Given the large number of books on BIM that have been — and continue to be — published, what makes Understanding BIM stand out is that it is authored by someone who actually developed the precursor to modern BIM applications. This was an application called SONATA and it was developed by Jonathan Ingram — in true Silicon Valley start-up style — in his attic (rather than a garage as it would be in Silicon Valley!) in England. SONATA became REfLEX, which then became ProReflex, which was acquired by PTC (Parametric Technology Corporation), from which Revit emerged as a start-up, which was then acquired by Autodesk — and then of course, as they say, the rest is history. It is fascinating to be able to look back at the origins of BIM from someone who not only had a front row seat to the game, but who actually played it — and not just played it, but actually drafted many of its rules.
Lachmi, thanks for bringing this book to our attention. I have known of Ingram’s pioneering work for many years and its many twists and turns over time that have, with others, made BIM possible. As he looks to the future of BIM and its further development into CIM (or Digital Twin models at a larger scale), I would like to hear his thoughts on how these developments will/can be used to further the sustainability of the built environment. Today, the challenge of climate change requires a singular focus on reduced energy use and CO2 production which needs to be designed into all facilities. Of course, there are many approaches to this problem, but I think Ingram’s insights would be extremely helpful.
Thank you for your comments and question.
Sustainability and Climate Change are perhaps the biggest issues facing our world today. Some published figures place the construction industry as being responsible for up to 40% of Green House Gas emissions (GHG) which places us as the one industry that can do most about this. There were early hopes that BIM could change reduce these emissions by 50%. This has not transpired.
In order to encourage the construction industry to do better some analysis tools and enforcement tools need to be built in the most used design systems, tools that enable the reduction of the impact of our industry.
How can we do this? My book discusses some ideas and looks at the idea of the Levelized “cost” of GHG emissions (same as the Levelized Cost of Power used in the power generation industry). But this is only a part of the story. Having an embedded plugin for BIM objects that evaluates embedded GHG, recycling, implied GHG from manufacture and transport, energy waste and so on would help. Enforcing some adherence to these indicators is another issue. Having used AI for some years in RIM, there are some possibilities there that might help optimize buildings for this and cost, but again requiring users to actually do this and police it is another matter. Getting the Autodesks and Graphisofts to do this is not insignificant.
I feel that the legislation of the use of BIM in some countries provides the basis on which to add new legislation, but again this is not something that will happen naturally.
I think the effects of climate change will have to felt rather more to motivate change in this way. Unfortunately, we are running out of time.
A great and recommendable read. Thank you Jonathan for these invaluable insights.
I was wondering if you would mind elaborating a little bit more on how you envision ‘Avatars’ being used in a CIM?
BIM models in a City Information Model represent the static parts of a city. The idea is to extend this idea to include moving parts in the city. During the Heathrow Express construction project, we monitored the movement of the wall by having objects in the BIM model taking data from the sensors in the wall of the cofferdam and displaying these in an exaggerated way in the model. We operated opening doors and door-bells and had a man (albeit sitting fixed at a desk) moving around the model as you built it.
In the city model this concept is extended to include input from moving objects in the actual city. A bus for example, would be represented by an instance of the bus object, that pulls its own information where the bus is located, how fast it is travelling and perhaps its capacity. This is then displayed in the model as a moving object. Games engines, such as Unreal, can deal with this type of information very happily.
People need and want to interact particularly in these Covid times. For those unwilling or unable to go on the streets, or those who just want to visit a city, the idea of wandering the streets, seeing other people (avatars), catching the subway, shopping and doing the tourist thing would be appealing. The boundary between model and reality becomes blurred in some ways. The person on the street could wear AR glasses to see the avatars in the model and if desired, could appear in the model as their won avatar.
In our work with 345 Holding we have created “mirror” retail stores where customers can shop in a virtual way wandering the exact virtual model of the store finding special offers, filtering different types of products (low salt, GM or low cost), being shown where things are by avatars all in a very realistic environment. We have found that people like to congregate and chat, certainly if they recognize the avatars. Realistic avatars add to the environment.
So perhaps it is a bit beyond the “design” of a city to go into the avatars and social interaction, but why limit the design to bricks and mortar.