Today, as I stand with my Engineering and CAD teams reviewing the deliverables for a single residential building and see them trying to grapple with the situation, I begin to wonder whether technology is taking us forward or backward. Indeed, are we making life simpler and easier with the tools at our disposal?
Really, we have arrived at a situation where engineers are being judged more for their “modelling” skills and presentation than for their “engineering capabilities” and experience.
With the advent of BIM, many stakeholders thought they had found a magic wand and that a swish of it would solve all their construction problems. On the contrary, I see a large number of Engineering and Drawing hours being wasted… and Design Offices silently suffer through this, until a more meaningful solution is achieved.
In the upcoming series, I will be sharing some of my past experiences and my views on how the industry has changed – and how it may further evolve, in my perspective.
Taking a few steps back to 38 years ago, when I began my career as a Trainee Engineer in the AC Department at Batliboi, in Mumbai, India, I distinctly remember enjoying my work. Subsequently, I worked as a Design and Sales Engineer, which gave me an opportunity to carry out designs for the telecom sector, for defence-related installations and for the Airbus Simulator. Those were the days, when we had to book in advance to enter into the main frame computer room for streamlining cooling load calculations and selection charts.
The focus was on good engineering, and computers were viewed as being of great assistance in speeding up mundane tasks. “Drafting” at the time meant drawing lines with a “Drafter”. Today, it has transformed to the smug BIM-based modelling.
The drumbeats of how BIM would revolutionise the construction industry is very much questionable, in my humble opinion. For simple residential and commercial buildings, which form the substantial chunk of the construction industry in the Middle East, quality “Issued For Construction” drawings – in Autocad or other similar packages that are available – are more than adequate. I do believe that properly engineered and coordinated drawings, with the involvement of Architectural, Structural and MEP disciplines, with sections for critical spaces, would suffice.
However, what is happening today defies logic. With construction picking up pace in the UAE and accelerating in Saudi Arabia, a more sensible and reasonable approach ought to be considered for adopting. Most of the design houses do not have in-house BIM capability to handle the volume of work that is pouring in. Even the large firms are forced to have substantial back-office facilities in India, Philippines or other countries, where the BIM models could be economically produced.
Here comes the catch. Are these models that are produced are of a reasonable quality and are properly coordinated? The answer is ‘A BIG NO’. Today, the modellers that are being inducted into organisations, or the “outsourced service providers”, hardly have any construction knowledge and are mere “software application handlers”. The result is that the same work is being handled multiple times for QA/QC, and still the end-product – the “Model” – is a disaster, when you view it in the 3D platform.
The morale of the Design Engineers and knowledgeable CAD Technicians sinks when they see all their super efforts and capabilities go down the drain due to the “outsourcing” and the resultant never ending QA/QC quagmire. I do agree that every transition in the industry is a painful one; however, a more understanding approach from Clients/Architects will help the MEP Industry “Designers”.
The obsession with “zero clash” in design stage can be relaxed, knowing that this is not the way it is going to be constructed until the entire chain of Designers, Contractors and the Client FM Teams are geared up and compensated accordingly.
Kandasamy Anbalagan, drawing from his multiple decades of experience as an MEP consultant, writes a bi-monthly guest column on rapidly changing scenarii and their implications for the MEP industry. The writer is Managing Partner, Proleed Engineering Consultants. He may be reached at email@example.com.