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In November 2013, Philip Evans, a senior partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group, and co-author of Blown to Bits, delivered a TED Talk that everyone in the building industry should watch. He offers one of the best and easiest to understand descriptions of the transformation that is now coming to the forefront across the architecture-engineering-construction-owning-operating realm. Mr. Evans approaches the transformation from a corporate perspective, using the encyclopedia business as a poster-child for what data is changing in our society. Yet, everything he has to say is directly applicable to the built world.

If you are scratching your head wondering what BIG Data and BIG BIM are all about… If you do not really understand why tools like the ONUMA System are so important to the building industry… If you know that there is something more to building information modeling than automated drafting using desktop tools, but cannot get your head around what that is… If you want to develop your personal strategy for your future in the building industry…

Take the 14 minutes to watch this TED Talk. Keep an open mind and fill in the blanks with the things you are seeing in the building industry. You will not regret spending the time.

 Philip Evans: How data will transform business

BIM is building information modeling – the design and construction equivalent of the way that aircraft manufacturers build digitally before building for real in the factory, and much more. It’s about visualizing the environment like in a Steven Spielberg movie; using data like a multinational bank, and; connecting information in a collaborative environment like Google. BIG BIM is a force multiplier across the life cycle of everything that touches the built environment.

REALITY CHECK – If you are one of those that think that by doing large projects using one of the big name authoring tools, you are doing BIG BIM… you are far off the mark and likely guilty of the heinous crime of bimwashing!

Ditto, if one has standardized on the product lines of one software developer, whether in the cloud or not… you are doing little bim.

Ditto, if one must output to files, no matter whether they are stored on DVD’s, to a local server or to a cloud server… you are doing little bim and be aware, you are also abetting Data Rot.

Ditto, if one’s focus is on LOD (whether it is called Level of Detail or Level of Development), one uses analog methods that visually compare data and outputs of different systems with each other or, one re-types data from one system into the other… yep, little bim.

Ditto, if one thinks that BIG BIM will only happen in some undefined future nirvana when all standards are agreed upon… you are definitely doing little bim. btw. If the internet had used the same approach, where would we be today? Would Amazon, Expedia, Google, et al, even exist?

In each of the cases above, one’s heart may be in the right place, but it is still little bim.

These misconceptions have been the basis for presentations, educational programs and chats around the water-cooler. Seemingly knowledgeable people are leading others down the wrong path. At best, they sub-optimize the implementation of BIG BIM. At worst, the smoke-and-mirrors advance personal agendas while harming others’ ability to move forward. In all cases, they make people wonder whether building information modeling is worth the effort for most people.

For many, the confusion between BIG and little BIM, is working to weld the building industry to little bim, with few believing that more is possible. The misconceptions are making the path forward unclear for most.

While little bim is an important subset of BIG BIM and is not going away, many opportunities are missed, if that is all one does. Little bim has vastly improved design and construction and likely saves some facility management costs. By focusing on little bim, perhaps not realizing that there are easier and more productive ways to do the same job, people are missing many of the greater benefits.

Misconceptions make building information modeling seem like a process only open to the highly trained and well funded. Big players seem to be the only real option. Yet, those in the know, know better. By understanding the shortcomings of little bim, it becomes easier to move toward BIG BIM, and with the move, the benefits expand greatly. People and businesses of all shapes and sizes benefit. The opportunities from this subtle change are enormous.

BIG BIM is the big picture business process changes and the steps needed to integrate data from everywhere to understand what you are doing in a big world context. Business requirements, building industry data, geographical information and real-time operations intersect to support integrated decision-making using interfaces tailored to individual users and needs. Data and information are king. With BIG BIM, data is fed from distributed, shareable and interoperable repositories, interconnected to encompass everything about assets. You create or manipulate data using an almost unlimited set of tools in a sustainable process that is no longer in isolation from anything or anyone.

little bim is the application of advanced software and processes using files-based data exchanges via monolithic product lines, translators and import/export. Replaces ‘flat-CAD’ with BIM authoring and/or analysis tool(s) on networked computers. Work product and efficiency are leveraged, but improvements are internal to projects and can be viewed as computer-aided-drafting on steroids. Data is secondary to graphics. Advanced graphics, conflict checking, cost modeling and process simulation occur, but are project-by-project oriented exercises. Focus is on software products and current profitability, often ignoring or misunderstanding lifecycle benefits.

Too often, people inadvertently negotiate against themselves, not understanding the larger capabilities available to them. The move from little bim to BIG BIM is one such capability. BIG BIM is no longer just a concept. It has been prototyped and proven to work, in real-world conditions. The technologies and tools to do BIG BIM exist… one can access and use them today. Little bim is better than what we had before, but why go for halfway measures, when one can have it all?

When I wrote BIG BIM little bim, the concept of BIG BIM was just that… a concept. At the time, my speculation was based on greatly increased collaborative systems and IFC model servers that were just beginning to fully emerge. Since then, a lot has changed.

Functional model servers exist… you can access and use them today. Web services have taken over the internet… and transformed how we look at data, databases and welded-together software systems. People in high places… have begun to understand and desire the benefits that come from enterprise/national level BIG BIM.

Many in the building industry are stuck in little bim, focused on the day-to-day needs of design and construction, perhaps not realizing that there are easier/more productive ways to do the same job… with vastly greater benefit. They inadvertently negotiate against themselves, not understanding the larger picture. Little bim is better than what we had before, but why go for halfway measures, when you can have it all, with less problems?

Admiral Thad Allen (at the time Commandant of the US Coast Guard) is credited with saying ‘transparency breeds self correcting behavior’ during a meeting on their SFCAM (Shore Facilities Capital Asset Management) Roadmap process. People in high places can and will champion the cause. They just need clear and convincing evidence of the power and benefits that come from BIG BIM.

It is quite interesting to follow the process that is unfolding in Ireland.

BIM, started as a grassroots effort, largely among small, nimble practitioners doing what I called little bim. We got great results and much was learned from the effort.

Shortly after the turn of the century, a few small, nimble practitioners figured out that to move BIM into the mainstream the effort had to come from the top-down. It was too big of a leap for a small group of evangelists, alone. Without a high level push it became obvious that BIM would be “little” for a very long time.

That is when organizations such as the US Coast Guard, GSA, the State of Wisconsin, et.al. came to the forefront. The Forfas Report gives me hope that, in Ireland, the high level support is building. For the same reason, I am a fan of the progress being made in the UK.

In the last three years, things have changed again. If the leadership in Ireland seriously considers and responds to the fact that there is another significant step that has emerged in the chronology I describe above, Ireland may well become the poster-child for the future of the built world.

As high level organizations have explored integrating BIM tools and processes, they have learned many lessons. It is not merely about design and construction… there is so much more to it than that. They are making planning, design, construction and O&M into organizational assets that have value across their business lines. They are not just doing large projects with little bim, and calling it BIG BIM, as do too many in the design and construction industry.

Organizations such as the California Community Colleges, US Veteran’s Administration and Department of Defense Healthcare System are embracing a more systemic approach that closely mirrors the way that data operates across the internet. And, finding that it can be done effectively and beneficially, TODAY.

Since Ireland is exploring next steps, they have the potential of creating a system that gets all of the good from current best practices, while embracing the next practices that have demonstrated a more productive path forward. To the good of all.

See how BIG BIM is being done today and understand why we need to adjust how we look at BIM

See how Organizational/BIM/GIS/FM data work together for the California Community College system

Deke Smith, Laura Lee, Gregory Howell, Laura Handler, David Philp and I will be keynoting Ireland’s Construction IT Alliance’s BIM Gathering in Dublin, November 14th and 15th, 2013. The ambitious program, entitled: Leveraging Building Information Modeling to Create Cultural and Lean Transformation of the AEC Sector, offers a unique opportunity to explore the future of the industry, both in Ireland and worldwide.

While exploring the state of things in Ireland and discussing the current environment with my Irish friends, I have started to frame a few of the questions that the Gathering will explore:

  • Can the Irish motivate BIM from within… to do more with less, in a tightly constrained fiscal environment?
  • Is there a willingness and ability to adapt; to do things that have never been done before; to bring people together from the public and private sectors… to become more transparent and inclusive?
  • Can Ireland find ways to share and use data… to greatly reduce errors and improve the built world?
  • Can the Irish link sensor data, environmental data, business process data and facilities’ data to become more efficient and effective… to reduce waste and become more sustainable?
  • What changes will make Irish building professionals the leaders for this new age that revolves around virtual models that make it possible to share information through the entire built environment?

Outside of the building industry many of these questions are already being answered. Imagine using paper or CD catalogues of airfares, a travel agent and the telephone to book your next trip. How long would it take to make your booking? What happens when you wish to explore multiple options? The travel industry has changed to allow us to do such tasks in real-time.

  • Why not do the same type of thing in the Irish building industry?

My Irish friends tell me that the Irish building industry is unsettled. That few understand what is required for the building industry to benefit from the information that surrounds us. That planning, design and construction remain linear and disconnected. They believe that the Irish building industry continues to be wasteful and inefficient. Yet, change is upon us, NOW!

In the United States, we are talking too much to ourselves about design and construction and often not to the larger picture or long range potential of new tools and processes to reshape the built world.

  • Is the same true in Ireland?

Many in the industry continue to have problems making intelligent decisions about how to embrace the changes brought by technology in the built environment. Changing paths can be difficult. It sometimes seems as though it is not so much about, “Show me the facts, and I will get with the program,” as “Nothing that you show me will ever change my mind.” Evidence seems to have no power for some people.

  • Into which camp do Irish politicians and construction professionals fall?

These are the questions that the BIM Gathering can address. Through unabashed self-interest, storytelling, testimonials, proven metrics, positive peer pressure, and the sheer power of money, industry processes are changing. As more people understand and embrace the power and benefits that are available today, we are moving toward a world of greater certainty of outcomes.

  • Will Ireland become a leader in the change?

Join us in Dublin in November, and together we will try to understand these questions and many more.

—Finith Jernigan, FAIA

This month I  am beginning a series of events and postings leading up to the Irish Construction IT Alliance (CITA) BIM  Gathering  to be held November 14-15, 2013. The event, scheduled for Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse is entitled: Leveraging Building Information Modeling to Create Cultural and LEAN Transformation in the AEC Sector 2013, will be one of the year’s premiere showcases of the power and opportunities that come from using today’s tools and processes to deliver BIG BIM results, NOW. (#bimgathering, #BIM, #IPD, #LEAN)

When I wrote and published,  BIG BIM little bim in 2006, BIG BIM was, for all intents and purposes, a shining light on the horizon. Since then, BIG BIM and the things needed to make it happen have become real. There is no longer any compelling reason to wait or to avoid moving to BIG BIM.

On July 10, 2013 at 10AM Eastern, you have the opportunity to see BIG BIM in action… In Person or Log in and Watch.  Facility LifeCycle

Understand what BIG BIM is really about. Learn how you can overcome (or sidestep) the issues that come with little bim and processes that are forced into systems that are too complex, too expensive and too difficult to use.

Today, few understand what is required for the building industry to benefit from the information that surrounds us. Planning, design and construction remain linear and disconnected.  The industry continues to be wasteful and inefficient. Yet, the change to BIG BIM is happening, NOW! You need to understand what to do and how to benefit from the change.

Join Kimon Onuma, FAIA (@kimononuma), California Community Colleges, VA, DoD, NASA, the General Services Administration, the Architect of the Capitol, the National Institute of Building Sciences, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Management and Budget, US Coast Guard, architects, planners, engineers, technologists and others to be the first to learn about this emerging and sustainable approach to managing assets and integrated decision making.

The challenges of managing, maintaining, designing and constructing facilities is universal for owners large and small.

The California Community Colleges (CCC) has a total of 75 million square feet and 5,200 buildings. The Department of Defense Military Health System (DoD MHS) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have a combined total of 210 million square feet. As large owners they share much in common. They need to share processes, best practices and approaches for managing the big data that is generated by their large and small projects. Smaller portfolio owners have nearly identical challenges.

How does an Owner reduce cost, time, energy, increase quality, keep customers happy and manage all that is thrown at them on-the-fly and over time?

California Community College’s FUSION has had a direct influence on DoD MHS and VA. Their strategies and road maps are a direct result of this influence. These federal Owners have been watching CCC closely for a few years to understand what the CCC FUSION system has been able to accomplish rapidly and with limited resources. Owners everyone can learn from the example set by CCC and the recent work that DoD MHS and VA have published.

Everyone has a stake in where these processes are headed and can learn by witnessing the trajectory that these Owners are taking to better manage their assets in a world of constrained budgets and every expanding needs. The disruptions that have already happened in other industries is now moving full speed toward facilities.

The opportunities created by mobile devices and cheaper technologies have exploded. Expectations are quickly shifting toward breaking free of heavy, complex, and expensive systems. Building Information Modeling, Geographic Information Systems, and Facility Management are moving to the cloud.

The Future Starts Now

The Department of Defense Military Healthcare System and Department of  Veterans Affairs recently completed a strategic road map to help guide the future of their facilities. Their vision is big, but achievable. They have conceived and evaluated a rapid, lean and agile way to move forward into this new world of better managed and more sustainable assets. Their vision is ready to be shared with government and private owners.

Working BIG is a significant competitive advantage. Owners can make better early stage decisions. Insurers and investors can understand and manage with facts. The public can see and interact with the world around them. Educators at all levels can plan and support learning like never before. Designers and builders can start with facts and add facts as they do their jobs. Facility owners can make fact based decisions throughout the life of their assets.

Mark your calendar with this special opportunity. Please register, if you plan to attend in person, as space is limited. I hope to see your there… in person, or virtually. –Finith Jernigan, FAIA (@finith)

7.10.13    10:00 AM – 1:00 PM Eastern
National Institute of Building Sciences, Washington DC 
Join in Person or Virtually @ http://bimstorm.com/i/LifecyclePanel.php

Dreams are good. We all need dreams. When we stop dreaming, we stagnate. We lock into doing things the same way repeatedly, even when we do not see the results that we want and expect. Without a dream for the future, it is easy to become frustrated and cynical.

Let us take a moment to dream about expectations, to learn how technology should be used to improve our world. What is your vision for the built environment? How will you take advantage of new and emerging technology? How will you adapt to a world that demands greater oversight and accountability? What is your goal for the future?

What are the chances that you can continue as though nothing has changed? If you are nearing retirement and have a real nest egg, perhaps the chances are good. For the rest of us… Not so much. We need a goal that will enable us to thrive in the world of tomorrow.

Ten years ago, we waged well-televised battles about whether we faced a global energy and environmental crisis… Or not.

Financial markets escalated as though investor confidence and price increases would last forever. Business was thriving. Many grabbed for the golden ring. There was little talk of real change… What was the point?

Then the world changed. The golden ring turned to pot-metal. We entered a period of decline and stagnation.

As we entered this season of change and adaptation, few understood the power and opportunities that technology made possible. Few had a vision for how to move forward in resilient ways. There were significant barriers to improving things in our world.

  • Some of the barriers were due to ignorance… people did not know what they did not know.
  • Some of the barriers were due to inertia… people had a hard time changing to new ways of doing things.
  • Some were due to self-interest… people were looking out for “number one” to the exclusion of all else.
  • Some of the barriers have slowed the recovery, and others have undermined the benefits to society.

As the world has changed; so must the building industry. The industry must start to look at what it does in a larger context, as these changes impact much more than technology. These changes are truly about people. The technology is nothing more than a force multiplier. New and optimized work practices, evolving methodologies, BIG BIM processes and Big Data have the potential to enable the building industry to leverage resources, compete in worldwide markets, and become more efficient and productive in the planning, design, construction and operation of facilities. Integrated business practices that exist throughout the world offer clues about how best to move ahead.

Identify other best-of-the-best organizations that are already well into the journey and use their example. These next-practices enterprises may be in the building industry, or not.

  • Look carefully, and find how your local grocery store tightly integrates their supply chain, with their delivery system.
  • Learn how your local car care shop integrates with their suppliers.
  • Turn to your physician to learn how integrated practices affect other professionals.
  • Look at organizations that have adapted to a world of normalized Big Data, web services, cloud based computing and a more ‘Google-like’ model of business.

The building industry must find its’ path into this world. The path may be smooth and painless, or it may be disruptive and revolutionary. To a large extent it is in your hands.

By learning how to easily access just the right data at the proper time to solve the current problem, the building industry can begin to enable a larger conceptual framework that integrates with GiS, non-project business processes and other areas that both gain value and create value for the entire built environment value chain.

As a worldwide industry, we are not optimized for the management of the twenty-first-century environment. The challenge finds us unprepared. Most of us were trained to an industrial era model and must change, whether we like it or not. We must find ways to enlighten mid-career professionals while training the young for new ways of thinking and working.

Many in the building industry have narrow, highly siloed views of technology. These views are not surprising as most people today use the available tools merely for design and construction related tasks. However, in the long run a world-view that relies on highly complex desktop tools requiring file exchanges and API connections will sub-optimize the benefits and may well be the reason that keeps the built environment from truly achieving the productivity benefits that are possible.

Both public and private clients need us to become more than we have been before. They demand greater certainty of outcomes. They need to manage their assets in a world of constraints and tight fiscal limits. They need a building industry that can deliver a sustainable and resilient built environment, on time and on budget, every time. They need the building industry to become a life-cycle resource.

Across the built environment, systems have to change. Building industry professionals can no longer exist by focusing on design and construction. As an industry, we must become more. Much more. We must expand our horizons.

We must become leaders in a system focused on a resilient world.

I manage facilities for a 400-bed medical center. We are always under construction. We hire architects and they create wonderful concepts—everybody loves the concepts.If we have hired a construction manager to control the design process, we get solid information. If not, we look to the architect for details to assure ourselves that the design meets all of our needs. We get ‘pretty pictures’, but we rarely get dependable decision-making information from the architect at this stage. The images excite our staff. The architect asks us to take it on faith that everything is worked out. The decision to move forward becomes strongly weighted by emotion and not by facts.

   By the time we are able to understand the details, the architect has invested a lot of time developing the design. If everything is on track, life is good. If not, someone spends a lot of money to make corrections. Unfortunately, the costs often fall on us since we approved the ‘pretty pictures’. The tendency is to go ahead after tweaking the concept, since no one wants to spend the money or to start over. When we receive bids in this environment, they are often “drastically over budget. Then everyone panics and the architect gets defensive. The project gets ‘bought out’ or value engineered and things get lost in the process…

   Construction starts, and there are many changes that cost a lot of extra money. We juggle the changes within the contingency, so not everything can get done… Finally we move in but the problems are still not resolved, so… We struggle to run the facility—and problems continue to crop up. Then everybody realizes that we missed something important at the beginning… —Medical Facilities Director

This is the reality facing facility owners every day. For owners that embrace BIG BIM, this world is changing. They are looking at things in a larger context, knowing that they need to understand much more than technology. They know that, in the long run, a world-view that relies on highly complex desktop tools requiring file exchanges and API connections will sub-optimize the benefits and may well be the reason that keeps them from truly achieving the productivity benefits that are possible.

Public and private clients need a building industry that can deliver a sustainable and resilient built environment, on time and on budget, every time. By learning how to easily access just the right data at the proper time to solve the current problem, the building industry can begin to enable a larger conceptual framework that integrates with GiS, non-project business processes and other areas that both gain value and create value for the entire built environment value chain.

As an industry, we need to become an indispensable part of our clients’ success and the future of the built world.

Join us for the second BIMStorm OKC Training Webinar. You still have time to participate in planning the future of Oklahoma City.

BIMStorm® Oklahoma City (OKC) is bringing together professionals and students from disciplines such as architecture, construction science, planning, and engineering in a partnership with the City of Oklahoma City for a virtual BIM event designed to envision the future of the city’s Core-to-Shore area.

Join us for the live Webinar #2 for BIMStorm OKC. Click this link to sign up now.

Monday, October 22, 2012 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM CDT

For those that missed last weeks session, you can find the recorded introductory Webinar #1 here.

BIMStorm OKC – Session #2