June 01, 2009
Top of the Agenda at AIA 2009
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Top of the Agenda at AIA 2009

By Susan Smith

The Moscone Center in San Francisco was the location for the AIA 2009 Conference. AECWeekly spoke with Deke Smith, the founder and current chair of the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) Facility Information Council, home of the US National Computer Aided Design (CAD) Standard and the National Building Information Model (BIM) Standard. Smith is also instrumental in the formation of the buildingSMART Alliance, whose role it is to identify all things that are going on in the industry and try to piece them together.

      Moscone Convention Center Expansion 

   Photographer: Nick Merrick/Hedrich-Blessing


          Architect: Gensler and Associates
At the conference this year, Smith said there were some good sessions. “I’m encouraged that everyone is starting to use the same definition now, the one that’s in the BIM Standard, and we’re making headway.”

Top of the agenda were energy issues and sustainability, according to Smith. “The bottom line is BIM is kind of the enabler. It’s different in CAD and GIS where more interest is in technologies, although GIS has certainly changed the way we look at spatial information in general. I think that’s more of what BIM is as far as changing the way we do business and everybody can share common information. With sustainability and with energy and zero carbon we need to be able to measure the progress we’re making if we’re going to manage it, we just have precious few metrics in our industry.” Smith said that if we can capture this information it will make a
big difference.

A shift he sees is that people are getting into BIM as building a building electronically first and then building it physically, because this way, we can provide a true as built, something that a facility manager can actually use.

“We’ve never really been able to provide very good information in the way we currently do as builts,” Smith pointed out. “And the other thing we have to get beyond – I think we’re doing a lot of building modeling now, not necessarily building information modeling yet, and so we’ve got to move to that level. I think a lot of firms are currently doing the visualization part pretty well. Even with integrated project delivery we’re starting to get people to talk, but not necessarily getting them to record their efforts, but we’re getting there.”

One of the biggest pieces we have to add is probably lifecycle costing, Smith said. It’s been out there for a long time but not adopted strongly. What’s missing is a standard procedure for doing this. “What we do have is a lot of companies are doing the geometry of the object and maybe having the initial cost but not much else,” Smith noted. “Ultimately we need the relationship which the IFCs provide – how does a door relate to a wall, relate to the building, etc. things like that, how much space you need around products, to be able to install them, some models are showing up with that, how much does it cost to install, how long does product last,
maintenance required, what kind of performance characteristics?”

Professionals who are currently storing information about objects only have information on costs and geometry, according to Smith.

There is a project that is making these choices easier, looking at all the different structural changes.

In the AIA, there are about 20 projects going on in different stages that are defining what a model view of a BIM is. “A model view is what information different stakeholders look at and it fits in with the whole thing with the IFCs and National BIM Standard,” explained Smith. “The first version of NBS goes through and defines how projects should be put together so that they can pulled into the standard. So, for example, the AECO Testbed project with OGC, is a key project because it’s one of the first where we show if you change something related to energy in the model here’s what it does to the cost. It’s still just the initial cost, but it’s
really looking primarily at the quantity takeoff aspect of it. But once you have the quantity takeoff, then with some additional information, you can go through and figure out what your lifecycle cost is going to be.”

“So now I can see if I cut down the size of window or put shading on it, it will have this impact, and then I can see the price, and also see what the relationships are with the mechanical and electrical systems’ overall performance of the building.”

Smith noted that the CAD standard was developed after CAD was already underway, where as the National BIM standard is ahead of the game, “we’re trying to identify what practitioners need in order to do their job,” he said. This gives vendors information they need to be able to put the software together. “And the software we’re using today was conceived of three–to-five years ago, so what we’re talking of doing now, we won’t see for a couple of years.”

Structural engineers at the conference were looking at how buildings by code are designed not to fall down in the event of a catastrophic event. They took it one step further to suggest constructing high performance buildings that would not fall down, but would also be able to be usable again after an earthquake, flood or fire. Usually, buildings must be demolished after one of these events. If the building is sustainable, then it will withstand disasters better and save on lifecycle cost as well as displacement of people.

There are only so many raw materials out there, and we’re going through them faster than ever, especially with India and China now being major players,” said Smith. “BuildingSMART is an international effort, and we are working to get a chapter set up in India, we have a chapter in China which we’re trying to strengthen. Finally turning the corner on this thing.” With different standards in all these countries, countries will finalize agreements to be able to use the National BIM Standard and translate it into their language, as Korea is doing.

“We are getting our consensus process in place,” said Smith. “We have projects that are going on that are candidates for the standard once the consensus in place.” More members will strengthen the consensus vote on a standard in that it will be representative of the industry. NIBS has responsibility for the entire construction industry, not only A/E/C, but also insurance companies and labor unions, software vendors, manufacturers, and others that comprise twelve groups.

Highlighted was the fact that education for architectural, engineering and construction and facility management students has changed to accommodate the “built environment.” Those hiring now want employees who understand how to collaborate with different stakeholders in the building process.

The conference also generated discussion about the Stimulus Plan. Of course, people want to know who is going to do project management of the funding coming through government organizations, where is the skilled labor pool going to come from, and what happens after the money runs out?

New ways of looking at things are all part of the buildingSMART’s role. The Alliance works to get people to understand that integrated project delivery, virtual design and construction, Lean Construction and LEED are all related.

With the realization of the need to change, there is also the knowledge of what has always worked in the industry. Smith concluded: “In every project I ever worked on, how good the superintendent was determined how good the project turned out.”

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