Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Are you getting SPIKES in BIM?

I'm noticing an interesting phenomenon. As we make our move to the BIM environment, we've learned that everything moves forward in stages. Obviously, different people learn at different rates. We have users that have easily adapted, and are constantly pushing the envelope. For users that are new to BIM, we keep coming across the "hesitant" user.

You can easily identify these folks. At the pool, they start by only getting in up to their ankles...and quickly get out because the water temp isn't exactly warm enough (others simply pee in the pool in vain attempt to warm it up). I always wind up behind this person in line at Starbucks in any airport...standing there, staring at the screen, wondering if the expresso will keep them awake on the flight, or if the protein in the smoothie will make them constipated for days.

Anyway, back to the projects. We've had some weird issues show up. And by the way - this isn't happening just for us, but across the spectrum of design firms, so my examples are global. For example, we have several structures to renovate and build from scratch, but the project manager only chooses to use BIM on the new facilities. Not that there's anything wrong with that, except that we're connecting equipment between the facilities - so it would have been really nice, and incredibly more efficient in the design process if everything new was created as BIM objects.

I've also heard about other projects, where the client wants AutoCAD, wants 2D, isn't interested in 3D...but the question is asked about using laser scanning and point clouds to generate an as-built, for presentation purposes, then runnin' back home to Mama and delivering plain AutoCAD.

It seems that every once in a while, an old school team leader hears about BIM - and SPIKE! Just like that, we get a flash of awareness that lasts as long as a lighting bug in a bird house. The idea is pushed, let's try BIM...but let's just do it here...and not too much. It's kind of like watching the beer commercial where the drinker only wants 1/5 of a glass...and if they don't like it, do they have to pay for it?

Have you ever experienced getting SPIKED? Man, this drives me nuts...and hence the soapbox. If we haven't said this once, we'll say it again. Building Information Modeling is a design process. It's something that you make a decision to follow at the start of a project. It's a business model, not a toy you buy once and throw in the box. And it's really annoying, because only a limited amount of effort is being applied to understanding this.

Here's how I think the fear manifests itself. The PM, Department Head, lead engineer, project architect...we've all had projects at some point that have blown up on us. Especially in older users, it instills a fear of anything that moves you out of your comfort zone. And it's scary, because none of us want to fail. The current business climate has made it worse, as everyone knows it's lot harder to get on with new firms nowadays. But it boils down to a simple thing - you don't just pick a small part of a project (a SPIKE) and "kick the tires".

If you're first instinct is that BIM only works on new projects, we're blowing that away every day. One advantage to having a new BIM user model an existing facility is that the design is already worked out - so this is great practice. There's also a preconceived notion that you have to model everything. I don't recommend doing any more than you need to, to get the design intent across - and in most cases, you can get away with LOD 100 - unless the client is paying you to do more.

I like to hear people say "We're doing BIM on this job" and then they whisper "only up to 60% - then it's back to AutoCAD". Why in the world would you develop a model, that in CD's would save you 50% or more of your contract document production time, and then decide to go back to a drafting board mentality? So we SPIKE to create the model - then panic when the deadline approaches, and go back to our comfort zone.

I've got an electrical designer I love in our office - he's so old school, he still has a pocket protector. But he gave me the quote of the day..."it's become very apparent to me that Revit isn't AutoCAD..." I was stunned...but he's trying, I have to give him credit. Then we gave him a tech that is really fast on Revit, and life is now better.

It boils down to this - if you are a team leader, understand that BIM is like poker - you only win (and win BIG) when you go "all in". If you only decide to do parts of a project, then you open yourself to whole new range of issues - compatibility between applications, loss of data, lack of coordination, document consistency (lineweights, fonts, etc.). Inconsistent application - SPIKES - is not a viable method to use on a project. The spike invariably impacts one major component - the COST of the design.

By the way, my interpretation of SPIKES - Some Projects I Know Explode Spectacularly...that's what happens when you take a half serious approach to BIM...

Have a great day - keep 'em between the lines - David B.

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