#2 – It looks crap…
If you’re told by a senior company executive that something you’re presenting isn’t good you will almost immediately feel a sort of deep inner shame. You’ll rush back to your desk and you’ll start frantically making corrections as a natural reaction to hierarchy, wanting to impress your superiors. We instinctively recognise that they are the ‘boss’, and we’re still at the junior end of that cracking whip, so they must be right. Right?
Wrong. A critical part of building your career is being able to challenge opinions when necessary, no matter what level of authority they may have. You need to be capable of standing some hard-earned ground.
Warning: if you’re going to stand any amount of ground against somebody many rungs above you on the ladder, you had better make sure that you’ve got your facts right. That ground you’re holding needs to be a solid bed of knowledge; consider it a 400mm thick steel reinforced concrete slab of information, minimum, with some graphene mixed in for good measure.
If you’re merely giving an opinion or in the midst of an open discussion then, within reason, there are no wrong answers. If you’re directly challenging a statement, you want to be prepared. Do not jump into this ring with an elephant sized ego in your pocket and a blindfold over your eyes; you will get knocked down. Let’s not go back to Post #1 and starting assuming our knowledge either, you’re better than that.
I’ve got many examples of this to share but I’ll start here with one of my most recent experiences…
We’re in the middle of a preparatory meeting reviewing the information that will be demonstrated to the client. We get to the BIM section and I’m presenting a particular platform that we’re using for the review of models, drawings and design issues.
I’m barely a minute into the model walkthrough when the Project Director (PD) stops me in my tracks. In his exact words, I get some fairly unconstructive feedback.
PD: “This looks crap!”
Absolutely everyone else: *Awkward silence*
PD: “I’m expecting to see this! [points to fully rendered image hanging on the meeting room wall]”
Now, understandably, I’m a little annoyed. Not only has everything I’ve demonstrated been completely ignored but the purpose of my entire job role seems blatantly unclear as well. This is not a good start.
Me: “Well it’s not supposed to look like that!”
If only those explanation marks could truly recreate the tone of our ‘discussion’.
Anyone in or even near the field of BIM should have a good understanding of graphical representations and Levels of Detail (LOD). It should be well known by now that the geometry of a model is only part of the story and without any Information attributed to a component it’s not a BIM object at all. If you’re expecting to move through a working BIM model that looks photo-realistic then you’re looking for your detail in all of the wrong places. Quite frankly, in a construction environment, I couldn’t care less how the model looks graphically. I consider it almost irrelevant. I care, as should everybody else, about the detail I can’t see. The correct dimensions, shape, location and most importantly the correct information hanging off of each component. That’s BIM, Information > Model every time. Information is the King, the Queen and every one of the servants; the model is just the castle they’re living in, powerless without it’s occupants.
Now, retrospectively, it’s not entirely his fault to have fallen foul of some appallingly common misconceptions. Unfortunately though, for everyone involved, this does not dispel the frustration. This misinformed opinion that the purpose of BIM is providing ‘pretty’ models is a pet peeve of mine, and I’m certainly not alone here. It’s a far-reaching issue, but why?
At this point I’ll recognise that although the aforementioned director does not understand BIM, he certainly understands construction – very, very well. He’s an industry veteran that has overseen countless large and complex projects and I do not for a second want to be seen as undermining his competency in this field. It’s just BIM. He’s not kept pace with the changing landscape of construction information and unfortunately he’s not alone. While he’s been head down in the thick of construction he’s not been looking up to see the digital transformation that’s happening around him. He’s still happy to build with a scruffy 2D sketch and a wing-it approach, as long as there’s a sub-contractor to shout at when it’s all gone wrong. It’s true of so many experienced construction professionals. We cherish them for their knowledge and experience that continues to deliver projects, but at the same time they can be seen holding back the progression of new processes and technology; they’re holding back the BIM.
Anyway, our meeting continues with my explanation of why the model does not look like the beautifully rendered image on the wall. I shift the focus from imagery to information and although I can tell I’ve not totally convinced him, we’re making progress. Between the deeply ingrained opinion of how a model should look and a spectacular level of stubbornness there is absolutely no scope for me to change his mind all at once. I’m therefore playing the long game, making my point but without labouring it. I know that this won’t be the last time we have to discuss it, in fact I’m subconsciously planning the next ‘debate’ before we’ve finished this one, but at least now I’m planting the seed.
This post will be followed by others discussing the issues surrounding model production and LOD, but for now we’re just talking about perceptions. How do we change the expectations of 3D models? How do we permanently shift the focus onto the I, not the M?
We challenge them. I started this post with several analogies, and although they may sound dramatic, there is plenty of truth up there. As the ‘emerging talent’ in the industry that understand the potential of BIM, we’re responsible for standing up for it. Show them what it really means, what it can do, how it can help and how much better we can make this industry with thorough understanding and precise application. It won’t be easy, but one heated discussion at a time we need to change those perceptions.
Now, stop reading, get back to work and start an argument. Just make sure that you’ve got it right first…UNLESS YOU WANT TO COMMENT in which case scroll down to the bottom of this page or email email@example.com