A “Perfect Storm” for AEC Industry Transformation

By Akio


Click to TweetClick to Tweet: A “Perfect Storm”
for #AEC Industry Transformation

It’s no secret that the AEC industry is suffering from a surplus of waste: wasted materials, wasted time spent on rework and change orders, waste from highly fragmented processes.

However, what the industry is beginning to realize is that it’s not the first group to think, There must be a better way.

The aerospace industry is one recent example; in the 1990s, companies such as Boeing began to look at technologies and processes used in other industries to tighten their supply chain and manufacturing processes. A switch to all-digital modeling made this possible.

Also necessary was a switch in mindset. Aerospace professionals had to switch their thinking from “project” to “product,” and adopt product lifecycle management tools that would deliver increased value to the end-user.

With these 2 steps, AEC professionals can likewise optimize their processes:

Step 1. Adopting Revised Business Models

According to Hector Lorenzo Camps, founder of PHI Cubed Inc., the industry is looking for ways to improve, but to truly move forward will first have to revise its compensation and business models.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “To move forward, #AEC industry
1st must revise its comp & business models” @HectorCamps

Although design-build contracts are increasingly popular, there remains too little true partnership among all parties involved in the design, construction and operations processes.

Today’s typical contracts emphasize distinct roles for all players in order to help control liability.

“Many relationships in the industry are strained because of the adversarial nature of the industry standard contracts that pin professionals against each other to divide risk,” Camps says.

New collaborative forms of agreement—namely, Integrated Project Delivery—remain slow to take off as AEC professionals explore new liability rules and shift from a “best for me” to a “best for project” mentality.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: #AEC is shifting (slowly) from
“best for me” to “best for project” mentality.

Tied to this need to collaborate is another necessary step for AEC professionals: the need to shake their reliance on a 2D, paper-based management process.

Step 2. Adopting Tools for Better Integration

Until all industry players make the switch to 3D processes, there will be a problem with what Camps calls “two versions of the truth with documentation, one in 2D and the other in 3D.”

Many firms are working with a mix of 2D CAD and 3D BIM to accommodate all parties’ preferences.

“Contractually, firms go with the 2D documents, which often are obsolete and predate the model. Builders under pressure, wanting to build from the best available data, are asking to build from the model and produce 2D documents after,” Camps says. “The coordinated model needs to drive the dimensional and informational control of the project and the field implementation documents. The contractual language needs to reflect this.”

Camps believes owners—who ultimately stand to gain the most from collaborative projects—will drive this evolution to 3D.

“All they need to do is write into their contracts the information management strategy. As long as the roles, responsibilities and use case for information are defined, and intellectual property is dealt with, they should have no problem getting professionals to deliver digital documents,” he says.

Why Now Is The Time For Change

The good news? The AEC industry is already beginning to adopt the tools and processes that will make transformation possible.

“We have the perfect storm for real industry transformation as significant as the industrial revolution,” Camps predicts.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: .@HectorCamps predicts a “perfect storm
for #AEC transformation as significant as #IndustrialRevolution”

First, AEC professionals are beginning to borrow concepts from manufacturing. To further reduce waste and improve quality, the industry is looking to close the gap between design and fabrication. Lean construction is one such effort, as the industry attacks waste by taking lessons learned from Lean Manufacturing and Just in Time delivery models.

Second, Camps points to a number of technology solutions becoming available that may further speed improvement.

For example, the advent of cloud computing is making it easier than ever for all players to work together in a more tightly connected process.

As Camps points out, AEC companies generally have far fewer employees than manufacturing industries, making it potentially more difficult to invest in an expensive data management system. Cloud computing can allow even small firms to participate in building lifecycle management without having to invest in prohibitively expensive data management systems.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: Cloud computing allows small firms to
participate in #BLM without investing in expensive systems

By putting data on the cloud, it’s also typically easier for various parties to share data and resources related to a project.

“This ad hoc approach to PLM makes it very easy for the AEC industry to adopt the benefits of integration and collaboration without all the forward structuring that would happen if they had to form a unique corporation in order to integrate their processes,” Camps says.

In addition, the Internet of Things is making it easier to move digital models from the drawing table to the field, giving contractors and designers rapid insight into potential problems. And Camps even points to rapid manufacturing, such as 3D printing, as a potentially promising technology for optimization, as these tools could someday make it possible to produce one off building components while maintaining the economies of scale of standard offsite production facilities.

Beyond technology, however, today’s growing engagement from public owners looking to spend more wisely is invigorating further innovation in connectedness.

The most carefully watched case in point is the UK’s Level 2 BIM requirement for federal buildings, set to become effective in 2016.

“It’s expected that by 2019, BIM Level 3 will be required. Level 3 in essence is ‘full collaboration between all disciplines by means of using a single, shared project model which is held in a centralized repository,’” Camps says.

He adds, “By that definition, they just described the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.”

Related Resources

Collaborative, Industrialized Construction Solutions from Dassault Systèmes

Spotlight on PHI Cubed: Guiding the AEC Industry Toward Greater Levels of Integration

Spotlight on MEMKO: Pushing Collaboration Across the Project Life Cycle to Revolutionize Design and Construction

Spotlight on Impararia: Reducing the Gap Between Aerospace Optimization and AEC Inefficiency

Taking the high road

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar


Roads are not just a way to get from A to B. They change how the land is used, especially in rural areas, and can transform lives and livelihoods. But “more” is not always “better.”

Roads allow people to reach health centers, schools and markets, which produces healthier, more skilled citizens, and in turn generates trade, jobs and economic growth. Roads can also lower food and other prices, and cut waste. Indeed, a paved road can halve the chances of spoilage, by getting fresh food to market quicker. According to the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a $239 billion investment in roads (as well as rail and electricity networks) in developing markets over the next 15 years could eliminate $3.1 trillion in food waste.

Yet about 1.2 billion people worldwide still lack access to an all-weather road, according to the World Bank. That is changing rapidly. Roads are being built at an unprecedented pace: 25 million kilometers of paved thoroughfares are expected to be built by 2050—enough to circle the Earth 600 times, says William Laurance, research professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, and director of its Center for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science.

But are these roads being built where they are most needed?

We need to focus on roads within a few hours of cities, where most land is settled, agriculture is inefficient and there’s a lot of wastage getting crops to urban markets,” Dr. Laurance says.

“The place NOT to build roads is in the last wilderness areas,” he adds. “The first cut is the deepest. Deforestation is like cancer, and a road is the first tumor.”

iStock_000071608141_SmallThe United Nations estimates that 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually, producing 12% to 20% of greenhouse gas emissions—and roads make things worse. A study of Brazil’s Amazon basin found that for every kilometer of legal road, there are three kilometers of illegal roads, and that 95% of deforestation occurs within 5.5 kilometers of roads.

Even with positive initiatives such as the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, good intentions in one area can backfire in another. Consider, for example, efforts to bring electricity to the 1.3 billion people without power. This can improve health by keeping food and medicine fresh, and reduce poverty by boosting economic development. Moreover, electricity from hydroelectric dams doesn’t directly emit greenhouse gases. Currently, 3,700 hydroelectric dams bigger than one megawatt are under construction globally, mostly in developing countries.

However, besides flooding large areas of land, remote dams also require new road networks for passing power lines and for maintenance, Dr. Laurance says. And once roads are built into forests, logging, land speculation, illegal mining, poaching, farming and other activities tend to follow.

“It isn’t the project itself. It’s the secondary impacts of all the road building that causes the biggest damage,” he says.

iStock_000063980733_SmallIn March 2015, Foundation Earth, a Washington-based nonprofit think tank, wrote to the Group of 20 (G-20) major nations urging their leaders to avoid the kind of large infrastructure projects that lock in emissions and environmental damage seen in past developments.

“We need full cost accounting, to disclose externalities—the pollution—and that’s not done now,” says Randy Hayes, Foundation Earth’s executive director.

He proposes three categories for land development: “no go” zones, which should exclude development on biodiversity and other environmental grounds; “go” zones, developed areas that would benefit from more roads; and “careful” zones that include biodiversity and economic activity, where selective infrastructure development might be beneficial.

For example, Costa Rica integrated its national parks via corridors for animal (rather than human) migration. The country’s “biodiversity and restoration go hand in hand with economic development,” he says.

Dr. Laurance and his colleagues believe similar can be achieved if nine steps for navigating conflicts between ecological and economic interests are followed:

  1. Avoid the “first cut” in forests and wilderness areas.
  2. Recognize how paving existing roads will change their character and speed.
  3. Consider indirect costs, especially in energy and mining projects.
  4. Treat projects in the wilderness as “offshore,” and rely on river or helicopter access.
  5. Engage all parties early in the planning process, when changes are easier to make.
  6. Improve project evaluation tools.
  7. Include environmental and social experts alongside the financial teams.
  8. Reject arguments that harmful projects will be done regardless and without supervision.
  9. Involve non-governmental organizations and the public.

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

Photos courtesy of iStock

Spotlight on PHI Cubed: Guiding the AEC Industry Toward Greater Levels of Integration

By Akio

IFC Architecture

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “Spotlight on @PHICubed1:
Guiding #AEC Toward Greater Integration”

Hector Lorenzo Camps has set his sights on integrating the AEC industry at its earliest stages.

The former architect and current building information consultant teaches a course on the Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform at the University of Miami School of Architecture with the goal of increasing collaboration in all areas of the industry.

He is educating the next generation of designers and contractors, and as he integrates various departments on the school’s campus, he sees the potential to solve the tremendous inefficiency plaguing the industry.

3DEXPERIENCE Platform Reaching students at University of Miami

3DEXPERIENCE Platform teaching students at University of Miami

For Camps, integration — of people, of companies and of technology — is a solution for many of the ills ailing the design and construction industries.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “Integration—of people, companies &
technology—is the solution for #AEC” – @HectorCamps

It’s the reason he founded PHI Cubed Inc., a BIM consultancy helping companies integrate their processes and better manage their data as they move to 3D platforms. And the reason the company has found success in its mission is because the AEC industry stands ready to revolutionize design and construction processes and bring new value to every project.

Addressing A Disconnect

As Camps sees it, the single biggest challenge the AEC industry needs to address is the disconnect between designers, contractors and owners. Each party is siloed in their processes, distanced from their product’s final performance, and focused on serving the best interests of their company over the best interest of the project. It’s a disconnect that creates enormous amounts of waste.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: Biggest problem for #AEC = each
party is siloed, distanced from final performance.

But as Camps points out, “The industry knows it has a problem. The industry feels the pain and suffering of the loss of profit from the current way that it’s working, and it affects everyone from architects to engineers to owners.”

This problem of waste is finally being addressed on a broader scale as several significant changes take place in the AEC industry:

  1. The industry is recognizing that fragmentation throughout the supply chain is contributing to its inefficiency. More players are recognizing that the high levels of efficiency seen in the manufacturing and aerospace industries can be achieved in design and construction as well. In an effort to further reduce waste and improve quality, the AEC industry is looking to further integrate with manufacturing by closing the gap between design and fabrication.
  2. At long last, the construction industry is becoming more global. As the industry shifts from a local to a multinational business, there is an increased need for infrastructure that allows multinational teams to work together using a design-anywhere, build-anywhere strategy.
  3. As owners become more sophisticated, they’re recognizing that they can benefit from the detailed project data that, in its 2D form, has traditionally been lost upon completion of construction. With the advent of 3D modeling, owners are demanding access to more detailed information that they can leverage for operations and maintenance throughout the building’s lifecycle.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “#AEC owners are now demanding more
detailed info for building lifecycle” @HectorCamps @phicubed1

Integrating a Global Community

Camps sees integration — not only of technology platform, but of people — as the solution for improving AEC business models.

“We think it’s important to manage information and integrate people before we integrate the building process,” Camps says. “When we’ve done it the other way around, and integrated the building but not the people, we’ve created a people problem. And if you have a people problem, you don’t have buy-in from the knowledge workers in the field or adoption of your solutions. You might have an integrated model, but that model won’t make its way out to the field.”

By integrating people and their processes, Camps believes companies can reduce the tremendous knowledge loss that typically occurs at the end of projects when teams separate. He sees solutions such as Optimized Construction as critical to bringing AEC partners together onto the same IT infrastructure, to better facilitate communication between all parties.

“It’s important to get people to collaborate and to manage not only their BIM, but to manage all the documentation related to construction — this includes scheduling, specifications, 2D-3D CAD documents, installation documents, warranty information, and, of course, change management,” Camps says.

Better Integrating Technology

Once design, construction and owner teams are communicating on the same level, then integrated technology can further boost efficiency. However, Camps finds that many software platforms enable the industry’s deficiencies by locking players into a single solution that may not translate from design through fabrication and construction.

With the goal of creating more integrated project documentation, Camps was one of the founders of the buildingSmart Alliance, the North American chapter of buildingSMART International. The organization is dedicated to solving the AEC industry’s interoperability issues by pushing for open BIM standards, allowing all parties to easily access design and construction data no matter what platform they use.

“Our hope is that more vendors will adopt open standards and we’ll be able to share information openly in an integrated way with the platform,” Camps says.

Providing Information Management

PHI Cubed acts much like a guide in the process of managing the immense amounts of information generated by integrated projects. The company was formed in 2006 with the mission of enabling the construction industry building lifecycle to operate as an integrated enterprise in an effort to reduce errors, waste and time.

“I discovered that while everyone generates information on a project, and everyone consumes information on a project, it was no one’s responsibility to manage the information for the life cycle of a project,” Camps says. Today PHI Cubed offers what Camps calls “the other BIM: building information management.”

The company helps the industry transition from a 2D, paper-based process to an integrated 3D, data-rich process.

“There’s a cultural change that’s happening, as contractors and engineers are starting to rely more on the model and database as their single source of data and knowledge,” Camps says.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “Shift from 2D to #3D:
a cultural change is happening in #AEC”

The Owner’s Involvement

While Camps sees this move toward integration as a win-win for all parties involved, he sees the owner as his company’s primary client.

“We find it unbelievable that an owner will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a project and at the end of the project all they’re given is a box of documents, rolls of paper and CDs, basically told ‘good luck.’ I think owners can expect more,” he says.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: After an #AEC project, owners should expect more
than a box of docs & “good luck!” @HectorCamps @phicubed1 

Camps predicts that as owners begin to see the value they stand to gain from integration, and push for architects, engineers, contractors and suppliers to deliver data directly to an integrated data platform,  they’ll see a level of transparency, continuity and mutual respect that they’ve never experienced before.

“By doing so, not only is that owner more engaged in the design and construction process, but they’re effectively eliminating the hand-off that happens after construction,” Camps says.

Integration among all teams, and data, at the beginning of the design process can simplify the operations process throughout a building’s lifespan — and as more owners recognize this, more designers and contractors will jump onboard.

Related Resources

Collaborative and Industrialized Construction

Whitepaper: End-To-End Collaboration Enabled by BIM Level 3

PHI Cubed


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