Rob Jackson is a man on a mission. He’s responsible for BIM at Bond Bryan Architects. In fact, his email address says it all. It’s [email protected] Rob understands the technology that is driving change within construction. He also understands how it benefits each group within the workflow. It is this understanding that made me travel from Helsinki to Sheffield. I had heard Rob ‘knew his stuff’. I wanted him to share that wisdom and to hear how Solibri was helping with the momentum of BIM.
“We started with BIM in 2005. Originally, we saw it as a way of improving our own schedules and designs. We now put information into models because we can now sell such information to people rather than just talking about it. We can provide more quality data within our standard fee. We can provide more value and that value sees us winning more projects” said Rob. It certainly is working. Bond Bryan have 3 offices within the UK, with Sheffield having over 60 staff alone. They are consistently delivering large Government projects (e.g. schools) and Rob is regularly asked to contribute to industry forums and events.
I asked him about the UK Government plan to mandate BIM & COBie (Construction Operations Building information exchange) by 2016. “The Government has been a catalyst for change. They provided the wakeup call for the construction industry. They created the momentum and its effects are far reaching. Would there still be BIM in 2016 if not enforced? Yes. There are many companies like us that have embraced BIM and it’s not going away. Five years ago, I remember saying that traditional architectural drawings would be dead. Colleagues didn’t believe me. Now they’re starting to understand it’s a case of not ‘if’ but ‘when’.”
Rob explains that ‘collaboration’ is the biggest benefit to him. Simply put, BIM allows more information to be seen and shared. It allows you to correct mistakes upfront. In his words, “even if we only save 0.01% per project, it all adds up over 10 years.” Of course it’s not all that simple. Following the BIM principle means you have to spend more money upfront to save later during the project. Not all construction companies are comfortable with BIM and too much information can be confusing if not properly managed. Rob was recently in discussion with one Construction Company. He showed how they benefitted with BIM by explaining the information take off on brick work and cladding allowed them to improve cost and material quotations. It’s a mission that going to take time in the ‘antiquated’ construction industry.
“One of the hardest issues for me is getting people up to speed. I try to make it easier for people to understand what BIM is all about. In regards Solibri, I now write my own rulesets for Bond Bryan. I explain to the new staff how Solibri helps them in their role. Such things as identifying duplicate space or door numbers – things that manually take ages to discover and correct. Sometimes they question is that all? That tells me I’ve done my job properly. I’ve succeeded if it makes their lives easier without them even realizing what’s ‘under the bonnet’.”
We continue to talk more about the benefits Solibri brings to a project. Rob now sees more coordination between structural engineers and the architect’s office. Mechanical services are now too understanding the benefits of collaboration. It all contributes to an improved workflow. “We’re still learning on all projects. How can we better provide central information and improved processes? We’re always juggling huge Government projects and need to find ways of doing things better. We don’t wish to do things twice and have self-created issues when creating more data. Solibri helps us with that.”
One interesting area of discussion was the benefits offered in Facility Management (FM). Rob sees IFC files being useful for the FM team. It would allow a soft handover of information from architect to FM professional. Architects are often responsible for the buildings for a period of three years after handover to its owner. Architectural offices like Bond Bryan could expand their offering by providing strategic consultancy, information take off, cost quotations and data management in the FM arena. “I showed Solibri Model Checker to one FM professional. At first she didn’t get it. I then explained how you could view and navigate within the model and how you could filter the information to see what was needed. She then started to understand its benefits for her.”
“I believe we’re in the top five percent of architectural offices with such thinking. You first need to master BIM and then understand what software solutions help you in your work role. Once you have this knowledge, it allows the architect to claw back ground they have lost earlier within the workflow. I don’t believe architects will ever be software coders. We will always be the creative guardians. However, I do believe we also be the content guardians for future projects.” Explained Rob.
We turn our attention to the future. How will the future look with the increasing adoption of technology and BIM? “We’re still feeling our way through new learnings and processes. I had one contractor that was amazed you could now hold meetings over the web! Suffice to say, it’s going to take time.” I asked Rob what he would like to help him in his role – “Cloud collaboration. Models and issues that are centralized on the cloud. The ability to do quality checking, quantity take off and cost estimation from one point. I see Solibri’s collaboration with 4Projects as a move in this direction.”
Interestingly, Rob has mixed feelings on using mobile tablets on the work site. He thinks the industry should focus on collaboration through shared screens as opposed to small, independent handsets.
That’s where we leave the discussion. I am in no doubt that Bond Bryan are one of the few architectural offices that are fearless when considering future technologies. Rob understands that if you help shape the future, you’re most likely to be one its winners. It’s going to be fun to benchmark other companies against Bond Bryan.
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