Posts Tagged ‘Building Information Modeling

25
Jun
08

BIMStorm Coming to Your City?

Los Angeles

BIM is of course Building Information Modeling, and here’s how it became a storm. In Cadalyst, Kenneth Wong reports on how 133 participants tested a hunk of technology called OPS, short for Onuma Planning System, also known as a “Web-based BIM collaboration platform.” And what a platform it is. In virtual attendance from Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Canada, Mexico and the U.S., this group took on the challenge of re-inventing 60 square blocks of Los Angeles. They answered the question of what would happen if, as Wong puts it,

…a bunch of idealistic architects, designers, building owners, contractors, and consultants decided to do away with the professional hierarchies, business protocols, and legal constraints that have long prevented them from working together? What if they converged on a destination and simply spent the day exchanging ideas about the high-rises, hospitals, firehouses, and schools they envision building there?

BIMStorm LA, as the event was officially dubbed, was the brainstorm of Pasadena architect Kimon Onuma. It was a case of technology in search of an application, the technology being Saas, or software-as-a-service, which was developed by Onuma’s company and named OPS. We’re talking about open, interoperable data standards, meaning the players could come in with ArchiCAD, Autodesk Revit, VectorWorks, or any number of other programs that operate under Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) standards.

This was the super-stoked collaboration track, nicknamed the Woodstock of BIM, because the idea behind it was to shake loose from the old ways and throw everybody together into one big sandbox to be as playful and inventive as they wanted — not only architects and engineers, but code reviewers, specialists in Leed certification, green consultants, and structural analysts. After a 24-hour Internet session, conducted in real time with no lag, 420 virtual buildings had been created over 54,755,153 square feet of territory.

One enthusiastic participant was analyst Karen Weber, who specializes in green roofs. Although energy-modeling BIM software is fully aware of solar panels, it doesn’t seem to have caught up with the concept of green roofs, to Weber’s regret. She’s excited about hybrid roofs — the combination of green plantings with solar panels. Roofs get hot, as hot as 200 degrees, and she’d like to see those solar panels, which function best in the high 70s, to have plants for company, to cool them off. The green roof not only looks nice, but saves, she says, lots of money over the life of the building because of several factors.

How will all these green roofs be watered? Weber has a plan for that, too. The area of the architects’ and planners’ imaginary playground would contain around 300 fire hydrants. Their annual flushing wastes millions of gallons of water, which she would like to see gathered, stored in cisterns, and sent up to the green roofs. And why not? Cities are certainly crying out for ways to do many things better, including the conservation of resources.

Another participant, Jeffrey Ouellette of VectorWorks, said,

It’s a really interesting exercise. You can find out relatively quickly how feasible it is to build two 20-story buildings instead of a single 40-story building on a site very early in the design process. A lot of architects struggle with that early design stage because they need to get the feedback, the data, that really matters, in a timely fashion.

Going by the evidence of BimStorm’s own website it appears to have designs on several more cities. One comment notes that the old ways have been proven to cause a built-in wastage of 30% of the professionals’ time and energy before construction on a project even begins. People are liking this idea of real-time collaboration that can bring problems to light before they even become problems. One even proposes the radical idea that, in many cases, the best solution would be not to build.

Comments from BIMStorm participants verge on sounding like religious conversion or falling in love — this thing is rocking their world, and they want more. Urged ahead by the visionary Onuma, they want the future to come faster, which will happen when everybody in the industry gets on board this thing.

SOURCE: ” The Summer of BIM ” 04/01/08
photo courtesy of olasisucsd , used under this Creative Commons license

04
Jun
08

CAD Caveats from a Developer-Contractor

Photoshop and Autodesk Maya

T.K. Garrison, author of Cracks, Sags, and Dimwits – Lessons to Build On, also maintains a website with some great articles on it, for instance this one called “Slaughtered in the Dirt.” Two friends in the industry are swapping tales of professional misery, and the subject of their woes is dirt. On any building site, it’s expensive to handle, especially when you have to do it more than once. One guy advises the other:

You’re usually dollars ahead paying for a topo survey up front and then having your architect check dirt quantities as she designs. Not only does this minimize dirt work, it also helps ensure driveways and lawns aren’t too steep and that the site drains properly.

Like so many other aspects of a project, working the dirt right is the responsibility of humans who can be devastatingly fallible, whether through lack of training or lack of caring. It comes to the same thing in the end — a badly flawed project, in this case a road the engineer put in the wrong place without consulting the dirt.

Though Garrison’s piece is about computer-assisted design (CAD), it applies equally to Building Information Modeling (BIM). It’s funny and, unfortunately, all too true. There’s a strong warning here against the assumption that a lot of pricey software and few buzz words can add up to a technologically competent architectural firm. Training and commitment matter, and so do versatility, and adaptability, and so do machines and programs that can work together harmoniously. As one of Garrison’s characters says,

There are two types of CAD operators… The thinking kind are worth their weight in gold. The I-only-push-buttons-for-a-living-don’t-ask-me-to-think variety are far more common… They can be successful, but only if the boss spends LOTS of time reviewing and correcting their work…. He’s so busy bringing in new jobs, trying to get paid, and training new employees, there’s no time left to manage and maintain the people actually doing his day-to-day workload.

Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition contains a whole chapter on “Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM)” which defines the design technologies associated with the field as ranging from simple two-dimensional drawing programs to the more inclusive and complicated 3D programs that do solid parametric modeling. It’s basically any digital environment where a desired shape is first designed, then interpreted, producing directions that control the actions of a machine tool. While unquestionably unequalled when it comes to laying out and cutting out parts, the further reaches of computer-aided design can create ambivalence in its human users,

As Dan Hanganu points out, the ability to make beautiful pictures alone isn’t enough, and can conceal shortfalls in other areas. He says, “The technology has taken off and there is a generation of people in our offices who know how to manipulate the machine. But the machine has the seductive ability to hide the lack of depth and essential knowledge of the user.” Newly fledged architect Zoe Berman notes in her blog, “For a while, we seemed to forget that the computer can only ever be a tool that we direct, and is not a tool to direct us. CAD creates a veil of perception that can distance us from the realities of a project.” Many voices remind us that technology alone can never replace human intelligence, and even the best tool is only as good as the mind that directs and interprets its activities.

SOURCE: ” Slaughtered In the Dirt – Part 1: Bad CAD” 06/02/08
photo courtesy of ovendelon , used under this Creative Commons license