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By Peter Cholakis
Published in the March 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Emergent disruptive technologies and construction delivery methods are altering both the culture and day-to-day practices of the construction, renovation, repair, and sustainability of the built environment. Meanwhile, a shifting economic and environmental landscape dictates significantly improved efficiencies relative to these facility related activities. This is especially important to any organization dependent upon its facilities and infrastructure to support and maintain its core mission.
The disruptive digital technologies of building information modeling (BIM) and cloud computing, combined with emergent collaborative construction delivery methods are poised to alter the status quo, ushering in increased levels of collaboration and transparency. A disruptive technology is one that alters the very fabric of a business process or way of life, displacing whatever previously stood in its place. BIM and cloud computing fit the profile of disruptive technologies, individually, and when combined these stand to create a tidal wave of change.
BIM is the life cycle management of the built environment, supported by digital technology. While a great deal of emphasis has been placed upon 3D visualization, this is just a component of BIM. The shift from a “first cost mentality” to a life cycle cost or total cost of ownership is a huge change for many. Improving decision making practices and applying standardized terms, metrics, and cost data can also prove challenging. An understanding and integration of the associated knowledge domains important to life cycle management is required, resulting in what is now being referred to as “big data.”
Cloud computing is also a disruptive technology, and it’s one that impacts several areas. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) definition of cloud computing is as follows, “Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. The cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.”
It is perhaps helpful to define cloud computing in terms of its benefits. Cloud computing enables far greater levels of collaboration, transparency, and information access previously unavailable by traditional client/server, database, or even prior generation web applications. Multiple users can work on the same data set with anyone, anywhere, anytime, in multicurrency, multilanguage environments. All changes can be tracked to “who did what” within seconds (potentially the best form of security available), and information is never deleted.
The disruptive technologies of BIM and cloud computing will accelerate the adoption of emergent construction delivery methods and foster new frameworks. Design-bid-build, the traditional construction delivery method for decades, is inherently flawed. As a lowest bid deployment it immediately sets up adversarial relationships for involved parties. Owners prepare a solicitation for construction projects based on their understanding of them1, with or without third-party A/E assistance, and in most cases they go out in search of the lowest bidder. Then without a thorough understanding of the owner’s facility, bidders base their responses on the owner’s solicitation, plans, and specifications. Owners typically allow a period of time for bidders’ questions and clarifications; but the quality of this interchange is at best questionable if based solely on a written scope, plans and specifications, and/or a meeting with suppliers.
Design-build, arguably a step in right direction, falls short of bringing all stakeholders together. More responsibility of design and construction is shifted to the contractor and/or A/E. However, the dual level participation structure doesn’t assure the interests of all parties are equally addressed. Furthermore, the design-build process is typically reserved for major new construction projects versus the numerous sustainability, repair, renovation projects, and minor new construction projects typically encountered by facility managers (fms).
Because BIM brings together previously disparate information into a framework that enables decision support, using the technology requires a collaborative construction delivery method. The integration of the domain knowledge and robust processes required to allow fms, A/Es, and other stakeholders to achieve heightened levels of information sharing and collaboration is enabled by methods that include Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Job Order Contracting (JOC).
Key characteristics of these emergent construction delivery methods include: choices based on best value; some form of pricing transparency; early and ongoing information sharing among project stakeholders; appropriate distribution of risk; and some form of financial incentive to drive performance.
Both IPD and JOC allow, if not require, owner cost estimators and project managers to “partner” with contractors, subcontractors, and A/Es to conceptualize, create, cost, prioritize, start, and report upon projects—in the very early phases of construction.
IPD, JOC, and Simplified Acquisition of Base Civil Engineering Requirements (SABER)—the U.S. Air Force term for applying JOC practices—are practiced simultaneously by a growing number of organizations and supported by digital technologies. These construction delivery processes are embedded within software to allow for rapid, cost-effective, and consistent deployment as well as the associated level of collaboration and transparency.
BIM and cloud computing are disruptive technologies that will accelerate the adoption of emergent construction delivery methods such as IPD and JOC. Construction delivery methods set the tone and level of interaction among project participants and can be viewed as the management process framework. When supported by BIM and cloud computing, the life cycle management of the built environment, and the associated management of big data, can be expected to become commonplace for many construction projects.
Cholakis is chief marketing officer for 4Clicks Solutions, LLC, a Colorado Springs, CO provider of cost estimating and project management software. With expertise in facilities life cycle costs and total cost of ownership in various market segments, he is involved in numerous industry associations and committees including the American Society of Safety Engineers, Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering, Society of American Military Engineers, BIM Library Committee-National Institute for Building Sciences (NIBS), and National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee.
1 “The Art of Thinking Outside the Box;” Vince Duobinis; 2008.
Construction Disruption Peter Cholakis
Emergent disruptive technologies and construction delivery methods are altering both the culture and day-to-day practices of the construction, renovation, repair, and sustainability of the built environment.
Both IPD and JOC allow, if not require, owner cost estimators and project managers to “partner” with contractors, subcontractors, and A/Es to conceptualize, create, cost, prioritize, start, and report upon projects—in the very early phases of construction.
Cholakis is chief marketing officer for 4Clicks Solutions, LLC (www.4clicks.com), a Colorado Springs, CO provider of cost estimating and project management software. With expertise in facilities life cycle costs and total cost of ownership in various market segments, he is involved in numerous industry associa- tions and committees including the American Society of Safety Engineers, Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering, Society of American Military Engi- neers, BIM Library Committee-National Institute for Building Sciences (NIBS), and National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee.
Is focus upon the 3D component of BIM an unfortunate distraction?
BIM, Building Information Modeling is the ability to create a dynamic information model of the built environment (above and below ground, inside and out, horizontal and vertical physical infrastructure) for use in all real property related activities: concept, rapid prototyping, planning, design, engineering, construction, physical and functional condition monitoring and management, financing, capital reinvestment, insurance, facility management, renovation, repair, sustainability, utilization, leasing, valuation, procurement, sale and decommissioning with appropriate shared, secure, and collaborative information access and use.
The advent of Cloud Computing, combined with the cost to capture, store, and process information falling to near zero, is enabling new capabilities for secure, real-time collaboration.
The altered world landscape relative to the built environment is upon us all. In addition to technology changes that are altering the ways we interact and conduct business on fundamental basis, there are economic and environmental imperatives. All of which lead to the AECOO (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Operations and Owner) sector and its stakeholdings needing to collaborate to achieve better, quicker outcome, at less cost, and with less risk.
Key challenges to BIM in terms of its true potential, the life-cycle management of the built environment, include:
- The development of uniform standard process, terminology, and technology environments for the new BIG DATA world , encompassing all ‘built environment related knowledge domains, competencies, and activities.
- Clear organization and classifications of information and associated access rights and rights to use, enabling appropriate, uniform basis intra and international use.
- Workflow-based Cloud-computing services environments, and plug-ins that are vs. monolithic traditional software frameworks which are web enabled via virtual server, or even traditional 3-tier web applications such as .NET. 4-tier applications are needed with the ability to link and reuse information in any manner relative to identity/location, building, area, floor, room, occupancy, use, physical and functional conditions, standardized and actual costs (material, equipment, and labor), et al… – to provide common ‘highly secure’ models for short and long term decision support.
– The acceptance and increased use of collaborative construction delivery methods such as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Job Order Contracting (JOC). The latter a form of IPD specifically targeting facility renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction projects.
- AUTHENTICATION, ACCESS CONTROL, COLLABORATION, AND STANDARDS … 4Clicks Solutions is about to release a powerful new Cloud Computing solution called CEASEL. It focuses upon transparent construction cost estimating and efficient project delivery. Each user to controls their own ‘domain’ and access policies (ie ‘who’ can access ‘what’ data, ‘when’ and ‘how’ ). Data in NEVER deleted and ALL user access and activities are tracked.. .the best form of security. “Data independency” and appropriate access for all asset owners, managers, and service providers is supported. Project development time is reduced because users don’t need to create an identity store and access control system for each project, and projects, estimates, etc. can easily be updated and re-used.
New authentication methods or new kinds of user credentials can be adopted by upgrading just the authentication service. Associated contracts, projects, and estimates don’t need to be re-coded. Changes to access control policy can be made quicker and more easily because it is consolidated in the one place.
Dedicated and focused security service leads to better overall security – compared with each organization having a part-time resource for security management.
Security improvements benefit all projects at the same time.
Less time and effort is devoted to security administration as administrators only need to understand and use one security framework rather than a different one for each project.
Errors are reduced because there is no duplication of identity data and access control policy.A unified view of identity and access control policy is achieved for each user, without breaching the security of other users.
Simplified , auditing and reporting.
If you are interesting in being a pilot user of this new capability, please contact me directly.
Cloud computing is a more than catalyst for change, it is a DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY. Cloud computing will drive significantly enhanced productivity within the Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Facility Management Sectors by enabling the consistent deployment of integrated project delivery methods. Owners, Contractors, Architects, Engineers and stakeholders of the built environment will benefit if they focus upon CHANGE MANAGEMENT and how to best leverage cloud computing.
- Collaboration – True cloud computing (vs. cloud-washing, or simply posting legacy application to the cloud) lets users work concurrently on projects in real-time (milliseconds)… virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime. Multi-language and mult-currency, etc. can easily be implemented.
- Security – Information is NEVER deleted. This is potentially the best form of security available. “Who” does “What” and “When” is always tracked and changes can be “rolled back” at any time by authorized administrators. Furthermore, only changes are transmitted vs. full data sets and even these are encrypted.
- IP Protection – Despite all the “hype” to the contrary, it is YOU, the user who determines how, when, and where to publish data. For example, you can maintain information in your private area, publish as read only to specified members within a private cloud…or publish to all members in a private cloud, or publish information to all members in public cloud and enable rights to use and modify data.
- Visualization - Despite the pervasive misunderstanding of BIM and unfortunate focus upon 3D visualization, DATA visualization and the associated development and implementation of the colloborative life-cycle management of built environment are the benefits provided by BIM. Cloud computing will accelerate data visualization and transparency among all stakeholders of physical infrastructure and promote performance-based processes.
- Agility – Our work and natural environments are changing at an accelerated pace. Rapid deployment, monitoring, and the associated modification of processes and policies is becoming increasingly important. Cloud computing deploys process faster than any other method currently available. There is no longer a need to rely upon internal “IT” for deployment or applications specific changes.
- Mobility – It is neither cost effective, nor efficient to have everyone working in offices or specified work settings. Resources need to be tapped from multiple locations enabling use of “the best of the best”, and resources with localized resources and/or capabilities. Cloud computing allows direct, transparent access to local resources while also communicating centralized processes and procedures.
- Centralization of Information – While information can be scattered among several data centers, it also can be instantly consolidated to provide global management in support of an organization’s mission as well as associated, efficient local action.
- Business Continuity – True, Internet access is required, however, would you rather store your information at your location and risk catastrophic failure, or have your information at multiple locations designed with redundancy, power backup, etc.?
BIG DATA and EFFICIENT CONSTRUCTION METHODS (Integrated Project Delivery, Job Order Contracting), CLOUD COMPUTING, and BIM are here to stay, are you ready?
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Cloud-computing will have a much more significant impact upon how the built environment is managed than 3D visualization. Information drives cost savings and higher efficiency. How and when we access information will forever alter day-to-day and strategic business practices for Owners, AEs, Contractors, SubContractors, Business Product Manufacturers, Building Users, Oversight Groups, and the Community.
BIM is the life-cycle management of the built environment support by digital technology.
Currently, the efficient life-cycle management of the built environment is being retarded by several factors:
- Existence of data silos;
- Organizational/professional cultures;
- Reliance archaic construction delivery methods (design-build-build, vs. IPD, JOC), and
- Poor life-cycle management knowledge transfer.
Most disconcerting is that, in most cases, methods for gathering and working on significantly enhanced tactical and strategic facility life-cycle management practices are readily available. Primary failures and relative lack of progress relative to BIM occur due to lack of applying information to resolve planning, resource allocation, and execution in a timely, collaborative manner. Cloud computing uniquely addresses all of these important issues.
Data silos evolved from improper higher education and professional training practices, inefficient and adversarial construction delivery methods, as well as piecemeal IT procurement policies.
Traditional data processing systems and application specific software solutions were confined by the high cost of memory and storage. Memory, storage, and processing power are now relatively inexpensive, to the extent that they are mathematically approaching zero. As a result Internet massive scale storage, search, and processing paradigms are rapidly becoming commonplace. That said, Excel and similar spreadsheet-centric programs, and even relational database technology are not up to the task of accessing and working upon data fast enough.
Cloud computing however enables the searching and use of massive data sets in milliseconds. Additionally real-time, multi-point collaborative access is securely enabled by cloud computing. In short, cloud computing eliminates the need for data silos.
Moving the currently disparate knowledge domain AECOO (Architecture Engineering, Construction, Owner, Operations) practices into a collaborative process, and shifting information access to an earlier point within the construction project planning process are also enabled by cloud computing and associated “newer” construction delivery methods (Integrated Project Delivery – IPD, and Job Order Contracting – JOC). Former time-line and silo restricted aspects of present day-to-day AECOO business practices stand to be vaporized by the precision search and analytic capabilities of modern cloud computing. Cloud computing is a highly standardized and virtualized commodity infrastructure, when combined with with standardized terms, cost data architectures, and similar generalized information hierarchies enables real-time continuous processing of open digital document/ information flow.
Fear that cloud computing will reduce the importance of Architects, Cost Estimators, Construction Managers, and other related profession is unfounded. Certainly inter-relationships and roles will evolve, however for those that are receptive, capabilities and potential within each profession will be expanded.
Cloud computing and BIM are disruptive technologies that will finally alter the culture and fundamental framework of how the AECOO sector (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner, Operations) does business. To appreciate this potential, however, requires a basic understanding of the following terms: The Internet – The Web – Cloud Computing – BIM.
The Internet is the substrate underlying the web and emerged from Darpa-funded (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) work in the 1970s. The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard protocols, for example, TCP/IP, to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the web (world wide web, www.) and the infrastructure to support email.
The Web (world wide web, www.) was invented by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire /European Organization for Nuclear Research) in the early 1990s. The web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet. With a browser (Explore, Chrome, Firefox…) one can view web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and between them via hyperlinks.
Having worked with both, including deploying on of the first truly web-based FM applications in 1998, I appreciate the scope of these two words. Many, if not most, do not.
Now on to Cloud Computing, the delivery of standards-based computing, applications, and storage as a service to a public or private community of recipients. It is the the delivery of a standards-based method of providing service in a wide variety of virtual and physical domains that is a key aspect. Computers now existing in our homes, offices, cars, and pockets, and virtual computers exist in the cloud. Computers have traditionally have worked within data networks as clients; consuming but not provide services. This is changing rapidly, Computers that live in the cloud provide as well as consume services. This differentiation may be of little importance to many/most businesses whose computers are being “virtualized”, the processed of simply moving data/IT centers off-premises. In this case, day to day processes, and fundamental business practices are not being affected.
Standards and services, and the unparalleled level of collaboration resulting from integration the Internet, Web, and Cloud Computing are converging to create a wave of change that is now upon us.
The cloud is social... on a very personal level. For example, computers performing services for us live in the cloud, alongside computers that work for other people in the same and within other organizations. People doing the same, similar, or related tasks in different locations, languages, currencies, etc. How effectively your computers can work for your depends on how well they provide services accessible to those other computers. This requires data standards, common processes, common lexicon, ….. If computers and people they don’t use common, robust terms/formats/processes, they can’t provide those services, and so they can’t efficiently, accurately, securely, and transparently do their jobs.
So, what’s cloud computing? Computers and people working collaboratively and providing enhanced productivity, speed, accuracy, security, and transparency for you. Everything working together and “playing nicely”, with virtually no bandwidth limitation within an ecosystem of standards-based services. worth. Thus, don’t fall for “cloud-washing”, the practice of taking legacy applications and porting them to virtual servers in the cloud. You gain nothing. Do your homework and look for standards-based true cloud computing applications that can “play nice” with everyone and deliver a better, faster, and actually fun way of doing work!
Now for BIM. BIM, building information modeling, is the efficient life-cycle management of the built environment. BIM requires standards, common terms/lexicon, collaboration, cloud-computing, robust processes, efficient delivery methods, and so much more. The below graphics highlight components of a BIM framework.
NBS National Construction Contracts and Law Survey 2012
by Adrian Malleson
Research and Analysis Manager, RIBA Enterprises (Source: http://www.thenbs.com/topics/ContractsLaw/articles/nbsNationalConstructionContractsLawSurvey2012.asp?utm_source=eNews-Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2012-07-09)
From March to April 2012, NBS a survey about contracts and legal issues within the UK construction industry. to understand, among other things:
- The different contracts and procurement methods being used
- At what point in the process contracts are signed
- The number and kinds of disputes taking place
- How frequently partnering or collaborative working are used in construction projects.
To help the survey get industry wide representation more than 20 industry bodies, including the RIBA, assisted by getting their members to take part. Over 1,000 responses from across the industry were received. This cross industry participation has meant that, for the first time, the UK now has had a broad based, independent survey of these areas. The responses weren’t just from architects and other consultants: clients and contractors took part too and the report breaks down responses by each group.
The findings give a full and at times startling picture of the UK construction industry’s relationship with contract and law.
In some ways, the industry remains rather traditional. Collaboration, team integration and partnering have, at best, only been partially realised.
When we look at the contracts the industry uses, we see that traditional forms of contract still dominate. Sixty per cent of respondents tell us that the JCT Contracts are the ones they use most often, and 72 per cent of people used JCT Contracts at least once in the last year. That said, the NEC Contracts, associated more with non-traditional, collaborative working and procurement, have a firm place in the industry. Sixteen per cent tell us they use them most often and 29 per cent have used them at least once in the last year. For standard forms of contract, JCT and NEC dominate; together they are used more than all other standard contract types combined.
That said, “bespoke” contracts are widely used too; almost one quarter of respondents had used them in at least one project in the last year. Twenty years ago, the Latham Report concluded: “Endlessly refining existing conditions of contract will not solve adversarial problems. Public and private sector clients should begin to phase out bespoke documents“. That “phasing out” is turning out to be a long process – but one we’ll be able to track with subsequent surveys.
The adoption of electronic working also shows the traditional ways of working still remain. While we continue to envisage an electronic future of BIM orientated, collaborative working, more than 40 per cent of consultants and clients are still not using electronic tendering at all. There’s work to be done.
The report also gives an understanding of the number of disputes: both the perceived trend in the number of disputes in the industry and the number of disputes actually gone into by respondents.
Ninety-two per cent of the respondents agreed that the number of disputes in the sectors had either increased or stayed at the same level, with the current state of the economy being most often described as the cause. This somewhat dark assessment is borne out by almost one quarter of those taking part in the survey having been involved in a dispute during 2011.
It’s significant that 49 per cent of contractors who completed the survey tell us that “poor specification” is a “most difficult or recurrent issue” leading to dispute.
Together, the issues people gave as the causes of dispute make clear the need for jointly owned, standardized information. A clear information model including tight specification and variance tracking can help prevent legal action later.
So, the overall picture that emerges is one of an industry that still makes use of traditional methods but which sees the place for more innovation.
In many of the comments people made when completing the survey we could see a real desire for construction to be a collaborative, team-based enterprise where extra value is generated through cooperation. We hope to be moving towards a more collaborative industry. This move towards collaboration goes hand in hand with the move towards shared, co-owned information as well as in the choices of contracts and working methods.
One of the most, if not the most, significant impediments to true team working and collaboration is legal dispute whether actual, threatened or envisaged. The survey uncovered these disputes are disruptive, expensive and not uncommon. That’s why from the outset, projects need standardized, shared information models that are easy to update, maintain and act upon. These need to clearly delineate where risk and responsibility lie. That’s not to say the solution is just a technical one, or one of keeping records, though doing these things well can only help. Any information model, any discharge of a contract, can only be as successful as the team that creates and uses it.
Hope you enjoy reading the full report.
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Read the below. Several arguments can be made as to why BIM is not gaining any real traction -
- Lack of confidence that BIM as an ongoing program will succeed.
- Costs are considered too high
- Too technical
- Anticipated loss of control
- Limited understanding of all BIM-related knowledge domains and associted technologies
- No preceived personal benefit
– Human resource problems
For BIM take hold… “big BIM” that is ( efficient facility life-cycle management supported by digital technology), will require a virtual CULTURAL REVOLUTION across the Architecture, Engineering, Owners, Operations (AECOO) sector (s). Collaboration, transparency, productivity, accuracy, and associated robust business process will become common place. The catalyst for this chagne is already upon us, and the below article provides some excellent insight on the topic.
Want to build a business? You need an IT ecosystem. (Source GIGAOM.COM)
Just thirty years ago, innovation in almost any category was measured in years, but today it’s measured in weeks or months. If you were to focus on information technology specifically you could even argue that change can occur in days — and that cycle will continue to accelerate.
But adapting and innovating in IT requires that you have a platform strategy that allows for heterogeneous adoption of technology at each layer of infrastructure. You also need simplified, cost-effective, real-time access to a wide range of partners and solution providers, otherwise known as your technology ecosystem. This group of providers will be a veritable marketplace of vendors that are proprietary and open source, but whom together create a combination of technologies and services that allow the buyer to mix and match for any solution requirement.
The technology ecosystem has always been important. Even in the days when a minority of companies had a single mainframe, you still needed parts, skills, power, data centers, tools, and ideas, etc. But that ecosystem was smaller and moved more slowly. The technology ecosystems of the 60s through the 90s tended to change over months or years, and our systems from then were more likely to be from a small handful of vendors. This simplified provider environment reduced dependence on an ecosystem of otherwise unrelated partners and vendors, but guaranteed your dependence on the one.
That was then, this is now.
The difference today, and going forward, is that technology is rapidly moving to a much more agile adoption, development, operating and use model. Buyers today can identify and use cloud-based infrastructure or obtain a few licenses of a Software-as-a-Service delivered application in a matter of hours. Aside from cloud-based services, there are virtual platforms, appliances, internally developed applications and myriad customer devices that all need to interact, but can change almost overnight.
Some would argue that the sheer complexity of the ecosystem today screams for CIOs to try to create homogenous infrastructure environments. However, the very fact that we’re making IT solutions more portable and readily adaptable means that we must plan for the ability to support multi-vendor solutions at any layer of the technical infrastructure, from the CPU, through to platform as a service.
The rapid delivery of new solutions means that companies will no longer wait patiently for “their” provider to catch up to major innovation leaps. The only way to stay in front of your competition is to grease the technical infrastructure skids with strong management platforms and clear adoption, ownership, and orchestration strategies.
Many software, cloud, and hardware providers in today’s market would argue that they offer a strong ecosystem of partners, but I think the future ecosystem will be as open as possible and also offer the customer access to a wide variety of cloud, network and other services within the confines of a single data center.
Think of your IT ecosystem as the local shops near your downtown flat, easy to access and well understood. However, if you’re downtown ecosystem was like the technology ecosystem you would have five coffee shops, three butchers, six shoe stores and so on from which to select goods and services. .
The open ecosystem
An open ecosystem allows for you to select the technology or service provider you like when the opportunity presents itself. It’s an environment where the customer has broad access to vendors and services related to any portion of the infrastructure stack, including wide area networking services and the data center capacity.
Under the old way of building IT, managers built it once, built it to last, and then got fired when it didn’t last. The new IT calls for managers to build it fast, possibly fail fast, and then build it again.
An open ecosystem means that in most cases you shouldn’t be spending years putting in a new technology architecture or solution. If it’s that complex or limited in its ability to adapt new technology you should be using a partner’s infrastructure such as an IaaS or PaaS provider solution.
There are also many options for building private cloud infrastructure, especially for larger businesses, but the focus should be on making it as open as possible. If you can’t taste test an application or new platform environment in a matter of days or weeks, you’re doing something wrong. Openness also helps if you need to move your work, because you want to have as many destinations to choose from as you can.
Many providers under one roof.
But even among open ecosystems there are important differences to be aware of. Ideally you will find an open ecosystem with a large number of different network, cloud, software and hardware providers under one umbrella. This allows the customer to make decisions around adoption of new technology quickly and efficiently. So instead of providing access to one or two bandwidth providers, the ideal ecosystem provides access to big and small players, and can play them against each other to get the best price and services for customers. In reality bringing together the combined customer and supplier community creates greater opportunities for both sides, in effect, a win-win.
It shouldn’t stop with bandwidth, either. An ecosystem should have not only the option of different hardware, and support services, but also different cloud service providers. If a customer wants to get cloud computing from a vendor, the ecosystem provider should invite that provider in. And if someone wants to build their own cloud, the ecosystem provider and data center provider should have an array of choices available for a customer to choose from.
The ideal delivery platform for this ecosystem is a data center provider who can create an environment that supports the needs of enterprise computing, while also lowering the costs and barriers to entry for ecosystem partners. This is an environment that removes all your risks associated with disaster avoidance, regulatory concerns, capacity and security. That location should have access to national freeways and airports as well as local government support that will help facilitate worker relocation and education, while also providing considerations for your hardware taxation risks.
It’s tough to find one place where all the above are available to the customer, but they are out there. Having these resources readily available is like having a Home Depot and a Lowes move in next to your house the day before you start a big home project. No matter what tool or resource you need, it’s all right there, immediately available, with competition, quantity and variety.
In this environment building a business that requires IT – or rethinking your existing IT doesn’t seem so daunting: With all these resources available, you virtually eliminate the risk of being forced into a “pragmatic” (read: bad but necessary) decision. You are free to experiment once, twice, three times, and then put it into production, without most of the historical baggage like “high network costs”, “no skilled staff” or a data center that is “out of capacity,” which have traditionally driven IT decisions.
So the increasing complexity and speed at which IT is moving doesn’t have to be something to worry about, instead look at it as an opportunity to roll with the technological changes without becoming too invested in a closed ecosystem.
Mark Thiele is executive VP of Data Center Tech at Switch, the operator of the SuperNAP data center in Las Vegas. Thiele blogs at SwitchScribe and at Data Center Pulse, where is also president and founder. .He can be found on Twitter at @mthiele10.
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BIM (Building Information Technology) and THE CLOUD (Cloud Computing) are disruptive technologies converging to significantly alter traditional construction and facility management practices.
Both technologies also embed associated business process rules and components which will enable enhanced life-cycle management of the built environment, alignment of structures with organizational mission, and better consideration of general community impacts.
The ever increasing competitive financial and environmental landscape are requiring public and private institutions to further maximize facility planning and management.
Leading organizations are already investing in the formalized definition and creation of robust business process frameworks, cultures, workflows, and capabilities to support collaboration, continuous improvement and/or LEAN practices needed to achieve higher productivity within the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner and Operator (AECOO) sector.
BIM and THE CLOUD provide the digital backbone to support the cost effective, scalable development and deployment of adaptive and efficient facility life-cycle management practices.
Definition of BIM
Building Information Management (BIM) is the life-cycle management of facilities supported by digital technology.
BIM can be applied at various levels. Current the most common being use of proprietary 3D visualization software for the purpose of supporting the design and construction phases of the facility life-cycle. At this level BIM’s value is primarily to Architects, Architectural Engineers and Business Development Professionals, as well as Owners working to design, market, and construct new facilities. Case studies have documented the cost and time savings offered at this level of BIM application, however, BIM’s ability to support the fully facility life-cycle – planning, design, procurement, construction, operations, repair, renovation, sustainability, adaptation, and
deconstruction – is where the highest value of BIM will be achieved. Attainment of this advanced life-cycle implementation of BIM on a widespread basis however the will require the following to occur:
1. Major cultural change within the AECOO sector,
2. Standardized taxonomies and data architectures, and
3. The availability and integration of secure technology to promote collaboration and
the Integration of currently disparate business processes and knowledge domain specific software applications such as; Capital Planning and Management Systems (CPMS), Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM), Cost Estimating and Project Management, Efficient Construction Delivery Methods (IPD-Integrated Project Delivery, JOC-Job Order Contraction), Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Building Automation Systems (BAS). A view of how these components pertain to an overall BIM strategy and facility life-cycle is represented in Figure #1.
BIM holds many of the keys to restructuring and dramatically improving overall performance and productivity within our industry, however, cloud computing is equally important.
Definition of THE CLOUD
Cloud computing and/or cloud technology (THE CLOUD) is “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
THE CLOUD allows users to access parts of virtually limitless application and computing resources on-demand. Access is faster and easier than traditional “client-server” or “web-based” applications. While some software vendors may host their legacy applications on the cloud, and call them “cloud apps”, a practice known as “cloud-washing”, true cloud applications offer all of the following elements:
• On-demand self-service: a user to can sign up and receive services without delay.
• Broad network access: ability to access the service via multiple platforms; desktop,
• Rapid elasticity/scalability: computing resources are available to meet requisite
• Measured Service: Metered and/or time based billing based upon computing resource
levels and/or storage levels vs. time.
There are several levels of cloud computing, which may appear distinct and tend to blend and even become transparent based upon the type of usage:
- Software as a Service (Saas): SaaS is the “end-user” level of cloud computing. Access to software application, such as Microsoft Excel for example, is provided on an on-demand basis via a web browser. Applications are available via the Internet on a “right to use” and “pay-as-you-go” subscription model. There is no additional annual fee for software maintenance, or any need to worry about upgrades or patches, etc. Users simply pay a monthly or annual fee for access and use based upon time and/or usage.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS is the set of tools and services designed to make coding and deploying SaaS applications efficient. While transparent to most end-users, it is the power to create and deploy applications exponentially faster within a standardized, secure environment that is driving the adoption of THE CLOUD.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS represents all the associated hardware and software infrastructure – servers, storage, networks, and operating systems.
BIM and CLOUD Convergence
To better understand the explosive power of mixing BIM and CLOUD relative to removal of the traditional process and technology silos within the AECOO sector that have held back productivity improvement for decades, it’s important to look at cloud computing in a bit more detail.
SaaS is tailor made for applications where there is significant interplay between the user organization and the outside world. Applications that have a significant need for web or mobile access. Software where usage may be intermittent, and or demand spike occurs frequents.
All of these are common within all phases of construction, repair, renovation, or sustainability projects.
PaaS, platform as a service, also offers several key capabilities. Tools and services to test, deploy, host, and maintain applications are provided within one integrated development environment. Brower and/or web graphical user interface (GUIs) creation tools are also a part of PaaS platforms to speed the ability to create, modify, test and deploy client-specific applications.
All of the above is accomplished within a “multi-tenant architecture” within which concurrent developers work within the application.
This translates into the ability to build and deploy massively scalable, secure applications at a fraction of the time it would have taken for traditional software deployments.
Additionally, this is all accomplished within a set of common standards, assuring the ability to “talk” to virtually any other application. Multiple developers can be working on a development project and/or other external parties can easily become part of development process. This ability is critical where multiple professionals have existing data sources – cost data bases, project information, contract information, etc. and need to enhance the ability to pull and maintain knowledge from these sources. A notable example of a PaaS platform is Microsoft AzureTM.
From a facility life-cycle perspective, imagine the following within a BIM environment.
Again, please keep in mind that BIM is not “just” 3D model-centric visualization or rendering of building information, but rather collaborative access and ongoing use of a wide range of building information throughout its life-cycle: cost data, physical or functional conditions, utilization, life/safety, sustainability, etc.
Cloud computing allows facility stakeholders throughout the world to work concurrently upon the same data. For example, let’s us take the creation of cost estimate for a major facility renovation. The renovation is located in a foreign country, however, part of a large real property portfolio owned and managed by an Owner based in the United States.
Anyone that is proposed to participate or participates in the project and simple by invited by the Owner, and or the Owner’s representative. The invite is sent directly from the SaaS cost estimating and project estimating program, and/or adaptive construction project delivery / adaptive construction management system (ACMTM, APDTM, ). The invites can be sent in any language automatically. Invites allow access to information to a specified level of granularity and/or to a domain Once invited, and upon acceptance and confirmation, the invitee will see only the subset of information enabled by the “host”. Perhaps the Owner is providing full access to a general contractor, or the general contractor may be providing limited access to a sub-contractor. Invited parted may be allowed to conduct work on the information, such as prepare a construction cost estimate, and/or work jointly upon an existing cost estimate.
Regardless, changes can be made at any time, and at any level, as defined by the account administrator. Each change can be done in locate language, currency, etc. Each change is automatically recorded and tracked right down to time and user, with full “undo” and “redo” capability. This is real-time collaboration and transparency. This is BIM.
The above only begins to relate the enablement provided by the BIM/CLOUD convergence.
All aspects of a BIM strategy or BIM framework, as portrayed in the Figure #1, can be cost effectively implemented and supported by a digital BIM/CLOUD framework.
As the technology solution provided by cloud computing enters the AECOO sector, standardized life-cycle process definitions and associated exchanges of information take front stage to insure that various domain-specific meanings are consistent and apparent at all levels of granularity.
Robust, proven business process, such as efficient project delivery methods such as IPD-Integrated Project Delivery and JOC-Job Order Contract will be easily and cost-effectively implemented and consistently deployed throughout organizations regardless of type or location.
Owners, AEs. Contractors, and Subcontractors will be empowered to access and use these and other methods to significantly improve collaboration and productivity. Furthermore, changes can readily be made to both processes and technology to adapt to specific localized requirements and/or to keep paces with dynamic conditions.
That fact that business process and workflows of these efficient project delivery methods, and all other components of a BIM Framework, are embedded into the cloud technology is central to the empowerment and success of all built environment stakeholders. Using traditional technology and methods, these capabilities would be limited to organizations that could afford the associated “front end” implementation and ongoing technology and process management costs. And even then, success would not be assured as collaborative and “real-time” monitoring, as well as adaptive response are not readily available.
Cloud computing technology enables the rapid development, deployment, and ongoing adaptation of proven, robust BIM processes. It is the consistent, collaborative creation and ongoing use of facility life-cycle information for both new and existing buildings, spanning design, procurement, construction, renovation, repair, adaptation, and deconstruction that defines BIM. Cloud technology is the framework upon which BIM processes will be created, deployed and maintained.
BIM and Cloud Computing together will significantly expand the ability of all stakeholders to more efficiently better the built environment on a widespread basis.
Once sequestered in silos – Owners, Real Property Managers, Facility Managers, Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Sub-contractors, Operations and Maintenance, Financiers, Safety and Security, Business Product Manufacturers, and Oversight Groups – will now have the ability to base their decisions upon transparent, common information.
 The terms “facility” or “facilities” are used to define vertical (buildings) and horizontal (bridges, roadways, utilities…) built structures.
 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
 Job Order Contracting (JOC) is an form of Integrated Project Delivery for facility renovation, repair, and sustainability construction projects. Both IPD and JOC are decades old and proven to be effective at improving productivity and mitigating both change orders and litigation.