Thursday, March 8, 2012

March SFDD Meeting

 Attendees: Bruce Madsen, Dave Bleiman, Jackson Ng, Mario Guttman, Marla Ushijima, Nora Klebow, Thomas Whisker, Victor Chu

Our discussion started with the ipad, which continues to be a big hit with our group, though Mario suggests that the Apple Air is a better platform for some kinds of mobile work, as a laptop beats out a fingertip on a tablet for precision.

Screen size is a big factor for mobile success. The general consensus is that a laptop should have a 15"-17" screen for productive work. Marla posed the idea of an auxiliary screen for an ipad (analogous to an auxiliary keypad). No one was aware of one on the market, but Jackson uses a projector run off an ipad. (Dave has also mentioned Keynote Remote in previous meetings.) Jackson also mentioned that Samsung has just come out with a phone with a built-in projector (Samsung Galaxy Beam).

We discussed some less-utilized possibilities of BIM. The permit process remains analog; the oft-cited example of Singapore's automated code checking is believed to be more myth than fact. OSHPD is unable to pursue the possibilities due to lack of the necessary hardware and software. We theorized that for a large project, providing them with the technology might well be a more cost-effective method than printing out the multiple (thick!) sets of drawings currently required.

Nora reports that Kaiser is restructuring and outsourcing their facilities department. Facilities management remains a challenge for BIM. Enhanced information in a BIM accessible in the field via tablet is a powerful tool. The format for the data can be the BIM itself, but would more likely be a Navisworks model, XML, or a smart pdf. The minimal cost of RFID tags paired with GPS offers a world of possibilities for managing furnishings and equipment. Building systems can boost the accuracy of standard GPS, and RFID tags on a door frame can link an item to its location. The challenge lies in the reliable maintenance of information - which is critical for success but difficult to achieve.

Bruce is interested in the topic of best practices for Revit families. He recommends keeping parameters out of families, and instead keeping them at the project level. Marla notes that Autodesk doesn't follow their own guidelines for family creation, and Dave has discovered significant errors in Autodesk's structural models. Thomas offers suggested best practices for families and Revit in general at

BIM plans remain a topic of great interest. Mario called attention to NATSPEC, which provides an Australian national standard BIM Management Plan template.
Owners' interest in getting useful information out of a BIM remains more aspirational than practical. The information requested during contract negotiations might or might not be realistic or useful, but designers are unlikely to turn down such requests - especially when those contract negotiations are undertaken by principals or project managers unfamiliar with details of the BIM process.

Specifications remain the unwanted stepchild of the design process, serving to address issues of legal liability (or to save our bacon, as Mario says). They often contain unrealistic demands which are unachievable and/or unenforceable in the field. Assembly codes can tie a BIM to specs, but the correct entering of that information in the BIM is currently haphazard at best. Assembly codes offer classification per Uniformat at the type level, and Omniclass at the object level, but aren't currently part of a realistic workflow. Specwriters generally don't like espec, and none of the attendees currently use it. Bruce theorized that a list of the assembly codes in a project could provide a cross-check for the spec writer to make sure all the necessary sections are covered.

There is ongoing concern over the consumption of data in the BIM, and how it's used downstream. Contractors are increasingly preferring to rely on the model instead of consulting the drawings; designers are concerned that critical information is getting overlooked as a result. Mario also referenced language difficulties, both in our domestic workforce and as a result of global outsourcing of fabrication. Possible remedies could include easing access to information from within the model, through use of tools such as assembly codes, keynotes, and links to related details or spec sections.