London Calling (Part III)


people sitting down, listening to BIM conference

Last week our CEO, John Tocci attended and spoke at the London BIM Conference hosted by Autodesk, Inc.

Last week our CEO, John Tocci attended and spoke at the London BIM Conference hosted by Autodesk, Inc.  Here is his first-person account of the trip (this is the last of three parts, click here to read part I and part II):


At a conference where the attendees don’t pay (like this one), you always expect a significant fade in afternoon attendance. Much to the credit of Adam Matthews from Autodesk and their typical high-class preparation, they avoided that. We had almost full attendance again after lunch. The afternoon session was comprised of a panel discussion with a bunch of academics and professional society leaders and a deeper dive into the architecture and contracting. The panel was a little on the dull side, but the architect, Richard Wise from Ryder Architects, was great! He rescued us from irrelevance by showing practical examples of using axons and semi-renderings in their construction docs to make design intent clear. It was lovely. He showed animations of elementary schools with foot traffic simulations to study how the kids will travel from space to space –to design a markedly better school. 

The morning owner-speaker had shown a statistic for a typical 1000-student school—with how many kids (out of the thousand) suffered from depression (close to a hundred), how many had OCD, how many had attention disorders, how many had disrupted backgrounds and behavior issues. It was staggering and sobering. So when Richard showed how they used BIM to design lighter, airier schools with more communal and organic spaces, it really landed (at least on me). He ended. They clapped. I got up. It was clear (to me) that they hadn’t clapped enough though. So I began by asking everyone to stand up and after a second exhortation they stood, nervously. I asked everyone to join in a round of applause for Richard because that was truly remarkable and that’s what BIM is really all about—building fabulous spaces that make life and lives better. Richard was still on stage because we were set up to do a panel Q&A session after my talk. I went over and said to him (we were both still mic’d): “I love you man. I want to work with you.” He replied, “I want to work with you too!” And we hugged. It was a good moment.

My talk then focused on the details I had to leave out from the morning presentation. A unique part of this afternoon’s session was a request from Adam to talk about the specific, tangible advantages of BIM for Tocci and also the intangible benefits. I led off this intangible list with a photo of the VDC Department and explained that BIM is bringing excitement back to construction and helping us attract the best and brightest young professionals in the country. And when they come they bring crazy stuff and shake things up. The office/field divide is falling as we bring in superintendents to model and advise modelers – working side by side. Collocation is pulling down the walls between designers and constructors… and subcontractors. Another intangible benefit?  Q5, and the chance to help others implement and continue our R&D efforts for future projects and serve clients beyond our hard-build geographic boundaries.

The conference keynote speech was given by Paul Morrell. Paul works for the UK government and is in charge of ALL government spending on construction. He gave a fantastic presentation with extraordinary use of comic jabs and hilarious understatement. But beneath it all, was the dead-earnest mission of supporting the current (new) government’s edict for cost control and waste elimination, and budget cuts—doing more with less. He fully intends to make BIM a requirement for all government work and will be meeting with the Finance Minister and other cabinet-level officials to make it happen. While he was speaking I suggested to Phil that we kidnap him and bring him back to the US. I was able to spend some time during the pre-dinner reception chatting with Paul; he has asked if we’d be willing to return in about 5 or 6 months to meet with him and them to support this objective. Very cool stuff!

There was a lovely dinner with 25 select people and great BIM conversation until I couldn’t talk anymore. We dragged ourselves to the underground and took the train back to the hotel (which was without hot water the entire three days we were there) and crashed asleep.