Happy Thanksgiving Everybody…Who Can’t Get Behind That

Like I tell my kids everyday, we pick people up we don’t put them down.  Enjoy your family and friends,  have an extra piece of pie,  pet your dog,  play touch football.  Just take a minute.


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Hey Microsoft I’ve Got Your Game Changer; Right Here

So when we demo our software, inevitably for a lot of architects we are asked, usually at least once, so will this work on the ipad?  Fact is, not yet, not until Revit works on the ipad, which the only way I see that happening is that Citrix does an amazing job serving it through a 4G pipeline, so most likely Revit / BIM Models can be viewed in the field, but not yet interacting with one in a meaningful way.  Yes you might argue there are check lists, etc. but I’m speaking about dealing with the actual authoring tool.  So while architects ask if PKNail Pro works on the ipad.  Salespeople will say, “Hey have you seen the Surface?  That could be a game changer for you.” That is full blown windows working on a tablet that will run Revit in the field.  The review by David Pogue in the Times, states the Surface “On the hardware front, Microsoft has succeeded brilliantly… amazing, amazing hardware. Now the heartbreak: software.”  He argues that operating system is not here yet, but this is Windows RT.  I’m talking about taking Full Blown Windows into the field for some serious heavy weight mobile application throw down.  Building a Revit Model, a Building Information Model of an existing building, in the field, in real time with just your Surface Tablet, a laser range finder, and some software, some industry specific software that will make you 10x faster.  Yes, I’m saying PKNail Pro will do that.  It’s effective, it’s fast, and now let’s put a wrapper around it named Surface.

So Microsoft, send me a demo, if it’s what I’m expecting I’ll be singing your praises.  It’s time to get to work.


*I’m serious Microsoft, so hopefully an identity manager has picked this thread up, or someone wants to make introduction.  We are fired up for the Surface and not because we want swag but because it looks like its the size of a beach ball, teed up, and we’re swinging  hard.

**Why a picture of LT?  Well, it’s LT.  Further defined: Left Offensive Tackles are now prized possessions in the NFL and some of the highest paid. That happened when LT lined up.  LT changed the game.


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When BIM Falls Down : Call Me Maybe : It’s Communication

There was a headline grab, “Late-Arriving BIM Model,Overruns Cost US Almost $10 Million” a few days back.  I’d include the link through ENR but it’s already dead and only for paying customers. But who or what actually fell down?  Did the lateness of the model cause the cost over runs?  Was it a lousy model?  However, that prompts the question, or search “BIM Lawsuit“, and you know what,you do not get back many results.  The article BIM Offers Cautionary Tale from the Architectural Record comes up first and is from May 19, 2011.  A few bits from the article:

“The contractor sued the owner, the owner sued the architect, and XL brought in the MEP engineer. “It was a very costly claim to negotiate,” says Lewis. XL(the insurance company) did not litigate the claim because it would be difficult for any jury to comprehend.

But more importantly:

The problem was poor communication. “The design team never discussed the installation sequence with the contractor, and the contractor wasn’t sophisticated enough” to understand the importance of assembling the components in a certain order, says Lewis.

So quick over view, it was communication, not the model, but overall insight, we’ve got one law suit coming up and it was settled in May 2011, how long has BIM been around?  So that seems like a pretty good track record, or awesome legal representation and contractual agreements, or what?  Fast forward to this latest article and it still seems to be a communication and coordination problem, the BIM was provided late, the clash detections were late, and it seemed no one wanted to take responsibility for the development of the a ‘clash free’ model.  Now I am doing this by memory since I got one read in, linked it and now its gone so please forward a link or copy if you have one.  However, it comes down to communication, one still sees the power of BIM and the fact that it unearthed 50K+ clashes, still digitally so not sure if the cost over runs were due to change orders and time delays or redoing the whole BIM model.  What does this scream though, “it’s the process people.”

In most cases each contractor is going to work within their particular area of expertise and provide said BIM Model to the level of detail that they are contractually obligated to, in fact, I’ve been asked to do a Revit Model for a just built building because it was required at the end of the project, they wanted it for short money, tail light guarantee, just so they could check off a box.  Not necessarily what the process was supposed to be about, but they were filling their obligation.

The ratio of BIM Success v. BIM Cautionary Tale is 143,238.2 to 1, but I can see where the cautionary tale makes people question the technology? Wrong.  Question the process



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3D 4D 5D Go! : The 5th D of BIM Cost Coming Into Focus

To reduce costs for any project or product, look at the inputs;  can they be improved?  Break out the Cost of Goods Sold, or Cost of Sales.  In construction the Cost of Sales (which will include material and labor)  is at a whopping 84%.  This leaves leaving only a 16% gross margin for everything else. To put this in perspective Walmart operates at around a 25% Gross Margin.  So is it any wonder the need to lock down costs and reduce waste is more extreme in this industry than most?  Compare it to its aligned industry the AE (Architecture Engineering) industry whose gross margin is 3 times as high and there is good reason that BIM was initially more widely adopted and implemented by the construction trades.   Any advantage in reducing costs, improving margins or making a firm more competitive in the marketplace will find a receptive audience in construction.

Cost saving were first realized with BIMs starting with the 3D coordination of the digital model, clash detection and then scheduling(the 4th D) of construction and the reduction of the cost of labor.   Downtime for crews due to change orders or having material unavailable was reduced.  Now we are starting to see more firms focus on the cost of materials and how they can be managed and best integrated into a project.

RIB Software , based in Stuttgart Germany is a leading provider of technical ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software solutions for the construction industry recently announced the acquistiono of MC2 one of the leaders in cost estimation software for the construction industry or the 5th D of BIM.  In the official press release RIB stated ‘Major step taken in the US market for 5D-BIM technology’.  In July Trimble acquired WinEstimator another leader in cost estimation in the United States.





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Bespoke Homes : Facit Design Using BIM to Design Homes for Assembly

Design and Build have not always been the best of friends, honestly.  While you don’t have one without the other there is still a separation, like oil and water, sure you can shake it and it stays mixed for a bit and can make a tasty dressing but without adding something they always separate again.  An architect might create a BIM to use for construction but then the CM (construction manager) might take the BIM and say, ‘oh yes, I see what you want to do,’  and then design it for constructablility.  Before entering the AEC part of the world I was in product design and manufacturing.  Parts were designed to have less waste, to be less complex, to use simpler molds, to reduce cycle time, to have less operations, all to create an easy assemble, cost effective product.  There was a version of 3D printing called SLA (Sterolithography) that used lasers that hardened resin a millimeter at a time to create 3D models and CNC machines to hog ABS plastic out, among other materials, to create prototypes of a part and product before you went to mold, because creating the molds was expensive and you wanted to know the parts worked together, and the right tolerances before you cut steel.  These processes and machines were expensive but when it was right, all that expense would allow to create inexpensive repeatable parts that could be easily assembled and voila, your buying a blender for $29.99.  But the cost for these technologies has plummeted from ZCorp’s 3D printing, to being able to build or buy your own desktop CNC machine or 3D printer.  However, this process is still in its infancy in the design/build world of homes, building and architecture.

Sure you see full scale BIM’s with clash detection and the different disciplines coming together to seeing into the one model, and sequencing and scheduling and for the most part it is on larger projects, under the the guise of IPD (Integrated Project Delivery), but still rarely do you see component parts built off site and brought on to be inserted into the building, although prefab is gaining more steam.  Still you have a lot of people creating buildings on site, by hand.  And usually they do a fantastic job of it, but imagine if you had a machine creating custom cuts, etc. for assembly, direct from the design, allowing for tighter tolerances, less waste, reduced manpower, better scheduling, well that should be a fine addition to the toolbox of architects and builders.

When I read An Entire House That You Can Snap Together Like a Toy, I was very interested, but more excited to learn about the process.  Which brought me to Facit Homes, out of London and then watching their videos.  They design for assembly, that is, the thought put into the design is from the product design world, how it goes together, how will it work, how is it most effective, and, AND, this is big, there is a portable CNC machine/truck making custom cutting wood for assembly into the home they designed.  That’s awesome.  And while they don’t seem to be advertising the fact, they are using Autodesk Revit for the process, as you can see the ribbon in the videos.  Regardless of what technology they are using, that’s awesome.  Less waste, tighter fits, built for assembly.  They get it.  Integrated Design Build. Cats and Dogs Living Together. Now That’s a Tasty Burger.


D-Process from Facit Homes on Vimeo.


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All Work and No Play : Forget It : Summer Music Addition

It’s summer so get out there.  A real small list of bands worth checking out, and while the venues I mention will have a Boston centric bias, since, well I’m here;  you can do a lot worse then getting out to see the following.

Galactic , and they are playing the Chicken Box on Nantucket on August 13th, if you are on the island, then there is no where else you should be, if you are not, well worth the ferry ride.

Pimps of Joy Time , the sound that these cats put out on stage is tremendous, what they are doing live…tremendous.  I don’t care if you say, “hey funk is not my bag”, wrong, you’ve been carrying the wrong bag.  find them, get the album, buy the t-shirt.  They will be playing the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival, Saturday August 18th, bring the kids.

Thomas Mapfuno, the Lion of Zimbabwe, afro funk acid pop, don’t try to label it and go listen, select tour dates.

Michael Franti and Spearhead,  good message, good vibe, good music, Playing the Life is Good Festival September 22.

Note:  I realize that anyone who gets to this blog is generally following the niche of architecture and technology but this blog, at least intially was intended to inform, but also be a reminder to myself what is happening that is germane in this world, but occasionally the world at large, and lord knows when I am penned inside on a summer day in front, well today, 3 screens, having something playing through pandora or itunes, or finding something on stereomood or soundcloud keeps your toes tapping and your mind from napping.





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GTeam : Enabling Browser BIM : The BIM Blender

Recent Press Release from Gehry Technologies introduces GTeam.  To explain GTeam, let’s briefly discuss what BIM is suppose to be and I will define it as a collaborative process to reduce waste; wastes of time, materials, resources, etc.   How this is done is argued as frequently as the legitimacy of the designated hitter.  However, I don’t think you can argue the more people on a platform the better, so when a change is needed or made, the people who need to see it, see it, can comment, iterate, make it better, make it happen. Hence the argument for open standards.  Truth is, BIM authoring tools are time consuming to create and maintain so who has a vested interest in building and nurturing such a tool?  Besides well meaning folk, not for profit corporations.  So what we need is the BIM Blender that will take in all disparate types of information and serve them to people, preferably on an iPad.  Why iPad?  Because, and I mean this as a compliment, a three old can operate an iPad.  If something better comes along, so maybe a 16 month can operate it, so be it but right now, let’s admit everyone asks if your app, program, etc, runs on an ipad.  So this blender need to take in every format, regardless of the authoring tool, regardless of the format, and be able to organize it and allow the user to interact with it in a meaningful way.  Supposedly Horizontal Glue, now part of Autodesk 360 was a tool like this, and now we have GTeam from Gehry Technologies, which makes the argument, ” is the easiest platform for teams to collaborate and share documents, files and 3D building information online. Architects, designers, engineers, contractors, consultants, and owners use GTeam to reach consensus faster, reduce change orders, save time, get more work and reduce project costs.”  Like Spike Lee said, “the mo’ colors, the mo’ better’ and the more people working on getting the pipe fitter on the same page, as the engineer, as the architect, the mo’ better, and the folks at Gehry have some experience getting people on the same page.


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California Legislates Mandatory Energy Bench Marking : Deal With It

Yoinks, so much for market capitalism.  California with AB 1103 ( Commercial Building Energy Use Disclosure Program
Rulemaking)  legislated mandatory energy benchmarking into existence for non-residential buildings. Energy bench marking is to be done using

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager benchmarking system.

A building owner shall comply with this article according to the following schedule:

(a) On or after January 1, 2013, for a building with total floor area measuring more than
50,000 square feet.
(b) On or after July 1, 2013, for a building with a total floor area measuring more than 10,000
square feet and up to 50,000 square feet.
(c) On or after January 1, 2014, for a building with a total floor area measuring at least 5,000
square feet and up to 10,000 square feet.


What impact does this have on LEED EB?  If any?  Is anyone using LEED EB?  I was talking to an owner; raises funds, buys buildings, etc. and the general consensus of any green, LEED, sustainable, initiative, at least for him, was does it add value to his portfolio in the short term as they have a much shorter window of ownership.  However, with this mandate and benchmarking we might have something completely quantifiable to reflect the price of a building from an operational point of view.  And it’s an Energy Star rating like the one you find on your new refrigerator. While there might be plenty of flaws, as the benchmarking seems pretty rudimentary, it is a first step.  So the government mandated it and while that seems a dirty word these days, mandate; it’s here, deal with it.  I deal with the market as it exists and until I can afford to have a phalanx of lobbyists to create a market that way I want it, I deal with what’s in front of me.  And right now, it’s mandatory Energy Auditing.

How will the software makers respond, if at all, to this?  How about, can I have push button energy star rating on my building please?  Brief search turns up Melon Power, which coordinates electricity usage and your submission to Energy Star Portfolio Builder.  I have not tested it but yes, we want an app for that!  Not buried in the subscription pack of Green Building Studio.  Fact is, could be a wonderful Lead Generation Tool.  Fact is, all these companies Autodesk in particular buy these companies and stuff them into their AEC package, so although the price might stay the same, you are getting more ‘value’ per install because of everything else that’s stuffed into it. But software usage, cost per seat, software as a service?  That’s a rant for another day.

For now, there’s a new law of the land in California, and if it’s like the weather, it starts on the west side, and moves east.


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Happy 4th Everybody

People all over the world wake up one day and say or think to themselves, “I’ve got to get to America.”  Watching America’s Got Talent last night, because…people reaching for their dreams, I’ll watch it every time but a singer says, “I gave up everything to come to America, because that’s where the opportunity is.”  We’re a nation built on this; of individuals all over the world waking up and saying, “I’ve got to get to America.”

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  We are a nation of strivers.  It’s in our DNA.  So many come here with nothing and make something.  It is this constant regeneration that makes us strong, makes us great.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Go out and pursue some happiness, treat people the way you like to be treated.  Happy Birthday America.  You’re Awesome.



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Trimble Keeps its Appetite Up: Acquires WinEstimator for 5D BIM Win.

Announced today is that Trimble acquired WinEstimator.  This acquisition according the press release is to leverage Meridian Systems Portfolio to add cost estimating and cost modeling, the 5th D of BIM.  WinEstimator was founded in 1992.  Chomp.



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