This week’s interview is with Gautam Shenoy, BIM Director with Steinberg Architects.  Steinberg has 125 staff in four locations, including Shanghai.

1. How did you become a BIM Manager (career path, years in Revit, etc)?
In all honesty, it started off as pursuit and study in 3D visualization. Back in 2003, there were a limited number of resources in terms of renderers, modelers and platforms that provided quick turnaround for visualization. Revit at the time utilized basic raytracing with the ability to use bump maps and artificial lighting. But then there was this WHOLE other parametric side which intrigued me. I was fortunate enough to be trained by an architect who had the foresight to see that this was the future. From that point on, it has only been learning more and more – different project types, market sector ranging from multi-family homes to NFL Stadiums and airports.

2. What is your evaluation of the current state of BIM in the industry?
The current state of BIM in the industry gives me tremendous hope. As much as everyone would like to admit that BIM has become an industry standard, I think information modeling does not satisfy the needs of blue-blood designers. The workflow between conceptual design, iterative modifications, options and a fully developed set of documents is still wrought with inconsistencies and loopholes. BIM is yet to fill that gap. Notwithstanding, it has come a long way because early adoption (an all fronts, A, E, C and Ops) is now a common practice and more and more Project Managers are accommodating the process as a part and parcel of their design delivery path.

3. What methods do you use to convey value from your non-billable hours?
Staying billable is perhaps the proverbial tightrope walk that every BIM Coordinator, Manager needs to leverage in an intelligent and progressive manner. I feel that having a thorough workplan that educates Project Principals and Managers about the perks, benefits, processes and shortcomings such that they ‘accommodate’ BIM into their costs is the preventive countermeasure. Notwithstanding, the best thing to do when utilizing overhead is to educate the staff, host classes, update white papers, create videos, use every means possible to create resources so that the firm has the necessary expertise to educate their own and the clients. There is no such thing as enough resources. I highly recommend every BIM Manager to constantly work on updating their bag of tricks, stay current with industry developments and NEVER for a moment forget that what they do is fundamental to the growth of the staff and the firm’s expertise in general.

4. What are you excited about?
Where the industry is going! If I rollback ten years, we were still struggling with computing and staying connected. Not anymore! Aside from cloud based technology, the advent of VR, 3D printing is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. More and more teams have come to realize that the quasi-traditional adversarial designer-engineer-contractor workflow is counterintuitive. I am a HUGE advocate of working together as a single team that strives to deliver a high-quality environment that will provide an endearing experience to every person that inhabits said space.

5. What are your biggest challenges re: BIM?
The dynamics of how to accommodate BIM smoothly in all aspects of design and construction is always hard to predict. This isn’t necessarily a shortcoming as much as it is a challenge. I say this because the iterative and transformative nature of design constantly requires teams to be creative in managing time, resources and deadlines. A successful BIM Manager will always find a way to keep his/her PM and the team engaged and within the realm of the process. When dealing with demanding schedules, it is easy to fall back into comfort zones and resort to shortcuts which in almost every case has long term implications. A BIM Manager should always think several steps ahead of his/her managers and team members so that they already have solutions /countermeasures in place when things don’t work out as planned. Which perhaps could very much be an everyday occurrence in busy times!

6. Can you name some favorite plugins/tools?
iDeate BIMLink, Revit workFlow, Keynote Manager, CTC BIM Manager’s Suite are a few of my favorites. Honestly, almost every plugin that’s out there is an excellent resource. Almost every plugin I have introduced to my users has been wolfed down in a matter of hours.

7. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being just installed Revit and 10 being BIM Masters, how would your rank your firm? How about firms in general that you’ve seen?
I would give our firm a seven. Over the last year, we have taken very large strides in how we utilize BIM as well as VDC not just internally, but overall in general. We have become more aware of the need to educate our clients about the benefits, we have taken a much more proactive approach in crafting contracts that set precedents with our clients and consultants and encourage them to expect and give more. BIM is merely a process that serves a higher purpose – design. At the same time, we have become more aware of how to leverage it effectively as an industry.

8. Has your firm done anything in regards to IPD? If so, can you go into detail?
Integrated Project Delivery has many facets. It could very well be summarized in ink as a formal contract or in the way all parties interact to ‘deliver’ a project. In almost every project at Steinberg, this year, I have seen a dramatic increase in how General Contractors and subs have become more and more involved in the early stages of design and collaboration. This may be to provide value engineering, assist with the overall cost of the projects, delivering GMPs (guaranteed maximum price), interdisciplinary collaboration between all systems and so forth. Thus, we expect more of our teams – better quality models, better federated environments and of course, setting the pace for interdisciplinary collaboration very early in the process.

9. Do you feel there is a growth path/career plan that includes a stay at the BIM Manager level?
Absolutely! I started off as a visualization expert, then was a BIM Manager for almost five years and a regional BIM Manager at a mid-size firm for about two years. Today, I serve as the BIM Director for Steinberg and am involved in every aspect of the firm’s day-to-day’s as well as overall decisions. The journey has been fascinating, rewarding, enriching and highly gratifying to say the least. I have so much more to learn and accomplish. I encourage every aspiring BIM enthusiast to always remember one thing, think a few steps ahead so that you know what to do; and always, always be a people’s person. Our task is to not only educate, but also to listen attentively to everyone, provide solutions, find resources and backdrops to make it all work.

10. Is VR/AR here to stay, or a passing fad?
Virtual Reality, Augmented and immersive realities aren’t just a passing fad, they are here to stay! I say this because the biggest industry in the world isn’t movies anymore… it’s gaming. Which basically goes on to show that people love to interact with intelligence. So, if this interaction isn’t limited to fantasy worlds but to experiences that can be ‘foretold’ so to speak, then these immersive experiences will become a standard and not an extra.

Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with me. We are experiencing a tectonic shift in the way the industry designs and collaborates. A lot has been achieved and accomplished and yet there is so much more to explore and it’s only going to get better and better!