BuildingSMART Conference, RIBA, London

0940am BST: This is the first of (hopefully) several updates from the BuildingSMART one-day conference at the RIBA in London (the main auditorium has wi-fi (hurray!), but few power connections (boo!), but by topping up the battery from time to time, I hope to get by). Only about 40 delegates in the room as the event gets under way – though I know several people are involved with BuildLondonLive.

0955am BST: Mark Bew (ex Costain, now Scott Wilson; vice-chair of BuildingSMART) is doing an overview of the day ahead and reviewing what has happened since last year’s event. Talking about the commercial imperative, he says the organisation is looking at producing a report showing the benefits of investing in BIM to organisations; this should be available later this year).


1005am BST: Sunand Prasad (President of RIBA) welcomes BuildingSMART to the RIBA. We face an “emergency”: climate change is now squarely on the construction industry’s agenda, and will have a profound impact. The traditional model of designing where things are left to the future is no longer appropriate – sustainability measures have to be incorporated into planning and design processes from the very start. “Without BIM we cannot do this; BIM is what makes this possible.” There are increasingly no excuses for not working in a collaborative way, stitching together different people’s knowledge. RIBA is creating knowledge communities, enabled by IT, with BIM expected to fit into the picture in the future. The test of the BIM breakthrough will be when intermediate-size practices take BIM on board – not just the large consultancies, etc.

1035am BST: Arto Kiviniemi from Finland’s VTT has been talking about his country’s strategy to transform the competitiveness of its construction industry, describing problems of a fragmented industry, no process owners, and change-averse attitudes [sounds familiar!] – these made BIM a major challenge. Nonetheless, the Confederation of Finnish Construction Companies decided to adopt BIM in 2001, and the first BIM projects were undertaken in 2001-2002 (Helsinki University of Technology auditorium). Since last year, Senate Properties has a policy of only using IFC-compliant BIM for architecture on its projects (structural and MEP BIMs not yet mandatory). Small survey in August 2007 showed Finland using BIM on 30% of projects (20% in Denmark and Sweden). Process development is a necessity: the problems are more to do with people and skills, not technology.

1110am BST: Andrew Eastwell, chief executive of BSRIA talked about “nuggets of information” that he has accumulated with relevance to BuildingSMART, starting with plugs for the KTN for the Modern Built Environment and the Technology Strategy Board – which has just launched a Low Impact Building research initiative (first calls for proposals launched in May, with expressions of interest due next month).

World population growth focuses the mind: 1.7 billion more people by 2020; 50% of global construction activity will take place in China. Carbon dioxide concentrations and computing power also growing exponentially. Google, Amazon, iTunes, Sky, Nectar, etc all collating data about individuals, and becoming increasingly connected (and potentially intrusive).

Interesting graphs on power generation showing heavy reliance on coal-fired power stations, especially to supply electricity at peak periods.

Linked together pervasive computing (Zigbee), BIM database management, active demand management, and increasingly open architectures for HVAC, and began talking about intelligent building components. Harness power of chip and integrate it, with modelling the design integration force. Eventually, “hand BIM over as the asset management tool.” Models should extend to estates or districts to incorporate travel, power sharing, utilities, wind map, automated demand management, etc. So BIM is not just design and construction, it is also an FM tool. And with apologies to Harold Wilson:

“The Britain that is going to be forged in the carbon-free revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or outdated methods.”

Putting sustainability on the Agenda

1150am BST: Wolfram Trinius from Hamburg, said sustainable construction is “a clear, urgent and global challenge”, with building and construction the so-called “40% sector” (resource use, waste generation, emissions), notwithstanding its significant economic and social impacts. Sustainable development is also very much on the political agenda across the EU. Wolfram talked about ISO 15392:2008 and recommended delegates read up on it and its principles: continual improvement, equity, global thinking and local action, holistic approach, responsibility, involvement of interested parties, long-term concern, precaution and risk, transparency. He then talked about performance-based building and service life planning – the key elements to describe and quantify the life cycle of a built asset – and then justified the need for sustainable construction: the ultimate goal: a multi-faceted definition of “quality” (functionality, economy/efficiency, environmental impact, resource efficient, health and comfort, integrated into the socio-economic environment and thus maintaining long-term value). Sustainability demands all actors being able to discuss his perspectives and options.

1210pm BST: Svein Erik Haagenrud talked about STAND-INN: its vision: sustainable value creation for customers over the life-cycle of buildings using information models. Svein said we need to move from 3D (difficult, dangerous and dirty) to new, more sustainable methods. This poses challenges for standards bodies, but STAND-INN has contributed to putting sustainable construction and BuildingSMART on the EU R&D agenda.


1300pm BST: The BuildLondonLive project was introduced to the audience  by Jeff Wix, who explained how the Asite cBIM and Onuma Planning System was being used for free to help the teams collaborate and share ideas. It’s a major event with teams working hard to design complex projects in just 48 hours (reminiscent of the Teamwork events undertaken in 2002), using any design tools but strongly promoting use of open standards, particularly Google Earth and IFC. Over 320 participants and observers are now taking part, using a lot of collaborative tools and some Web 2.0 (including wikis, blogs (updates being published regularly here), a YouTube channel and Twitter feeds – though it’s not clear if these are being used within or between teams or just as part of the external information feeds). The National Platform ICTA study was also mentioned.

Asite being used to generate reports on how the technologies are being used, and there is a live web services link between the Asite system and Onuma that links data to Google Earth. Asite Navigator is being used by most teams to synchronise data between desktops and the web environment. OPS allows sharing of inputs to the conceptual design; Asite then manages communication between collaborators over the detail of the design; model servers would need to be used to manage data in this stage in future. An exit report will be published – hopefully before September – pulling together the learning experiences associated with the BuildLondonLive event. And there has apparently been a lot of press interest.

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    • martin on 25 June 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Paul – great blogs!! At risk of sounding like a stuck needle – is FM getting a look in on the sustainability BIM agenda?

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