the necessary tools to implore from the untapped world of BIM. It's hard to find any other program that matches its capabilities.

In the past 30 years, the industry that has had one of the least expedient transformation with its own technology is the AEC profession. In 1978 when CAD technology was only just starting to be utilized in the field of architecture and design, almost all offices still executed projects through hand drafting. In the 1980's and 1990's CAD technology was gradually replacing the practice, especially in the 90's. Certainly, advances were being made with CAD as the technology of the PC expanded and allowed a shift from DOS based command to more intuitive interfacing. However, the shift was not exactly as profound as we'd hoped for, because it only allowed hand drafting to be replaced with digital. The impact was somewhat felt because we were simulating drafting practices, being progressively more efficient, although it was only a slight advance when compared to BIM; important nonetheless.

If we examine from 1974 to 2004, the major groundbreaking advances that seemingly occurred with CAD, we'd perhaps find that what's occurring now is much more revolutionary with Building Information Modeling. BIM technology (AKA Virtual Construction Modeling) certainly isn't the panacea for all of our architectural woes, but when compared to CAD, is pretty close, and can convincingly overshadow and offer quicker more prolific solutions than CAD.

Even if we looked at other, outside technologies in, say, bar code scanner technology, for example, we'd perhaps find better strides. In doing so, we should find contrasts in chronological advances to that of architecture's CAD to that of bar code technology - although CAD's inclusion with BIM builds stronger momentum with overall assumptions. But it should be looked upon based on the criteria of their standardized practice and overall impact.

Ironically, CAD standardization and UPC share a similar timeline. CAD technology came from MIT in the early 1960's while UPC bar coding can be traced back to work at Drexel in the late 1940's. For making the comparison, we should look no further than to the first supermarket bar code reading device installed in a Troy, Ohio store in 1974. I'm sure if we were to statistically compare the technological advancements between barcode scanners and computerized drafting we'd find a much slower paced technology with CAD since the standardization created by UPC has spread much more widely throughout the world over a very short amount of time. Logistically, it's stated that the standardization of the bar code is one of the most profound in history (http://www.nationalbarcode.com/History-of-Barcode-Scanners.htm). Can this also be said of CAD? What supermarket do we go to today that doesn't have a laser scanner at the checkout line? Now, we see this technology, on stickers in automobile windows, for leases held in parking garages by car owners. Also, when you look to the standardized practice of UPC bar code (as ANSI regards this system as highly efficient), is there a similar sentiment in AEC today that says we're completely content with our current technological standardization for CAD? While it works for most, it is never 100% automatic and almost never maintains a consistency in such a way as with that compared to inventory tracking in retail chains, etc. (or even BIM, for that matter).

CAD is certainly a worldwide practice, but has it hit the comfortable level that other technologies hold?

BIM should be more successful in this regard, because it is based on standardization in the first place. It's automatic for the people, kind of like the supermarket checkout line, or EZ-Pass lane on the turnpike. While it may too someday go by the wayside, it will be that great advancement that the AEC industry has waited for as its poster child, coming of age.

While I'm not trying to be too critical of CAD methodology, more, just posing questions about its evolutionary span, I'm curious of its efficiency against BIM. CAD technology is still being improved upon and will always be needed, that's a given. It still works with BIM very much connected to the routine. The question I'm most concerned with is if it has really gotten us to where we need to be. Was it ever so revolutionary that it allowed us to break production records in AEC companies? When the BIM revolution soon enables those in the AEC community to totally harness the full promise of confluence, will CAD users be aware of this phenomenon, will they share the same camaraderie?

While CAD methodology has usually been good to me but, as of lately, is an even better topic to critique, I can't deny the value its offered for all these nearly 10 years. Suddenly, I might be realizing, is this a farewell letter to CAD?,(Dear CAD...I'm leaving you for BIM). Am I seeking closure to having to use CAD? Probably. But isn't everything essentially CAD based if you're working on the computer. Doesn't BIM offer vague labelling. Why not just say CADx...(Extra strength CAD?).

The whole VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) acronym whould've been considered more thoroughly had technocentrism not prevented more diplomatic consideration of its use over BIM.

No biggie. No matter what happens, I'll always remember where I was when making the realization - that I could now do my job better, faster, more accurately as a drafter/modeler. And the situation couldn't have been more superlative; in my case. Since I started using CAD in 1997, had worked with multiples versions of CAD software, trained and became proficient in BIM (and continue to do so), and have evaluated my own perception of what goes just beyond thinking about it, as a modeler; now blogger on the subject.

Perhaps there's a technocentrism somewhere in all of the complacency surrounding AEC's digital drafting dilemma, I just hope I somehow steer around it. It seems easy enough but somedays it feels like a wet paper bag I can't fight my way out of. Written by Joseph J. Nicholson

*While not a true word recognized in the dictionary, according to Seymour Papert in an 1990 article at MIT, "Technocentrism is the fallacy of referring all questions to the technology" http://www.papert.org/articles/ACritiqueofTechnocentrism.html

Nigel said...

Hi, it's Nigel here.

Just thought I'd note that the link you have isn't right. The article I presume you're referring to is (Mis)understanding BIM which is http://www.eatyourcad.com/article.php?incat_id=1478.

As for the discussion about whether it's BIM or VDC or whatever, I'll just use the phrase that has been agreed on by Autodesk & Bentley. If they can agree on something, I think I'll leave it at that!

Although I will say that if you define the Model part as model in the theoretical model/system sense rather than a physical (or virtual) act of modelling, you can incorporate every stage of a construction project.

You may be interested in next month's Soapbox on www.eatyourcad.com - I'm looking at key companies definitions of BIM and how relevant and accurate they are (from my perspective at least).

I hope it'll get you all thinking and you'll find something to agree/disagree with.