Monday, September 3, 2012

BIM MEP Aus Forum 2012 - Review

Blog entry by: Dominik Holzer

The BIM-MEP Aus guys are at it again! For the third year in a row now, the BIM group within the BIM group within the organisation of the Association of Mechanical Subcontractors in Australia (AMCA) is hosting their national forum in Melbourne.

Conference Review

It is truly exciting to see how a group of trade contractors (who you would not necessarily expect to lead BIM among the wide range of stakeholders in the AEC industry) are advancing their industry initiative to promote and propagate the use of BIM among their members and beyond.

What stands out with the  BIM-MEP Aus Forum is the well balanced approach in presenting the latest tools and revised work-flows to address specific needs of their members with selected guest speakers who highlight the big picture of BIM in our industry. The AMCA is certainly taking risks with this holistic approach: Addressing BIM from a broad industry perspective may challenge some AMCA members who’d prefer to focus on ‘their’ specific role as subcontractors within the wider industry.

Still, the AMCA approach is right! As illustrated by ACIF’s Peter Barda’s introduction during the Forum where he highlighted the political nature in which BIM is currently changing our industry. Peter’s comments were seconded by the presentation of Mr. Cheng Thai Fatt (Group Director, Corporate Development Division, Singapore Building & Construction Authority),  who reported on the extensive efforts by the Singapore Government to promote BIM throughout practice and education in order to increase efficiency across the entire building sector. Current development in Australia are dwarfed by the vast array of BIM related Government incentives and support programmes available in Singapore (BIM e-Submissions, Pilot Projects, Centre for Construction, BIM Competitions, etc).

Singapore Government BIM E-Submission System
 The presentations before and after midday focused predominantly on BIM-MEP Aus specific workflow and software interoperability as well as an outlook into the future of BIM collaboration tools exemplified by the upcoming product VEO by M-Six and Newforma.

Alasdair MacDonald, director of Strategic Innovation at the Balfour Beatty Group portrayed a somewhat scary scenario of how much (or better: how little) we currently know compared to the increasing wealth of knowledge that can and will be shared across humankind over the coming years. Alasdair did so by bridging the epistemological leap between the theory of knowledge, and the affordances on our industry to work with, and apply this knowledge in everyday practice. In a way, Alasdair’s presentation went full circle in confirming the overall message of this forum to the audience. We can no longer hide behind profession specific boundaries and we need to open up, collaborate and share information with other professions in an unprecedented way if we want to stay good at what we do. The AMCA continues to show the rest of the world how this is done.
A slide from Alasdair MacDonald's presentation

Significance of the BIM-MEP Aus initiative for the rest of the industry:

Considering the likely success of the BIM MEP Aus initiative, one cannot stop but wonder how their approach could be used as starting point by other industry groups:

Dropping off components that don’t have a major market share and standardising the way Bim objects are defined (in their case: plants, equipment and fittings) based on specific software are two crucial elements to success. Further the BIM-MEP Aus initiative requires manufacturers to develop BIM equivalents of their products in alignment with those standards – thereby moving the pressure to generate quality BIM content from the end user to the producer. One could (rightfully?) argue that this approach is not necessarily socially sensitive (to all producers), but it seems to deliver results and benefits to increase productivity in this sector. Mechanical building components are usually based on a (fairly) well defined set of components. In contrast, many architectural applications do not conform to the same level of definition; they are by far more complex and multi-facetted. The BIM-MEP Aus ‘Design BIM’ to ‘Construction BIM’ translator seems to draw from the capability of knowledge-based interpretation of design intent data, by matching it to a pre-existing (and fabrication-ready) product catalogue. Such an approach could be applied for façade systems, steel structures (which already the case for Trimble’s Tekla) and wall/roof configurations. I would not be surprised if the industry will see progress in these areas over the coming years that may have found inspiration in the BIM-MEP Aus model.

Most presentations of the 2012 BIM-MEP Aus Forum can be found on their website for all to view

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