Visualizing Building Information – Clash Detection

One of the more useful applications of building information we’ve been experimenting with has been visualization. We first started experimenting with visualizing building data back in 2010. You can see a presentation I gave at KA Connect 2010 on the research we were doing on this front with SOM here. The research we did on that project has evolved into a full fledged web based tool that is helping them manage their thousands of gigs of BIM data production.

Since I’ve become obsessed with other applications of visualization. Let’s look at what it can do to clash detection or conflict analysis. This is an area I spend a lot of time on since it is at the core of our Project Consulting services. Model progress comparisons, conflict analysis, audits, craft, etc… are all critical parts of the continuous BIM data management responsibilities that go along with BIM project delivery.

Of course, the objective behind visualization is to help emerge some other interpretation of the data that can provide further insight, whether it be through a new pattern that is recognized, grouping, or something else. It must teach us something new by viewing the data from a different perspective.

Here are a couple of examples:

1. Plotting the x and y coordinates of clash instances

clash detection visualization by x and y coordinates

clash detection visualization by x and y coordinates

Though seemingly obvious, the above image helps us tremendously to quickly understand a simple clash test. By plotting the x and y coordinates of each clash instance, and coloring them by the discipline, we are able to quickly identify the area and model that have the most issues. On the image above, the lighting model has an area of severe congestion on the north-east of the building. Without having gone through every clash, I already understand, at a high level, where most of my time should be spent.

Conflicts by x and y

Conflicts by x and y

Similarly, on this analysis we see an x y plot that quickly categorizes the source files of the clashes by color, labels the elements by name, and indicates the severity of the clash by the size of the bubble. This analysis looked at conflicts between curtain wall components against the building’s superstructure.

2. Ranking BIM elements by number of conflicts and severity

BIM visualization by element clash severity

BIM visualization by element clash severity

This image takes each distinct BIM element and ranks it based on number of identified conflicts and sizes them by severity. From this, we are able to quickly assess the type of elements that may need the most amount of attention. Not to imply that clash quantity is the single source for qualifying a coordination issue, it is not, but elements that have a high number of clashes of high severity should be addressed.

3. Model version comparison analysis

BIM version comparison

BIM version comparison

In this case, we are comparing one model version versus a previous one. We are interested in seeing how much, and what has changed between submissions. We see, very quickly that on this MEP model, most of the work has gone into re-routing plumbing systems and relocating electrical fixtures. This can be incredibly helpful on large projects to understand model progress and keep an eye on craft.

Dissecting the BIM execution plan

Following up on some posts I’ve made referring to the importance of the BIM execution plan (BEP), I wanted to go a bit more high level and talk a bit about what exactly it is that this document is supposed to do.

There are 5 major questions a BEP must answer:

  1. What is the objective for BIM on this project?
  2. What process will we be implementing to achieve said objectives?
  3. What standard of performance must the model meet in order to meet said objectives?
  4. What is included in the model, and who is responsible for including it? (This is your MET)
  5. How are others allowed to use the model?

There are, of course, other elements that people can add to this, like legal disclaimers, but at the core, this is what we should see. Naturally, a process change can create friction and unease. The BEP should go a long way to clear up any open questions across the team. Done correctly – allowing people to comment and participate – the process of developing a BEP should result in a clear definition of the rules one must respect in order to play the game. Without it, everyone plays by their own rules and the aggregate is no better than the sum of its parts.

Another couple of points to take into consideration are model ownership and whether the model has been defined as a contract deliverable or not. These will also have a large impact on how the BEP is structured. Usually, ‘self driven’ BEPs are much less strict and allow room for interpretation. Whereas ‘imposed’ BEPs can be hyper specific and dictate many areas of both the processes and technologies. We see this with the large owners usually…

All in all then, I believe that we should look at models like in a similar manner than we do the buildings. Many resources and processes are dedicated to their development and the end product should be representative of those who made it in both quality and reliability. When working with other parties toward a common goal, setting forth clear expectations is only good project management.

Beyond this, most BEPs will have a pretty tactical breakout of process and deliverable requirements. Unfortunately, most people see this as a sort of checklist that needs to be filled out. This isn’t the case. Defining the objectives for a BIM process on a project can and does have a huge influence on project delivery and should not be taken lightly. This touches everything, from people to decision-making, to contract documents. Losing control over deliverables is never a good place to be…

Repost: Dear architecture school, please tell us it is ok to do this.

Originally posted on ArchDaily on May 31st, 2011 (Link)

Image source: Treehugger

by Federico Negro

It seems as though a week doesn’t go by these days without someone asking me if I miss design…

Two and a half years ago I made the decision to leave the traditional path, and cross over to the dark side. I became a consultant (cut to dark stormy clouds and lightning). A technology consultant nonetheless… As such, my contributions to Practice 2.0 will focus on the impact of technology on issues of management during the latter stages of building design and construction.

Since then I’ve had the privilege, the luck even, to sit across the table from designers working for some of the biggest names in building design, engineering and construction both in New York and beyond. I’ve reviewed innumerable sets of diligently constructed documents and building models. I’ve crossed paths with many fascinating designers creating real impact through their work. And most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside many brilliant young professionals, a few of which will no doubt lead the New York design scene in the coming years…

If there is one thing that I can tell you about me is that I love buildings (noun) and I love building (verb) and I’m entrenched in the process making buildings every day. How will this be built and how can technology help? …are the central questions concerning my daily work.

So why am I still being asked if I miss design? Why did I have a sense of guilt when leaving the architecture office to focus on what I thought would be a challenging and rewarding path? Was I not being true to the ideals that attracted me to the profession to begin with?

In her upcoming article for Harvard Design Magazine, GSD Prof. Danielle Etzler stipulates that “If our best and our brightest recent graduates applied themselves to the project of building not only through the offices of architects but also through employment with our government, clients, construction managers, and consultants, in a single generation we would increase the quality of our built environment and instill values that establish architecture as an irreplaceable cultural currency. […] If we can imagine that we wouldn’t stop being architects by taking jobs wherever we can influence decisions related to buildings, our influence would grow exponentially.” (Danielle Etzler, Harvard Design Magazine #34, Spring 2011)

Considering the challenges facing the built environment in the coming years and decades then, it seems logical that good, high-level spatial thinkers and managers be in demand to fill positions of influence alongside building scientists, urban planners, etc… But the range of specialized knowledge needed to tackle problems like building performance and process inefficiency is vast and often misunderstood.

We must then, be excited about the possibilities of such pursuits and encourage young architects to pursue them without remorse if we are to impact the built environment at a large scale (as it is needed). What’s more, the construction industry has failed to keep up with increased productivity of other industrial sectors over the past five decades (Link, link, and link). Though there are many reasons for this, our industry’s relationship with technology is singled out as one of the main causes. Why have we been so quick to dismiss it?

This should scream out to us as professionals and to the academy as an immense opportunity, considering the technological advances of other industries over the same period (PCs, the internet, and Quadrocopters). So, while some focus on ‘regaining’ some romantic notion of control, we should instead realize that architects already have incredible power. The power to determine a vision, to set a path, to influence, to build teams, to specify, to solve problems, to lead.. We just need to be shown that not only is it ok to pursue these opportunities, it is also our responsibility.

In addition, those who focus on building information, energy, systems integration, constructability, simulation and other model-based fields should continue to see high demand (even in the midst of continued bad billings news). Architects with these skills are uniquely positioned to lead teams of experts that will not only work alongside those in traditional roles, but will also no doubt create a new class of building industry entrepreneurs unbound by traditional rules of practice.

So no, I don’t miss design. I don’t miss it because I don’t believe I ever left it. Segregating the processes that go into getting something built from what seems to be the commonplace definition of design will only continue to produce un-integrated buildings. These will do little to give architects their much deserved voice amongst those who will define the future of our built environment.

If you have examples of schools, people, companies, or communities that are creating new opportunities and expanding our business reach while providing a much needed service / product and are using technology to do so, please let us know – we’d love to hear it…