A hard line in the sand?


One often hears about the distinctions between “Construction BIM” and “Design BIM”. The distinctions of course are real and significant.

With regard to the the handling of information, its creation and purpose, there are real differences. An oft-discussed useful example is the concrete slab. For design, the slab is often modeled as continuous across an entire floor, possibly marked with symbols indicating control joints. In reality, during construction, the slab of course is divided and joined in ways that may or may not have been specifically modeled during design, although they may have been detailed outside of the model, during design.

The idea that there is a line in the sand separating design from construction is often stated in a way that seems to imply that “design BIM” is not, in the first place, oriented toward the projection of communication into construction. Yet “design BIM” (or design generally) clearly is oriented toward “directiveness” that says, at construction: “understand this, and do this, and, this (something clearly defined) is reliable.”

Confusion comes from BIM’s inability to communicate this directiveness. BIMs are not directive; drawings are. Drawings are a vehicle of directiveness. But, the reason that BIMs don’t communicate directiveness, is not a good one. BIMs are passive and non-directive only because of the limited capabilities of BIM software which until recently has been designed only to create non-directive environmental models, and to use those models to automate the production of directiveness in its conventional form only, as drawings.

Such a state of the art, as we struggle with today, only maintains and reinforces the abstractness of directiveness, rather than allowing the expression of it right within the context of the modeled (or captured) environment of the BIM.

This capability has recently become commerically available however http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqLDk8gO1Yw , but until it did last year, software has remained functionally the same for 30 years in AEC. A change that makes an impact is getting directiveness presented within the model, and this happens now comprehensively and automatically, like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xAfZEK7hrY

Whether you get directiveness into your modeled environment during construction or during design or both (it should be both), in either case, you don’t model everything. Instead you deliver directiveness.

Getting the directiveness in the modeled and captured environment helps you think more clearly about your work, and also helps you communicate it more clearly. This is true during construction and true during design, and true as design communications are delivered into construction.

A word about process, crossing the line in the sand:

Design begins by being unfocused and exploratory (so, messy), and through a process of focusing and development, it moves toward sharpness. At the end, when delivered for construction, the content is sufficiently sharpened.

During construction, that content is sharpened yet more, and built.

Today’s BIM tools have not been giving enough capability where capability is needed, for getting focused and for sharpening.

When talking with users in design and construction, about a project like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xAfZEK7hrY  – they say that, yes, this new capability that automatically puts the directiveness into the modeled environment (BIM) does help them focus on what they are doing.

  • It helps focus work in places where it matters.
  • It helps ensure that drawings and models are not diverging from each other unnecessarily.

Having them together in-situ puts things in plain sight. Putting things in plain sight delivers insight.

Insight is much valued. This is true during the thinking (design) and during the doing (construction). We communicate better during design and during construction about specifically what is important to look at and do, and what is validated.

The transformation of passive non-directive visual environments (like BIMs) into Directive Environments that infuse directive communication directly into modeled and captured visual environments rather than leaving it strictly abstracted into conventional disconnected forms (drawings) only…makes real impact where impact matters: on the ability to see and think more clearly about the development of complex things, and to communicate more effectively about them.

So it opens an innovation frontier.

In the future we will see many new kinds of environments, and many new ways of expressing directiveness within them. 2012 was a beginning of much more to come. As directiveness takes on new forms in the future, contextualized in environments and not limited to the specific forms of this first implementation, the definitive aspects of directiveness will very likely continue to be relevant.

So let’s define directiveness. Directiveness in AEC has certain definitive aspects.

Directives are:

location-specific, each drawing represents a location (defined in some clear way) in a proposed environment of a real project. Location-specificity has an important practical consequence: drawings are

finite in number, drawings are finite in number because we don’t draw all locations in a proposed project, but only the representative few that we intentionally choose to draw. Because drawings are finite in number, their development and review is an achievable task. So because drawings are finite in number, drawings are

reviewable, drawings are reviewable by someone authorized to review, and because drawings are reviewed they can be

issued, drawings are issued with the confidence that comes from review. What follows from confidence is that drawings are

affirmative; each drawing affirms: “at this location, everything that should be present here (at this location), is present here, I affirm it.” Because of this affirmed validation, each drawing is effectively and reliably

directive; each drawing effectively directs people to, “look -here-, understand -this-, and do -this-.”

Communication is transformed and improved when directiveness is infused directly into modeled and captured visual environments, transforming passive non-directive environments into directive environments that are specifically useful for work.

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