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Does a BIM Requirement Stop You From Bidding? January 10, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in BIM, CAD, Construction Industry - Software.
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Building Information Modeling (BIM) has become an industry standard on complex construction projects. As more Construction owners reap the benefits of BIM, more projects add a modeling component. While Architects grab Revit, the complexities feel insurmountable, especially for smaller contractors in the electrical and mechanical trades. An investment of 6-18 months and $80-100,000 is not uncommon to hear. So what is a smaller subcontractor to do?

Get Educated on BIM
The Associated General Contractors of America has an excellent publication “The Contractor’s Guide to BIM” that is a great place to start. Understanding the benefits to the Owner, Architect, Engineer, and subcontractor will make you more comfortable in the design and modeling process. It will keep you in sync with the jargon and help you see the benefits for marketing your firm.
Your local universities also offer training and educational programs as do the think tanks of the construction industry. The Alliance for Construction Excellence and the Construction Users Roundtable are excellent places to tap expertise, spot trends and peer into what the future holds.

Consider Outsourcing while You’re Learning BIM
With the economy still struggling, smaller firms that are already cash strapped will have to wait to train or hire a BIM espert for their firm. Doing a Google search for BIM outsourcing typically returns results outside your local area as the big firms all vie for Search Rank. You may want to ask your network connections, as many business who started in drafting and design have made substantial investments to offer BIM services to specialty contractors. In Arizona, my friend Donna Overton, owner of Draftek has done exactly that, offering electrical, mechanical, piping and fire protection modeling services. Watch this short video on the NAU Skydome work they delivered
and you’ll realize that outsourcing BIM is certainly a viable solution. Finding providers nearby also keeps your local economy humming.

Hiring BIM Talent is Quicker than Learning from Scratch
If you want productivity in BIM, hiring for experience is certainly quicker and easier to attain success and brand your new BIM department, albeit more costly. However, recent college grads are eager to learn and are great at augmenting a BIM department. Then you can mold your own model of a BIM professional without any “bad habit” baggage. Finding the right candidate and justifying a full-time BIM position will require a business development strategy to keep the BIM department busy.

Know Your Project Niches that Best Suit Your Strengths
Just because you have hired a BIM staffer shouldn’t mean you go out only bidding projects with BIM requirements. Business must always play to their strengths so the bulk of you projects should still be bid in the areas where you hold the most expertise. You wouldn’t bid a nuclear power plant if you never worked on any power plant before. Neither would you chase a GSA or other federal project without some experience in municipality or state work. Your BIM guy or gal should will be excited to work on more diverse projects that showcase their talents so BIM dry runs, where you are vying for the short list may help separate you from competitors. Remember to incorporate the technology in your presentations and practice the pitch.

BIM also Leads to other Technology
Augmented Reality, Laser Scanning, Immersive Environments and Digital Fabrication all are an extension of BIM. Just last week the Phoenix Revit Users Group had Jim Balding, founder and CEO of the Ant Group speak about where the new technologies are heading. Construction technology has just a short sprint left to a mobile, augmented future.

Don’t let BIM stop you from bidding. Tap into the expertise available and plan for your future. For some it may be outsourcing, for others it will be a BIM department. Just never stop learning as missed opportunities rarely resurface.

What questions do you have on BIM outsourcing and bidding do you have? I’ll tap my experts for the answers if I get stumped.

Augmented Reality Now: How 3D Visualization is Changing the Construction Industry December 13, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in BIM, Construction Industry - Software.
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Today we’d like to welcome a Guest Post from James Benham, president of SmartBidNet and JBKnowledge who has graciously contributed his time and expertise to share this article with our readership. I met James in Phoenix last year when he was the speaker for a construction association dinner meeting and we have been friends (and admirers of each other) ever since.
BIM, 3D Visualization and Augmented Reality
In simple terms, Augmented Reality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality) is the process of using technology to overlay virtual imagery and data on top of real world images (either through a camera enabled device, sunglasses, a transparent display or contact lenses). For the sake of this discussion Augmented Reality is the result of the convergence of several key technologies now available on the open market:
● Precise 3D models
● Mobile devices with the following components:
– Gyroscope
– Accelerometer
– GPS receiver
– 3G/4G Data connection
– Multi-touch interactive displays
– Front and rear facing high resolution cameras
– Light sensor
– Proximity sensor
– Audio sensor
– High resolution display
● Accurate satellite imagery
● Accurate street-level imagery
● Precise Geographic Information System (GIS) data

With the advent of all of these technologies put together into portable devices like the iPhone and iPad, not to mention Android based solutions like the Galaxy class phones and new Galaxy Tab, data now meets visualization in a way never imagined. The devices, combined with their data, allow the user to take a BIM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_Information_Modeling) model and render it in 3D on top of real world images.

To make this more useful, the display of these items is moving from a portable device to more usable devices like windshield displays of construction equipment, sunglasses and even contact lenses. This means that with increasingly accurate data, models, hardware and displays, the BIM models that estimating departments put together can be shipped to the field for use by the people actually performing the work. Below are a few examples that best illustrate the use of 3D models for various construction tasks like client walk-through, remodel designs, field reviews, and earthwork. In one of my recent talks (http://www.jamesbenham.com/presentations/) an electrical subcontractor immediately asked after my talk if he could buy glasses for his workers that would overlay the electrical plans on everything they saw when they walked into a construction site. While this is not available yet, you can expect this type of technology to come on the market in the near future. And for those of you sci-fi fans out there, yes, this is RoboCop and Terminator coming to real life!

Videos (special thanks to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland):

Multi-touch display used as a navigation tool in a 3D environment:

Augmented Reality display of a building on a construction site:

Augmented Reality in Virtual Furnishing:

Earthwork with Augmented Reality:

The important take-away is that the new technologies that seem to not apply to all parts of construction, have significant ramifications when they come together. Who would have thought, 5 years ago, that 3D construction models could be overlaid on a real construction site thru the use of specially designed sunglasses connected to the phone in your pocket?

The question really is how far these technologies will pervade the every day life of the average construction worker, from a project supervisor, to an estimator to the CFO. My favorite quote I heard recently from a General Contractor at one of my talks is “I got into construction because you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist, only to find out that now you have to be a rocket scientist to be in construction.”

Connecting Buildings to the Internet October 22, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, iPhone, virtualization.
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It’s great that LEED certified buildings can record the energy savings they return to their owners.  Now it is possible from every home, building or project in design to bring the activities and consumption data on-line with realtime sensors.  Energy and environmental data from objects, devices and buildings can be captured, reported and shared. Both Physical & virtual environments can be tapped.  I’d like to introduce you to a company focusing on the value of this technology called Pachube.

I read a recent interview with Pachube’s founder in Frontiers Economy Blog post called “Wiring Up the Internet of Things”  that caught my attention.  Today you need to look at “where technology, telecommunications and architecture are beginning to collide”.   The Construction Industry, Governments and Manufacturers can take advantage of these tools to make an impact on energy conservation and provide transparency.  Here are a few insightful ways Pachube can be used per their website:

an architect, you might use site-specific realtime sensor data to modulate (or generate) a Sketchup model, or use EEML data in conjunction with IFC-compliant models (as can be exported from AutoCad, etc.) to undertake post-occupancy evaluation
a facilities manager, you might connect up specific outputs from your Building Management System, so that specific data items (like current energy consumption or temperature level) can be shared with the public without compromising security
a property developer, you might connect together several buildings to allocate resources or monitor energy consumption and occupancy
a consumer, you might connect up your electrity meter to track it over time, embed usage graphs in your own website, calculate your realtime carbon footprint or use iPhone or gPhone applications to monitor it remotely

Pachube has been used to measure Air quality in Beijing, Hurricane Gustav’s strengh and location and has numerous apps for connecting environments and patching the planet.  The video below shows augmented reality of the sensor readout:

I am always interested in hearing about how anyone in the AEC industry has leveraged this technology.  Hope to hear from you soon.

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