In It for the Long Run
You only get one shot to get it right. Unlike a manufacturing company that builds a prototype, your one shot is out in the field, so it’s imperative the technologies and techniques you choose are bulletproof.
This point really stuck out to me as I sat through a recent BIM seminar in Chicago. The presenter flashed on screen an image of the Boeing 777 dreamliner, which was designed using CATIA (computer-aided three-dimensional interactive application), which was a big deal back in the 1990s. In general terms, CATIA is part of a multiple design software platform product from a third-party solution provider, which is part of a larger platform called PLM (product lifecycle management).
This made me think of my days reporting on the manufacturing software market when the idea of PLM was so revolutionary, with the intent of tying together myriad information, from design through completion, in order to provide a more comprehensive view of a product from start to finish. Sound familiar? Well, the advantage for manufacturers like Boeing is they get to build a physical prototype; you don’t.
This requires you to put greater trust into software.Similar to the way in which BIM is being driven in construction by some heavy hitters, in terms of technology, PLM, when first introduced, was trumpeted rather hard by large players like PTC or Dassault Systemes. For many smaller manufacturers, these weren’t vendor names they were accustomed to doing business with, so naturally some were reticent about going down such a path, fearful about buying into an unfamiliar concept.
Well, I am happy to say that the idea of PLM is still going strong in the world of manufacturing today.
As we enter into this next phase of BIM, the Holy Grail of sorts is around the idea of connecting construction information with facilities-management data. Construction’s own PLM, if you will. But this concept begins to open the door to some names contractors might not be familiar with when it comes to construction documentation. You start getting into an entirely new conversation with names like IBM or Oracle suddenly being thrust back in the conversation. Of course, these names are mostly associated with the owner side, but it still might throw up some level of caution to some contractors.
Many contractors have “been there, done that” with the big names. We are seeing this all shake out on the ERP (enterprise resource planning) front, for example. More contractors are opting off of the horizontal platforms from tier-one ERP vendors and migrating back to more construction-specific applications, due in part to the tailored features and expertise that helps run a construction business
But perhaps efforts like COBie will begin to alleviate such concerns. The fact COBie has been led by the Engineer Research and Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory—which is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—might make contractors and owners feel more at ease that it is not just some initiative that focuses on the use of only a handful of software applications.
Looking at the bigger picture, in order for such initiatives to work in construction, everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction. The construction industry doesn’t have time for software providers that aren’t in it for the long run. And in the case of facilities management, the long run is really the point.
The Meaning of Green
Everyone is ‘going green.’ But what exactly does ‘going green’ mean in construction? Is it green building? Does it mean using green construction materials? Is it energy-efficient design? Is it a combination of all the above?
Let’s be honest, there is no magic blueprint. No one company can tell you exactly what it is. Simply, it’s creating and using more cutting-edge building techniques and creating a longer-lasting, healthier, and more energy-efficient environment that consumes less energy, while at the same time is cost efficient and sustainable.
But really, what does this mean? It’s hard to calculate. Everyone has his or her own opinions and ideas. Some even believe it begins long before construction starts. And that’s the critical point here. It’s all about intention, overall objectives, and analysis of the construction project at hand. It’s about looking at a project from beginning to end. Green means extending beyond the actual building, even into the community. Thus, perhaps if you understand the impact on the community, all the rest will fall into place.