Thursday, August 9, 2012

Future of Visualization using Building Information Modeling (BIM) – 2020 Vision

With much hype about building information modeling (BIM) in last 5-6 years, now (2012) industry has arrived at a point where BIM is in every AECO professional’s dictionary. BIM is not only a fancy world in these professional’s dictionaries but they are using it for various advantages over their non-BIM using competitors. A recent example is the use of building information modeling at at Panama Canal Expansion.
It’s all good that BIM is in use and its adoption is increasing exponentially. The question posed to the industry geeks is what is the future of BIM? Well, here is my take on the future of BIM-

1. We will move from 2D display Views to 3D-non-immersive Viewing

User interfaces can improve task performance by exploiting the powerful human capabilities for spatial cognition. 3D displays support cognitive spatial abilities. Moving from 2D displays to 3D display will be the next main stream evolution of BIM.
2. We will further move from 3D-Non-imersive viewing to 3D-immersive viewing

At Harvard University, Mental Imagery and Human-Computer Interaction Lab investigates how distinct visualization abilities could be improved as a result of training in 3D immersive virtual environments. Their results demonstrate that 3D immersive environments appear to be significantly more efficient for training imagery skills than 2D or 3D non-immersive environments. Their findings revealed that the 3D Perspective-Taking Test facilitated a 200% increase in performance (i.e., the rate of error reduction), compared to the non-immersive 2D version of the test. 

3. We will use Augmented Reality for Visualizing Building Models

Yes, I am talking about spinning the building with your hands in an augmented reality world. If you may recall the Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man in the movie) spinning iron man suite in the movie Iron Man, than you understand what I am talking about.

In the process of developing the product the engineer must mentally manage a large amount of important information which leads to high cognitive complexity. Available engineering drawings do not reduce the complexity that the engineer is facing or help him handle it. The 2D engineering drawings should be easy to use and should help the engineer manage the design-related complexity. The cognitive complexity can lead to a situation in which important design factors are not taken into consideration and this leads to failure. Realistic perception of the 3D models from 2D engineering drawings plays an important role in decision making of design engineers. Recent studies show that a system with a three dimensional representation of the model increases the performances of the users carrying out tasks which require the perception and understanding of spatial information. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR) systems, in which users are completely immersed in the virtual environment, Augmented Reality users see the virtual objects and the real world co-existing in the same space (co-located). The co-location of the 3D CAD models in the real environment provides the possibility of a realist perception of the physical engineering drawing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

30 Storey Hotel (T-30) Construction in 15 Days - Coordination and Collaboration at its Best

A 30 story, 17,000 square meter hotel - T-30 is built in 15 days in Changsha, China. Building foundation was laid ahead of superstructure construction and superstructure was built with prefabricated components. These ultra fast construction schedule was only made possible with the help of prefabrication technologies. Prefabrication is changing the way buildings are constructed.


 It will be interesting to look at the level of coordination and collaboration needed for this sort of perfection. Tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Last Planner System (LPS) become even more important for achieving this level of perfection in coordination. Making sure that each component fits on site as intended and functions as designed would be only possible with 3D coordination and 4D schedule visualization. Coordination in fabrication facilities will be efficient with the application of Last Planner System. Moreover, effective supply chain management during construction will be critical. Just-in-time delivery of components will require impeccable coordination between suppliers, manufacturers, warehouses and construction team. Prefabrication method is leaner than on site construction and wide adoption of prefab methods can make it cost effective as well.

Chinese company Board Sustainable Building, who built this hotel, claims that this building is 5 times energy efficient than industry standard and is earth quake resistant for up to 9.0 earthquake. There are skeptics about safety practices applied during construction however company claims that prefabrication helped reducing the safety risks.

Reference Link -

The Los Angeles Times, Building Design and Construction  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Using Intelligent Tools will Save Construction Teams from Information Overflow

Information overflow is a reality in all walks of life these days. Gone are the days when email communication was blessing for business. We live in an era of information overflow whether it be our Inbox or a social network site. We literally skim through all the information we see and try to keep up with overwhelming sea of information. I don't want to say that information technology is not a blessing anymore but I want to point out the need for intelligent systems (software and hardware specifically) to manage the information for us and also interpret this information based on our preferences and behavior. The intelligent systems that provide us with just enough information when we need it and where we need it.

Companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook are doing awesome job of understanding user behavior and writing algorithms to accomplish the same goal of relevant information delivery to right people at right time and at right place. Mostly, these companies are targeting consumers whom they can sale advertisements. However, how good a job today's enterprise level solutions doing for solving the same problem for construction industry? Very few. Most of enterprise level tools for construction industry are still desktop based making no or very insignificant use of web enabled technologies to design intelligent solutions for construction companies.

Use of building information modeling (BIM) has significantly drawn industry's attention towards importance of information management and information sharing for architects, engineers, contractors and owners. Initiatives such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), IFD, agcXML and other initiatives by Building Smart Alliance, National Institute of Science & Technology and International Alliance for Interoperability are helping in standardizing information workflow, semantics, ontology and processes for seamless information flow among various software applications. Yet, intelligent systems to help interpret information and help decision making are still lacking.

It is great that we generate a whole lot of information during product development and stay proactive in making decisions based on this information however efficiency in using relevant information at the right time and at right place can be priceless. Consider a scenario where a whole lot of relevant information about a project is generated using state of the art BIM solutions and that information is a click away for all project participants. Also this information is available in raw format (3D geometry, schedule databases, resource databases and other project databases). Without the use of a layer of intelligent tools (software and hardware) this information will be overwhelming for majority of project participants. 4D (3D + time) modeling came a long way and it is an example of such intelligent tools. We need more such intelligent tools (both desktop based and web based) to help make right decisions and take calculated risks on construction sites.