Saturday, August 28, 2010

Don’t put your BIM in a Box!

What can a BIM be used for? Think outside of the Box.

A better question is how can I use BIM for <insert use>?  I ran across an interesting use yesterday.

How can Emergency Response Services use a BIM?  It doesn’t take much thought to think of dozens of ways.  Mostly they are related to visualization.

  • Cameras placed in the model can simulate planned security cameras and validate the coverage.
  • Animated crowd simulations can identify bottlenecks.
  • Visual reports on threats/emergencies overlaid on the BIM can help leadership evaluate the location, extent and magnitude of the incident so that they can plan an informed response. A related example would be the interconnectivity of the  US Army’s Land Warrior
  • Sensor driven data can visually report conditions of the environment in a visual manner that is quicker to conceptualize and easier to understand than just raw data.

When President Obama visited Kalamazoo Michigan, the Secret Service was “blown away” by the information they could extract from Western Michigan University’s BIM. I don’t know what exactly the Secret Service does when they scout a venue for the President, but can you imagine the time saved and the quality of the information available in a BIM compared to either walking the whole venue (time intensive) or typical FM CAD plans (limited amount of information and limited display of spatial relationships)?  Of course with a mission as critical as the protection of a dignitary, the Secret Service must still visit and verify the identified trouble spots.  Can you imagine the liability if the the BIM was taken for unquestionable fact.  But, that said, As-Built should be As-Built.

Anyway, check out this article about how WMU’s “Bronco BIM” project helped the Secret Service prep for a President’s visit and the plans they have for it’s future.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why would Owners want BIM?

In response to a discussion at a Group I belong to on Linked IN  (BIM for Owners)  I got a little lengthy.  I'm not sure that those without Linked In accounts can view the discussion, so I have re-posted it here.
I think the “Why” of BIM is directly related to where it is applied in the building lifecycle.
In the early design stage the owner benefits from 3D visual communication of the designer’s ideas. Being visual creatures, we can conceptualize a condition much easier when presented with a 3D image. Now if you can exam that condition in 3D from all angles easily, well, all the better. This benefits the Owner by creating a common language (visual language) that everyone involved can comment on. Owners and Designers both will know they are “on the same page.”
In the Late design/ Pre-Construction stage visualization helps as well. Again everyone can understand a particular condition better when they can exam a virtual model of that condition. Models can also be investigated semi-automatically for Spatial Coordination issues involving the Building’s Systems (Clash Detection.) The Owner Benefits at this stage in Cost and Schedule. If we can immediately agree what a condition is through the model (whether it is right, wrong, or indifferent) then we can move to the real discussion of Constructability and how it relates to Design intent. We don’t have to spend time sketching and having “deep discussions” (OK Arguing) about what we “think” the condition is. That churn effects schedule. If Contractors have a more clear idea of Design intent due to a well built model, the Owner saves money (and time) with a reduction of RFIs and Change Orders.
At handoff, the Owner benefits when the BIM contains data such as O&M, Specs, and Warranties. When that happens we eliminate the “boxes and boxes” of handoff docs and provide a model that can serve as a repository for all of that information.
The model can then serve as a start for a FM database. Currently that information is usually exported to a “traditional” FM database, but there are solutions to allow that information live on in the visual environment of the BIM. As we develop more and better solutions that allow Owners and Operators to access data in a rich visual environment, then Owner’s will see dramatic returns in efficiencies and quality.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Manufacturer Content, PIM, et al. (part 1)

For a while now, I have restrained from commenting on BIM content (for the Revit platform or otherwise) from Product Manufacturers/Suppliers, also called PIM (Product Information Models (or Modeling.))  Mostly this is due to some negative experiences I have had with Product Suppliers/Manufacturers content as well as the fact that I have noticed a general trend of improvement in that same content. I feel I need throw a few opinions out there and see what folks think.

The cry from the industry for “content” from Autodesk and Manufacturers makes sense from an end-user standpoint, and I “get” it. They need the tools to complete their tasks. I don’t know what release of AutoCAD was the first to have Blocks (AutoCAD “content”) but I’m sure that the first few didn’t do everything for everybody. As AutoCAD has matured and manufacturers have provided shop-drawing quality .dwg details and blocks (including the high-tech dynamic blocks) users have gotten used to (spoiled?) and expect it for their BIM modeling applications as well.

I have felt until very recently that expecting Autodesk or Manufacturers to create content to be used in my office is “beyond the pale.”  Every piece of content used in our office goes through testing and a standardization process. I can’t think of any content we have gotten from an outside source that didn’t need modification. Sometimes we modify for graphic standards or material standards or annotation standards or some higher desired functionality. Like I said, until recently, I didn’t think having someone outside the office making content for OUR use was an acceptable answer (more on why I changed my mind in part 2.)

A problem I see with this is the amount of information contained in PIM, and Who and How that information is used and maintained (more on that as well in part 2.)  When a manufacturer or supplier creates a 3D model of their product, it is often pushed directly to their CAD/CAM manufacturing machines and the dimensional information can be overwhelming.  While this information is necessary for the CAM workflow, it usually doesn’t translate well to a BIM environment. One reason is file size.

I have seen early attempts at PIM with light fixture families that were over 3MB, which is about 6 times the size of most of the Revit families approved for use in our office. 

Luckily, Autodesk has provided end users and product modelers with guidelines on how to optimize their families for best performance.  PIM has problems with file size and other performance robbing issues far less often than two years ago.  Autodesk’s guidelines for having content included on SEEK has made a step towards standardizing what Revit Families should be (whether you agree or not.)  Note: that’s Revit families not BIM content (sometimes folks forget there’s a difference.)

Another problem I often see is in content designed for MEP use.  Revit MEP uses “connectors” to propagate information from one part of a “system” in the model to another.  Unlike some other “best practices” for family creation, the configuration of these connectors is imperative to getting a Revit MEP model to function as expected. I rarely see MEP content where these connectors are configured correctly. (A notable exception is content from Greenheck.  Almost all of the connections on content we received were correctly configured.)

Just because a modeler (or content creation service) can create 3D models that look good and maybe even have some snappy, Neat-o functionality, doesn’t mean they have either the Engineering or Revit knowledge and experience to create families that work for MEP use.  And you do need both. If you don’t have a basic understanding of how the system your working with is engineered and works in reality, you won’t be able to design content that works for the Engineers using it.  If you don’t understand Revit MEP, you will make assumptions about how the system works in reality and try to make that happen in Revit.  And that may or may not work.

In short, I used to think that there was no way that Manufacturers would ever be able to supply useful content for my uses.  I now feel like I was way off base.  My hope is that Product Suppliers/Manufacturers will continue to poll end users, and BIM managers as well as Application providers (thanks Autodesk) about the BIM content they configure.  I think that they are an essential part of “True BIM” and it’s use in a Building’s lifecycle.

In the next part of this series I will talk about why I reversed my opinion on the subject and ideas I have for capturing and managing information in PIM.

Oh, BTW, I hate loooong, text-only blog posts, but you wouldn’t know that by this one.

Can a Big Corporation Adopt BIM and IPD?

I often hear about how hard it is to get a “Big Ship” to “answer the helm” and “come about” on a new “course.”  Ok, maybe I’m the only one who describes it that way, but I do hear about how difficult it is for a large corporation to switch gears to use BIM enabled-IPD.

What if…

Your company didn’t have to switch gears? You have a long corporate culture of innovation and imagination…

You were already experts at 3D visualization? You whole customer base expects you to communicate your fantastic ideas using believable images.

Your company owned and operated millions of square feet of some of the most complicated facilities in the world? Some of your facilities contain systems that convey live cargo (Human cargo) at speeds above 58 fps with 0.50” tolerances between conveyance and structural steel members… (Wow! Guess who?)

How would BIM and IPD benefit you?

Go have a look at how Disney uses BIM (and has been using it for a while) presented at the NASA Info Tech Summit.

Move the slider at the bottom of the video to 50:00 time stamp for the beginning of Jack Blitch’s presentation or slide it over to 1:06 for the start of his discussion about BIM enabled-IPD.

Thanks to Jim Foster at BIM, the Built Environment and Stuff for bringing this to light. (Turn about is fair play.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Laser Scanning from a Backpack

Incredible.  Between PKNail and emergent technology like this, I see a real future in gathering existing facilities information into BIM databases...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A model progression…?

Here’s one to contemplate: How do we construct models that allow us to leverage the efforts of those that have used the model before us and increase the information in the model without losing information and keeping the model lean enough to function effectively?

Just because we are using a BIM authoring tool, doesn’t mean that we have removed all of the disconnected silos of information in the project delivery process. When a designer is in the early design stages they must be able to investigate space requirements and form fluidly. At some point they need to turn focus to constructability. That constructability must then be refined and documented. Then the project must be sequenced for construction with resources and tasks added to assemblies. Finally, the model should be prepped for handoff to the Owner (with linked O & M info, etc., etc.) At each of those steps we have the choice to follow the traditional handoff process that produces silos of information, or think (and maybe work) a little harder to craft a way to prevent handoff and tear down the silos.

Rarely will a resource tasked with creating CDs be able to use the same objects (such as walls) that were used at the SD and DD stages of the project. Similarly, it is uncommon for a GC to take a designer’s model and be able to use it to investigate constructability or arrange the information so it may be used for sequencing. Often the previous work is used as a template to create a whole new model in a separate file. Not so far from the silos of the “past.”

One of the AIA’s tools for IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) suggests that we add detail to the model as we go, using their Model Progression Spec (which you can download here.)

The MPS (Model Progression Spec (I swear, it really is always a TLA (Three Letter Acronym)) is a great document and provides a lot of guidance on what should be in a model.

from Vico's website

However, it lacks a definitive when. When an object should be “upgraded” to the next LOD (Level of Detail (told you, TLA.) I think the when almost needs to be decided on a project by project basis, but working backwards from a complete model and indentifying who needs the highest LOD (at this stage of the project) and the latest they can possibly receive it, will help you set deadlines. If you then work forward through those deadlines and find the earliest possible time you can make the decisions required to up that level of detail, you will be well on the way to having a workable Virtual Building modeling schedule. I know that’s just Critical Path Management (CPM (there’s another one) but you’d be amazed how everyone seems to throw out everything they have learned about delivering a project when “push come to shove” while learning a new tool/process. So let’s get back to some basics.

Vico Software also has some suggestions and examples of how to use the MPS (as well as something they call a content plan) when building a model. It’s worth looking into.

Anyway, my inspiration to write this post is to offer some suggestions about how you might add detail to your model without having to rework effort that has gone before. Since this has gotten kind of long, I’ll leave that for next time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Notes from the Field (BIM)

As we start getting deep into our first project that is taking advantage of using a BIM for Subcontractor level Spatial Coordination  (also called Clash detection and Trade Coordination) I thought I would post a series on what we are learning. 

If lack of knowledge and inexperience combine to form mistakes, then repetition (to gain experience) plus the ability to learn from your mistakes (knowledge) combine to form wisdom (the ability to avoid mistakes similar to those you’ve made in the past.)  The problem is, that it takes some of use longer to gain experience than others.  And, some of us (even when we gain knowledge) can’t make the jump to wisdom to avoid those darn mistakes. Whew, thank goodness for repetition.  :)

Round 1:

  1. You are only as strong as your weakest link.
    • While I think we all know this at heart, make sure that the weakest link is strong enough to perform at an acceptable level or everyone involved will be disappointed.
  2. BIM does not guarantee a reduction of duration for any particular project phase nor the whole project (even though that is one of the goals of using BIM.)
    • If you don’t have the ability to sequence your work and estimate effort and duration for your scope of modeling, you can “chase your tail” for a VERY long time. (BTW, most field staff already have this essential skill. Make sure they understand that your BIM effort relies on their skill as much as your construction/installation effort does.  It’s literally virtual BUILDING!)
  3. No one truly cares about BIM Coordination… until they find an issue that costs real dollars or causes quality to suffer.  You can’t cajole, intimidate, or fool people into respecting what 3D spatial coordination can do until they are involved in it themselves.
  4. Just because an object is “out of the scope of modeling",” doesn’t mean it won’t cause issues during construction. (Put simply: What you don’t model will be what causes issues during construction.)
    • Evaluate what you do and don’t model very carefully.
    • While some object’s size and installation method or sequence make them easy to reconfigure in the field, it still takes time and thought to plan and perform that reconfiguration.

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, a collection of “clashes” from a recent project.

Interference Slide Show