Interviews

The Manufacturer’s Perspective on openBIM, with David Southam

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David Southam has been at FARO for ten years, he started by measuring components for vehicles with an old coordinated based manual-measurement system. Now he predominantly works on large scale labor scanning with survey or construction companies. His work can cover many areas including forestry, crime scenes and the visual effects of the movie industry. He first came to work with BIM seven years ago after a demonstration on 3D laser scanning equipment, he told us:  “I remember being blown away by the technology so I thought that’s where I need to position myself for the future.”

Could you please provide an introduction into your organization, highlighting where and how you integrate into BIM projects, on what level, and perhaps also across which sectors you operate so as best to give further meaning in the further questions?

We are on the manufacturing side of BIM and are very much focused on data capture and turning this data into something people can use. As a company we have employed specialists in these areas who know exactly what the deliverable is going to be. In the past we would have employed people who could sell a piece of hardware, now we have to employ people who can demonstrate the full solution.

For instance if a company wanted to laser scan a building and then 3D print it, the way in which we would process the data and the software we would use would be different to if we were creating a BIM that had full asset information and full library information attached to it. In answer to the question in essence we have had to employ specialist skills at FARO to handle that technology.

Regarding the present BIM landscape, what do you feel are some of the shortcomings of traditional, closed BIM, and do you feel that a more open, transparent and collaborative approach based on open standards and workflows can resolve some of these concerns?

We are very much on the open BIM side of things, we have software and products that are specifically designed to be freely shared via internet browsers and as far as we are concerned we provide detailed information which is useless unless people can access it. We don’t want people to select information and hold it back from other people within the project scope, it has got to be available and used correctly.

Closed BIM can narrow down the scope of what people can do with design flexibility and often there could be people adding information to a project that can affect key decisions that have already been made. The more people involved and the more people collaborating with one another the better the end result will be and the more financially successful a project will be. Often things can be spotted quite late on in a project and only people with access to certain information will be able to find this, the results of not having a full team approach on it can lead to a negative outcome.

What benefits can see you a transparent and collaborative workflow, with a common language and translation, bringing to construction projects, both in comparison to those already utilizing BIM and also those which are perhaps not.

By using data as a collaborative approach and in a very open form you can have people discussing projects directly with the clients and rather than just in conversation you can actually visit the project virtually. We’ve got protocol website cloud where you can laser scan a building and then can go directly with the client to a specific point in the project. This particular approach shows that the both the client and the collaborator are on board and that everybody understands exactly what the scope is. Any potential issues can be discussed at this point to avoid later issues, leading to massive time saving.

There is also mileage savings, you can go as deep as to say environmental savings, for example to get five people to a site in Scotland to have a chat about a project is costly, and uses a lot of CO2, so we have environmental aspects. Virtual meetings and virtual collaborations are also part of BIM further down the line and raises the future questions what else are we going to do with BIM?

What limitations or challenges might you also see stemming from collaborative workflow, and can you see this means of working being one to stunt creativity and relationship development, or perhaps complement it in the alternative means of working, with clear controls over personal design data?

I think certain challenges really come down to training, people need to know how to use the data, why to use it and exactly what is expected from them, if you expect people to use any data that you give them without real training then you’ll be at a loss. It’s all down to the operators using the data having a full understanding what a client

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