Manchester. BIM, Technology and the future Architect: An Interview With CS&A Responsible Engineer Jason Boyle

Manchester. BIM, Technology and the future Architect: An Interview With CS&A Responsible Engineer Jason Boyle

Manchester. BIM, Technology and the future Architect: An Interview With CS&A Responsible Engineer Jason Boyle

Jason is an Architect who is interested in Artificial Intelligence and how robots are going to change the professions and our world.  In 2017, he became the youngest Fellow of the RIBA after being a Chartered Architect for 18 years. In 2018, he achieved Fellowship status of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). He is now an ambassador for Architecture in the Civil and Engineering sector, having spent the last 10 years of his career in the Nuclear Industry. In his present role as a CS&A Responsible Engineer, he leads the Civil, Architectural and Structural work for a £240m+ Major Nuclear Project in Cumbria, UK and also a £800m project of national importance.

VG: Jason, smart technologies, robots, mobots etc. receive a great deal of focus right now by architectural practices and architecture schools. Why is that in your opinion?

Jason Boyle: I believe that now we are in a generation where students of architecture have grown up with smart technology and it’s just a natural progression for architectural practice and schools of architecture to embrace the possibilities of robotic collaboration and AI. The use of digital technology to create architecture is now the norm but it’s how you can then use this data to do many more things. Robots and mobile robots (mobots) will allow the architect and constructor to work much closer together to construct the buildings of the future in much more fun ways and it’s a very exciting time to be practicing Architecture. Smart technology is receiving a great deal of focus as all of the professionals who are part of constructing buildings and infrastructure can see that that this technology has the greatest opportunity to get things right the first time for the client.

VG: You have done a lot of work with BIM and you were recently awarded the RIBA fellowship for your work in this field? Was there a particular inspiration behind your career choice? Briefly, how did you first come to work in the area of BIM?

Jason Boyle: The first time I saw Frank Lloyd’s Wrights ‘Fallingwater’ I knew I wanted to become an Architect; it was as simple as that. Ten years ago I chose to work in the Nuclear Industry, as I have always loved to work on large complex projects. Back in 2011, I read Paul Morrell’s Government Construction Strategy where I first saw that the government were serious about the adoption of BIM as a way to collaborate. I was just beginning a new, nuclear project where we had to deliver the project in 7 years instead of 10 years and I saw that the process of BIM could enable us to take 3 years of the program. I took my leadership role as the person responsible for the building and persuaded that the Project Managers that BIM could save both time and money, today this is an easy sell but back then there were few case studies to study. I, therefore, found myself working in the area of BIM because someone had to take the lead and I did not want my project to fail, understanding what technology can achieve in the right hands was an area I had the power to influence.

G: What do you see is its main benefits for the architects, industries, and practice? How does BIM work?

Jason Boyle: BIM is a process of managing data allowing greater collaboration between the data creators to create buildings and infrastructure. The benefits of BIM for the design team and industry as a whole are huge, from visualizing the data model through VR before you commit to building, to constructing and maintaining the asset throughout its life! The creation of a digital twin (the digital replica of the physical asset) is now seen by clients as a real asset and this is a big shift within our industry. This means that our clients now place great value on the digital “As-Built” model and as the Architect is the designer of the building this gives greater opportunity to create closer links with the end user through use of the digital twin for operating and changing the building through its lifespan.

BIM works by connecting all of the information about every part of a building into a common data environment. BIM makes it possible for anyone to access that information for any purpose, e.g. to integrate different aspects of the design more effectively. Using BIM the risk of mistakes or discrepancies is reduced, and abortive costs minimized.

BIM data can be used for the entire building life-cycle, from cradle to cradle, from design inception, to construction and to operation and demolition. Spaces, systems, products, and sequences can be shown in relative scale to each other and, in turn, relative to the entire project. And by signaling conflict detection BIM prevents errors creeping in at the various stages of development/ construction.

VG: Did Nuclear Industry become more effective when integrating BIM and similar technologies in their work?

Jason Boyle: I would go as far to say that the adoption of BIM within the nuclear sector is more effective than any other industry as we are building assets for operation and then they must be decommissioned. Nuclear projects have to integrate with designers from mechanical, ventilation, instrument, piping, electrical, structural, civil and architectural backgrounds and therefore a process of collaboration between the design team is essential. Using BIM data to construct and decommission facilities gives our regulators greater confidence as it reduces risk through the lifecycle process.

VG: What do people mean when they talk about the everyday use of ICT in the UK? How is England’s approach different from South European for example?

Jason Boyle: The everyday use of ICT in the UK is generally accepted to mean the connection of all devices, networking components, applications, and systems that when combined allow users to interact in the digital world.

My personal view of the English approach is that we are very good at writing the standards and following them. The PAS 1192 series of BIM documents set the standards for BIM level 2 and are now adopted (in some form) on a worldwide basis. I believe that the UK government were ahead of most other countries in this field because we wrote these standards and they are easy to use and are free.

A recent survey EU BIM Task Group on BIM adoption in Europe stated there are several reasons for these variations of BIM maturity across regions.

“Some scholars suggest that these differences are associated and influenced by the institutional forces and national policies and mandates in different countries. However, it is important to acknowledge that differences are influenced by the socio-technical factors and the cultural and social contexts in each region as well as team experiences.

Differences can also be impacted by the type of project, its scale, income, the level of complexity and the requirements of clients. Understanding the underpinning influences, that include internal and external forces on projects, requires more detailed observations.”

The UK approach, in my opinion, is driven by the need to save time and money, it is now business as usual and the focus now is on creating a more immersive environment and defining what BIM level 3 means.

VG: How do construction and architecture change when incorporating technologies into their agenda?

Jason Boyle: Construction and Architecture changes with an ICT agenda by thinking holistically, we have to start with the end in mind. When we understand that end we can then begin to work with and integrate technology to look at design proposals much faster (generative design) we can understand how to construct them as we have greater understanding of the building and environment and we can future-proof buildings embedding smart technology to make smarter buildings for the end user.

VG: What would you advice a young architect with regards to BIM?

Jason Boyle: As an Architect in his mid-forties I am constantly aware of the problems faced by our profession, the often poor fees Architects get are often to do with the fact that Architects are not valued by society as a whole. Over the last 10 years, we have lost a lot of control within the building process to the Project Manager who has now become the clients’ agent. My advice to a young Architect is that the creation of buildings and places is still something that the Architect does best but the value of what Architects do has to be increased in the minds of the client and wider public.

The creative use of digital technology is one area where Architects can play a bigger role and I suggest bringing into architectural practice other designers such as software engineers, gamers, drone operators and robotics engineers so that more creative collaboration can happen leading to more excitement and passion within the profession. Architects can then offer more services to the construction industry but also should seek out other industries, which could benefit from design and digital leadership.

VG: Do you have a favorite story of a technology and its impact?

Jason Boyle: I think that my journey from being an Architect on a major government-funded project where I knew what I wanted to achieve with BIM and now 7 years later seeing this come to realization is a great story I have told many people because technology and processes were developing in parallel as we were designing and constructing a real building. But the greatest impact happened when the Virtual Reality (VR) technology developed to such an extent that we could immerse the future operators of the facility into the digital twin and they could begin to understand the plant before it was complete, this has been a game changer.

Valina Geropanta and Jason Boyles— 

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