Virtual Reality

Building Information Modelling has brought a significant amount of disruption to the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry, that has challenged the way we deliver projects. The industry has shifted from 2D documents into 3D spaces, from lines on paper to information rich objects.

How we engage with the design of a building has fundamentally changed in the last few years - we now want you to experience that design!

Not just print out the drawings, not just spin the model around on a screen, but we want you to experience it, to walk around and through it, to reach out and touch it.

How we experience and engage with the design of a building has fundamentally changed

Some people are fortunate enough to be able to conceive and visualize a design in their mind, but the reality is that many people cannot. What does 35m2 look like? What does a 3x3m room look like? What can I access from here? The thing is, even if you provide a drawing, you cannot experience a drawing, in fact you cannot experience renderings or even animations - because you're simply not actually in there.

Virtual reality finally makes it all possible. We believe that within 2 years, all major design projects will be reviewed by the client in Virtual Reality. VR as a service provided by Virtual Built.

Contact us when you also want to experience your design, impress your clients, or simply want to validate your work.
 

BIM for all

Democratised BIM - for everyone, not just the 'experts'! 
Is it conceivable that everyone on the project from the Owner and the Architect, to head Contractor to the Plumber has access to BIM. Let's lose the acronym that has become synonymous with ambiguous esoteric elusive computer models and rephrase it. Is it conceivable that everyone on the project has access to Building Information? When we lose the 'M' in "BIM", not only does it slap you in the face with its obviousness, but it makes you question why this isn't the case already? Why doesn't everyone have access to all the building information? And what have we been doing all this time?

At Virtual Built we've set this as one of our goals - to democratise BIM and provide greater access to Building Information, and provide it to as many project participants as possible. Here are a few of the obstacles that we're often tackling from project to project…

Obstacle 1: Technology isn't in there yet…

In 1965 Gordon More described a doubling every year of the capacity of a circuit board. Moore's Law set a trend that has seen technology experience rapid and sustained growth. Using computers for drawing production (CAD) and then design, and now manufacturing, has placed Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Ownership right into the path of the tech industry juggernaut. The problem is that we believe that the technology is "already here". Today the whole project team can access models and building information out on site and in the office. But with Moores Law in mind, it'll become far easier and a whole lot more accessible tomorrow. The biggest hurdle here isn't so much about the technology not being available, it is more about establishing new practices (and doing away with old ones) and training users.

Currently we're using a mix of BIM 360 Glue and Revizto to get the model out of the content creation environment, and into the hands of the project team. Both applications allow for a mix of devices from Android, iOS, PC and Mac. There are other applications, but for the moment, these two take our pick.

Why Glue and Revizto? While they come from different developers, they share some strengths: 
- a super simple interface
- they strip away the complexity an allow for easy navigation of models
- they're not modelling applications, they just simply view and interrogate the model. This means the barrier to entry for some becomes a lot smaller and we're finding success because… 
- many project participants are taking hold of the Building Information at their fingertips.

Using hosted cloud platforms like Box.com or A360 allows our team to efficiently connect with the wider team. In this respect, data and internet connections play a factor, and is something that may need to be addressed (particularly in the local Australian market).

Obstacle 2: You need to be a BIM expert…

Building Information Modelling has traditionally been a ground up movement that typically was driven by the CAD Manager or drafter. As BIM matured, protocols needed to be implemented, standards needed to be set, and terms needed definition. This has unfortunately led to BIM becoming more of an expert field. Though some level of expertise is required, there also needs to be some levelling out, - where BIM becomes less esoteric and more grounded in the real world of 'getting things done'.

BIM Management and Execution Plans need to be readable and understandable by more the just the select few. All project participants need to, on some level, understand what is in (or out of) a model. This isn't rocket science. What we build in a physical world, we're building in a virtual world first - we're just adding the information that's required to build it. 
Back on the software front; a small amount of training on these simplified applications and non-technical users are up and running in half an hour! We've done away with 4 week Navisworks Manage courses and are opting for 2 hour BIM 360 Glue sessions for 90% of the project participants.

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Obstacle 3: The models aren't reliable…

This is an interesting argument. The more the model gets opened and used, the greater the accuracy - to use computer game terminology, it becomes a "levelling up" process. When there are 50 to a 100 sets of eyes looking over specific element modelled by individuals, there is an inherent responsibility felt by technicians to 'get it right'. And why wouldn't you? If elements are modelled in place for the purpose of coordination, then surely you'd model it correctly? If you don't you're letting the team down (the whole team - not just your fellow services subcontractors). There is an added bonus here, where technicians take greater pride in their work. Their effort isn't just seen as representation of black lines on white paper, it's seen by everyone as a coordinated complex array of pipes a ductwork, project managers see it, and team leaders recognise it.

With the democratisation of BIM, models inherently go through a rigorous validation process. Project participants looking intently live federated models, including detail views and sections of models. All this crowd-sourced, collective investigation leads to discovery of coordination errors that may otherwise have been missed.

 

'Fudging' or manually overriding dimensions in CAD drawings is proving much more difficult today than it did in times past, and it's now quite rare to find deliberately 'inaccurate' models. But yes, amazingly there are still some operators out there who think that BIM is just a phase. We think time will tell?

Obstacle 4: We still need drawings…

Drawings exist as a way of translating the design and intent from one person to another. Someone takes a 3D picture in their mind, flattens it out into 2D lines, and then leaves it for someone else to interpret and recreate that 3D picture. Why don't we just leave it in 3D? If we democratised BIM, and everyone had access to the model, why bother flattening it out into 2D at all?

This isn't really the argument though, the argument here is that 2D drawings, can contain a bunch of 'information' that isn't present in the model, or at least isn't immediately obvious to the viewer (think a water proofing detail, or slab reinforcement layouts). Additionally, the static nature of 2D documents make them a natural candidate for some key project milestones, such as development approval or tender. For this, we concede there is still a use for this type of traditional 'format', for now. However, many of the drawings generated (and maintained) for any particular project could be removed, and therefore reduce the overhead of drawing production, revisioning and maintenance.

We're pushing for some of these ideas, though it might be some time before we see any real change. For the moment, we're using Revizto to link 3D models with those 'necessary' 2D documents like never before: literally combining 2D details and information overlayed on 3D federated models. For us and our teams, Revizto removes ambiguity, adds detail, and provides a level of comfort in the drawings and models not otherwise achieved. And, all in one software application.

The Future

At Virtual Built, we are actively disrupting traditional design, construction, and facility management processes, enabling more people to gain the maximum benefit from Building Information. On real projects, we are pioneering a new, better way, using the latest in Design and Construction Technology.

Contact Virtual Built

Q: Can BIM really change the industry? A: It already has!

BIM is often regarded as a “new” technology for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry. “New” can be defined in a couple of ways, either:

  • of recent origin or arrival - as in BIM is the latest development in technology,
  • or, already in existence, but only recently experienced - as in, BIM has been around for some time, but still yet to be implemented.

Perhaps the semantics could be argued either way in some minor sectors of the industry. The truth is, that BIM is no longer a new term in the industry.

This then raises the questions, why is the industry slow to adopt BIM? And is BIM such the game changer as has been proposed, is the prophesied impact on the industry real?

A Sustaining Innovation or a Disruptive Innovation?

Sustaining innovations are typical evolutions in technology, and simply improve on existing and established technologies. For example a bigger, faster usb drive, doesn’t disrupt the market, it instead sustains and pushes it along, leading the way till the next evolution. Businesses likes sustaining innovations because they are predicable, easy to spot and easy to adapt to. For example, company X could purchase a new ‘sustaining’ technology predicting the outcomes, and ideally benefitting from some short-term gains. A sustaining technology only evolves an existing one by offering better value.

A disruptive innovation or technology on the other hand, is an innovation that improves a product or service in ways that the market doesn’t expect or never anticipated. A disruptive innovation doesn’t aim to just provide better value, it instead provides a whole new set of values that the previous technology never imagined.

A disruptive innovation looks to solve a problem that isn’t necessarily felt or identified by an existing market. It was Henry Ford who said that “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. BIM too is forging ahead and arguably satisfying a need that wasn’t previously felt or anticipated. If the AEC industry was asked what it wanted, it perhaps would ask for faster drawings. BIM provides solutions beyond the conventional 2D drawings - databases, information rich models, analytics, facilities Management, 5D, 4D, Clash Detection etc etc. In some ways, it provides answers to questions we haven’t even asked yet.

 

Some liken the shift from CAD to BIM to the days when we shifted from Manual Drafting to CAD Drafting. The invention of CAD Drafting was a sustaining innovation that provided the same end product (a piece of paper with lines on it). It didn’t create a new market, it didn’t disrupt or displace any existing solutions. Industry saw the potential, got on board and the rapid adoption of CAD ensued.

BIM is vastly different to CAD and it provides far greater value, but its disruptive nature has seen slower levels of adoption.

Why the hold up?

Why doesn’t BIM represent a sweeping change for the industry? Why isn’t it the new miracle drug that solves our problems?

 

The AEC Industry (market) can see what BIM represents and a big of googling will quickly reveal BIM’s benefits. However this same industry is in a well-established market that doesn’t have the problems BIM provides solutions to. They are also surrounded by their competitors who also don’t have these problems. This established market then, doesn’t have the need for anything different. Selling BIM to them is hard work.

 

It is only the early adopters who are searching outside the box that actually see the real opportunities, and who eventually become the new market the innovation is seeking. This new ‘disruptive’ market initially has to provide the same solutions to the existing market in order to survive. In the AEC industry, they need to continue to provide drawings, plans, sections, elevations, schedules etc. - they have too in order to keep their clients happy. Initially, the two markets co-exist. And though the new market is small, and it’s growth slow, over time their performance improves, and the new market is able to compete on a level playing field.

When?

Initially this new disruptive market looks a lot like the existing market, except they are now able to provide additional value far beyond that of the existing market. As well as plans, sections, and elevations, early BIM adopter X provides 3D geometry, object data, graphical programming, energy modelling, clash detection, augmented reality, cost analysis, fabrication, pre-fabrication… and the list goes on, all at effectively little-to-no extra cost. This fuels expectations, competition and market growth. Eventually this new technology actually disrupts the existing market and completely displaces the earlier technology.

The disruptive innovation can catch the established firms by surprise because they never saw the market need or value proposition BIM represented in the first place.

BIM is a disruptive innovation and when fully realised will completely transform the industry. Change isn’t coming, it’s already well on its way.

What now?

Some time ago the discussions between the early adopters of BIM revolved around the technical details of developing a BIM (model), todays discussions points have shifted, and are now focused on the bigger impacts of process, BIM management, change management, supply chain management, cultural issues, integrated projects etc. This only further demonstrates that BIM is having a profound effect on industry that we haven’t seen by any other recent innovations.

Furthermore, as the adoption of BIM has increased, it has become increasingly difficult to fully define what BIM is and ultimately comprehend its potential… partly because its value and uses (the ripple effects) are expanding so quickly. BIM demonstrates a unique value set for all stakeholders in any given project, and, since this value is still yet to be fully realised on even the most advanced projects around the world, the immediate challenge the industry now faces is defining, understanding and delivering on a BIM project (hence, the proliferation of global BIM standards).

A mandate isn’t required, change is already here. If we recognise the pervasive power that BIM presents, that BIM is a disruptive innovation that will upset the status quo, then we can make the logical decision to adapt. If we don’t, we might be left in BIM’s wake, unable to deliver on the new markets needs or the new clients ever-increasing expectations. Soon enough, it will become clear to clients that a new car is available over the old horse.

How to run a BIM Startup Meeting

A BIM Startup Workshop is one of the essential first steps for any BIM project.

 

Why? - Because as we know, BIM involves different disciplines, numerous project phases, complex software and of course many, many people. We would all rather work smarter not harder, we all want to minimize rework, and somewhere along the way we'd all like to make a profit

So then, let's get it right the first time, we'll all sit down, and sort it out before we get started!

What's on the agenda?

Based on our experience, we've prepared a list identifying key points that should be up for discussion in BIM Meeting #1. We've deliberately left out contractual requirements and any discussion on procurement etc. presuming these discussions have probably already taken place.

We've broken these agenda items into 3 sections, 'Plan', 'the Process', and 'of the Model'.

Plan

First things first.

1. Key Contacts - We tend to take down as many names here as possible and assign roles and responsibilities next to each name. The reason for extending this list beyond just the Model Managers is to cut down on the overflow of information (ie. not everyone needs to be copied into every piece of correspondence). 
2. Team capabilities - Quickly following on from point 1, it would be fitting to identify each team member's BIM capabilities (ie. past projects, key personnel etc). 
3. Project Program, Milestones and Key Dates - Quite high level, but here we're beginning to discuss and understand broad deliverables and scope. 
4. Key Project Requirements - Again high level, but quick discussion about key project requirements. These maybe client requirements etc, definitions will help manage expectations. 
5. BIM Goals and Objectives - The last two points are really leading up to the Goals and Objectives of the BIM project. This is about defining how and why BIM will be used on the project. Eg. A priority 1 Goal might be to achieve spatial coordination through clash detection by a particular date. 
We suggestion that the BIM Manager come armed with a heap of suggestions for discussion, keep it brief, relatively high level and avoid going through all the BIM Uses in the world (that's up next).

the Process

Here the discussion turns to how are we going to get to where we need to go.

BIM is about modelling 'Information'

 

6. BIM Uses - It's really early days in the project, and many BIM uses won't be realised for some time. The point here is to identify potential uses downstream and their requirements upstream. Think outside the box (and individual scope) and look to leverage and benefit the project. 
7a. Modelling Scope - We'd recommend not spending too much time on this as it'll quickly kill a fair chunk of your meeting. The suggestion here is that each discipline takes the time (post meeting) to table what they do and do not model of the different elements. These can then be curated by the BIM Manager and documented in a BIM Plan. Don't just limit this to geometry, BIM is about modelling 'Information'. What information is attached to the objects and what is lacking? Try not to get bogged down in parameter lists, but do identify key project/shared parameters that must be added by all team members
7b. Model Element Matrix, or Model Progression Specification (MPS) - Quickly following on from Modelling Scope, should be a discussion about a detailed program of model elements. This is about expanding the project/design program into chunks of time (we call these sprints) and identify what model elements are required within each sprint (and at what LOD - next!). 
7c. LOD Definitions - Always an interesting discussion when Consultants and Contractors are in the room together. Keep this discussion on target, there are a few good resources to help this along, notably the BIM Forum, LOD Specification. If contractual responsibilities are clearly defined and specific, this conversation may be a little easier and less controversial. 
8. Collaborative Workflow - This discussion revolves around defining the collaborative flow of information between different stakeholders. 
- Model Exchange: - How models are shared, when are models uploaded, punch list of model changes etc. 
- Coordination: - A detailed discussion of Clash Detection and Resolution could likely be left out of this initial kickoff meeting for time's sake, but will definitely need to be revisited. 
- Communication: - Meeting Schedules, Screen sharing, RFI's
9. Software and other IT - Discuss Technology infrastructure required for the project.

of the Model

Now on to the detail, the nitty gritty and technical stuff.

 

10. Model Structure - Map out what 'The Model' looks like. Identify as many downstream models as possible, and imagine what these models look like in a Federated Model environment. 
11. Structured Information, and Organised Data Sets. - This is important stuff to get right, and depending on the teams BIM Capabilities as to how much time we'll dedicate to talking about this. Some items of note: 
- Coordinates and Control Models 
- Naming Conventions 
- Worksets 
- Materials 
The big message here is consistency. 
12. Quality Assurance - We always reserve a bit of time to talk through QA on our projects. Quality Control plays a big part in maintaining a high standard of models and data consistency across multiple stakeholders and disciplines. QC will also aid the collaborative approach to modelling and documentation.

After all that, you might even fit in some time in for lessons learned and questions?

Oh wait, the drawings...

What have we missed? Do you do anything different? What's your BIM Kick-off look like? - Comment below, we'd love to hear your thoughts.

7 Quick BIM Management Tips

Here are seven quick tips that will improve the collaboration and productivity of your team:

1. Get started with a good BIM Management Plan

There is a reason this is at the top of the list. Having a BIM Management Plan is really fundamental to having a smooth running successful BIM project. There are many templates out there and they all more or less go through the same things.

Don’t just bomb the whole team with a massive document. The team (depending on BIM maturity) will most likely need some explanations and definitions. A good workshop can really kick this off in the right direction.

2. Establish a Project Origin as early as possible

The importance of this cannot be overstated. While you can use Shared or Survey Units, more predictable results will come from using internal or Project Units. Make this information accessible to everyone in your team. Share a few helpful guides or other documents that make clear where the Project Origin is (in relation to Grids and Levels), and describe the best way to adopt this origin for new team members. Setting a consistent, team-wide origin point will make linking RVT, DWG, NWC, IFC and FBX files much quicker and easier.

3. Make file sharing as open and straightforward as possible

Ideally, the project should have at least one document controller who is responsible for making the necessary files accessible for all team members. It can prove complicated when multiple team members are on different domains in the same office, or in completely different geographic locations. Almost all of these problems can be solved either by cloud file sharing methods, FTP and file synchronisation tools, or even a accelerated WAN or VPN solution. If periodic document submissions are required, the document controller should be responsible to notify all affected team members that new files are available.

If you establish and share an intelligent file naming folder organisation structure with your team, Revit linking and Navisworks file pathing can be greatly simplified, resulting in less twiddling of thumbs.

4. Share live programme tracking data with your team

This may sound a little cryptic, but it can be incredibly easy to set up. Let's say the project was started with great intentions, and perhaps there is a programme document that lists due dates for various submissions and project goals. Ideally, these original dates will be met and everyone can go home... However, in real-world scenarios often unforeseen circumstances may result in some adjustment being required to the programme. How can you share this with your team easily?

BIM Bicycle is working on some solutions, but there certainly is some other hacks out there. If your team is able to access and use Google Docs, this might be an easy way. Any Excel spreadsheet can be saved directly to Google Drive and shared to the team. This allows the Modelling or Coordination project manager to update the programme on an hourly or daily basis, and does not necessitate the need for every team member to receive, download and print a new tracking document.

Taking this to the next level, the tracking document could be converted to a true Google Sheet to allow team members to comment and discuss matters affecting the programme as they arise.

5. Use Communication methods in a reliable and predictable fashion

Modern teams have access to a huge variety of communication methods, including IM, SMS, phone, email, shared cloud documents, shared cloud model tools like BIM 360 or VEO, in-canvas communication in your BIM software of choice, along with proprietary document and team management tools like Aconex or Newforma. Which will you use?

The choice actually matters less than be consistent. If something like Aconex is in place for the project, this may be the recommended method of communication for actionable items, and perhaps email is only used as a backup. The trick here is to avoid using “all of the above” methods, because doing so may leave your fellow team members dazed and confused, constantly checking 8 sources of communication and unable to accomplish real work.

6. Be an Honest and Accountable Team Player

It is always better to own up to a mistake. We all make them, and the quicker one is discovered the sooner it can be solved. Being accountable for your work will earn the respect of your team members, and that will be useful in your whole career and not just on this project.

Team players are good to work with. They aren't looking for a way out of helping you, and they aren't afraid to very occasionally bend the rules to help move the project forward. In the end, all team members have a common goal – deliver a great project. So, let us act that way. You can work hard but still be cheerful about it.

7. Doughnuts for coordination meetings

 

A must really... 
 

Guest Post,

Luke Johnson, What Revit Wants