All of this could be regarded as constructive criticism of the current process, where the wish list of ideas appears be removed from the means of production, and in the digital realm the framework of means is loosely addressed through a range of seemingly related applications, while the notion of required interoperability is being euphemized through a cacophony of different file formats.
Imagine a project where a French Architect directs a Russian Contractor whose Japanese Pre-Con department is prepping documents for their Indian Field team, where each discipline is using their native dialect, while all of the conversation is being conducted via Google translation software. Uniformity and standardization, picture perfect. Welcome to the familiar reality of today’s BIM.
Observed through the framework of the current application landscape, the status of BIM, and with that any indication of its maturity is very hard to define and understand. A wishful approach to standards, an incoherent approach toward project delivery, the generational gap of BIM users, and yes, that pesky interoperability, should be clear indicators to industry stakeholders that the time has come to achieve consistency via tighter integration of all of the above mentioned factors.
The bottom line is that if the stakeholders had been really, really involved, recent years would not have been defined by the consolidation of the AEC software market between two dominant players, Autodesk and Trimble.
There has been too much talk and peripheral analysis about Autodesk’s strategy and their approach toward bringing competing and well established solutions to their portfolio, but when examining Trimble's recent acquisitions the conclusion can be made that they have mimicked the Autodesk approach, and some.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not attempting to make the lemonade out of lemons, as the software I use on a regular basis is coming from both camps, and all I am trying to do is to shed some light on the camp where a bit more obvious attention towards comprehensive process-software integration is taking place.
In December of 2012, Trimble acquired VICO and consequently, up until recently, quite a ‘quirky’ platform, VICO Office. I have deliberately invoked the ‘quirky’ adjective, because since it was introduced to the AEC market in late 2008 as the replacement for the difficult but functional VICO Constructor, the new product went through five turbulent years of development, anticipation and drastic changes to its usability.
All of this, from a user / manager perspective, meant missing deadlines and being at least slightly caught off-guard when that new super cool feature would cause the application to unexpectedly shut down during a partner’s presentations.
Now, having said all of the above, good things come to those that wait, and waiting while VICO implemented this “under the radar BIM skunk-works project”, has finally been rewarded.
The one distinct difference associated with VICO Office is that it epitomizes a non-orthodox approach to model information by deploying a highly efficient VERSANT object database, thus capturing the model and process enhanced information within an environment that bridges boundaries between industry accepted project phases, all while addressing stakeholders’ production needs. This by its design assures a comprehensive (remember the second word I missed) integration of means and methods within what can truly be regarded as a building lifecycle capable information model.
3D, 4D and 5D, no matter whether one agrees with the validity of this nomenclature, are by default enabled by the set of activities that happens upon the delivery of the design intent model, thus representing a true opportunity for proper implementation of concurrent processes (engineering), and the unification of data and geometry with the goal of smarter project management.
The approach that VICO is taking is rather intelligent, and relies on rectifying, while understanding the built-in inefficiencies of current processes; where the model database is perpetually moving from one application to another with the always present need for normalization of associated data.
To put this in the perspective of VO workflow, one should understand that the true trick is to actually build the virtual building with the regard for its constructability, including associating standards nomenclature with the Building Element Model (BEM). And yes, although VO is not a design content generator, its internal workflow dictates that the structure, quantity and quality of information is being observed and delivered during the design phase, just to be further enhanced by adding layers of project management relevant data within VO.
Entertaining the idea of BIM QTO ready (BID) packages as a part of the design model and preparing the model accordingly calls for a streamlined and well thought through process that accomplishes two important goals. It provides an automated link between defined construction assemblies (read, recipes) and at the same time generates a set of enhanced quantities that are a result of better disclosure of model geometry than what a traditional BIM content generator application will offer.
Once this data link is activated, the model becomes ready for a series of tasks that one would like to accomplish within any BIM suite that could offer a similar level of integration as VICO office.
To conclude this post, without getting into danger of turning this into a marketing pitch, if an individual or an organization is at a BIM maturity level that allows for deeper introspection of their silo – defined processes, the focus has to move away from BIM task - application competency and toward overall design and construction process adherence.
Initiatives such as MPS (LOD) development, CSI classification deployment and process mapping are all part of the message that industry needs to send out, and hopefully products like VICO Office will reach their maturity level at a faster pace, while the rest of the software industry will finally start to treat integration as a primary product requirement.