Salford BIM Conference 2017


A pleasure once again to attend this very well attended and important conference at Adelphi House in Greater Manchester.

Professor Jason Underwood (Senior Lecturer BIM & Construction, BAF) ably steered the room throughout the day thanks to his keen animated demeanour. Which really helped at times as no conference is ever snag free and this was no exception (I’d like to see a mandate that galvanises presentation software and hardware). That said, Jason introduced proceedings with a quick overview of the latest NBS report and housekeeping duties before welcoming the first speaker of the day.

Graeme Forbes (COE, Clearbox BIM) did a sterling job of explaining how clients had propelled Clearbox themselves to endeavour to always get the most out of technology, remembering exactly why we all started this journey in the first place. The act of delivering real usable assets in a digital manner and not “tickbox BIM”, Graeme even avoided BIM as a term and used “digitisation” instead. A discussion of the benefits and pitfalls of using the B word can be found here. Indeed what is telling of the state of play at the moment is that, as Forbes identified, BIM used to be a top three agenda item at board level meetings. Whereas nowadays it is less considered as the board has since “hired a BIM Manager to take care of all that” so this BIM thing is apparently all sorted now in their eyes. Dangerous indeed.

Graeme has also been met with the tired “this is a 2D job so BIM does not affect it” however doing it well (correctly) in a digital way is a cheaper way longer term, as some of the later case studies attested. A discussion of tech evolution, compliance vs ROI and a dissection of a process map followed, before case studies were presented. The overseas Oosterweel link worthy of special mention. When it comes to making the most of technology “we have to aim beyond the finishing line to hit it fully” a valid point that was well made.

Following this strong start Jill Guthrie (Senior BIM Manager, Willmott Dixon Construction) provided a candid and refreshing good old fashioned honest account of how her organisation had implemented BIM so far, with time to focus on what went well and what was still being improved. Notable points were that of twenty four ongoing projects only two had EIRs, and of the FM providers they had encountered they were certainly less than forthcoming in a BIM capacity. Jill also spoke openly of hidden problems with the supply chain. In particular of steel fabricators who as we all know “have been doing this for years” but not in the way that WD need them to (attending coordination workshops for a start). Plus there was an overall frustration with the way that many supply chain companies simply do not seem to bother with coordinates. In terms of case studies the new National College for High Speed Rail project was included, as well as a look at the ongoing very successful initiative when it comes to attracting young talent into the industry. Great work indeed.

After the short but welcome break Rob Clifton (Project Information Manager, Asite) gave an admittedly time pressured but very impressive account of how Asite has almost “foolproofly” incorporated PASS1192 facets it into the platform, such that revisioning and document auditing becomes very swift indeed. The importance of not mixing up the purpose of issue with the item status was also evaluated, as was a good look at how a working MIDP can be constructed and used. Always good to see real world applications expanded and used in a demonstrable way and Rob took questions with ease.

George Mokhtar (Associate Director, Turner & Townsend) took the unenviable position of trying to describe BIM Level 3. Relating it well to Digital Build Britain but admitting that the context in which it exists is not yet defined. Before revealing example case studies that T&T are progressing around the world, built on the collaboration and expertise of their UK teams. Indeed the UK is very much in the spotlight and for good reason. George concluded that sharing our good news and being one community was a fitting call to action that underpinned his dedicated and interesting overview.

Alan Muse (Global Built Environment Director, RICS) provided a useful focus on BIM for business management with an emphasis on the implications that this has especially for cost and time roles within the BIM-o-sphere. Indeed Muse has championed this for some time and he was keen to remind the crowd (60% of which were designers) that it is not solely a design tool and that clients value his focus areas much more when engaged in conversation. Indeed client approach and intent remains paramount (are they unitary or pluralistic, sophisticated or lay) and Muse did well to illuminate his points. How BIM has changed contractual processes and conditions was also examined, before the introduction of the RICS championed International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) which continue to be a considerable and obviously positive undertaking.

Roger Kadama (Desap Solutions) introduced a colleague to talk about Horizon 2020 (an EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation) with a call to arms for companies that are looking for an R&D partner to swiftly get in touch. This shorter but no less interesting presentation looked at the more subtle sides of AR/VR, IoT and materials science et al which held the room well.

Samit Patel (BIM Specialist, Computers Unlimited) delivered an overview of how Vectorworks can assist the designer throughout a typical model authoring workflow, with the occasional nod to LOD considerations as well. A newcomer to presenting Samit ran through a lot of great looking features that design professionals really should familiarise themselves with when choosing authoring software (not just for landscape design, for which it is strongly known).

Rob Faulkner (AEC Industry Specialist) introduced the Bluebeam Revu PDF markup/ collaboration tool which was well received and indeed already familiar to 45% of the audience. Ideal for clients and external parties to review models easily, a slightly misplaced comparison of PDF to IFC was made, which Martin Simpson (Arup) quickly picked up during a scrutinising Q&A. Rob put the software across well however, despite technical problems now and again (no fault of his own) and the delegates could really see that value of the application. Even to this day the name of this software trips me up, keep the “e” on blue, but drop it on Revu, that said it is a strong and swift application that is well worthy of revu.

Due to Richard Saxon and Paul Surin being unable to attend, a shame, Alistair Kell (Principal, BDP) stepped in to talk about the evolution of drawn information and the implications of what BIM means for this. Before providing an illuminating and honest account of just how BDP have implemented BIM Level 2 on a handful of projects. Lovely touches like providing QR codes on drawings (and making the bdpvr.com site available) for users of Google Cardboard was a sensible touch that really adds easy value to stakeholder and client engagement.

Michael Johnson (Senior BIM Consultant, Plowman Craven) provided an important overview of the value and significance of as built verification. A necessary PAS1192 requirement several surveying tools, techniques and approaches were presented, each superb for verifying items in 3D space, but challenges were presented when considering the duality of information validation as well. A strong area for future growth and development as Michael observed. This was a confident and dedicated presentation that was a fitting end to an open and varied day.

Professor Underwood deftly wrapped things up while delegates continued to network positively as the room emptied. Another quality event, testimony to the continued interest in BIM in the region so do get along to your local meetings. Definitely one for the calendar next year.

Hope to see you there.

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