Why did you first get into BIM and digital design?
It became quite natural. Among others, we were working with projects in Singapore and the UK, countries in which standardisations were underway which demanded construction to be designed in BIM. Meaning there were changes in government regulations that pushed us towards developing our BIM understanding, this was especially important when working with public projects. You see, BIM has been around for about 30 years but there were still some way to go regarding technology accessabiliy and our maturity towards it.
As we started looking into our BIM methods we realized we can´t isolate our projects case by case, but instead need look at the whole picture from a wider perspective. We needed to work with how we think about BIM within the company as well as developing new competencies of our employees. So I became responsible for the structure of the organisation and the strategy for how do to scale up our skills.
I like to treat BIM as a innovation, because it is. BIM impacts not only the tools we use but also the people and the way we think. The origin of BIM is collaboration and if you mean to collaborate you need to have a structure; an IT-structure, established work flows and you really need to have a human perspective. As in, what are the habits of actual people. Most people are used to working like in a factory, imagine the assembly line princible. But BIM is not about focusing on your own part and then handing it over to the next person, its about working together. You need to understand the need of the next person and you need to be able to work on a project at the same time as the rest of your team. This skill is still something that is developing but I believe we have reached a new, higher level of maturity now, what is still missing is the information about the products themselves.
Like this: a building is made up of different products and these products should sustain over time. After 20 years we should know what products were used in a building, how we can reuse and repair it during facility management. So what we really need to do now is to connect the manufacturing industry with the work flow of the design construction and then find a way to save important information for later.
We did an excercise when I was part of the civil engineering department. I invited everyone who worked in different trades; architects, electrical, mechanical, and equipment specialist. And I asked, how do you see the process with BIM, and without? What we discovered was that people don´t actually know the process. It is written somewhere in the quality review and while there is some idea of how we use the outcome of the work, they don´t know the process. They couldn´t explain how to work quicker or didn´t actully know if they provide what is needed on time. And when it comes to the construction phase there are other actors and companies that you need to have in mind as well, like subcontractors or specific technical advisors. All of these people need to understand the requirements of the project, but they also need to have a common language to properly communicate.
It all boils down to collaboration really. It is not about tools, its about people learning to work together within a workflow. And in the context of BIM, collaboration is different. This is not easily done but rather a very complex process. Still the tools aren´t 100% integrated, they are expensive, they need to be learned. So there are still some distance to go before we will have everything running effortlessly.
What do you think will happen when fire safety design becomes BIM integrated?
This is something I have been thinking of even more since I started at Knauf Insulation. It is especially important that the information is included much earlier in the process than it is now. Fire safety requirement is one of these issues, but also accessability. Requirements like these are among the most demanded within a project and are today added into the model by the end of the design process, which is very counterproductive. If these requirements would be incorporated in the early stages of the design instead it would allow the model to be built around the solutions rather than having them forced upon it at the end.
We need to push for fire information to be entered much earlier, to be equal to for example grid or architectural design. Then we will have much better processes and better optimized workflows throughout.
What do you see as the single most important benefit with BIM and digital design?
We need to think about cost. Every single thing we do is actually not about saving the world, it is about meeting the requirements for a specific task. So by the end, we talk about cost. And we talk about cost optimization in different contexts. In constuction today, each project only has a slim margin to work with. With completely new sets of data that are much more reliable, this margin would significantly improve. And for manufacturers, the data BIM could provide would allow production of products needed for specific, concrete projects. This in turn would optimize the production line and supply chain.
Today some think that automatization will destroy the industry and take away our jobs, that machines will be able to do everything and anything. I dont think this. We need to come back to the basics, and make the machines what we want and need them to do. And then we need to find new skill sets that complement the machines, or rather, make the machines complement us. By the end, if we continue to improve ourselves, we will be winners.
More about Magdalena Pyszkowski Magdalena holds a Master degree of Civil Engineering from Warsaw University of Technology and an Executive Master of Digital Transformation from Sciences PO in Paris. She is also the co-writer of the book “BIM and data” and is now working on a second book. Currently leading an international product development with the focus on data driven collaboration among building products manufacturers, project specifiers and construction companies.
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