Responsible BIM

We are hearing more and more of ‘Responsible Business‘ approaches, generally taken to mean a combination of sustainability and CSR. But what happens when this emergent thinking in Construction meets BIM? Responsible BIM?

Below is the transcript or notes behind my pecha kucha presentation, exploring Responsible BIM, made to the excellent ThinkBIM event on 2 April in Leeds, .

I wanted to inject a balance of current ‘soft issues’ thinking against a prevalent hard technology thinking. I have no  issues with the passion behind the BIM approaches, I am constantly impressed and think it amazing, but sometimes feel BIM technology and language is a runaway train. Unfortunately just about every BIM event I attend I hear at the outset, BIM is about the people not the technology, with the rest of the event focuses on the application of the technology, with very little soft skill content. When was the last time we saw a BIM event focus solely on collaboration without mentioning software? Having said that, its is the balance of views at ThinkBIM events is what sets it apart from other BIM events.

The title ‘Flatland to Wonderland’ comes from a brilliant article and the work of Petra Kuenkel, who we interviewed as part of our Sustainability Leadership Conversation (#sustldrconv) twitter series recently. In short, we need both the flatlands of reality along with the possibilities of the wonderland for a sustainable future

Flatland

3D modelling, and offsite component manufacture with simple on site assembly isn’t new, as illustrated in the Building article that covered the BAA Project Genesis project in 1997. Pre Egan and pre Building Down Barriers we were doing BIM, so why didn’t it take off as the Egan Report did?  (Egan was at BAA and also involved in Project Genesis).  Somehow we lost the 3D collaborative conversation, maybe the Egan agenda itself ,with a focus on KPI’s and customer satisfaction masked some of the brilliant emerging work of that time?

One of the BIM wake up calls for contractors I work with recently has been the inclusion of BIM questions within PQQ’s in particular the PAS 91 BIM options – and the need for bidding contractors to have a BIM Strategy, signed as commitment from the CEO, detailing milestones, training and development, information management and more. “Lets write one quick”

And on the issue of information management – lets start to align to ISO 9000  documentation control requirements. How many BIM users (real and say-they-do’s) have embedded their BIM information and data communication processes into their Quality Systems. I am currently helping a good number of organisations revisit their management systems and inject current information management thinking. Particular so on how and what information is shared with supply chain members. Doing so enables us to audit, and improve information management using the Plan Do Check Act approach

But, yes, we have BIMwash. BIM language is not that difficult to learn, the technology is not that difficult to purchase, and hey presto we are BIM compliant. Not surprising then that contractors sit and wait for a client to insist or require BIM on a project before applying BIM thinking. As a BIM community we need to change the conversation away from BIM being just a design tool or client requirement to a continuous improvement tool with many many benefits.

And on to the wonderland …

If we really want to co-create a sustainable built environment, and isn’t that what BIM is all about?, then we need to have both the harsh reality of the flatlands with the spirituality of the wonderland. This resonates with Lucy Marcus Be2Camp BE2Talks back in 2011 where she described the need for leaders to be both Grounded and Stargazers.

I am impressed with the Collective Leadership approach and model (developed by the Collective Leadership Institute), and the necessity to move beyond collaboration. (How many times have I heard or read a contractor claiming to be collaborative simply because they have a supplier progress meeting once a week)  The Collective Leadership Model provides the scope of elements leadership and collaboration could, should, look like in a modern construction environment. Covering both technicality and people issues of diversity, and mindfulness

Ah mindfulness …

Currently we seem to be struggling with two drivers, on one hand the sustainability agenda of being simple, of realigning with nature. biophilic approaches and natural renewable solutions and on the other the ever increasing complexity of data, be it BIM data or big data and technology.

It is not surprising that one of the most sought after advisors to silicon valley is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, (Thay), seen by many as the the modern guru for mindfulness.  Such practices are seen to be key for business, enabling focus on real innovation, free from clutter of distractions. We will see much more of this in the construction sector I am sure, as we learn to balance people with technology, simplicity with data, well being with efficiency.

US BIM write Randy Deutsch approaches this thinking in a recent blog article for Design Intelligence Beyond BIM Boundaries – “in order to master BIM, we have to do less BIM, we have to do other things” And if we focus on better communications, people skills, listening, empathy and understanding, then BIM will flourish without effort.

Perhaps BIM is now is seen by many as a big hammer, an approach that if not adopted then we are not doing construction correctly, “if the only tool we have is a hammer then every problem is a nail”  BIM practitioners and advocates need more tools in their conversation and offerings covering both technology and soft skills. As Randy commented ‘ go against common wisdom and fortify your soft skills”

We had a brilliant twitter based conversation with Casey Rutland as part of the #EXPOC21 series this week where the conversation led to whether BIM will simplify or complicate sustainability. Many people re-tweeted the question, but with few answers offered, other than when done correctly, BIM will enhance sustainability, done incorrectly it will harm sustainability. Incorrectly here can mean overloading buildings with technology solutions when natural solutions would work (but harder to model perhaps) or by not taken cognisance of where materials are coming from or their health impacts. Casey introduced the concept of SustainaBIMity – the mash up of sustainability thinking with building information management. A far better description than Green BIM

Aligning BIM thinking to progressive sustainability thinking such as the Living Building Challenge is exciting and has huge potential. In the near future we will see BIM objects cover the attributes of health data, justice in production data, carbon and travel data. (Note the dialogue in the US between Autodesk and the Healthy Products Declaration database for example)

And we know that carbon, embodied and transportation will become a key BIM data element, procuring kitchen pods from China for modular construction on the other side of the globe may be a data and cost solution but it is not a restorative sustainability solution. (cf Modular Construction on Souremap)

In our pursuit of designing and creating buildings that work for people, planet and purpose, we perhaps need to address both the higher Maslow needs as well as focusing on basic shelter needs, and in some way build them into data and modelling,  Biophilia at last is opening up a whole new chapter for design, and BIM, and well for the built environment as a whole. In the UK the term Sick Building Syndrome has dropped out of use, but we need to be aware of the dangers of creating buildings through BIM that don’t model or promote health and well being.

There are examples of this, for example by early involvement mind and health charity experts to view and comment on proposed buildings in a 3D environment, advising on the potential enhancement or damage to end user well being. And only yesterday,(01/04/14)  Rick Fedrizzi, President of USGBC writing in EDC called Health the next frontier of green build performance, and more recently calling on the built environment to use medical data for improved building solutions.

My final slide proposed that every BIM project should have an educational element, to inform and motivate the industry and that this should be embedded into PAS1192 or equivalent documentation. No project or organisation should be allowed to claim BIM compliance unless they openly share their approaches and lessons learnt, covering both the flatland BIM and the wonderful healthy buildings that enable people and organisations to flourish.

 

Ecologically Rethinking Construction

Jonathan Dawson, head of economics at Schumacher College, writing on Guardian Sustainable Business asked “How do we redesign a new economic theory framed by ecological systems?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA question we need to ask and start addressing within the built environment.

We are seeing a new vocabulary emerging with concepts such as biomimicry, zero or net energy, water and environmental impact, Living Buildings, biophillia, circular economy … and more … As the interest and importance of these concepts influence in the way we design, build and use buildings, do we need a new paradigm?  Some 15 years after Egan, do we need to again rethink construction to address these emergent sustainability themes. approaches and skills that once again the sector is lacking, engaging the economists, surveyors and accountants? As Jonathan Dawson comments:

Ecology offers the insight that the economy is best understood as a complex adaptive system, more a garden to be lovingly observed and tended than a machine to be regulated by mathematically calculable formulae.

A comment that makes a nice resonance with the Living Building Challenge philosophy

And of course a key element in this new thinking is the internet, web 2.0 and the power of social media.

Enabled by the growing power of information technology, whole new ways of doing business and organising society are emerging, whose strength lies not in economies of scale but in economies of co-operation and symbiosis

Over the weekend , via twitter I caught a slide via Rachel Armstrong illustrating the difference and need to move from 20th century Cartesian or Newtonian thinking into 21st complexity, emergent thinking …

screenshot.32

Jonathan Dawson: “This moment of history calls on us to rewrite the dictionary and create new stories, much as the generations following on from Copernicus did to reflect the new world-view that emerged from his astronomical insights”

time to re-read rethink construction…again

Following my post yesterday and having had chance to read the transcript of Egans speech on 10 years of rethinking, I am convinced that this is a must read for all in the construction, and indeed in the built environment, to understand What the report set out to do?; What’s going wrong?; and how do we fix it?.

I am sure Egans comments will be picked up and discussed by many in the UK built environment blogging fraternity,  giving a wider view – for example take look at Mel’s comments over at Elemental

Egan cites the successes within the demonstration projects, producing some 20-30% cost savings.  In addition I am aware of and work with projects that have achieved similar benefits that are not demonstration projects. Yet for many the understanding of Egan, the Rethinking Construction report and targets just isn’t there. KPI’s derived from the Egan Report are seen as a nusaince, something to get through for bidding, rather than used or real improvement.  At mosts events and training sessions I lead I have to distribute copies of Rethinking Construction.  (A copy can be downloaded through the documents link on the left hand side panel on this page)

Egan’s recommendation for the future is to … go back and read Rethinking Construction and try and get it right second time around.  The key for me, ever since first reading back in 1998 (although I must admit to providing some input, albeit remotely) was in the title Rethinking Construction.  And I think ever since I have used the Einstein quotation of not being able to solve todays problems with the pattern of thought that created them. Those that have embraced new patterns of thought with in the industry are those who see benefits in winning work, in profit and in working conditions generally.  Those who haven’t still fight for work in competion on lowest cost, (ie on lowest profit) struggle to make margins and profits and generally have a hard time of it.

Egan on productivity:

The activity rate on a building site is still probably I guess no better than 30-odd per cent, and yet 60-odd per cent is quite easily attainable with good pre-planning and having everything available when you want it on the site.

Egan on lowest cost

I think lowest cost tendering (and I think the government is absolutely the culprit here, they were very bad as the main buyer of projects, still buying the education department with lower cost tendering) is absolutely ridiculous.

Egan on collaboartive working:

And the point to remember is that it’s a team that does it – a designer, a construction team a supply chain and so on. Working hard together they can produce a good cost. But they can’t do it if they work separately. And lowest cost tendering starts them off as separate groups.

And on how to fix it:

So, I think if anybody wants to know how to reduce the cost of what they do a lot, they could read the ‘Rethinking Construction’ report all over again. Any of the steps you miss out will cost you. I think if you don’t do all of the steps you’ll fail. But in the mean time, I think there should be the concept of two teams of target costs with plus or minus 15% gained or pained between the client and the industry, and perhaps then we might start seeing some real improvements.

egan: four out of ten for effort

As reported on Building today, Sir John Egan Author of Rethinking Construction speaking at a reception at the House of Commons to mark 10 years since the publication of his report said he would rate the construction industry’s performance since as “four out of 10”.

Egan particularly criticised housebuilders for failing to follow the guidelines laid down in his report. “[Housebuilders] have made no cost improvements at all. Absolutely nothing. Also, their productivity processes actually generated much less than half of the demonstration projects.”

“I just don’t think they were trying. In this ‘nice decade’, as the Bank of England called it, they really didn’t try. And now they’ve got their comeuppance. It’s very, very sad.”

Egan said that housebuilders could have made progress with simple productivity and design improvements and more off-site building. “the houses could be costing a great deal less than they do, and there would still be a market.”

Egan went on to say that the government was partly to blame for “not trying” to be a good client in its construction projects.

Summing up the lasting impact of the report, Egan said: “We have to say we’ve got pretty patchy results. And certainly nowhere near the improvement we could have achieved, or that I expected to achieve.”

I would concur with Egan on this one, with some very successful exceptions, the principles and targets set by the Rethinking Construction report have not been understood or adopted let alone met. Many in the industry are not even aware of these targets. It continues to amaze me the lack of knowledge, in some cases of the existence, of the Egan report, across the industry and in education.

With a score of four, questions must surely be asked of the effectiveness of the organisations established, with government funds, to deliver Rethinking Construction.