AECbytes Blog


In this article, John Hallgarth, Founder and CTO of 3D Constructor, who is a BIM enthusiast and passionate about applying Virtual Design to Construction Practices, explores some practical ways for general contractors to approach BIM, some outside-the-box ideas, and some key opportunities not to be overlooked by commercial builders.


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by Tom Sawyer

After five years of PhD research and two years of software development, a start-up enterprise that applies parallel computing and artificial intelligence to construction planning and scheduling is ready to go to work.

The software is named Alice, which stands for “artificial intelligence construction engineering.” It comes from ALICE Technologies Inc., Stanford, Calif.

Inventor and CEO René Morkos says users start by uploading a 3D model and entering information about the construction method and resources available, such as the number of task-specific crews. The user applies inputs, which the developer calls “recipes,” that declare what each crew is expected to accomplish, rates and equipment, and how much time a standard task will take. The software analyzes the model to break the work into tasks, or a “to-do list.” Alice can be told to break the job into a set number of zones or sequence in a particular pattern.

When asked to develop the schedule, the software first determines which tasks have no predecessors and can be done first. It analyzes thousands of alternatives against spatial and other constraints to find the optimal order and then, having removed those items as constraints on the next run, optimizes again and again and again to build the schedule.

Learning as it goes, Alice can run millions of permutations in minutes and deliver the results in terms of time and cost. Then, the user can evaluate the options and tweak the parameters by changing, for example, the zones or adding more crews and then run it again.

“Alice understands calendars, weekends and that curing happens 24/7. It tries to schedule curing for weekends,” Morkos says.

“This technology could be the biggest paradigm shift in project planning since the evolution of 4D simulation tools,” says Dean Towl, director of project planning with Mortenson’s Denver Operating Group.

One of several construction technology leaders who have been watching and advising the developers of Alice, Towl has been testing it against traditionally built project schedules. One such schedule is for a large, complex hospital whose human-built critical-path-method schedule was the work of several months. “Within three or four days we had three million to four million options on the same project that we used to validate our CPM plan,” Towl says. “Alice came up with a very similar solution that was within about a week of our solution—it was actually slightly faster.”

AECbytes Blog


In what seems to have become an annual event, this article captures the many developments in AEC technology that I have not been able to cover in my regular articles and reviews. It is an encouraging sign of the AEC technology industry being so vibrant that we not only see new releases of existing products on a regular basis, but also brand-new solutions hoping to address the thorny issues of design and construction more innovatively. This 2017 AEC technology round-up looks at both—new releases of existing products such as Allplan, Twinmotion, 4M IDEA, BIM Assure, Aconex, and Autocase; as well as new solutions including Unicorn Render for rendering and BIMsmith for finding BIM content.


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taking the risks

By Allison Huffman

High risk, low margin. This all too familiar description of the construction industry is at the heart of contractors’ laser focus on bottom line profitability and overcoming the variables that can (and often do) go awry.

The proof of that challenge is in the numbers. According to KPMG’s “Climbing the Curve, 2015 Global Construction Project Owner’s Survey,” just a quarter of construction projects in the last three years came within 10 percent of their original deadlines. And Turner and Townsend’s 2016 International Construction Market Survey found that the average global construction project margin fell from an already low 6.3 percent in 2015 to 6.1 percent.

No matter the size of the project or the timeline, there has always been a harsh reality: Expect the unexpected. But what if you could remove more of the surprises and reduce risk—all with increased profits?


The push for BIM originally started with owners wanting more efficient results. Now it has cascaded throughout the design process and all the players. This isn’t just the future of construction any longer—it’s happening because the benefits of BIM are too compelling to ignore. The book “Getting to Grips With BIM: A Guide for Small and Medium-Sized Architecture, Engineering and Construction Firms” reported that in 2013-2014, BIM was a significant contributor to saving more than 800 million pounds in construction costs in the United Kingdom alone. DPR Construction was an early champion of BIM in 1997 and achieved a major breakthrough on Sutter Health’s Camino Medical Group Mountain View campus, which was completed in 2007. Camino was the first DPR project to use a combination of BIM, integrated project delivery (IPD) and lean methodology.

“On the Camino project, the team’s strategic use of BIM on the 250,000-square-foot outpatient medical center resulted in an estimated cost and time savings of at least $9 million and six months over the traditional CM-at-risk approach,” DPR wrote in an “18 Years of BIM” article. “Since then, the benefits and services of BIM have continued to evolve. Now, almost 10 years after the start of the Camino project and 18 years since we first started using it, we use BIM on 85 percent of our projects before work even begins in the field.”

BIM can—and does—make an impact on construction jobs and beyond.

BIM is known for visualization and the benefits derived from it. But one of BIM’s biggest cost savings for construction comes from the inherent collaboration that it promotes. The silos of owner, architect, construction managers and contractors are obliterated. Everyone is on the same page and all the data can be collected, stored and shared. This makes projections and actual construction much more accurate and transparent. Materials are saved; timelines are tightened.

Rework is one of the largest contributors to construction projects going in the red. Realistically, rework may never be completely eliminated, but it can be drastically reduced, saving thousands or even millions of dollars depending on the project. Moving from 5 percent to 2 percent of rework is huge. BIM’s detailed information included in the model contributes to reduced rework through the ability to improve clash detection and subcontractor scheduling. Teams can see the problems before the inherent waste happens. And construction stakeholders typically get involved much sooner in the design and planning process in a BIM-enabled project, which helps eliminate rework even earlier.

by Paul Newby

The digital revolution that the construction industry desperately needs is at least a generation away, suggests Paul Newby executive engineering services director at SES Engineering Services.

This creates a great paradox: those who can change the industry’s culture forever may have the skills and progressive attitude, but not the practical or leadership experience. Conversely, those who do have practical and leadership experience are apathetic, sceptical or, at worst, cynical about transformation.

There is also a large demography that sits in the middle just watching to see which way the pendulum swings.

While the BIM and digital construction world evolves and the government appears to flip-flop over its declared ambitions, the current skills shortage and customer demand have seen the rise of the “BIM Warrior”, often creating as many problems as it solves.

What is a “BIM Warrior” I hear you ask? They are the new heroes who, despite their tender years and lack of experience, appear to have been given the unfair responsibility of solving the systemic problems and transformational challenges of moving to a digital construction reality. Usually highly motivated, confident and assured, they represent the solution… but there’s a problem.

It’s not all bad news. The millennial generation are the future saviours of the construction industry, with the right attitude and an appreciation of difference and change. Their ambition and skill are the keys to unlocking the industry from its present prison.

Their mastery of social media creates innovative communication channels; application software drives creativity through technology and innovation; parametric thinking creates a culture of problem solvers and solutions providers.

Collaboration, the environment and social justice are important to this generation and it’s this that will make the difference in the medium to long term in the shift towards a digital future.

So, what’s missing? Undoubtedly, great designers need the ability to communicate, influence, create and engineer solutions – all of which come from gaining hands-on experience from working on real projects with real people.

Software proficiency is not enough – strategic influencing, analytical and critical thinking are competencies that are learnt over time. Lack of investment in training and development has blighted our industry for years – now it has caught up and overtaken us. Developing skills through experience takes time to nurture and the school of hard knocks breeds resilience and tenacity.

But there’s more good news: if we can also train and develop the more experienced workforce to use the software and create a culture of collaboration, integrated working and smart procurement we can have our cake and eat it and give our customers what they really want.

It’s not going to happen overnight, though. Mapping out progress of the government’s BIM strategy on the graphic below illustrates my fear that this is a generational issue.

While all this is happening BIM costs on projects have been increasing and the efficiency gains, cost reductions and time savings have yet to be fully realised. I have no doubt that they are there but until we can unlock them through new and improved ways of working they will never be maximised.

by The Construction Index

A Soluis Group-led consortium has secured £1m of funding from Innovate UK to develop an augmented worker system (AWE) for construction.

The goal is to develop a system that use high-tech goggles, in tandem with building information modelling (BIM), to reduce costs and waste by 25% and increase productivity by 30%.

App developer Soluis will work with supporters including Aecom, Doosan Babcock, Laing O’Rourke, Autodesk and Microsoft, as well as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC).

Soluis has previously developed an augmented reality asset management tool, In-Site, that was piloted at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station with Laing O’Rourke.

Martin McDonnell, chairman of Soluis Group said: “The proof of concept project with Crossrail showed how this technology could be applied and add incredible value to the industry. Our vision was to develop this concept much further and create a set of tools that would form the augmented worker of the future. For a business like us, we could only drive this innovation a certain amount and working with the consortium and receiving funding from Innovate UK will help us achieve this much faster and more effectively.”

Aecom BIM director David Philp said “Construction technology is reshaping how we deliver and maintain our built assets, it is increasingly helping us place digital information into the real world in the right context supporting and augmenting the decision-making process. Real time access to individualised data, analytics and instructions during the construction and operational stages will greatly improve productivity, quality and also help worker well-being.  Creating a framework and guidance around the augmented worker is critically important if we are to successfully unlock this value proposition.”

Euclideon's hologram table: early installations are likely to be used primarily at a municipal level for ...

Euclideon’s hologram table: early installations are likely to be used primarily at a municipal level for town planning and area response purposes (Credit: Euclideon)

by  Loz Blain

Australian company Euclideon has built a working prototype of what it calls the world’s first true multi-user hologram table. Up to four people can walk around a holographic image and interact with it wearing only a small set of glasses – a far cry from bulky AR headgear. It’s set to go on sale in 2018.

The idea of the hologram table has been a staple of sci-fi for decades. Indeed, hologram tables themselves have popped up here and there, but never really caught on. That’s mainly because in the past, they just haven’t worked like people hoped.

The problem is this: a hologram is a computer-generated stereo image, much like the kind of image you see when you watch a 3-D movie. But if you’ve got a group of people standing around a table, looking at the same image, they’ll all see the same perspective on it, and the image won’t change as they move around. It breaks the illusion.

The same is true of Tupac-style glass projection “holograms,” spinning fan style “holograms” and mist projection systems – when you walk around them, or have multiple people looking at them, they break, so they’ve never taken off as a boardroom presentation device or gaming platform.

But it seems we’re about to see a new perspective on holograms – eight perspectives, really – from an Australian company that believes it’s cracked the code and designed the world’s first true multi-user hologram table that’s ready for prime time.

Euclideon, based just outside Brisbane, Australia, is better known for its Unlimited Detail (UD) 3D graphics processing engine, which caused quite a kerfuffle in the gaming community when it was first showcased in 2011. The UD engine could render absolutely gigantic virtual spaces in minute detail, allowing a viewer to move through a colossal 3D environment using low-end computers and no special graphics cards. It wasn’t so hot when it came to physics, procedural lighting or objects that changed when they moved, so UD never took off as a large scale gaming engine.




by Built Tech.  An interview with Brian Skripac

For Brian Skripac, the key to implementing new technology is to try not go get bogged down in the technology. Counterintuitive, right? But for him, tech is less about the “what,” and more about the, “how.” He asks, “How do we plan our work and work the plan?” In other words, it doesn’t matter so much what a tool can do unless you know how to use it. And knowing how to use it requires a thoughtful approach to teams and processes. It’s about being focused on operational excellence.


Brian is currently a Vice President and the Director of Virtual Design and Construction at CannonDesign, where he continually drives innovation by merging technology and practice. He has 21 years of industry experience, with the last 11 focusing on the integration of BIM to transform the design and project delivery process. Brian has successfully developed and managed BIM-enabled delivery systems for large efforts in Design-Led Construction. In addition, he focuses on the use of BIM to capture and structure relevant facility data, implementing the value BIM brings to facility owners from an interoperable lifecycle management strategy. A thought-leader in this field, he is an advisory group member and past-chair of the AIA National Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community and serves on the BIMForum committee responsible for authoring the LOD Specification.


  1. How long have you part part of this industry?


I’ve been part of AEC industry since 1996, and then I really started with a BIM focus back in 2005. I was working as a post-graduate architect looking to get into a project architect role, and I was teaching a college-level 3D modeling class in the evening and on the weekends. Someone mentioned an opportunity to work with an Autodesk reseller consulting firm, and it was there that I came across Revit for the first time. I thought to myself, “This is a game changer.” In that moment I saw that it wasn’t just about using a new software. It’s about driving a whole new process about how we practice architecture.


Photo by Thinkstock


Manufacturing jobs today include machinist, welder and assembler. In the future, the list might add cybersecurity strategist, digital twin architect and collaborative robotics specialist.

That’s according to a new report released by the Digital Manufacturing & Design Innovation Institute, a research consortium in Chicago that includes universities and companies, and Milwaukee-based staffing agency Manpower Group. The report identifies 165 jobs in advanced manufacturing that could exist in the future and lays out the skills those workers will need.

The report, which took more than a year to produce, is meant to help both employers and workers identify necessary future skills, said Caralynn Nowinski Collens, chief executive at UI Labs, home to the digital manufacturing institute, whose members include Boeing, Caterpillar and Illinois Tool Works. “If we can’t describe what skills those workers need, then we don’t know how to prepare them,” she said.

Here’s what the report says about four of those potential future jobs:

Chief digital officer. Leads a company’s digital manufacturing strategy, developed from market, operational and customer data. Responsible for revenue from digitally enabled products and services, and for finding operational savings. Requires at least 12 years of experience, five in a senior marketing or tech role, and an MBA is preferred.

Digital twin architect. Develops a digital representation, or “twin,” of a manufacturing product, process or system. Requires a master’s or doctorate in software, engineering or math and more than 15 years’ experience in software engineering.

Collaborative robotics specialist. Designs and implements new automation systems, trains other workers to use them and fixes them when they break. The new systems might improve safety, increase production, enhance precision or automate repetitive tasks that nevertheless continue to require workers nearby. Requires an associate or bachelor’s degree in automation or engineering and at least five years’ experience in production or maintenance.

Predictive maintenance system specialist. Uses data collected from machinery to predict when it will need maintenance, reducing unscheduled production stops due to broken machinery. Requires a bachelor’s in mechanical or electrical engineering and mastery of analytics tools. As Nowinski said, “It sounds fancy, but really it’s a person who can use sensors on a machine.”

The report can be found at UI Labs’ website.

Laser Scanning

by BIM Today

In an interview, Oliver Buerkler, Senior Product Manager at Faro and laser scanning expert, looks at the value proposition of laser scanning

As an opening statement, Buerkler suggests “we should not restrict ourselves to looking at laser scanning itself, but rather the complete workflow that the data enables. We are better placed to support clients with the full process in mind”.

Procuring a survey

When specifying the delivery of point could data, several factors should be considered. Firstly the project requirements, then technical aspects and finally the deliverables. In the UK (and applicable elsewhere), the RICS guidance document ‘Measured Surveys of Land, Buildings and Utilities, 3rd edition’ is a sensible place to begin.

How a surveyor chooses to capture the data is then up to them – whether by static survey stations, drone, linear vehicles, manned flight or handheld devices – certain methods are suited to different situations and physical environments.

With the specification now written ‘who’ is likely to benefit from laser scanning?

The surveyor

An immediate benefit is time-saving – hardware and software developments in recent years have significantly reduced the time taken to undertake scans. The scale of coverage now possible also far exceeds that of traditional methods. In this sense, many surveyors already scanning will have seen great time savings, reduced health and safety risk (late working and overall reduced time on site) and fewer return site visits.

Moving to deliverables, Buerkler states that “the time taken on average to create deliverables from scan data is around ten times that of collecting the data in the first instance”. That said, tools such as the Faro PointSense Family of applications and object recognition algorithms allow the extraction and conversion of point cloud data to final deliverables to be a much quicker process than ever before.

Software can also show where the models are out of tolerance with the specification, highlighting one of the most important aspects of the conversion to ‘other’ deliverables – the scan data will ALWAYS be more accurate and complete than an approximated model.

In summary, the benefits gained here are calculable against traditional methods, although this is just the beginning of a stream of benefits for others.