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Tired of waiting, Doherty calls BIM end run

Tired of waiting, Doherty calls BIM end run

by ROB McMANAMY | Feb 1, 2016

Never one to shrink from a challenge — or tread lightly when 'bold' is an option — Smart Cities evangelist and AEC Hackathon founder Paul Doherty, AIA, has started a new Chicago-based company focused on reinventing the use of building information modeling (BIM) and returning the under-utilized tool to its original purpose and promise, he says.

"We're not just drawing with BIM now; we're managing with it," explains Doherty, giving the rationale behind The BIM Company, his new subsidiary of the digit group holding company (see chart below).  "We're not just CAD jockeys using BIM as an electronic pencil. We're making it part of the virtual design and construction (VDC) process now, as it was originally intended to be. We're creating and managing a highly valuable digital asset."

We’re not just CAD jockeys using BIM as an electronic pencil. We’re making it part of the virtual design and construction process now, as it was originally intended to be.
— Paul Doherty, The BIM Company

Notably, the move comes less as a strategy to win new work than as a necessity to handle projects already in hand and in the offing. "We have a crush of work coming down the pipeline, so we needed to form our own process team to handle it," he says. "As we grow, we will essentially be outsourcing to ourselves. So we are ramping up aggressively now."

Process lead Reece.

Process lead Reece.

Indeed, to lead that process team, The BIM Company this week announced the hiring of Jason Reece, former technology and innovation lead for infrastructure giant Balfour Beatty. Already on board is veteran Chicago architect Dan Coffey, whose Willis Tower office now also serves as headquarters for the new entity. Coffey is now a principal in The DESIGN Company, a new sister to The BIM Company. Doherty's fellow SmartWorlds advisor Peter Ellis, the former SOM partner atop Peter Ellis New Cities, is a consultant to The DESIGN Company. All share the SmartWorlds credo of attacking global urban infrastructure problems with "urgent optimism."

"All these smart cities are coming, and they will involve everything, producing all this interconnected data that will be essential for operating and maintaining them," says Doherty. "All of it will have to work together, so we will have to be a specialty shop for everything, too. To do that, we will need a whole new pallet of tools. And that's what expanded and comprehensive BIM services offer."

The new model: Doherty's ambitious play creates three new companies under the existing Digit Group parent. The INNOVATION Company already has a tentative deal with Georgia Tech in the works that should be finalized soon.

The new model: Doherty's ambitious play creates three new companies under the existing Digit Group parent. The INNOVATION Company already has a tentative deal with Georgia Tech in the works that should be finalized soon.

Based in Chicago with offices in Dubai, Mumbai and Delhi, The BIM Company in just its first month already has 142 employees. But with large projects already under way in the U.S. and Australia, the firm will likely scale up to 500 employees as early as this spring. "The majority of those hires will be overseas, but we are a U.S. company, drawing on American ingenuity and skills," says Doherty. "We will always have 10% to 20% of employees in the U.S."

That could be a challenge with the amount of international work the firm already has under contract, especially in Australia. In addition to its U.S. work, The BIM Company now is providing BIM services in the UAE and India, with negotiations under way for more in Ireland, the U.K., China, and Hong Kong. Doherty hints that more big announcements will be forthcoming soon, likely involving ambitiously large urban projects on the East Coast and in the Midwest. When it comes to ambition, though, few can rival the breadth and scale of the enormous work now being discussed 'down under'.

Property Jobs.com.au: Australian website is just one sign of preparations for the coming wave of new 'smart cities'.

Property Jobs.com.au: Australian website is just one sign of preparations for the coming wave of new 'smart cities'.

"The Australian Parliament is talking about work on a massive scale, basically re-balancing the Australian settlement, itself," notes Doherty. "So they are looking at creating eight new smart cities, adding high-speed rail, building 30,000 new homes per year, for 15 years. Nine million new jobs."

To accomplish such audacious goals, the time is now for using the technology that we already have for the purposes that caused their creation. "It's known as 'BIM-wash', where you have the wrong users using the wrong tools. We don't have time for that anymore," he contends. 

With that in mind, his advice is to buckle up. The rest of 2016 and beyond will be fast and furious.

Expect more inspiring revelations from Doherty when he speaks at BuiltWorlds' first CEO Tech Forum this April at the Chicago Athletic Association. For more on his new company, click here.

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