Guest Post: Information is a Paradigm Shift

Since I have gotten worse at frequently posting, a few people have offered to help keep (bim)x a little more alive by writing posts when they are inspired. Here is one, from on VDC Manager who has decided to post by a pseudonym: VirDC. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Laura Handler has graciously offered to open-up her blog for an occasional, anonymous blog post, just to keep her readers on their toes. Thank you Laura, for giving me such a prestigious podium! The past few years have been a mad scramble for many of us getting a foothold in the AEC industry and I've found great comfort in the priceless contributions that you and your fellow Toccisti have made to our industry my developing career.

I hate to start my piece as just one more take on where BIM is taking the AEC industry, but I may as well get it out of the way in my debut post with some really cool links. Anyway, it's been bugging me that some people have analogized the adoption of BIM with the transition from hand drawing to CAD. Though I love history and I believe there are always lessons yet to be learned from the past, there has really never been a true paradigm shift like we are experiencing. If you aren't seeing it, you may want to figure-out why you aren't seeing it before it's done and position yourself accordingly.

For the past few years, everything's been a bit wild in the AEC industry and not just due to the economy... While the industry finally hit full stride with the Green movement, there's been a much more tumultuous undercurrent welling-up that is changing the way the entire industry is structured and it's only amplified by the poor economy. As anyone who follows this blog knows, information and technology is what is transforming the industry by way of relational, object-oriented programming that simply allows us to relate various information, relate that information, and produce information that has additional value. Call it BIM, PLM, or even ERP if you want, but is finally transforming the way we use computational power to assist us. Yes, I say finally because not only has it taken a long time for it to get from this guy's head to your fingertips, but it is essentially the limitless transformation sought by creative minds for millennia: a way to turn pure creativity, knowledge and resources into an informed reality.

The more we harness information, the more potential uses for the derivative information there become. We have only just begun to conceive of the ways information can be used in the real world to influence design, construction and results, but there is literally limitless potential. We're just not likely to be able to identify many advanced uses from the outset: clash detection, code compliance, takeoff quantities, costs, etc are only the very early beginning. Frankly, it's a little bit scary to consider some implications. For instance: if we tie quantities to costs and tie those costs to an online marketplace, are we really just commoditizing the industry and extracting the "Hu element?" Would a commodity market dynamically tied to a design really take material costs off of the list of variables forever? I doubt it, but I can't say what would happen if nearly every designer/planner had that level of information at every step. Predicting the usefulness of information just one or two steps out with any degree of certainty gets pretty nebulous like predicting the weather, the economy, or the climate for that matter. But, what I do know is that we will continue to push ahead and the use and application of derivative information will not grow linearly.

Today, we struggle with data workflows to leverage basic information, interoperability of data, detection, isolation and correction of bad or flawed data, and the human interfaces to that data. But, the seeds of a different growth pattern have already taken root. Before long, we will have worked-out a defined modularity for new, extensible data, thus resolving interoperability and making workflow objective rather than subjective. We will have a slew of intuitive and fully-customizable interfaces to capture our every inspiration and truly dynamic, proactive and predictive feedback on design and logistics. Possibilities will mean something else entirely... just look at what Wolfram Alpha is doing with relational data. It's just the beginning.

Virtual Reality

I skimmed this recent article AECbyte article to see what I missed at the AIA Convention and noticed that the article missed something I had heard about: Virtual Reality for the AEC industry.

We tested a previous version of this solution a few months ago and were very excited about the potential of it. Now it looks like WorldViz, the company we are working with, has released an AEC-specific toolset and showcased it at the AIA Convention. We are probably going to implement this for one of our clients; is anyone actually using this on projects right now?

Simultaneous Analysis

Last week, one of Tocci's VDC Modelers sent this article to our team, on AIA New York's Shifting Paradigms: Design in Transition event.

The discussion point in the article that stood out to me was not the "insecurity of the audience"; it was Paul Seletsky's criticism of BIM software, which does infact "lack the ability to simultaneously look at design geometry and energy management". I would extend that to any type of analysis. For instance, even though we are able to extract quantity information directly from a model to feed an estimate in a much shorter time period, it is certainly not instantaneous pricing feedback.

Where our success has been is in finding workarounds that create "almost-instantaneous" feedback. Obviously these workarounds require setup and BIM Execution Planning, but short of improved interoperability and connectivity between software platforms, its what we have. And although it isn't perfect, it is certainly better than traditional process.

Model Slicer

In a meeting today, Atul Khanzode from DPR mentioned their model slicer, and then it appeared here today. Excited to try it out. I'll let you know how it goes. Direct link to download the product.

3D Printing a Building

Interesting link posted by Tom Vollaro here about 3D printing with concrete. Very cool concept - it will be interesting to see how this fits within current model-based execution options.