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Saturday, October 17, 2009

BIM on the Rocks: Here Be Dragons? Or Opportunities?

...all roads lead to BIM. It's time for the Revit architects to start selecting civil engineers who use Civil 3D. Oh boy. This sustainable design sure does depend on a lot of modern technology. At what point do you pick your consultants based on the technology they're using?

Let's talk about the architect's fee for a moment. I'm just hypothesizing here, but it seems that consultants and engineers are picked based on lowest price, familiarity, quality or consistency. If you picked an engineer because their price was lower, you get to keep more of your fee. What happens next? Lack of coordination, incomplete drawings, RFIs, Change Orders, field administration, rework and potential lawsuits all come to mind. How much does that end up costing you in the long run? What does it cost everyone else and the owner? What would happen if you spent more on a Revit Stucture, Revit MEP and Civil 3D engineer? How much would that save you in extra time and less field administration?

I think owners should double your fee, if you use full Big BIM. I've written about my 5%/95% theory before. It's all IPD anyhow and coming soon to a project near you. I can understand hating technology for its effect on design, but I can't understand the resistance to BIM in regard to construction documentation. These are some pretty big dragons that need to be slayed.

Ok, time for Dana's post:

Repost: http://bimontherocks.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/10/here-be-dragons-or-opportunities.html

Yesterday, I noted that I was working on a mindmap for a land development workflow across disciplines. Almost immediately, the tweets came a twittering in from every direction with advice on what to include. The thing that struck me right away was that everyone had a different perception of what I was doing and what information I needed.

I was stepped way back to 100,000 feet looking at what happens from the moment someone decides that something needs to be built all the way through a mature project in maintenance mode. I was including things such as the legal process required to purchase land through installing plumbing inside any buildings and cleaning out gutters 5 years after final acceptance. That wasn’t how my twitter pals saw it.

The civil engineers assumed I was talking about the civil portion of the land development project.

There was even the suggestion that I put the old “Here Be Dragons” in the uncharted waters of architectural-civil coordination.


The urban planners were stepped back a bit further, but still heavily focused on the planning and zoning/land use portion. The architects were thinking about the development of the building. It reminded me of an Anais Nin quote, We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. It’s quite cliche, but every once in awhile you think you are being totally clear and seeing the entire picture, and really, you aren’t.

Here is what that mindmap looks like so far, by the way.


I’ve joked that sometimes my job is to join internal conference calls and attend external events just to yell

“Yoohoo! Over here! Don’t forget Civil Engineering!”

In between yelling my line, I listen. I do my best to absorb every point of view. I think as Civil Engineers we’ve mistakenly decided that we are our own industry. There is no Civil Engineering industry. We’re part of the building and construction industry. We’re a critical part of this process, but our work is sometimes not as visible as we think it should be, because when we look at a project- that’s all we see. We see curb and gutter, we see drainage, we see earthwork and grading. We can look at the most subtle of sidewalk slopes and know it’s 2%. We know roads are crowned and superelevated.

There are very few projects in this world that don’t include contributions from Civil Engineers. I was in a meeting the other day talking about wastewater workflows when someone said that there was no civil aspect to the particular project they were talking about.

Maybe from the perspective of the client they were working with there wasn’t civil in-house or immediately involved, and perhaps most of the work was being done inside one of the buildings, but there is almost always something civil. Some of the hidden civil tasks include- adjusting parking, grading around a building addition, creating a construction entrance, expanding a stormwater pond or adding new catch basins.

Anyone can look at building or a bridge and understand that something had to happen to get that structure built. Everyone has opened a window, turned on a light and flushed a toilet. But Civil Engineering, when well done, is subtle. The best grades are slight. The best ponds look like landscaping. The best parking lots fade into the background. Our work is often a well prepared canvas for someone else to come and paint a more striking picture.

I’ve come to realize that it isn’t that architects and other building professionals don’t think that we have a contribution, it’s that we haven’t done a good enough job of showing the world that our work is more than just a backdrop. That while you leverage passive solar design and natural light, use earth-friendly flooring and do all that good stuff to make a building “greener”, nothing makes a bigger impact than putting roads in the right place,choosing the right site, taking advantage of the natural terrain and demanding more from the civil engineers, designers, surveyors and landscape architects on the project.

Are you more likely to find the clients you need by fading into the background and complaining that nobody sees you? Or by taking a hard look at what you have to offer and finding new ways to make sure people take notice?

Good things happen to those who hustle. –Anais Nin

BIM on the Rocks: Here Be Dragons? Or Opportunities?


Dana October 18, 2009 at 12:07 AM  

Whenever I sit in a keynote and hear the speaker mention that something was a 100% BIM project and yet they neglect to mention that the civil/survey/site design was completely outside the process using a 2D/drafting paradigm, I am not sure what makes me so restless. On one hand, I am annoyed that the building/architect professionals on the project completely discount the civil contribution as not registering in their "percentage" and therefore not being a critical piece to the project puzzle. Yet, at the same time I know the biggest part of the blame lies in my side of the fence. Civil Engineers and other site/earth/construction professionals often do not do a great job telling their story and showing off their value. I'll keep working on 'em!

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