On Monday, I had an interesting meeting with Nick Clements of New Zealand-based software vendor Bisco, who plan to “revolutionise building by changing the way information flows through the building industry”.
Bisco’s technology can extract information from various generic 3D CAD design models (ArchiCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, Autodesk Revit and – soon – Vectorworks) and then re-use it for subsequent processes such as cost estimation, specifications, planning, etc. The Bisco system, usually locally-hosted, also has a secure client/server web interface so that designers, etc can check-out and work on files when away from the office. Nick told me that they hadn’t gone for a web browser-based application, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) approach, mainly due to issues of connectivity on many sites.
This may be a reflection of Bisco’s initial target market: the residential sector. Looking from a UK perspective, it seems premature to be employing building information modelling (BIM) approaches for housing when BIM has yet to achieve any real penetration into bigger or more complex projects (equally, many housing projects have even yet to embrace 2D construction collaboration technologies – see my post Autodesk UK house-building research). But maybe, being comparatively simpler projects undertaken by more stable and less dispersed teams, the residential market would be a good place to start moving to BIM (there is certainly interest in this area in the US – see Jerry Laiserin’s July AEC insight: BIM Goes Residential).
This, of course, assumes that the housing market is ready to invest in technology, and the signs in the UK are not good at the moment, with many housebuilders laying off large numbers of staff this week (see, for example, Building magazine’s reports of job losses at Persimmon, Redrow and Bovis Homes, and Construction News reports of lay-offs at Barratt and Kier; my friend and Contract Journal blogger Brian Green suggests the total loss could be as many as 160,000 jobs). Firms are also shutting offices, mothballing projects and delaying planning applications.
Still, eventually the UK market will stabilise…. In the meantime, in addition to some of Brian’s other suggestions about what not to do in a recession, perhaps housebuilders and their supply chains could be looking at using BIM to streamline their operations and make themselves more competitive. When the market does start to pick up again, they will then have a high-tech advantage in being able to deliver projects more quickly and with less waste.