In presentations and lectures about construction collaboration technologies, I identify building information modelling (BIM) as one of the key forces for change in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry in the next five years. However, many UK professionals don’t seem to grasp just profound a communication change will be brought about by the introduction of BIM-based approaches.
In particular, I liked his simple distinction, in Pt 1, between BIM and computer-aided drafting:
“BIM is not CAD. BIM was never meant to be CAD. CAD is a replacement for pen and paper, a documentation tool. By comparison, BIM programs are design applications in which the documentation flows from and is a derivative of the process, from schematic design to construction to facility management.”
In the first part, Pete also stresses the importance of communication in BIM:
“We are supposed to be mentoring the next generation, which means that we are going to have to actually talk to each other. … I am always reiterating how much more communication has to happen when working in a BIM workflow, not just between the designers and consultants, but also internally inside the firm.”
He expands this to include communication external to the organisation too, and he ponders more deeply on the implications of BIM for the project team in the second part of the article, incorporating discussion of the AIA’s Integrated Project Delivery documents (see my November 2007 post). Again, Peter is succinct in some of his discussions of the implications of BIM. For example, he echoes a key point of many conversations I’ve had within the Constructing Excellence Collaborative Working Champions regarding early involvement of key parts of the supply chain:
“The communication between architect and consultant … can be summed up in two words: early and often.”
He sums up the challenge:
“BIM is changing … how we think about and handle data requirements. Party lines may be crossed as to who does what and how. But the underlying principle that you need to realize when adopting a BIM workflow is one of communication both internally within your organization and externally with your clients and trade partners. The way that we work together also is changing, one hopes for the better.”
Already one VC-backed, California-based company, Kalexo, has launched what it claims is the first Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) platform for the AEC industry: Kalexo Teamwork. According to AECcafe.com, Kalexo CEO Hannes Marais claims the application “seamlessly combines advanced task management with communication tools such as file sharing, online meetings and video chat for a complete software-as-a-service solution.”
Steve Bogart, Kalexo’s VP of Business Development, says tasks are turned into “rich information capsules” that can be securely handed off between project members and organisations: “A task typically has a small team working on it and can contain files, screen shots, movies, voice-mails, checklists, online meetings and recordings, chat logs, status reports and more,” he says (see the demo for more information). And there can be tens of thousands of tasks on a large project.
Marais claims Kalexo offers advantages over exchanging data via email and attachments, and using a myriad of un-integrated tools, saying it is a “single product that utilizes a modern integrated approach at a lower price point”. The product is available for ‘test-drives’ on selected projects with introductory per-project pricing.
In terms of architecture, Kalexo is based on a small desktop application (currently Windows only) installed on each user’s computer that then connects to the company’s servers via the internet, so is not pure Software-as-a-Service (more Software-plus-Services, perhaps). It integrates with common design tools such as AutoCAD and Revit, and with Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader and Acrobat.
As it manages and records information-rich exchanges such as integrated voice, movie communications and online meetings, Kalexo is therefore a step up from most mainstream construction collaboration technology platforms, which have hitherto generally focused on file-sharing and latterly on replicating complete and predominantly paper-based communication processes rather than tasks. It is not, however, a BIM application (instead, Kalexo says “We like to think of ourselves as focusing on the people side of the delivery equation”).
However, its launch will open the eyes of designers and other project team members – and the eyes of rival vendors of conventional construction collaboration technologies – to the potential of multimedia communications which currently are largely managed by separate platforms or applications.
It will be interesting to see whether, and how, they react to Kalexo; will they incorporate more multimedia capabilities alongside their file-sharing and process management functionalities, for example, or perhaps look at breaking down processes into smaller task-based interchanges? Or will the BIM giants look at incorporating similar capabilities into their platforms? It will also be interesting to see how Kalexo fares, being launched in the depths of one of the deepest construction recessions seen in decades.
(Disclosure: Kalexo’s launch was no surprise to me. I had a long telephone conversation about Kalexo in August last year with a prospective US investor, Baseline.)