A good few weeks ago I suspended my disbelief and took the opportunity to pretend civil engineering is just as full of young and trendy start-ups as those cool cats at Silicone Valley. BaseStone’s second Construct/Disrupt definitely set the scene; beer, pizza, checked shirts- even the engineers who had turned up made an effort look a little trendy. But the stars of the show were the new technologies on display; and that’s what I want to draw your attention to today.
Bill Clee (Asset Mapping)
Winning me over with the quip: “Standards are a bit like toothbrushes – everyone has one and no one wants to use anybody else’s.” Clee introduced us to Asset Mapping’s technique of doing away with the archaic, propriety and often incompatible interfaces that link our building services and using a combination of open standards and cheap sensors to monitor a company’s physical assets. This internet of things means that businesses can know the state of their estates and plan accordingly.
Jozef Dobos (3D Repo)
As something between a software and structural engineer; I find myself constantly at odds with the way both industries manage data. Anyone who has seen the wonders of GitHub will understand; and clearly Dobos has- because 3D Repo is git for drawings. Open source (e.g. free to use and collaborate to improve); it allows you to view, monitor and merge changes to BIM models. I can only hope that the oddities of “common formats” are straightened out so that this can be the de facto standard and we can all get on with our lives.
Fred Mills (The B1M)
I like the B1M. It’s the ultimate resource to get you enthusiastic about BIM; with weekly videos from some of the current through leaders in the business. But more than that, it was good to hear Mills’ views on the need for our industry to adapt- “organisations can no longer hoard their information; we are judged by out contribution”; as designers we need to focus on our ability to innovate- not just hoard our old innovations.
James Bowles (Freeform 3D)
Just as the industry is coming to the terms with the third dimension, Bowles has taken to talking about the forth (and the last of the real dimensions that BIM inhabits). Toting that projects undertaking 4D modelling end up being executed faster (something I dearly want to believe; but take it with a pinch of salt); he predicts that in the future we will model full cities in 4D to see how the projects interact and better manage the interfaces.
Freddie Talberg (PIE Mapping)
I cycle in London. So when Tablerg announced that trucks turning left kill cyclists, I vowed to avoid left turning trucks forever. Luckily PIE Mapping is working to make my life easier by preventing trucks turning left forever; well- almost. By combining their mapping and routing knowledge with live data across London they are working with construction (and logistics) companies to ensure that heavy vehicles are routed across the city in such a way that they do avoid this dangerous manoeuvre at cyclist heavy junctions!
Oluwaseyi Sosanya (Gravity Sketch)
Engineers sketch; in fact, I was once congratulated in an interview for reaching for a pen a paper to sketch with. Anyone who has had to convert a collection of dodgy hand-sketches into a beautiful 3D model will know, however, that sketching well is an art- and not one widely practised. Sosanya has the answer- just sketch in 3D. Gravity sketch is an up and coming app that allows you to form a mobile plane with a tablet; adding the third dimension to your sketch-pad. You can even combine it with VR technology to allow you to visualise and manipulate the sketches of others.
Henry Stuart (Visualise)
What isn’t construction doing that every other industry is? Well, I could write a list; but for Stuart, it’s forming Virtual Reality experiences. We deliver schemes worth billions to clients who have seen little more than an architectural rendering (on a summers day, with a suspiciously diverse crowd hanging about). Imagine how much better we could realise their expectations with a full VR experience; allow them to meander across the bridge that isn’t there- or sit down in the tiny luxury apartment to be. More than that, we could be running full virtual executions of complex designs to predict problems before we get to them on a Christmas possession…
So there you have it; it might seem like the industry is just plodding along compared to our technological counterparts- but there’s still an undercurrent of disruption to help shake things up. Here’s to whatever these hopeful startups become!