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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Make a Difference with BIM: Interview with IMAGINiT

January 18th, 2018 by Susan Smith

In an interview with Joe Eichenseer, Building Solutions Team Manager of IMAGINiT, he talked about current trends in BIM and what people want from the technology these days.

Apple building in Cupertino

JE: From our perspective, we’re seeing more people moving toward trying to do more with the model, whether through information and analytics or taking it into fabrication. There is a large acceptance of BIM in the design and engineering community, and to some extent in the construction side. The question is, how can we get more, because the cost of software and business isn’t going to go away. People want to know what can we do to become that much more efficient and stand out from the crowd in our use and application of BIM philosophies in the design, engineering and construction world.

AECCafe Voice: Have you seen or implemented any really groundbreaking application of that among your clients?

JE: What we’re really focusing on is the incremental improvements. In some cases, it might be taking someone a couple of steps beyond where they were before. With the application or use of BIM with residential home construction, single family homes, we’re working with various home builders to make that transition so they can get into the whole VR side of things. They can show prospective buyers what that home is really like with whatever materials and finishes they have inside the rooms. We want to bring that industry forward, which is traditionally the last to come through because of the nature of the design and construction market.

We’re taking the analytics we can extract from the Revit project or collection of Revit projects using our CLARITY software. We’re getting people to understand where the true technological bottlenecks are inside the company. And if you are a BIM manager or a BIM coordinator, how can we better guide your vision to those things that actually make a difference in your business?

So you can understand, how complex is my project? How complex is my Family? How does the performance of file open or sync to Central time compare to other metrics within a project, such as file size or warnings or in place Families, number of CAD links, be able to take the mess of data out there and organize it in a way so we can focus our attention on things that matter.

AECCafe Voice: Then you are talking about much more than getting a new tool?

JE: Yes. There’s a wide array of firms looking into it. The more progressive and adventurous firms are really getting into the idea of metrics and automation more and more, because whatever you can do to speed up your team’s efficiency, to predict when issues might arise inside a model, it saves you so much time and money.

AECCafe Voice: Are there certain workflows you’re seeing more in the last year?

JE: The biggest workflow in the last year, are in two different areas:

  1. On the Fabrication side for engineering and MEP systems, we’re really working with changing how they’re going about doing work to allow better use of the model for fabrication, for more accurate cost estimation and quantity costs. We are tying in various models to how they’re doing fabrication via CNC router or other means and making those types of connections. One aspect people want to take advantage of is, for example, the mechanical engineer went ahead and got a design layout of how ductwork in a building should be – why can’t we use that? And optimize the design, sure, and why can’t we use that to build up our documents and models and change workflows to work with that? This would bring people to move from 2D AutoCAD LT to this whole BIM empowerment and tying BIM in with layout and manufacturing.
  1. The other aspect we’re getting into more and more is working with owners. We’ve been touting the whole idea of the holy grail of BIM for owners for years and years. There are some owners out there that have embraced it, but the vast majority of owner organizations or FM organizations still work in a 2D CAD or paper document world. The idea of being able to take advantage of data that’s coming from a BIM model is kind of exciting and scary at the same time for many people, because they don’t want to make this grand change and have it stumble and then be the person left holding the bag. There are those people who are doing everything with Excel spreadsheets and don’t want to change because they can trust the existing process of managing assets for the building.

I’ve got this architect that generated a Revit model or I’ve got this engineer with a Revit model. How can I use that to feed data into my spreadsheets? Even if they’re not using a more robust facility management system. So it’s all about data integration of different ways. In some places we’re suggesting or pushing a bit harder to get someone to make a more dramatic change and get it going full BIM, and in other places as we’re having these conversations, it’s just not the right timing for that organization for any  number of reasons, to say they’re switching everything over to Revit.

Let’s get the data integration working correctly and then maybe the idea of 3D can come around later when the time is right.

AECCafe Voice: It’s interesting that we’re still dealing with the 2D/3D/BIM question – it’s not like it’s new technology, anymore, been around a long time, people have been using it successfully. But now it’s more q question of, how are we integrating this? It’s a paradigm shift for people.

JE: I agree – I think the design and engineering community has mostly done that shift. We’re still doing Revit implementations for firms today, but if you look at the whole adoption curve, we’re on the laggard side of it, from the design and engineering side. In construction, it gets more confusing as you look at that from overall industry adoption because it really depends upon the nature of the firm and types of things they do. A firm with a startup of six employees is not going to be doing anything with the BIM world or Autodesk Cloud stuff, unless working with a GC who says they have to. But once you get to midsize companies or above, GCs are largely onboard with the idea of BIM, and working through Revit models. There are many construction firms that do not trust the models that they get from architects and engineers. We’re seeing here and there these relationships strengthen. More and more GCs are accepting a model from A/Es and use that going forward. But we’re also seeing pretty regularly, that someone will have a model available to them and say that’s great, but we’re going to rebuild this on our own off the print construction documents because we don’t trust you to generate a model that exactly and accurately represents the project.

If I’ve never worked with you before, my level of trust is going to be low, but as we manage to have repeat business with people — not necessarily firms but people working together — we start getting better trust or not. The human element is massively important.

AECCafe Voice: Are softwares shifting the way people think?

JE: It is changing different workflows that we discussed a moment ago for fabrication. I’m not seeing more dramatic changes in how people think about things. There are changes in going from CAD workflow to BIM. If you’re already there it’s nothing dramatic. For most customers the question is, what can we do next to best utilize the model and the geometry we’re creating in the BIM process?

I would argue that the ability for a firm of any type to work in the virtual reality environment to extend them into VR is there. It’s proven technology for Autodesk and non-Autodesk technology that can take these models and bring them into these environments. The quality of that experience will depend on technology used and time you put into it. It’s not always going to be a real VR experience with a click of button, as there’s going to be processing involved in whole mix. We can take some things through Autodesk LIVE, for largely marketing purposes. If we look at virtual vs. augmented reality, the initial separation of why people use one over the other, the reasons largely go to marketing of any sort. Architects and engineers will tend to use VR to show and allow people to navigate a design that doesn’t yet exist. AR resonates better with those on the construction side, that are looking at how do I go through an installation verification vs. walking the building and being able to see if things are in the right place. Do I have a sleeve applied to the correct spot? Is this piece of machinery where it’s supposed to be? In those cases, we want to know where we can overlay a vision of what the design should’ve been and overlay that on the reality of what was put together.

That resonates better with construction folks. We can map utilities and put that into a virtual model so that if we ever have to redig in that same area, we can identify where we did lay elements. We can be sure we’re not cutting lines, or breaking pipes, we can manage construction process. It’s not always a hard and fast separation, because there’s also the issue in an augmented environment if you’re working on a renovation project, and you can go into that building, put on goggles, and give a vision of the intended future state of this room. In AR, you can walk around the renovation site.  So in that way, AR is not just for construction people, VR is not just for the designers. There’s a lot of bleedover between the two. It’s more about how you might use these technologies to improve your business.

In December, a startup called MagicLeap announced that they would have their Creator Studio developer available in early 2018. If it works as promoted, it will be an order of magnitude better than HoloLens does today.

We’re always keeping alert to where are gaps between what people are doing and what they need, what are possibilities for streamlining the Revit to AR Revit to VR workflow.

AECCafe Voice: Do you see there’s more call for VR in other countries?

JE: I can speak to US and Canada as that’s where we have operations. In general, we see a similar interest in reality capture throughout both countries. The advent of Leica BLK360 created a buzz, things get faster, better smaller and cheaper over time, that’s what technology does. We seem to have crossed a threshold with products like BLK360 where we can start to get pretty good accuracy in a device that’s not going to cost you six figures. That’s got a lot of people really interested to be able to take something into a room, click a button, and have a point cloud of that room a few minutes later. The ease and portability of the device is grabbing the market. As a consultancy, we are making sure people are using the right technology in the right place.

We’re starting to see some clients push for taking scans of an area, and using that to document existing conditions. The idea being why bother converting this point cloud into a model if all I need to use to go through this renovation project is there in the cloud? Use that and run with it. Not everyone is going to accept that as a deliverable – but we are in conversations about does it have to be the same deliverable we’ve always created for design and construction?

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Categories: 3D printing, AEC, AEC training, AECCafe, apps, architecture, AutoCAD, Autodesk, Autodesk LIVE, BIM, building information modeling, Cloud, collaboration, construction, engineering, field, holograms, IMAGINiT, infrastructure, lidar, mobile, point clouds, project management, reality capture, site planning, sustainable design, virtual reality, wearable devices

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