Almost a month back, I had to give my professorial speech to the University, the notes below are my speech guide, as always I strayed from the path, but this note set, allowed me to return and stay true to a theme. In all I took an hour to give my speech which was partly recored, and well received.
For me as a technologist the detail has been everything, from material to volume
I have spent so much time :
- Designing detail
- I take a concept and make it work
- Preparing a design to be interacted with by the construction team
But in the past few years all I learned over 45 years has either changed or is being affected by changes in the way we draw and present information, thats the move from a drawing board to CAD and the addition of data, its application and use.
In my professorial presentation on which this article is based, I titled this presentation
“Where will the data take us”
Perhaps it might better be stated as :
“Times They are a changing”
Both are right:,
- The latter a pun on Bob Dylan
- The other a question we really should be asking
But first a little history
I entered this profession in 1969 Via an Architects office on Hockley, Birmingham, Ken Norton Architects, many disliked him, for many reasons, but for me i have fond memories, he sent me to college and Ken and the people in the office set standards, I still hold today,
But, and its that word again, But as we worked away at the board, with pencil, ink and tracing paper and the paper printers little did we perceive the changes that would affect us all. As we moved from :
- flat 2D
- The Drawing board
- To CAD with a little data
- To CAD with Data - Or should I say BIM
Depending on who you talk to it might mean
Building Information Modelling
Building information management
Current use of BIM
Current levels of use are sporadic,
if your client is the government then you will be using it
If your client is anyway shape or form related to the Government them you will be using it
You might have a industry aware client who understands, but they are rare
It then depends on how market savvy your client is, does he/she or it, understand BIM and does he or she or it, understand the control and cost benefits, drawing in 3D and adding specific material data to the objects we draw with when using 3D adds to any project.,,,,,
Interestingly not many ! but thats changing rapidly, due in part to CAD programs, word of mouth, and clients who are waking up.
Currently at most levels, this is all we talk about, how BIM is applied to any 3D cad model and how to extract it, via traditional 2D/3D prints 3D models, IFC or Cobie files,
We are now beginning to training our current Technologist and Architects to re engineer so to speak and get on board, spend money upgrading the software and ditching our old copies of Autocad, and spend yet more money on now yearly updates
File sizes are increasing partly because of the 3D model, but largely because of the extra data we hang on the model, materials, texture, manufacturers data, and rules.
And our 3D models are moving away from simple drawings, to complex models that are being looked at for more than just as instructions to build the next office or house, they are being drawn into a much wider field.
External Driving Forces
Its very clear to many, Pandora’s box is open, and other things are staring to emerge, slightly related, but influential all the same. They come in the use of sensors and the “IoT or Internet of Things”, small self powered devices that contain anything up to say half a dozen small sensor that feed data back to a source on anything from temperature, to humidity, cloud cover wind direction and strength to the number of cars passing by or perhaps people.
Some of these devises are appearing as domestic appliances, door ringers with camera, electronic locks, home assistants and more on a daily basis.
The growth of data from these devices is exceptional, and like moors law, it has a life of its own, growing daily and increasing almost logarithmically, taking this to a city the size of Birmingham or London and we see levels of data we have never seen before.
But it is the explosion of large scale city devises offers the inside into what we might expect, and its not just at the sensor level we see activity
The cities as a whole which are being populated with these sensors are now being classed as semi smart. the data is being collected all be it in perhaps many different database set of many different systems, and seen as a whole, by algorithms that weight data, site, clean and compare volumes we never thought possible given our experience of dbase or excel.
The resultant picture is changing our view of life, giving a larger than life picture of our cities we have never seen before, and now affecting the way we see our design and detailing, allowing councils to organise and effect things like traffic , bus, waste vans and other mobile services more efficiently.
We have all seen the way Google have changed the way we drive, offering routes that bypass traffic or congestion giving ETA within minutes that are easily accurate.
Building the links
But what is sadly lacking is a link between the 3D models we generate and all of these devises, and the rich lake of sensor data they continue to generate.
And for us, the Architectural World, it’s here that the real story starts, the link between the design and the sensor data lakes being generate, both personal and public. Generating a whole new sector of Architectural Technology, “Data Convergence”, specialising in the understanding of all this data, and what it might mean to Architecture, a real understanding of construction and the many different types of data, stored in so many different places.
At this level we need a new approach to the data storage methods like SAP’s Hana or the Apache Hadoop open source software, that will look at the data links and apply algorithms that will be used to interrogate the huge sets data, and Models to give sensible answers to a buildings well being, structure and interaction with its occupants and now more importantly, the city or town in which it sits.
Huge is perhaps a little misleading, we are heading into data volumes little of us can contemplate, We now enter the real world of big data and the list below should help in understanding this :
- 1,024 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte.
- 1,024 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte.
- 1,024 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte
- 1,024 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte
- 1,024 Zettabytes = Yottabytes,,, here it's getting a little murky,
But in the excellent online paper John Foley, ORACLE. 2015. As Big Data Explodes, Are You Ready For Yottabytes?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2013/06/21/as-big-data-explodes-are-you-ready-for-yottabytes/. [Accessed 17 November 15]. states we are, or by the time you read this, all the world's data will be counted in Yottabytes.
But back to reality. On one side of the equation sit our 3D drawings which because of the change in drawing technique opens up the opportunity to embed data onto so many of the objects we draw, and enable use of internal scripts like Marionet in Vectorworks or BIMscript in the Autocad suite of programs, to assist in the design process, looking at its use, position and interaction with the rest of the design, plus using the scripts to export sensible lists and data packets in the form of Cobie files and traditional flat 2D drawings.
On the other side there is the open source data available from such places as the BRE, the Government, and a host of data stores opening up for the sale of both data sets and raw feed, but more on this later ……..
To date there seems to be no interaction beyond the current building model, the data is there to help understand the build and assist in cost control and waste.
But given that we are still learning how we use data in this way we have not progressed much further than an early stage BIM approach to all the data we use, its very early days.
A building may last for upwards of 60 years and in so many cases we can count the life of a building in the hundred of years, yet so little of the buildings life, how it was used in comparison to the initial design created by the Architect, is ever fed back into the original design, to see what can be learned.
A move from from the odd visual inspections to real time data flows from embedded sensors, would give so much short term and long term information over say 50 or 60 years, through our ever changing climate, building use and ownership.
Its clear that data is the key, its storage, and interrogation, is just one aspect of the data revolution we now see taking place, but its a two way process, can a building upgrade itself.
Well adding a different material, or wall element is possible, but only with human intervention, yet the internal software that runs the building is indeed open to almost immediate change or upgrade, given a learning process. changing internal temperature, and humidity, and for given room use, certainly the more hot air some lecturers exhume can be seen by the sensors and acted upon in advance by seeing what rooms might be occupied buy the lecturer from the central diary.
Is this the first time we have a chance to control the detail once built and now in action. Can data from built in sensors help us look at detail in action, over time, the obvious answer is yes
Adding walls or changing finishes can indeed be requested, not by the building, but the CAD design now residing in an IFC file being interrogated by the building itself, taking note of the incoming data, its use and general condition, scripts might well indicate that structural upgrades should be looked at.
As mentioned earlier, lets dwell for a moment on the data store, the internally generated data from the building should be looked upon as a real asset, and the volume of such over the time scales we can expect is huge, should it be kept in internal data storage or hived to a cloud, certainly the later offers a lot in its sharing, but opens up a whole plethora of questions on ownership, exactly where its stored and privacy. Having seen the life expectancy of disk drive, perhaps the cloud is the most sensible option
The exact amount of data, will be so dependant upon the building size, its location, and number of sensors employed, Digital data volumes will double every two years for the foreseeable future. By 2020 there will be eight billion people on Earth, using 20 billion devices and communicating with 100 billion connected things. There is going to be a lot of data !. A little more on this later .
We need a real understanding of Sensors
Our use and understanding of sensors has to increase if we as Architects and Technologists are expected to use and embed this new world. Sensors are the new tool, and its here we need to first concentrate, looking at first the different types of sensor :
- Internal room based
- Internal structure based
- External general
- Internal equipment, (H&V etc )
- 4.7 bn global mobiles by 2017
- 83.1 million mobile handsets in the Uk ( http://www.mobilemastinfo.com/stats-and-facts/stats-and-facts.html )
- Private paid for data (Met office )
- Private Data (internal company data like room diaries )
- Shared building Data
“Static devices offer the first real data source, embedded sensors that will remain in place over the life of the building, some self powered, (Backscatter Technology ) some needing battery replacement, some taking power from internal feed,
Some of these sensors will be placed by us to monitor specific details allowing us to not only see how a detail works but interact with some of the aspects surrounding a detail, vapour & temperature drive.
Static sensors are not just internal to the building, but are now being placed at many locations across the UK, from traffic monitors now seen on many roads to simple sensor cluster placed on lamp posts and high buildings.
I mention mobile phones as a source of data, simply because of the large number in use, a clever company like google might well want to sell information they can collect, such as micro climate data for a given area, but it opens up large cans of personal data issues, but should Google share the profit with providers, well maybe this can be looked at in a different light. Mapping giant Google also offers a glimpse into data collection on a totally different scale, using the mobile to add data to their internal maps, looking at both the climate but also traffic numbers, and photos taken internally suddenly open up software recognition algorithms to offer yet more invites into a buildings wellbeing.
This is not new Technology, Aeroplanes have, for some time, developed a superior view of data, and have developed sensors to a very hight degree, most of the large aeroplane jet engines use sensors to monitor their engines, in real time, that is as they fly, getting ground crews to meet planes that require service or repair,
The vast data flow generated by these sensors is also not new, a single engine may have in excess of 5000 sensors all communicating, and thats about 10GB/s for a largish plane thats serious amounts of data, add a twin engine configuration and your easily into 2 Tb/s. It’s a little over the top for a small house, but the technology is there, add several hundred houses on an estate and your have an interesting data set, looking at all sorts of perimeters, like temp, internal, external, orientation, sun coverage, human traffic, wind, shadow, a host of sensor data that we as yet, have never considered.
Buying in data
I mentioned this earlier, but I feel its now time to explore this sector a little. Online data companies will be a rich source of information, both in real time, but also as archive of past data, Our government is rich in data, and many of the agencies operating in and along site of central government, like the UK Met office is one very clear source of information, giving rich, past data and real time date on current weather across the UK, which combined with local mobile date and external city sensors can offer a building a very accurate short term weather forecast.
API, or Application program interface algorithms will fetch data from a growing variety of suppliers, some free some paid for, providing background data for any number of construction related performances, rain absorption, re thermal performance, even selling back information like rain fall specific to a locality.
For older data, this will require real knowledge of data, how it was generated, in what format, and how accurate it is, how clean it is.
An understanding of Algorithms
At this point, its paramount that we again mention how and why algorithms are created to save the data in what (older properties ) ever format they come in, and tune this to the construction used, where its new or heritage, programers who might have the knowledge to do this might well upset and create further problems without a sound and in depth knowledge of construction across a broad spectrum of materials, climates and use, generating a whole new sector of Architectural Technology, “Data Convergence”, specialising in the understanding of all this data, and what it might mean to Architecture.
Back to Data Storage
Before I leave this section, I wanted to go back to the way we store all of this data from the Architects design, to the onsite construction, the the way a building over its life will gather, create and store all it generates, from the notes above, its clear,,,, there is going to be a lot of it, can we trust internal servers or will we head long term to cloud storage, thats a massive question, and one I leave you to consider. Its to early yet, but the Aircraft industry have shown the way, and certainly government bodies also have ideas and method we can copy.
Power use for any building is changing, no longer do we see inefficient equipment as the norm, we increasingly take note of the efficient, LED lights, PV cells, Solar panels for water heating, the list is almost endless Can the data help increase solar efficiency, certainly the miserable 14% seen on many panels can easily be increased by the building knowing its exact location, lat long, and using hellion software, get the optimum angle to the sun all day every day, Units increasing in size as the weather demands of cloud cover dictates. Notice the use of Lat long and not easting & Northings, a classic mistake.
This together with Its knowledge of surrounding buildings and their impact of energy use, even its physical state can so easily be predicted by the use of mass modelling techniques and the data from internal and external sources, increasing solar efficiency, certainly the miserable 14% and less, seen on many panels can easily be increased by the building knowing its exact location, lat long, and using hellion software, using this real knowledge of surrounding buildings and the shadows they cast, get the optimum position on the building and angle to the sun all day every day.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
I talk of CAD and the role leading providers are playing in helping us to embed data into our designs, pushed in part by the Governments interest in BIM and cost savings, but if we stand back and look at use of 3D drawing in a flat screen environment, then you begin to wonder how it can be sustained, enter stage right, Augmented and Virtual reality, whose development began in the games world, but quickly evolved to allow a much larger target audience, the online film by BrantFX and Lucamax Pictures film “World builder”, essentially a love poem, but it so clearly shows the role of VR in Architectural Design, is this the “CAVE“ (Computer Augmented Virtual Environment ) predicted only a few years ago, with several trial beta types.
The use of virtual pallets, to open up different design tools takes the current methods to a whole different level, and opens the door to retrieving design data in the realtime to see the effect of almost any weather or use, on a detail instantly. It makes you wonder if the holodeck in the startrek series might just be possible, well the audio interface at least.
Players like Microsoft and their Hololens, Google Daydream View, Magic Leap and Oculus rift, and the latest to the fold, Apple, are all working hard to gain market share, primarily in the gaming market, but the move into 3D drawing is easy to see, as the power of mobile computing approaches dizzying heights of size and computing power.
Small scale versions of these devices have already been proved with the introduction of Google glass only a few years ago, allowing small spectacles to transmit data to a users eye, if your inspecting a specific piece of equipment of room then perhaps this is enough to inform without a lot of background being used.
But one player promises a system so far above the rest of the player, Magic leap with their system which they argue as being a mix of AR & VR called MR or mixed reality, and from reports leaked so far it offers a distinct difference in viewing, but they are a distinctly secret company and little has been leaked, offered or marketed. But a $1.4 bn funding means some one knows its not a fad !.
Mobile AR & VR
Site use of the model by almost every on working on site is going to save time and offer many ways to both read the model and also add as built video, audio and picture, with nothing more than a pocket mobile phone. The problem to date has been the power needed, and battery power that phones have not been good at, but developments in the area of both screen use, a major user of power, and screen refresh, plus the way point cloud is used, will allow this to happen. Site wide, high Speed WiFi will be the final touch..
This also opens up the idea of point cloud surveying from your mobile phone, Google Tangent is a prime example, but others are there working on similar product.
Tesla with all their work on road sensors, is not a million miles away from mapping 3D rooms, its simpler as hand held mobiles move a lot slower than a car on the motorway.
Sketchup have recently launched an online version of their Sketchup cad program, its good, swift and best of all currently free. But take note of their 3D mobile viewer, currently a £7.99 download from iTunes and Android, but the linkup with MicroSoft’s Hololens takes this uniquely popular product the top of the game.
Manufacturers are not slow to understand the embedding of data with the tools and drawing methods now available to designers, and are offering small symbols with to all of the leading CAD packages, distributors of these symbols are also not slow in understanding some of the aspect, and are currently exploring ways they might leverage to data from the Design office cad file and help secure the specification, to me this means access to the CAD file, one way or another.
The real way forward is in the design of new products that not only generate data in their own right, but can react to data,
Corning Glass have taken this to the extreme, designing new products to enhance
display techniques, material development and data marriage, emphasised in two videos entitles “A day in the life of glass” some available now, just one or two, well lets say soon. Certainly Glass fibre has already revolutionised the transmutation of data at the City to global scale.
Corning concept videos “A day made in Glass” explore this with glass walls acting as video displays, cooker surfaces, which I might add have been about for some time, solar shade. and as an interaction point to your personal computer point
Lamination techniques might also allow local digital computation/ as Gorilla glass gets thinner, and more flexible being able to be used in modern printing presses, allowing complex but effective circuits to be printed on the glass.
Our use of materials as a structural item is in part a legacy from the early days of construction, designing taller and taller buildings and upping the thickness and design as and when they fell down, which they so often did.
But what if the materials were allowed to interact, stiffening as required to resist say a wind load, or increased floor load, taking information from the material database, and external data. The presidency is set for this route of research in the use of hydraulics in very tall buildings, being used to upset the sway caused by earthquakes, by shifting mass inside the building.
So far I have concentrated on the construction side, and the build time feedback, but there is one other area of our industry, that will be turned upside down with this technology, thats planning, pushed in part by our use of technology, and the data we will use to argue the design philosophy of a building both in the looks, placement and use.
No longer will we want to submit planning applications using flat file pdf drawings but complex 3D models embedded with its own data and links to external data to prove a design, using augmented reality to place the planner in a design in a realtime context, using mass models with real time traffic and pedestrian data, supplemented with past data as required, together with weather data supplemented with sun path analysis.
The local authority planning departments will argue they can only accept the old methods of pdf, simply because of local parish councils can not understanding the complex nature of the 3D application, this has to be addressed, the pressure will be to great not to.
Perhaps the planner will no longer require applications to be sent in, but receive requests to attend an office to see and interact with a model on equipment local authorities can no longer afford to purchase.
The benefits of seeing a building and getting a full interaction with materials, building use, and realtime use far outweigh the argument of it has to remain with 2D flat file applications.
Planning will also play a vital role in the final equation that must be applied to any picture when looking at the city as a whole and that of the smart city, in the way the big data companies like Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and others want to add their expertise, to the cities development, and of course ultimately its control as far as data use is concerned. Planners must embed themselves within this technology to understand the algorithms and ultimately the interaction of the data with the real world.
Until Quite recently JCT was a little light on the Use of BIM in its contracts, that is till the 2016 edition came out. The huge rise in data use, its high level involvement in so many large and complex projects, make an update necessary, no mandatory. Talking to a number of eminent Architect practices, there was till the JCT 2016 document, no real concrete guidance. JCT 2016 now makes express provision for BIM or other communications protocols to be included in the Contract Documents. How this will stand in the courts, is not tried and tested. Its also unclear how the involvement of data in the ongoing operation of a building might be affected.
A search on the TCC, (Technology & Construction Court ) brings up some very interesting papers, but no case law as yet. Interestingly Atkins are appointed to advise on BIM and its use on the HS2, perhaps the largest and complex project, to appear in recent years. I would be interested to see the contract on this project.
CIOB which I am a member, have recently issued this notice for an Audio webinar on the 23rd Nov 2016, to go over the 2016 JCT contracts in detail. The speaker list looks impressive.
Security its place and for whom
We can not end this, lecture without taking a step back, taking a look at security, and the Architectural Technology, “Data Convergence: specialist, role in all of this, can we allow access to our files in a way that it might breach client security, I fear not, perhaps separate cloud servers running a safe version of the model will be the collection point along with the saved data, Logins via individuals will determine, as they do now, the level of interaction with the model and what they can ultimately see, What level will law enforcement or government get, not just the plan, or associated data but usage, diary and room bookings, that many live interactive buildings will use.
Can we forget Construction
Unless we are careful, we will forget construction and let computers build as they see fit, this is certainly an option, so many failures are the result of poor detailing and bad material selection, but I can’t see this being good for training up and coming professionals, The traditional ways of using materials will not change because of BIM, well not straight away, we still need to teach traditional construction,
But the involvement of CAD with fully embedded data on materials specification will enables us to check on past material use.
Utilising the way materials with electronic history have coped over several years, can tell us how they have performed, the build process, and what materials they interacted with. This opens up how we build up this data, will it be in house, or can we rely on Agrement, or the manufacturers. I can imagine that letting out this sort of data might well be a base for claims, so perhaps Practices will keep it close to their own design process.
Agrement might well be the natural choice to start a public side, certainly their certificates need a massive update, and bring them into the real world, simple pdf or paper certificates with what we now see as very limited data is not acceptable, we should see a full test history and results, together with perhaps selected past projects, and their data.
Can we extend this to CAD, so that as we draw and select materials, we see a list of past projects the material in question was used on, with test feedback, from internal company data generated from past projects, realising as build files, video, pictures and text reports, perhaps even audio. This data is gold and can never be replaced. Without question, the volume of data we will generate will be staggering, and again brings the up the problem of how we store data, its safety and protection.
The program we use to interrogate the data and present it as a usable list takes us back to the beginning of the lecture and the creation of a “Data Convergence”, specialist.
Human interaction with construction
How our building react to human use is spilling over into a new area, that of voice interaction, Amazon Echo, and Googles Home, being two products openly being pushed onto the domestic market, they are currently working in three distinct areas, home security, Heating and personal management, All three open up vast possibilities for interaction with the building as a whole, not just the ability to dim the lights, or turn up the heating, but question if is safe to do so, knowing the construction of the dwelling and if that action will cause condensation, or damage to the fabric. Not locking the house because a door is still open, or the building is occupied.
IFC export files provide the means to export our designs, but as of yet, I know of no program that the Echo or Home products can interact with to do the checking. but its not going to be long, there are several rumours in this area.
Sensors will also be a major part of this scenario, adding continuous data to the data reservoir, to enable the calcs to be made. Retro upgrade paths of simple data collectors are already in use and being added to the Echo and home, data path.
For this University in fact any University teaching Architecture and Technology, 3D, data management, AR & VR are subjects that can not be ignored, its here now, and employers are looking for the next generation of staff, who understand it all, we have to be ahead of the curve and start embedding this into our course material, even if it means the linking of computing, electronics, construction Technology, and Architecture. Don’t forget, the leaps in technology are almost monthly, and we will soon be lagging behind if we don’t move now.
The use of new headsets, like Hololens, Magic Leap, Oculus rift, and CAVE systems needs machines capable of running this type of software, computers barley capable of running word processing software is not acceptable, when the real world are investing in machines capable of handling 600 mb and more of 3D modelling together with a vast array of incoming tech data associated with the design.
A move to cloud computing seen in part by Autocad 360, and sketchup my.sketchup.com will change this slightly, but sitting waiting for even a simple design to catch up wastes time and does little for the external view of potential entrants wanting to enter our profession, and does not allow for cutting edge programs to be fully evaluated for teaching, yet alone for research and development.
Birmingham is a centre of Architecture, and many of the leading practices would surely want access to the cutting edge of computing for development, and as for manufacturers who just need to understand it all, its a golden opportunity to offer research and training at their level.
But I stress the need not to forget the basics of good construction, material use and site practice we currently teach.
A last word
The world is changing fast, all I have talked about will be out of date in less than 2 years, market pundits like Robert Scoble and Gigaom, are already seeing the next generation appear as beta models, Apple certainly is heading quietly into this territory, Microsoft with Hollens, and Magic Leap who continue to remain hidden, are all pushing ahead. And as for Google, they continue to release product, services and research like Project Tango, and Hadoop integration into Google Drive.
I leave you with the World Builder video, perhaps as VR and AR become mainstream next Autumn we will get the chance to design in this way, but until then enjoy.
Essentially a love poem, but the underlying technology is now real, but it was build via green screen video filming techniques.
Volk, R., Stengel, J. and Schultmann, F., 2014. Building Information Modeling (BIM) for existing buildings—Literature review and future needs. Automation in construction, 38, pp.109-127.
Gelder, J., Tebbit, J., Wiggett, D., Mordue, S. and Rickaby, P., 2013. BIM for the Terrified-A Guide for Manufacturers.
Duddy, K., Beazley, S., Drogemuller, R. and Kiegeland, J., 2013. A platform-independent product library for BIM. In Proceedings of the 30th CIB W78 International Conference. WQBook.
Azhar, S., 2011. Building information modeling (BIM): Trends, benefits, risks, and challenges for the AEC industry. Leadership and Management in Engineering, 11(3), pp.241-252.
Plume, J. and Mitchell, J., 2007. Collaborative design using a shared IFC building model—Learning from experience. Automation in Construction, 16(1), pp.28-36.
Back to the law
List of things we teach
What we actually get through
What happens after Graduation
Learning into the Job
Post Graduate Training
Sponsorship by manufacturers & Practice
Role of Agencies