I can’t claim originality to this Shakespearean title which has suitable gravity for many companies in the construction industry. It was thought up by Dr Steve Lo of Bath University for a one-day conference I attended organised by the “Future Envelope” community of façade designers and manufacturers.
Drawing from members of the European Façade Networks, the Society of Façade Engineers and Centre for Window Cladding technology, the aim of the conference was to discuss how BIM can help or even hinder the design and construction process of building facades.
To start off, early presentations included how professionals and companies can gain accreditation to be BIM Level 2 compliant. This is a requirement for any building design and construction contract delivered to the UK government since April 2016. Hence it’s a hot topic and the explanations given by BRE (Building Research Establishment) on their BIM Level 2 certification process was received well.
Certainly I see great opportunity for individual consultants to template the people, process and technology needs of BIM certification so smaller firms can overlay this on their business at minimum cost.
Other presentations discussed how both architects and engineers worked with different technologies to achieve the aim of clear communication of design intent. Abdulmajid Karanouh of Ramboll gave a really thoughtful presentation discussing what architects really need to do to communicate to their supply chain.
What I really found interesting was the discussion on The Al-Bahr Towers, designed by Aedas of which Abdulmajid was part of the team. Aedas created a design specification that wasn’t a model, but a set of geometrical formulae and process that would create the design. This is the ultimate “CAD’nostic” design. Any CAD package that could be driven by some sort of scripting or formula could create this geometry - giving the geometrical definition of a 1000-person tower.
I found this approach quite revolutionary, taking the architects idea into a form that could be expressed mathematically – something my engineer’s brain could comprehend. Ultimately, when the selected suppliers all delivered their design information, this was all consolidated into the Dassault Systemes CATIA based technology to deliver a BIM model. This approach caused some real heated interchange about an architect’s definition of form.
Overall, the conclusion to the day was mixed – the smaller firms seeing it as an overhead, the larger firms seeing it as a necessity – but one thought overriding all this discussion was ‘who pays for it?’ In automotive and aerospace, we all know that that more upfront design activity delivers lower costs downstream. In construction, these two activities are delivered by different bodies, with different earnings streams – extra costs in design delivers savings for contractors.
So I’ll leave you with this - how do we square this circle?