Monday, 23 March 2015

BIM Commandos announced as the Overall Winners of Build Newcastle Live

BIM Commandos announced as the Overall Winners of Build Newcastle Live

It's a salute and hand shake for the BIM Commandos as they take the overall prize at Build Newcastle Live. A huge thank you to the entire team. You worked hard and certainly deserve this accolade.

We worked hard, played hard and slept not really at all. Hotbunking down at Faulkner Browns offices in Newcastle meant that we could always stay close to the action. It was hard work, but for what the entire team got out of the experience it was hugely worthwhile.

One thing comes out of this competition for me, and that is the importance of collaboration. Not collaboration in the sense of sharing files, but in the sense of working together, talking and sharing ideas. We had a variety of organisations and individuals involved, some with decades of industry experience and some just starting out. Others had never engaged with a BIM process before and others are old hands. Yet we always felt like a team, working together for a common purpose.

Final design visualisation worked up by Eyelevel

As the Information Manager and project lead it was certainly an interesting experience. We needed to manage not only our own workflows, but how our outputs feed into other's work. When processing time alone for a render can take in excess of 8 hours and with a 48 hour project time it was vital to ensure that our team could work on the correct information when they needed it.
Integrated Landscape and Building in Infraworks gave the building its context in a realtime 3D model
We tested a lot of new ideas and taught each other a lot along the way, and that's what this competition was all about. Whether Joao the PhD student from Teesside University was testing his software link between Revit and COBie or Oli from Bailey Street Scene was developing the throughput of geometry and information from Solidworks into Revit, there was always some new connection that we were working on.
Prototype curtain wall system

Eyelevel's Augmented Reality app, we didn't manage to get it tested on site, but stay tuned!

It's BIM, of course we have to have a clash detection graphic!

Using Infraworks to position the building (middle distance) within its context

Data cleaning is an important part of a BIM process. Ensuring not only that each team member has the right information to work with, but also that the information they are using doesn't contain information that could slow them down. Whether it's flying seagulls in the point cloud or 3D models of taps and sinks for the visualisation professionals.

Analysing the point cloud shows the elevation change across the site clearly. Big data sets take a long time to download!

Daylight analysis in Infraworks

Some serious structure was required to hold up the huge Innovation Centre
Integrating different tools from across the Autodesk family is not always easy, but with a little help from your friends there is always a way.
Integrating the Landscape, Transport Infrastructure and the building
We also tested the NBS BIM Toolkit. Many thanks to Seth Okai for okaying that. Really good start to getting a full BIM level 2 project.
Our software workflows tested and working

It was a wonderful experience and the BIM Commandos have a lot of potential for the future. Ensuring geospatial coordination of models and finding ways to make interoperability work beyond the building envelope are themes the BIM Commandos will continue to work  on in the background.

The BIM Commandos. We'll be back.
The original BIM Commando (Revit skills untested)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

BIM Talks and Events

Below is a list of upcoming events and talks that I'm going to be a part of.


BIM Level 2 training from BRE talk

(February 16th)

Sustainable Landscape Series

(February 18th)



(March 3rd - 5th)
I am working with Aggregate Industries as their BIM expert for Ecobuild and will also be presenting a pechakucha presentation and conducting an interview as part of the third day of the Ecobuild 

Build Newcastle Live

(March 16th - 19th)
I will definitely be attending this as it is being hosted by BIM4SME and it is championing the inclusion of SMEs which is vital for the industry.


BIM Show Live

(April 8th - 9th)

Stage 1: Landscape BIM » Bim Show Live 2015

(The date in the banner at the top is correct, ignore the date below, I haven't checked my diary, but I don't think I'm free in 1970)

Monday, 26 January 2015

I love illustreets


This software tool is an excellent example of the power of data. With it I can quickly and accurately gather information about a place's relative quality of living. Such a great way to quickly look for somewhere to live or assess land value with an understanding of context.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The danger and opportunity of PDTs

You'll need to know what a PDT is before reading this post.

The idea of creating generic sheets containing high levels of detail for specific product types I have previously said is a necessary idea. We need to capture, structure and standardise information if we have any hope of automating how we process that information.
There is a danger frequently skirted around which is failing to accommodate the capabilities of software when developing standards. This situation is created by the entirely understandable principle of not wanting to be software specific, which is a fine (emerging) tradition that we can continue. This doesn't mean that we have to create standards that aren't fit for purpose, and let's be clear, I believe that the PDTs will be fit for purpose. Software behaves in a few general ways that are predictable and can be accommodated for.

The problem

1. Software is a machine

A really hard part of using computer science to solve problems is predicting how the user will use the software and how this compares to what's achievable by computers. Computers can beat the best chess players, because there is an underlying logic there that it can work with. Computers can't understand speech perfectly or recognise birds reliably, because there is a vast array of greys, they need to make sense of something before being able to process it which they find hard. Whereas with the chess example the 'sense' has already been defined by the rules of the game. These rules are discreet and can be expressed mathematically. The thing to take away from this is, to know what PDTs need to do, we need to know that computers can do with them.

2. Requirements are hard to capture

Finding solutions for problems using computer science is hard, and PDTs are no different, it's entirely possible that we will only know what we need them to do once they're developed. But hey, that's why we have version control, so that we can create updated versions. The thing to take away from this is that in order to use PDTs effectively, we need to know what they will be used for.

The solution

Clean inputs

Ensuring that PDSs' are filled out consistently will allow them to be computer processed most effectively. The restriction of inputs into PDSs' may be feasible, or using protected letters e.g. a comma means there are multiple items in this field and therefore this field should be treated as a list. Another example is na. n/a, N/a, N/A, not applicable, not aplicaable etc etc etc. If the inputs are clean and standardised, through whatever methods, then you can rely on a computer to process that information effectively. If not you will get spurious information that will require you to manually process the information to clean the data so that the computer can use it. A real waste of time and money.

Wide consulting

This is already being done in the quarters that I am aware of, but is vital. Every discussion I've had regarding PDTs has ended up with a group of us trying to imagine what stakeholders who aren't present will use them for. Luckily we have representatives from the key stakeholders present at our Landscape Institute BIM working group meetings, so that works very well in capturing those requirements. You need someone present who isn't imagining what something might be used for, but knows. There is no such thing as a construction generalist, so we are required to consult. The danger is that otherwise, the PDT is not fit for purpose. 


PDTs will be fit for purpose, because of the number of intelligent, well informed and experienced individuals involved with them. However, there are pitfalls and anyone could fall into them.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Making BIM objects for manufacturers

Having the good fortune to be working on the product data templates on behalf of the Landscape Institute and working in a project environment with Revit being used on landscape I have a pretty niche experience of creating and using content within Revit specifically for the landscape.

There are more and more products being developed by manufacturers, either themselves, or through another agency. We're doing that ourselves. If you are going to go through another agency, or do it yourself. Please please please speak to someone who is using the software in landscape.
If you don't, the model that comes out of the other end could well be useless.

Your objects, created in whatever software, need to be fit for purpose. That means they need to have the right content in the industry standard format (or be updatable so that they can). They need to work in the software as they're used by professionals. This means, no dumb, flat, or 2D blocks on the one hand and no hugely flashy and impressive models that severely degrade the performance of your computer. Or at least considering these various criteria.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Sustainable Sites Initiative, a LEED/BREEAM for landscape?

I've been writing a few blog posts and then for one reason or another not posting them. However, this post has three of my favourite topics in one, so it's a must for me. Politics, systems and the landscape. Awesome.

SITES aka the Sustainable Sites Initiative, now in version 2 is a credit scoring system akin to LEED and BREEAM that seeks to provide true sustainability assessing criteria upon developments. The charges leveled against all such systems is that they are fundamentally blunt instruments. In other words, they miss the nuance that can provide true measurements of whether a development is truly sustainable or not. I've not made my mind up about SITES, but it is developed by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the United States Botanic Garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin so I'm expecting something good. To be level headed about this, with these credentials I would expect these stakeholders' perspectives to totally ignore the impacts of economics. I don't know if that's fair or not. From my perspective of the sustainability debate, social and environmental sustainability are always trumped by economic sustainability. Naive I know, but for me, any classification system has to acknowledge that imbalance, not rage against it or meekly comply with it, but tacitly and clearly deal with it...

It's been in development since 2006 and version 2 was released earlier this year so I don't feel like I've missed the party too much on this one.

Finding the information

Okay, so first of all, how easy is it to get hold of the information. First of all, the reference guide costs $75. Part of getting any standard adopted is knowing who to charge. Charging the casual reader like myself to get an understanding of what you're trying to achieve... not a great start. Still, you get the rating system and a scorecard, so theoretically you could go ahead and score any development without paying a cent, but end up with weird results, because you didn't use the reference guide... Not sure I understand the logic.

The rating system

Okay, let's have a look under the hood. I've got the rating system and the score card. Ah ha, I need the reference card to be eligible to test my site. Well kind of, if you look at the assessment criteria in the light blue filled cells that have hatched out the question mark and no columns, these are mandatory requirements of the standard.

What areas are being tested?

  1. Site Context
  2. Pre-design Assessment & Planning
  3. Site Design - Water
  4. Site Design - Soil & Vegetation
  5. Site Design - Materials & Selection
  6. Site Design - Human Health & Well being
  7. Construction
  8. Operations & Maintenance
  9. Education & Performance monitoring
  10. Innovation or exemplary performance

Reading the Introduction

The introduction is always the sales pitch. The message I'm getting is definitely a forward looking, disaster averse attitude underlined by a thorough understanding of the systems that are impacted by development. Not really surprising to see this attitude given the involvement of Landscape Architects.

In contrast to buildings, built landscapes and green infrastructure have the capacity to protect and even regenerate natural systems, thereby increasing the ecosystem services they provide. These services are the beneficial functions of healthy ecosystems such as sequestering carbon, filtering air and water, and regulating climate. Their economic value is highly significant, yet the cost of replacing these functions is rarely reflected in conventional decision-making.

The central message of the SITES program is that any project ... holds the potential to protect, improve, and regenerate the benefits and services provided by healthy ecosystems. 

Sadly it doesn't quantify these economic values, I think whenever you're discussing economics, hard figures are always going to beat assertions. Nevertheless, I totally agree with the sentiment. Let's push on.

Ooo shiny principles

I do like a good set of fundamental principles, they scream landscape architecture at me, being a Landscape Architect that's hardly surprising. "Do no harm has an air of religiosity about it... let me check..oh no, sorry, the hippocratic oath no less, I quite like being the idea of doctors of the planet.

  • Do no harm.
  • Apply the precautionary principle.
  • Design with nature and culture.
  • Use a decision-making hierarchy of preservation, conservation, and regeneration.
  • Provide regenerative systems as intergenerational equity.
  • Support a living process.
  • Use a systems thinking approach.
  • Use a collaborative and ethical approach.
  • Maintain integrity in leadership and research.
  • Foster environmental stewardship.

Where and When to use the standard

Basically it covers every sort of development on land that you can think of. It's interesting to note that its remit ends (or is that begins) at the building envelope.

For sites that include buildings, the SITES v2 Rating System focuses on the area from the building skin outwards

Right... that's quite enough of that... back to real work. I'll review the individual chapters soon (I really mean that, I will)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Stop saying BIM Model!

I had this pointed out to me by Carl Collins at Arup Associates and now I cannot unsee it. When we say "BIM", anyone with a clue is saying Building Information Modelling, or Building Information Model. Occassionally, and let us be clear, only to muddy the waters, people mean Building Information Management or Maintenance which is unhelpful at best. So when you are saying BIM Model, you are saying Building Information Model Model. It's a bit like saying PIN Number or the River Avon. I can forgive, if not forget, so long as you know that you're doing it.

It's a bit like the how many dimensions that exist. Physicists suspect more, but have only discovered four. We've left them in our wake with 11 dimensions. If as I suspect, these are not intended to be actual dimensions, then pray tell what is 1D and 2D BIM? ... Anyway...