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Connotation of Semantics

Many will have already seen, skimmed, or actually read the AECbytes article "VDC to in the Cloud". If you haven't, just know that Chris France's thesis seems to be that the cloud is a lean strategy. I agree with this concept (a lot actually!), but struggled to align with this thesis. My struggle was vocabulary based. But this isn't a criticism of Chris or AECbytes. The semantics issue is industry wide. We are all guilty.

Yes, we are in the middle of a significant industry transformation, and I want to wordsmith. (I actually just googled the definition of wordsmith - its a noun, not a verb. People in glass houses much?)

Why am I so caught up on our word choice? Because words matter. (And here and here. And here.)


"VDC in the Cloud" uses the terms VDC and BIM to actually bifurcate the industry.
Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) is the term used by Contractors to “virtually construct” a building on a computer before they actually construct it on-site.
It is not to be confused with the Architect’s Building Information Modeling (BIM), which is primarily focused on design and creating drawings as their product.
As a contractor, I have to disagree. We create, use, and analyze Building Information Models all the time. And I know quite a few architects who use the term VDC, as they "virtually design" the building. The definition goes on:
BIM does not generally address means, methods, schedules, costs, safety, logistics, inventory, manufacturing, etc., but VDC does.  As good as BIM is, it is only optimizing a sub-process.  VDC is optimizing the entire lifecycle of a structure with the processes, technology, and people to support it.
In my mind, BIM and VDC aren't competing forces or concepts. In fact, many people use them interchangeably - another issue of semantics, but at least it doesn't further silo the industry.

What is my point? I think I have two:
  1. A standard vocabulary improves understanding and communication - that way I don't go left when you point right. It engages people in the process because it is overwhelming enough to learn about BIM when it only means one thing.
  2. Also, its the 'lean' thing to do. If we don't have to spend time talking about what words mean or which definition of BIM we are using, we can get more done.
And yes, I totally see the irony. Back to work.

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