A brief thread on Esther McVey's comments today about how architects will be designing buildings in 3d ans why Brexit isn't a good thing for the construction industry.
First of all, let's be clear that she is completely out of touch.
She is so far behind the times in her understanding of what is happening that it's not even amusing.
Technical computer drawing software (whether 2d or 3d) is generally known as Computer Aided Design.
The history of CAD begins over 60 years ago.
By the early 1990s, 3D was used for complex solid modelling of intricate organic forms such as Gaudi's Sagrada Familia which was reconstructed in CADDS5.
The architecture and construction firms that were at the cutting edge in the mid 1980s were using workstations connected to (horrendously expensive) VAX minicomputers.
Sometimes staff worked two shifts to maximise the ROI on the systems.
By the late 1980s, CAD on desktop computers was a realistic proposition and relatively generic products such as AutoCAD and MicroStation along with many others began to mature and become serious work tools.
At the same time, other firms such as ArchiCAD began to create software for creating building models completely in 3D.
Fast forward to today and 3D tools are used by almost every discipline and at almost every stage of the design process.
Buildings are not just modelled in 3D by the architects, but other disciplines also work with these models and add to them.
Structural engineers create 3d steelwork models that the go to fabricators who transfer them to CAM and the parts are cut and manufactured by robots.
Services engineers do point, cable and duct runs in 3D.
All these are combined together to check for clashes.
Civil engineers model the landscape in 3D taking into account soil slump angles, road gradients and ratios of cut and fill.
Lighting designers build virtual layouts using digital data supplied by lighting manufactures.
Acousticians build 3d models that look at the reverberation within rooms.
3D models are turned into visuals for marketing and to assess the impact on the street scape for planning.
3D models look at sunlight and shadow, both within the buildings and as they affect their surroundings by creating new shadows throughout the year.
In larger developments, the effects of wine both at high level and ground level are assessed.
At construction time, 3D models are passed onto contractors as well as traditional 2D drawings (in electronic format).
Fabricators of parts such as door handles and hinges model their products in 3D and make prototypes or moulds with 3D printers.
As you can see, 3D isn't the future - it is the reality today and had nothing to do with the efforts of Esther McVey.
But things have morphed far beyond 3D. In construction, CAD has evolved into BIM (building information modeling).
As well as private industry, the UK government has been instrumental in pushing BIM as a requirement in their projects.
BIM is popular because it avoids mistakes through bad coordination. No longer do people get on site and find a beam in the way of where a duct has to go or that the election doesn't match the plan exactly.
BIM has been standard on projects for many practices for over 10 years.
But, there's a problem and this is where Brexit and the current government comes in.
All the above interoperability relies on standards. Different software from different disciplines has to interact together and standards such as COBie, IFC, UniClass & the NBS help achieve this.
But each country has their own standards - their own construction methods, their own building regulations or codes and their own bodies governing the professions involved in these fields.
Internationally, outside the EU, US standards are often the default, but within the EU, the UK has done a good job of getting their standards accepted or having a major day in the creation of new standards.
By being part of a greater whole we can both collaborate better and help to set the agenda for what the important issues are.
Outside the EU though, few will see the point of listening to us. When dealing internationally we will be using the standards set by others.
But the government doesn't care - when they released their Brexit impact assessments, Architecture was barely mentioned, split between multiple reports. Nobody sound decide if we were creatives of part of the connection industry.
As an industry, construction is far bigger than fishing, but you hear far less about it on relation to Brexit.
It's an industry involving the latest technology, complex interoperating standards, multiple supply chains and often foreign subcontractors, suppliers and labourers.
Architecture is one of the UK's successful exports and I and many others have been working on projects internationally for years.
Some of this can continue of we leave the EU, but a lot of it will become more difficult.
It is also an industry where every large project relies on finance, often from multiple sources. It is very sensitive to problems in the markets and can suffer badly in recessions.
This government is trying to pretend it cares about and understands this industry. If it really did though, it would understand why leaving the EU is a bad idea in so many ways.
And apologies to any people using 3D in other ways in the construction process - it is so pervasive and has been around for so long that I'm sure there are many other uses that I've missed in this thread.
While Hollywood might show architects offices full of drawing board and rolls of blueprints, parallel motion boards have been on their way out since the mid 1990s.
By 2013 when my office sold off some old drawing boards they were picked up by a film company in Shepperton for use as props.
Few people on eBay were interested in actually using them for their intended purpose.
So here's some of the major things I missed out.
4D (& 5D etc) models now good data beyond 3D, relating to time and cost.
Project managers & project planners can timeline 3d models to see exactly what is being constructed when.
One milestone development I missed off was the love it or hate it world of SketchUp which appeared in 2000. It might lack some of the features of more grown up CAD (especially at the start), but it was simple enough that the company directors who could barely use Word used it.
SketchUp is becoming better as a CAD tool, but I personally struggle with it because it doesn't sit as well within the whole ecosystem of serious 3D programs that will interact together on large complex models.
3D printed buildings are now a thing that will become more mainstream.
As are bricklaying robots.
And many other construction site robots.
And 3D models have become such a vital tool in obtaining planning permission for larger developments that it is now possible to buy pretty much any chunk of London off the shelf in accurate 3D to use as verifiably correct context for your own model.
Architects and other designers sometimes no longer generate all of the 3D models directly. Instead, parametric modelling uses formulas assembled in a visual interface to generate complex surfaces or to automate more mundane tasks.
Someone reminded me that 3D is heavily used in Facilities Management of buildings with complex plant and equipment installs. Model parts can link to physical asset tags and manufacturer manuals etc as well as service life data.
And finally, Esther McVey talks about 3D architects...
What does she imagine we looked like before this great evolution?
McVey is not some random person - she is supposed to be in charge of the construction of more housing in this country - yet I suspect that she still thinks BIM is a Dr Seuss character and not a vital tool in this process.
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