PADT 1.000 – Yes, I did the podcast
Odd Format, but I tried to make my points
This little (very little) has been my platform for trying to say that there’s another way. I was certainly glad for the opportunity availed me by Aaron and Matt over at the Donuts, Design & Debate Podcast part of SketchUp.
Enamored With Elegance, Not Features
Back when I was doing CAD reviews for magazines, it was almost like which even application had the longest list of features, was the best. Boy, has things changed. After being in the trenches for over 40 years I’ve really taken to heart the catchphrase, “Complexity has a Cost!” Over the years I’ve seen more and more applications simply add feature on feature, command on command, complexity on complexity. There never seems to be an evaluation of what adding so many features might “cost” in the long run. Having a bunch of new features must be good? Right? This is where I and the current state of BIM have really come to blows.
Any complex application has many more costs than just the price tag (yearly subscript, as it so often these days). This is the point I was trying to make on the podcast. If you’re trying to put everything into a single model, you’re going to have to have a huge number of commands to access all that data, all that design, it the different ways it must be accessed, created, and extracted. You can waste an enormous amount of time just looking for the commands you need. That means the time it takes for training increases and probably most overlooked is the level of expertise needed just to get projects out the door. As a business owner, you have to know so much and these days, you have to know so many pieces of software. But for many applications, you only need to know enough to get what you need out of them. This doesn’t seem to be the case with BIM. Too much is trying to be done with a single application and it causes the applications to be too complicated. Period.
When I was learning BIM, the number of classes, the number of hours watching tutorials, the number of hours just playing with commands to get things to work, the enormous amount of documentation needed to be maintained - it was the hardest single aspect of computing I ever encountered in my 50 years behind a screen (or teletype). But does it have to be this way? This is what I try to get across in this very little blog. If you can conceptualize what BIM really is, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated.
The Real Problem
BIM is all about data assignment and extraction, but more than that, it’s about exchange. The many different facets of building construction and building use need to be able to be accessed and managed by many different entities. How can this really be done without a universal, exchange format for that data? I really don’t think it’s possible. My hope is that as this industry matures, it will be forced into developing such a format. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we’ve already seen what such a format has done for music, photography, audio, etc. This would allow developers to create their only “take” on BIM applications and know that the data they produce could be used by any other application. Maybe (and I hope not) with all the data others may try to store and that’s the point. A common format allows for applications to work on just which areas they want to specialize in and not try to be jack-of-all. Without a common format, the only way sincere exchange happens to by a common supplier. With the exception of having to “reverse” the file, this happened in the world of CAD (and CADD) and it happens to a great extent in BIM.
I’m seeing rumblings on the IFC format, but other industries are giving me even more hope. The CGI and the gaming industry have used a wide variety of software to get the job done. Many different software applications are used to get the job done because each of none for its own strengths. Even when an “all-in-one” application is available, others are more often used because of their strength in their particular niche. This industry is already working towards a common format, known “cheekily” as USD or Univeral Scene Description. I’m very interested in seeing where this format goes and especially as it might help in the ArchViz world. We shall see.
That’s all for today! I’m sorry if these will come out a little more sporadically because, for some odd reason, developers are coming out of the shadows and asking me to take a hard gander at their offerings. Retirement also many of my long-dormant side projects are moving toward the front burner. Stay tuned!
Below is a link to a project in the “conceptual model” side of things which is very interesting. Not just for the application side of things, but how a single developer is using social media for testing, feature suggestions, and road-mapping. The application is called “Plasticity” and it’s very, very interesting to watch come to market. Brilliant! (a lesson for us all…)
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Dave Edwards has been in the CAD/BIM industry as a manager, developer, consultant, speaker, and author for almost 40 years. He has had 80 magazine articles published, written 3 international newsletters, reviewed over 300 CAD/BIM applications, and 3D modeled 2 Billion dollars worth of architectural projects. He is available for professional alpha/beta testing, application feature consulting, technical documentation support, seminar presentations, and voice overs.
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