People Profile: Christopher Pynn

AECbytes Profile (October 15, 2014)

Christopher Pynn, Associate Principal within Arup's Melbourne Buildings Group, shares his perspective on AEC technology in this Profile.
"The inadequacy of software vendors to accept that interoperability of data is the key to the success of BIM rather than just the model is, in my view, holding the industry back …"
What is your educational and professional background?

My training and career have focused on the structural engineering industry. I've been with Arup for 24 years—delivering large infrastructure projects and MEP coordination design roles—giving me an all-round experience of construction and building engineering.  I've spent ten years based in the UK and in Singapore, and I'm currently on my fourth year in Australia, so my experience is broad and I've had the pleasure of working in many countries.  

I started out as a trainee technician with Arup in Manchester and studied civil engineering for 5 years before graduating as a structural technician.

What is your current role? What are the main projects you are involved with?

I currently have three roles. I am an Associate Principal within Arup’s Melbourne Buildings Group where I am responsible for overseeing the implementation of BIM, both within Arup and on projects across Australasia. In addition, I hold two global roles, the first being the co-leader of the firm’s global BIM implementation task force and the second leading Arup’s community of digital environments skills experts.

Aside from the internal leadership, my current project role focuses on developing and managing the overall BIM strategy and management on the New Perth Stadium. This is a sub-consultancy role that I am undertaking on behalf of Brookfield Multiplex.

When and how did you get interested in AEC technology?

I have been using AEC technology since my early days as a technician but my interest  really developed around the late 90s, when I saw the introduction of 3D modeling into AutoCAD and the birth of Rhino. This was around the time I moved to Singapore, where I spent four years working on the North East MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) project coordinating services in 2D. I vowed at the end of the project never to do that again in 2D, and so I began my journey into BIM.

How much of what you do today is related to AEC technology in some form?

I see the application of technology as key to Arup’s future in engineering and so technology impacts all aspects of my work. Whether project delivery or leading the firm’s BIM champions, technology is at the heart of what I do. 

From your vantage point, what do you see as some of the main technological challenges facing the AEC industry today?

The biggest technological challenge facing the industry today is around understanding the importance of standardizing data structures. The inability of software vendors to accept that interoperability of data is the key to the success of BIM rather than just the model is, in my view, holding the industry back. Accessibility and consistency of that access, along with making data relevant to the users, are areas where I believe software developers are missing an opportunity.

Our industry constantly has to grapple with an ever increasing number of software creations, each creating potentially more confusion rather than clarity. We are continuing to see companies acquiring multiple products, all of which tends to confuse the problem further. Other than these, we have all the normal challenges such as model size, latency, bandwidth, machine hardware requirements increasing, and there are legal and cost issues related to the use of the cloud. I could go on.

I feel the software industry should focus on helping move the construction industry forward first rather than focusing on strategies purely aimed at selling software, which appears to be the case. The software companies’ approach is counter-productive. 

How do you see AEC technology evolving in the future?

We will continue to see the development of cloud services and computing with a move to web-based modeling technology that are not platform specific, so increasing accessibility to the models and associated data will be vital. The merger of BIM and GIS, provoked by the acceptance of their overlap and complementary status, will take place. With Big data and analytics developments, there will be increased focus on connectivity and measuring of how we use our data, enabling engineers to learn more from what we do. 

If you had a wish list for AEC technology, what would it be?
  • Focus on the data, interaction, exchange and visibility of it.

  • Increase Point cloud data more usability.

  • Establish IFC as the industry standard for BIM data structure,

  • Eradicate 2D drawing markup tools and PDF tools.

  • Create more integrated workflows across design, fabrication, construction and handover.

  • Improve design systems to lessen the reliance on computer performance and memory provision.

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