People Profile: N. Nawari AECbytes Profile (January 4, 2018)

N. Nawari, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, Assistant Dean for Graduate Education and Associate Professor at the College of Design, Construction & Planning, University of Florida, shares his perspective on AEC technology in this Profile.
"My wish list for AEC technology would include the integration of advanced Neural Network and Genetic Algorithms, GIS data, and construction simulation with BIM authoring tools."
What is your educational and professional background?

My educational background is in civil and structural engineering. In 1992, I earned my Ph.D. in engineering from the Technical University of Darmstadt (TUD), West Germany. My undergraduate degree is Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Khartoum (B.Sc. Eng, Honr., 1983).

I have more than twenty-five years of experience in design, teaching, and research specializing in Architectural Structures and AEC Information technology. Currently, I teach graduate and undergraduate Architectural Structures, Structural Modeling and Building Information Modeling courses at the University of Florida. I have written and co-authored over 200 publications and three books.

I’m a frequent contributor to and speaker at national and international conferences. I have contributed to the design profession with several engineering and design innovations during my career. For example, I have introduced new paradigms in teaching and designing building structures using the Structure and Architecture Synergy (SAS) Framework.  In this framework, Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools were implemented as the primary approach for promoting the understanding of the fundamentals of building structures and the relationship between architectural and structural design. Examples include essential concepts such as human activities, spatial systems, forms, circulations, enclosure systems, structural systems and elements, load diagrams, lateral stability, force equilibrium, support reactions, shear force, and bending moment diagrams. It is intended to be a holistic vehicle to introduce architectural structures vocabulary, the hierarchy of structural members, and the interplay between architectural concepts and structural systems to architectural and engineering students. The SAS framework is sufficiently detailed in my book: Building Information Modeling: A framework for Structural Design, published by CRC press 2015.  In 2014, I received the 2014-2015 Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant for teaching BIM courses and research in Kuwait. It was an excellent opportunity to implement the SAS framework in the College of Architecture at the University of Kuwait during my Fulbright visit.

Also, another area of my research interests centers on advancing BIM standardization, particularly in the structural domain. I have published numerous articles related to BIM standardization.  Moreover, I have contributed significantly to the concept of encoding building rules and regulations and methods for automating building code conformance checking in BIM workflow.

In terms of professional activities, I’m a member of the BIM committee of the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) and co-chair the subcommittee on BIM in education. In addition, I’m a member of the US National Building Information Modeling Standard Committee (NBIMS-US). I am also a board certified professional engineer in the state of Florida and Ohio with significant design and built experiences.

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

Presently, I am the assistant dean for graduate education at the College of Design, Construction, and Planning (DCP), University of Florida. My responsibilities include ensuring the efficient running of the college's graduate programs, overseeing performance assessment of our graduate programs, and supporting the doctoral core curriculum as well as various issues relating to the doctoral students and doctoral research faculty. In addition to the administrative responsibilities, I teach undergraduate and graduate Architectural Structures, Structural Modeling and Building Information Modeling courses at the School of Architecture, University of Florida. Moreover, I have two main projects that I am involved with now. The first one deals with the utilization of BIM in historic structures and how this can preserve historical facilities. The second project covers BIM and automation of building code compliance auditing and processes.

When and how did you get interested in AEC technology?

I got interested in AEC technology very early since my last year of my undergraduate program in 1983. For my undergraduate honor research project, I had developed a computer program using the Fortran programming language to provide the structural design of reinforced concrete slabs. Later, I rewrote it in Apple Basic so it could run on APPLE II machines under the DOS operating system. I used this software program in practice many times to design reinforced concrete slabs. Even with the current measures of AEC technology, that application is still useful.

After that, I eagerly started to delve deeper into many aspects of technology and taught technology courses such as word processing, FORTRAN, PASCAL, AND BASIC programming languages, and CAD in 1984-1985. In terms of hardware experiences, in addition to main and mini frame systems, my historical path began with the flowing personal machines: APPLE II, ATARI ST-16 bit and 32 bit, COMMODORE 64, IBM XT, IBM AT…

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

Most of what I do today is directly or indirectly related to AEC technology. I teach four courses that are related to AEC technology. They cover the basics of parametric simulation; BIM and AEC design collaboration; advanced structural modeling to address interoperability, productivity, massing, visualization and rendering, constructability, and design options; and integrated practice.

My research activities are also related to AEC information technology. These research efforts aim to advance digital design tools, approximate systems analysis and detailing for architectural and structural design, and the sustainability of the living environment.

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

In my view, one of the leading technological challenges facing the AEC industry today is the adaption of neutral open BIM Standards. There are some national and international efforts devoted to promoting standardization in BIM workflow. Internationally, buildingSMART International is the organization authoring the open BIM standards. The purpose of the standard is to allow the sharing of information throughout the lifecycle of any project, between all the participants, regardless of which software application they are using. The standard is referred to as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC). Nationally, the buildingSMART alliance® is the North American organization that is leading the creation of tools and standards that allow projects to be built digitally before they are built physically using Building Information Modeling. The latest version of BIM Standard is the NBIMS-US™ V3.

Notwithstanding all these efforts, the industry is not entirely implementing these standards, and thus, some of the critical advantages of utilizing BIM workflows such as interoperability between different design and analysis tools are not yet been realized. The ability to exchange building information accurately and successfully between applications is necessary to support the business cases. The BIM standards should also assist in streamlining user requirements: specify Level of Development (LOD), execution planning, and contractual documentation. Efforts are needed to promote and drive BIM standards in the AEC industry. 

How do you see AEC technology evolving in the future?

AEC technology will evolve with many cutting-edge simulation tools that will blur the boundary between disciplines, from modeling buildings and roads to smart cities. Big BIM will progress quickly in the future. New fabrication tools such as 3D printing will emerge to take advantage of these digital simulation advances.  Buildings and bridges will be entirely 3D printed. We will be able to 3D print a house in a less than 24 hours in the very near future.

If you had a wish list for AEC technology, what would it be?

My wish list for AEC technology would include the integration of advanced Neural Network and Genetic Algorithms, GIS data, and construction simulation with BIM authoring tools. Also, I would like to see more collaboration technology platforms to allow for sharing information about urban and regional planning to enhance the intercommunication between the building and urban design. Technology tools that incorporate sustainability criteria such as zero-energy for living environments with BIM design tools are on my wish list as well.

Any additional information/observations/insights on AEC technology that you would like to share?

I think we will see more automation in the AEC industry, including the use of robots, drones, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The industry and academia have to plan and strategize for the coming changes and adjust their education and training of their constituents accordingly to avoid work process disruption and adverse economic outcomes. They must capitalize on these innovations to stay competitive and prosperous as we move forward.

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