Hong Kong BIM Conference 2015

 In BIM, Events, Opinion

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To BIM or not to BIM

On the 19th November enzyme attended to the 7th BIM conference organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Building Information Modelling (HKIBIM) together with the Construction Industry Council (CIC) at the Wanchai exhibition Centre.

Although we have been involved with BIM for almost a decade, this occasion was the first time for us as a “professional certified member” of the BIM community, so we were very curious about what the big brothers of industry had to say and show about it.  The “BIM for adults”.

What we have seen so far is that still not that many of those BIM projects are happening yet in Hong Kong, or at least none of them were shown.

We got to see some interesting examples shown by Chris Lock (BIM manager of Steensen Varming) about how BIM can enhance your design process and help architects and clients taking informed decisions (the very first step in the right direction about implementing BIM), but all of them were located in Australia, where BIM is widely implemented and accepted already for many years.

Also was shared an interesting but very technical exercise about facade design optimisation in high complex geometries  developed by the guys of Gehry Technologies in China.

Hong Kong is still afraid of BIM. Nobody questions now the fact of the future adoption of BIM but still the global idea is very far away from being real. This great city still prefers to play it safe.

As Dr. Christopher To, Executive director of the Construction Industry Council of Hong Kong, says “Hong Kong doesn’t innovate”. All this technology has been used in other industries as the Aviation for decades with proved results.

He said, manpower is a problem all over the world, even in Hong Kong, but I have to disagree on that. Australia and other western countries have happily adopted BIM because manpower is a problem there. Labour is expensive and productivity is a matter of survival for the companies.

Hong Kong doesn’t innovate

He said, manpower is a problem all over the world, even in Hong Kong, but I have to disagree on that. Australia and other western countries have happily adopted BIM because manpower is a problem there. Labour is expensive and productivity is a matter of survival for the companies.

Unfortunately Hong Kong prefers quantity over quality, overtime hours over efficient systems strategy and planning. In a robust economy, companies could still afford  such inefficiencies in resource allocation because they were doing well, but in a changing economic and cultural climate in Hong Kong it’s a big question what the future will be.

What I totally subscribe from his speech is that we need to improve to get better return as society. We need to innovate and we need local government agencies, industry leaders and the competent boards to join the revolution with passion and faith.

We need them to create standards that allow us to talk to each other, with the different disciplines and players, not just locally but to the greater international community.

We need them to educate the professionals, the clients and the general public, help them understand the importance of improving all the processes of the construction industry that generates 38% of the total waste in Hong Kong.

We need them to regulate, to ensure quality and to be neutral. This is very important, they need to understand the big picture of this global game. Regulations are meant to ensure a fair play among the participants, not to favour friends.

The revolution of information and data has just started. This is something we have concluded from our attendance at the BIM conference seeing all this lectures about different vendors and players, about Smart cities, BIG data, analysis tools, internet of things and virtual reality.  The most pronounced word at the event was “Collaboration”. But do we really understand the implications of that?

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The bigger message of the conference was not just about BIM but the broader implication of the information Era. Probably the discussion won’t be about BIM any more soon but about something much bigger. This comprehensive vision of data, extracted and analysed from many different disciplines, will allow us to have the capacity of improve our processes and in a ultimate instance, our life. It will give us a the chance to have a better usage of the energy, the water and the land. To better manage our waste, to keep people aware by the display of this information of how the city and resources are used. It can make us to be more responsible of our decisions, as professionals, cities, countries and individuals.

As spiderman said, with a great power comes a great responsibility!

To enable this revolution we MUST create open formats that not only virtually but actually allow different platforms to communicate with each other. I am not only talking about different software platforms (that’s just obvious) but also about something greater. I really think that there’s a widespread interest to keep the process open and evolving in an environment to allow all parts to benefit from it and enhance it progressively as it evolves with different visions.

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HKIBIM, CIC and Hong Kong in general should really make an effort to understand what is happening internationally and look into the effort that Building Smart and other players are doing to advocate IFC (the open BIM standard) as the industry standard. The Hong Kong community must also be clear that BIM is a concept that is a much broader category of significance than a specific software or an assumed ‘industry standard’ known as Revit. We found it shocking that so many HK industry associates use these terms interchangeably and incorrectly describe Revit as the only option when discussing BIM technology. This basic point renders hollow all the talk about collaboration and integration with the wider global currents in BIM.

 

This world that we are just having a glimpse of now still needs to grow and to develop. BIM’s significance for Hong Kong is much greater than technical efficiency and market share. It is about the potential to liberate and empower participants in every step of the process, to get everyone on board, and to have a platform for everyone to communicate intelligently and accurately. Public institutions should work to promote these new standards for society.

 

Of course there were also some very fascinating concepts and products shared by other speakers. One in particular is the immense potential of extracting data from BIM at an urban scale, that is basically, how the storage and use of meaningful information behind a 3D interface can enhance the decision-making process at the city level where the “information” turns into BIG Data.

 

We have seen amazing tools to collect the data (laser scanners, drones, satellites or even information retrieved from users using smart phones) and even more impressive softwares to analyse that information and use it or share it.

Smart planning. Improve the quality of our cities and our lives as citizens, reduce the environmental impact to the planet and to make our lives more comfortable and more sustainable….

But to get there we need to define the path we want to walk. Big data can be meaningless if you don’t know what you need to analyse, and if you don’t know the parameters that really matter. Here, for good or bad, we still need the human mind (and clear principles) to make certain judgement and decisions.

BIM and CIM (City Information Modelling) are the same concepts seen from different scales. Both need structure to data and open formats (standards defined) that enable the communication between all the participants. Information embedded inside information, like the Russian Matryoshkas.

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The challenges of this comprehensive process are:

 

1. Technology:

Hardware and software have to support the size of the files and the huge amounts of data.

 2. Education and Adoption:

This is probably the greatest challenge. As we said at the beginning of the article, this is a big revolution that is poised to change the way we work and ultimately the way we live. The general public has to engage with it and the government and institutions need  not fear it but to embrace this revolution with passion.

 3. Information Management:

Hierarchy and structure of the information and also the legal aspects about the ownership of the public and private data need to be revised.

 4. Performance Life Cycle:

The last important idea from the conference is that for a “smart process” to be meaningful, it needs to be continued during the whole life of the building. Facility Management (FM) represents 80% of the global cost of a building. There’s a big market here to help owners to drastically reduce costs, energy waste and extend the life of their properties through proper maintenance. That process is already being improved by technology but there’s still room for innovation here. The “Internet of Things” will at some point be connected to the BIM/FM process, but that possibility is worth another article in itself.

 

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In conclusion, I have to say that despite all our differences, I believe that Hong Kong is finally on the right path to embrace BIM and its broader significance and benefits. We fully support all the efforts of the Government bodies, ArchSD, HKIBIM, CIC, BUILDING SMART, educational institutes and the different vendors and companies to promote BIM technology (even if out of self-interest) because they are also advancing the improvement of the whole society and a better world.

 

There isn’t any more the question “to BIM or not to BIM”.  It is already happening!

 

Hong Kong, 20 November 2015

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