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Friday, 31 August 2012
2012 Interim Report on the Jamaican Construction and Real Estate Industries
Topic: Strategic Planning



In my last post “Status of the Jamaican Construction and Real Estate Industries to 2011”, I concluded that “if the (construction) industry growth can equal GDP growth this year (2012) and return to superior growth rates in subsequent years, the industry should regain pre-recession (2007) value-added in two years (2014)…; and, the real estate “…industry should return to pre-recession levels this year”.  But, the Planning Institute of Jamaica [PIOJ] released their “Review of Economic Performance April – June 2012” on 21 August 2012 and this conclusion seems unlikely to be achieved within the specified time-frames.

                The economy had 0.1% real GDP growth over the quarter relative to the equivalent period in 2011.  The goods-producing industries, which includes construction, had real growth of 0.1%, while the services industries, which includes real estate, was flat.  Growth rates for construction and real estate remained below GDP growth: construction at -3.2% and no growth for real estate.  The GDP growth for the current quarter is projected to be between -0.5% to 0.5%.  By the end of 2011, the construction industry was 13% below that of 2007, and real estate 0.5% below 2007.  The present “growth” is not sufficient to achieve pre-recession levels of value-added anticipated.

                On the positive side, quarterly value-added for real estate industry has consistently improved since the last quarter of 2011, all-be-it slowly.  At the current rate of improvement, it is likely that this industry will return to pre-recession levels in the second quarter of 2013.  The prognosis for the construction industry is however inconclusive.

                Quarterly value-added for construction has consistently fallen since the third quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012, with an improvement in the previous quarter.  But, this gives no indication of a trend that can be expected over the current and next quarters.  The down-turn has been blamed on a 69.9% reduction in expenditure on telecommunication projects and 22.3 – 69.9% reduction in various government infrastructure projects: neither of which is expected to improve in the short term.  Particularly worrying is the 80.9% reduction in housing starts.

                The prognosis is not bad for the real estate industry, but only time will tell what will happen with the construction industry.  The government has made mention of significant private tourism projects in the pipeline.  If these materialize, there may yet be hope for a return to pre-recession levels of value-added by the end of 2014.  Otherwise, the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies is undertaking significant construction projects, and a number of commercial developments can be seen in the corporate area.  We will just have to wait on developments within the year to determine the future state of the construction industry.  One thing is however clear, improvement in the construction industry will be led by the private sector, not government; and, it is highly likely that academic and commercial developments will exceed residential, developments.

Posted by phcjam at 5:15 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 31 August 2012 5:51 PM EDT
Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Status of the Jamaican Construction and Real Estate Industries to 2011
Topic: Strategic Planning




In 2008, Dean Burrowes recorded his analysis of the global recession in “The Jamaican Construction and Real Estate Industry and the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis”.  He noted that bankruptcy of major U.S. financial houses reduced liquidity in the local banking sector “drying up funds available for construction projects”.  Some developers scaled back or suspended projects under construction, fearing local job losses would impede sale of the completed buildings.  Then developers with projects in-the-pipeline then took a “wait-and-see posture until economic prospects improve(d)”.

               Economic data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica for the period 2002 - 2011 confirms that the rate of growths in the construction and real estate industries did decline from 2008 – 2010, with construction being the worse affected.  The low rate of growths experienced in 2011 indicate that the real estate industry should return to pre-recession levels this year, but restoration of the construction industry may not materialize before 2014.

Table 1:  GDP, Value-Added by Industry at Constant (2007) Prices and Rates of Growth


Total GDP


Real Estate







































































Source: Statistical Institute of Jamaica


* GDP and Value- Added at constant (2007) prices, J$ 'million


               From 2003 – 2011, Jamaica’s construction industry represented approximately 8% of its gross domestic product (GDP).  During this period, the industry showed negative growth in 2006 and from 2008 -2010.  In 2006, a major problem with the quality of locally-produced cement literally shut down the industry until alternative supplies could be imported.  The -3.7% growth in 2006 was followed by 4.5% growth in 2007.  So, the industry recovered from one crisis only to be thrown into another.  The pre-recession value added in 2007 was J$ 63.8 billion, only J$0.4 billion more than that of 2005, at constant (2007) prices.  So, the pre-recession value added is only slightly higher than that of 2005.

               In 2010, the value added at constant (2007) prices was J$55.6 billion, approximately 13% lower than 2007.  Growth in 2011 was only 0.6%, below the 1.5% GDP growth that year.  Previously, positive growth exceeded GDP growth and typically ranged from 0.9 – 3.4%.  If the industry growth can equal GDP growth this year and return to superior growth rates in subsequent years, the industry should regain pre-recession value added in two years, and as stated before this would only be marginally higher than that existing nearly a decade earlier.

               In contrast, the real estate industry represented 10% of GDP up to 2007, but has been 11% of GDP since 2008.  Its growth rate fell in 2008 and was -1.2% in 2009 and 2010, exceeding the GDP growth rate for the respective years.  In 2007, its value added was J$79.8 billion and fell by 1.0% to $79.0 billion in 2010.  It had a 0.5% growth rate in 2011, uncharacteristically lower than the GDP growth.  But typical growth rates range from 1.4 – 3.4%, so this industry should return to pre-recession levels this year.

Table 2:  Loans by Commercial Banks for Land Purchase and Construction






















% Loan







Source: Bank of Jamaica


** Value-added at current prices, J$ 'million



               Interestingly, economic data from the Bank of Jamaica for loans by commercial banks for land purchase and construction does not confirm Burrowes’ observation that banks reduced funding for construction projects.  In 2007, commercial banks provided loans amounting to 14.1% of the value added by the construction industry.  This actually rose during the recession to a high of 27.7% at current prices in 2010, subsequently falling to 22.1% in 2011.  It is therefore likely that developers unilaterally suspended, scaled back and took a “wait-and-see posture” while awaiting improvement of the economy.  Loans from commercial banks should therefore not retard the construction industry’s return to pre-recession levels; and baring diminished confidence of developers, this should be achieved in 2014.

Posted by phcjam at 5:43 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 31 August 2012 6:00 PM EDT
Thursday, 21 June 2012
To Build, or not to Build? – Strategic Facility Planning for Small and Medium Sized Businesses
Topic: Facility Planning

Author:  Paul Hay – Managing Partner, PAUL HAY Capital Projects


As I pondered upon my next blog post, I realized that I had not dealt with a fundamental question: whether to build, or not to build.  The first two posts dealt with the issue of image: the first warns about improper motives to build, and the second on creating an image that suits your business.  But, do you really need to build at all?  That is the question.


As has become customary, two cases are presented; one good, and one bad.  Both preceed the turn of the century: a very trying time in Jamaica.  In his book Jamaica Meltdown: Indigeneous Financial Sector Crash 1996, Wilbern Persaud stated that “Jamaica’s indigeneous financial sector crash was, to date, … estimated by the World Bank review of forty-two banking crises to be third”.  Our first blog post, “Consider Image Carefully – Strategic Facility Planning for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses”, described one failed financial entity as an example of poor strategic facility planning.  In this post, we examine one of its subsidiaries, a banking group, as  a good example in deciding not to build.


But we shall start with a case from Persaud’s book, another banking group, as the poor example which decided to build.  As Persaud states: “… at the height of the euphoric credit and real estate boom” this group “embarked on construction of a set of luxury apartments“ in an upscale community billed as “Kingston’s soon-to-be most prestigious address”.  The venture generated much interest, but the boom and accompanying inflation led to ever escalating costs.  To salvage the project, it was redesigned to become a hotel: thus taking advantage of the government’s tax incentive to the tourism sector, at the time.  As a business-type hotel, the venture was doomed to failure: it was too far from Kingston’s business district, too far from other facilities associated with the tourist trade, and in a local plagued with traffic congestion.  So after a relatively short period, the hotel did fail and was subsequently converted to apartments, under different owners.


By comparison, our other banking group owned a multistory building that was originally designed and constructed as apartments but later converted to government offices: though little refurbishing works seem to have been done.  This group also considered converting their building to a hotel.  But, it had all the advantages the former lacked.  It was in the heart of Kingston’s business district, between three successful hotels.  It was anticipated that at the very least the hotel could take referrals from the adjacent hotels.  So, a feasibility study was commissioned.


The consultants of the parent company were commissioned to undertake this feasibility study.  It was fortuitous that the same consultants had also been responsible for the construction of the building they were to examine.  After careful study of the cost for the conversion, against demolition and rebuilding the building, the banking group wisely decided to sell it.  It was sold to another established hotel also located in the area, though some distance from the site.  They were the ones to refurbish the building.  They sold their original premises and relocated to this new location and continue to operate from the location today.


The building was not in the core competence of the banking group.  It was in the core competence of its new owners.  It is not certain whether the new owners did any studies of their own, but the bank would have pitched it to them as being appropriate for a hotel.  Whenever a building project is contemplated, this should always be considered as any other investment: the options need to be considered, evaluated, and compared to determine the likely outcomes.  If this banking group can be criticized on any aspect of the sale, it would be that they failed to consider what could have happened when the hotel relocated.  The original hotel was located opposite one of the bank’s major branches.  When they relocated, a major competitor bought the land, demolished the hotel, and constructed a new facility on the site.  This competitor was previously engaged in putting up a new branch in the resort city of Montego Bay, but when the opportunity presented itself, they suspended the design of that building and seemed to have concentrated their effort on this new venture.  Who could have envisioned such a scenario?  

Posted by phcjam at 10:36 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 12 October 2012 4:19 PM EDT
Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Is Energy at Government's Strategic Thinking?
Topic: Energy Conservation



The Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, at a press briefing on 2 May 2012 launched the Government of Jamaica/Inter-American Development Bank’s (GoJ/IDG) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programme, which was the end product of the IDB Energy Efficiency and Conservation Technical Assistance (EECTA) Agreement signed on 2009 for US$20 million.  He explained that the current programme would make investments in energy efficiency and conservation to effect $2.6 billion savings in electricity bills of government ministries, agencies and public institutions.  He further directed these bodies to use their latest electricity consumption as a benchmark and reduce their consumption or be penalized.  This he said he spoke “the firm authority of the Minister of Finance”.  But, have we not heard this before?

                On 19 April 2011, the then Minister of Finance and Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, reported that budgetary allocations to a number of departments had been reduced by cutting the amount for utilities.  The year before that, Minister Shaw had issued the same directive without much success.  Since Minister Paulwell mentioned the electricity costs of February 2012 as being the highest at J$ 1.2 billion, are we to assume last year’s effort was also without success?

                Since the Minister spoke of using the last electricity cost as a benchmark, I suspect the effort of the last financial year was also without much saving.  In my article of 16 May 2011 titled “Energy Woe”, I made mention of the IDB Project Profile titled Jamaica Energy Efficiency and Conservation Program which estimated initial savings of 6.7%, not the 15% proposed by the then administration, and concluded by stating that “…failure to control expenditure cannot be attributed to the implementing ministries and agencies but to poor planning and unrealistic expectations”.  How is the pronouncement of the present administration different?

                The IDB profile mentions three components: institutional strengthening, investment in energy efficiency, and the demand-side management and public campaign.  It is not clear whether any of these components overlap.  But assuming no overlap, the first began when public sector workers were trained under a UNDP program to equip them to be energy monitors.  They received their certificates at a ceremony at the PCJ Auditorium on 21 April 2011.  This was the only component dealt with under the last administration.  When Minister Paulwell mentioned replacing 90,000 light bulbs, improving insulation and sealing building envelopes, and replacing 5,000 air-condition units he was announcing the beginning of the second component.  He also made mention of the third when he referred to workshops for public and private stakeholders on energy efficiency and conservation.  So, we seem to be better prepared this time around, though he gave no time-frame for implementation.

                The IDB profile made reference to 25% savings by 2015, which is consistent with their country strategy 2011 – 2015.  This projected saving is approximately equivalent to the $2.6 billion savings mentioned by Minister Paulwell.  But if the benchmark is this year, 2012, then we should only realize the stated savings by 2016.  According to the profile, “preliminary calculations for the program confirm the potential for savings in the public sector of up to US$ 7 million per year”.  Nevertheless, the Jamaica Information Service states that the project will be executed over a 4 year period, with savings of US$ 9 million per annum and a net present value of US$ 133.1 million after 20 years. This would indicate that a greater degree of planning has gone into this year’s programme.  But at the current exchange rate, the savings less amortization will be less than half the savings mentioned by the minister, after 20 years.  it is not clear whether this 20 year period is for the repayment of the loan, or the project life cycle.  Nevertheless, the second component, estimated to cost $9.6 billion will be spread over the next 4 financial years, and should provide jobs for local engineers and suppliers.

                It should now be apparent that, the outcome of the project as commendable as it is will not be as significant as alluded to.  More than likely, the investment referred to will be funded by an external source and will have to be repaid.  So, Jamaica will not benefit from the full extent of the savings even after 20 years.  If this time is the project lifecycle, then further funds will be needed to replace the investment.  This should not serve to discourage such an exercise but should be an example of what can happen when we wait too long to implement necessary energy efficiency and conservation measures.  The government should benefit from some savings this financial year, let us hope the expectation will be realistic.  Let us hope that energy will be at the forefront of this administration’s strategic thinking during their budget presentation.  We expect specificity and announcement of specific initiatives relevant to goal of saving energy and creating a competitive economy: attainable plans based off realistic objectives.  That should be our realistic expectation.


I am, etc.



Paul Hay MBA, BA(Arch.)
Managing Partner
PAUL HAY Capital Projects

Caribbean Capital Projects Management

P. O. Box 3367
Constant Springs, Kgn. 8
Jamaica, W.I.

tel: 1 (876) 756-0631
cel: 1 (876) 324-4274
fax: 1 (876) 756-0631

skype name: phcjam




Posted by phcjam at 12:05 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 16 May 2012 10:04 AM EDT
Friday, 4 May 2012
Image that matters - Strategic Facility Planning for Small and Medium Sized Businesses
Topic: Facility Planning

Author:  Paul Hay - Managing Partner, PAUL HAY Capital Projects


While studying at the University of California, Berkeley, we as architecture undergrads would jokingly remark that "there's no place ‘worster' than Wurster".  We were referring to the building in which our school was located: which was called Wurster Hall.  This should not be inferred that the building was poorly designed.  On the contrary, I recall the lecturers expounding on its design and construction attributes.  We just did not like the image.  We did not like being trained in a building we considered the ugliest on campus.  It was bad for our image.  But, one lecturer explained that the building was specifically designed not to influence our creativity.


Recently, I came across an article in The Globe and Mail entitled "For Google, the Office is Key to Worker Success".  In the article, Canadian-born Google executive, David Radcliffe, was interviewed regarding his role of locating urban spaces that would become "hip headquarters and design them to spark creativity, play and collaboration".  He described this as "Googlïness" - creating environments that support culture, transparency and collaboration: facilities which allow staff to excel.  In other words, Google wants their building to stimulate creativity.


So, which of the two seemingly contrasting philosophies is correct?  It should be realized that the administration of the School of Environmental Design also wanted their staff and students to excel: they just did not want the building influencing their designs.  They did not want any aspect of the building's design reproduced or be held as the standard to which others would be judged.  This is understandable.  So, the appropriate image for any organization really depends on the objectives it seeks to achieve.


Strategic facility planning involves four steps: understanding the values and goals of an organization, analyzing its long-term objectives, planning for its long-term needs, and acting on the plans.  The mission, vision, firm culture, and possibly balanced scorecard, of an organization first need to be understood.  Organizations in creative industries, for example, prefer flexible organization structures, such as organic or matrix organization structures.  So, an institutional look and feel, as well as heavily enclosed office spaces would be inappropriate.  But, the needs of all stakeholders should be understood.  The need of architecture students to have a building they are proud of and one which impacts positively on their self-image is also important.  Our choice of motor vehicles is not only for their functionality but also intangibles, as prestige and ‘sex-appeal'.  Why should we expect any difference in our choice of buildings?


Analysis can utilize SWOT analysis, scenario planning, brainstorming, etc.  An organization's mission or vision may span over the five year limit of a strategic facility plan.  And, it is unwise to create unrealistic expectations in our stakeholders.  So, long-term objectives need to be SMART.  At this point, it will be apparent whether the organization's image needs to be addressed at all.  In the service industry, for example, an organization's tangible assets are used to assess the quality of its service.  Image could be critical, especially if their building is inferior to their competitors'. 


The selection of an appropriate architect and/or interior designer will be critical in establishing a design team to execute the plans.   Vision likely translates to a marketing plan which will guide the selection of an image.  Marketing plans will, no doubt, be innovative, imaginative and resourceful.  They will detail the use of an organization's effort and resources towards a desired end.  Do not entrust your image to a team you have not communicated your vision.  It has been my experience in the Caribbean that only banks, embassies, hotels and hospitals provide this guidance.  I assume the design team creates the image for the others, and I doubt they are carefully selected to deliver on the required objectives either.  The image presented by an organization will be present for decades, it should not be left to the discretion of anyone who may not understand their client, nor follow any rigor in analyzing their objectives and plan for their long-term needs.    Where image matters, it should not be left to chance.

Posted by phcjam at 6:30 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2012 9:59 AM EDT
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Consider Image Carefully – Strategic Facility Planning for Small and Medium Sized Businesses
Topic: Facility Planning

Author:  Paul Hay – Managing Partner, PAUL HAY Capital Projects


In 1993, I had been offered a position in one of the Caribbean’s largest architectural firms; but two things bothered me.  First, they had made their first offer prior my becoming a project coordinator in the Jamaican Government service; and this was rescinded shortly after, because the construction industry had contracted.  Secondly, I intuitively knew that the number facilities being constructed at the time by financial institutions, was not sustainable.  Unknowingly, my environmental scanning had rightly detected a threat to the construction industry, and my prospective job.  Referring to the period, Economist Wilberne Persaud described businesses as being “driven more by ego than economics”.  What would later transpire is an example of what can happen when image precedes good business sense.


Despite the perceived risk, I accepted the offer.  The largest project in the office was a building for a large financial institution, perhaps the firm’s largest client.  I was informed that the building was never designed for the current site, but the client had changed the site prior to completion of the drawings.  Then, a director met a town planning official at a cricket match, and was assured that approval could be given for two additional floors.  So, the director, without analysis, gave instructions for the architects to add them.   The design was revised and building constructed.  Shortly after completion, the building and the institution’s financial assets were sold to other financial institutions.


This case study of a big business, serves to illustrate the risk of making real estate decisions without reference to your strategic objectives, because facility planning is an important business decision that needs to precede image.  According to the International Facility Management Institute:

A strategic facility plan is a  … two –to-five year facilities plan encompassing an entire portfolio of owned and/or leased space that sets strategic facility goals based on the organization’s strategic business objectives.  The strategic facilities goals, in turn, determine short-term tactical plans, including prioritization of, and funding for annual facility related projects.

Every decision made in business planning has a direct impact on an organization’s real estate assets and needs.  Strategic facility planning involves four steps: understanding the values and goals of an organization; analyzing its long-term objectives; planning short-term  measures to achieve them; and finally, implementing them.  Long-term needs should be reviewed annually, or earlier if necessary.  Our financial institution got caught up in what Persaud called an ‘edifice complex’.  So when the real estate market collapsed, so did they.


Let us look at a good example of strategic planning.  This example is a 500-seat church not far from the building previously referred to.  In 1999, I was engaged as project manager for the construction of a multi-purpose building to be attached to the church.  Subsequently, I was asked to head their building committee.  We understood that there were three major problems linked to the church’s rapidly expanding congregation: the need for more space for Sunday services, Sunday school, and parking.  An alternate site was sought.  Owners of the adjacent property were not interested in selling, but a government office beside them were.


The church called all committees to participate in a SWOT analysis.  Subsequently, we prepared seven long-term objectives summarized by the acronym “PERFECT”: the “F” standing for the facility objectives.  Next, each committee planned how to meet the objectives. The building committee proposed that the existing property be used for the Sunday school and youth ministry; the government office converted for Sunday services; and, the owners of the lot between re-approached for sale of the property to be used for additional parking.  The government office was purchased and converting to a 2,000-seat auditorium.  The original church used as proposed, and owners of the adjoining lot finally agreed to sell their property; but, it will be converted to training facilities: which, by that time, had outgrown the multi-purpose building.  All this took 14 years and is ongoing.


Let us end by considering what happened to the architectural firm.  When businesses fail, especially large businesses, their stakeholders are negatively impacted.   The architectural firm had to downsize, making most of its staff redundant.  Strategic facility planning was needed to determine how their facility could achieve a commensurate reduction in overheads, such as electricity to power lighting and air-conditioning.  As for me, that which I feared had come upon me.  I was made redundant.  However, the multi-purpose building was one of my first projects as a new business; and, the path was charted for provision of strategic facility planning services.

Posted by phcjam at 7:36 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2012 7:38 PM EDT
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
IFC Building Models for productivity

Paper for AXIS

IFC Building Models for Productivity

Paul A. Hay

30 March 2005


Early in 1970, software developers marketed computer-aided design [CAD] systems, which had three-dimensional [3D] draughting features, to large mechanical engineering firms.  UK-based developments such as RUCAPS, and software from Applied Research of Cambridge, introduced CAD to the practice of architecture, but the goal was to conceive a novel method of 3D design, not merely to replicate manual draughting.[1]  In the United States, architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill [SOM] used CAD software to draught building plans for Pacific Bell, in November 1983, hoping to "fast-track" the design process by facilitating design changes during the construction phase of works.[2]   Later, IBM partnered with SOM to develop the IBM/SOM AE Series [AES], and is reputed to have licensed 3D CAD technology from the Belgian firm, BricsWorks, about the same time AES was being developed.[3] 


Currently, SOM has been commissioned to design the first tower to rise on the World Trade Center site, and Autodesk - the world's leading design software company - has announced its collaboration with SOM on the project.  Construction commenced on 4 July 2004 and the fast-track schedule required close collaboration initially between over one hundred team members to expeditiously complete tasks and secure approvals from the project's diverse stakeholders; but is expected to facilitate collaboration between thousands more members before the completion of construction.  Autodesk's "AutoCAD" [ACAD] is the primary CAD software being used.     ACAD is a 2D CAD program with limited 3D capability.  So, Autodesk's "Revit" and "Architectural Desktop" [ADT] - which are both 3D architectural CAD programs - are also being used: the latter to enable energy analysis to be undertaken by a third-party application, directly from the drawing file.[4]


Notwithstanding, Dr. Paul Teichoiz - Professor Emeritus at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, California - has bemoaned the decline of productivity in the U.S. construction industry over the last forty years and stated that adoption of information technology over the past thirty-five years has failed to improve productivity because it has not facilitated collaboration between project members.  He explained that stand-alone applications hinder quick implementation of changes by their reliance on paper output, which has to be manually checked, and data subsequently re-entering into other programs.  To correct this anomaly, he recommended that project teams use 3D CAD programs for design and the internet for communication.  He further explained that fast and error-free sharing of information between dissimilar computer applications would result from the use of 3D CAD models which implement data standards developed by the International Association for Interoperability [IAI].[5]


Dr. Teichoiz makes specific reference to the U.S. Construction Industry, but his observation and recommendation would no doubt be relevant to the Caribbean, particularly if we accept the premise that improving collaboration between members of a project team will effect the productivity gains which are still being sought by SOM after twenty years of effort.   Change is therefore inevitable and this change has to be concurrent between education and practice within the building Industry.


In education, CAD training needs to extend to discipline-specific, 3D programs compliant with IAI standards: ideally as an inter-faculty venture.  In practice, use of similar programs is required; sharing of CAD files needs to replace blueprints; and all members of the project team: client, consultants, contractor and sub-contractors, need to collaborate by the Internet or Intranet.  The technology already exists.  But, it needs professionals trained to realize the productivity gains expected with improved collaboration.



Students of the Caribbean School of Architecture [CSA] are trained to use ACAD over a local area network [LAN].  Although CSA does not use the stand-alone version, ACAD is used in stand-alone mode: as a group of students do not modify a single file simultaneously, but individually modify separate files .  Also, ACAD is not currently IAI certified and Autodesk CAD programs are not currently available for McIntosh [Mac] computers.


The typical Caribbean practice uses either manual draughting, or stand-alone 2D CAD programs which save in propriety formats that are not readily transferable between different versions of the same program, let alone dissimilar programs.  Internet usage is also limited to e-mailing, rather than linking computer systems used by the project team.  Both personal computers [PCs] and Macs are used.  In 2002, I conducted an informal survey in which members of the professional institutes in Barbados, Trinidad, and Jamaica were asked to identify the computer systems they used.  One-in-six responded that they use Macs: Jamaica having the highest proportion and Barbados the least.  This group of architects used either VectorWorks or ArchiCAD.  The former is the 2D offering of Nemetschek North America [NNA] and the latter Graphisoft's 3D program.  So, 3D CAD programs, such as Graphisoft's ArchiCAD [as well as, Autodesk's Architectural Desktop (ADT) and NNA's VectorWorks Architect] are already in use in the Caribbean, though small in number.  But, CSA graduates have to be re-trained in the use of them.



RUCAPS and AES represent an initial effort to move architectural and engineering design away from the "orthogonal drawing process" to a "model-based design process", in which paper-based drawings are simply reports generated from a data-base model.  Many of the RUCAPS developers later established another modeling program called "Sonata" by the end of the 1980s.


By the mid-1990s, Autodesk purchased Softdesk - the developer of an AutoCAD add-on - and developed ADT.  Some of Sonata's developers created a new modeling application called "Reflex".  Reflex was sold to Parametric Technology Corporation [PTC] in 1997, and PTC developers created Revit that same year.  This early version of Revit bore remarkable similarities with Reflex technology,:but its developers claim there is no connection between the two.  Nevertheless, Revit was later acquired by Autodesk.[6]



Ronald Filson - Professor of architecture and Dean Emeritus at Tulane University -- developed a course in 2002 using Revit.  Initially, some faculty members "..expressed concern that using Revit might limit creativity because the students select elements and objects from Revit's (and some manufacturers') libraries rather than drawing each component from scratch".  But, their concerns waned as they became familiar with the program.  In fact Professor Filson remarked that:

"In the past, my students would design in plan and section almost to the end of the semester.  Now, they can work with perspectives, renderings, and 3D models as well, at any time during the semester, because Revit calculates these automatically from the building model

            Student design projects are now more thoroughly developed and refined.  Revit also requires students to think more deeply about how to integrate mechanical and structural systems into the design."[7]                     



IAI is a non-profit organization responsible for the development of  new standards for describing  buildings.  These standards have been called Industry Foundation Classes [IFC].  No software developer holds rights to the IFC format and it is independent of operating systems.  Linear description by line, arc, etc., used in 2D CAD, is replaced with descriptions of building components (e.g. roof, walls, floor, doors, doors, etc.) according to their geometry, material, finish, and other required specifications.[8] 


The IFC model is designed to facilitate interoperability across individual and discipline-specific applications used in the design, construction and operation of buildings.  In 2002, it received ISO certification and efforts are being made to extend its usefulness.  Each IFC version describes more entities and relationships relevant to a building's life-cycle.. These include spaces, organization, schedules, costs, and other more abstract entities.  The seventh and latest version, released in 2003,  is IFC 2x2.  It defines 623 different components or concepts. 


The "IFC Model Server Project" in Finland, stores model data for use by IFC compliant applications over the Internet; and Singapore is investigating use of IFC models to automate their building-code checking and approval process.



Autodesk's Revit is currently not IFC-compliant[9], neither is NNA's VectorWorks Architect.  But, both developers claim their respective products are Building Information Model [BIM] Applications.   Phillip G. Bernstein -- Lecturer in Professional Practice at Yale University's School of Architecture, and Vice President  at Autodesk's Building Solutions Division -- states that Autodesk coined the concept in 2002 and defines it as:

"A design approach that uses the power of information technology to solve problems across the building cycle.  On-going access to reliable up-to-date, and fully coordinated building information (integrating the parameters of design scope, schedule, cost, quantity and performance) offers a potent capability for architects, engineers, builders and building owners to dramatically transform how buildings are designed, built and managed."[10]


Many "BIM concepts" were present in RUCAPS.  These include a building model stored in central database, which comprised data on 3D building components; multi-user access to the building model, and a clear distinction between model data and reports: drawings being interpreted as "graphical reports".  The benefit of this approach was that drawings were kept up-to-date.  Early adapters discovered that conceptual designs had to be given more thought before drawings could be produced.  But, it became easier for other team members to work out the details.  Nevertheless, implementation was short-lived and had no marked impact on the design process.  RUCAPS would however be considered crude in comparison to contemporary products from Autodesk, Graphisoft, and Nemetschek.[11]


Dr. Lachmi Khemlani - founder and editor of AECbytes Newsletter,  who specializes in intelligent building modeling - confirms that the concept of interoperability between programs was the subject of architectural research early in 1970, when an effort was made to develop an integrated design system capable of supporting a suite of applications operated individually or collectively.  She describes four categories of CAD software products.  "General-purpose CAD" programs, like ACAD, use geometric data models; as do "General-purpose 3D-modeling" software, like Autodesk VIZ.  But, "Architecture-specific 3D add-ons", like ADT use a building data model on top of a geometric model; and 3D parametric applications, like Revit and ArchiCAD, only use building data models.[12] 


To avoid the confusion, this paper makes no distinction between 3D programs and is strictly relevant to IFC-compliant 3D CAD products.  Consequently, the term IFC building model is used, rather than the more popular BIM.  Autodesk, Graphisoft, and Nemetschek are all IAI members, and each has an IFC-compliant offering: all being specific to the design discipline targeted.  In the following, we will therefore examine a single product from each vendor which is  specific to architecture; mechanical, electrical and plumbing [MEP]; or structural engineering. 



A-E-C Automation Newsletter states that ArchiCAD was the first 3D architectural CAD program developed for micro-computers.  It was introduced in 1984 exclusively for Macs, but a MS Windows version was introduced in 1993.  ArchiCAD is IFC compliant.  ArchiCAD uses a central data base to store building data.  ArchiCAD's TeamWork feature allows groups of architects to share information across a local-area network [LAN] or Intranet.  Each member signs in to a project over the network and saves a "satellite" version of the master project file to their workstation, thus eliminating dependence on the network's server.  Later, changes can be uploaded to the master file, and the latest revisions downloaded to the "satellite" file.  Thus, the building model remains up-to-date as the work proceeds.  Users are able to instantaneously generate complete plans, sections, elevations, quantity take-offs, schedules, and presentation materials such as renderings and walk-throughs.[13]


ArchiCAD TeamWork feature is used to assign rights to each member of the project team.  The Administrator can add users, define security access and sharing of resources.  The team leader has more rights than the typical user and can change basic project attributes: such as the number of storeys.  But, he cannot otherwise edit the building form.  Typical users can create and edit elements of the building model defined in their workspace. A "mark-up participant" can view the building model, add comments, and mark-up model elements; while a  "view-only participant is only allowed to view the model and add comments.


ArchiCAD was used by Fender Katsalidis Architects to design the Eureka Towers.  This building commissioned by the joint-venture company, Grocon Riverside Developments and Michelmersh, commenced in 1998 and is scheduled for completion in 2005.  It is located in Melbourne, Australia, comprises 92 storeys, and is reputedly  the world's tallest residential building at 300 metres high.   The complete model file was 330 Mb in size and took twenty minutes to load.  So, it was broken down into sub-projects: each sub-project being linked together using ArchiCAD's "hot-link" feature.  One member of the project team was designated "Model Manager" and was responsible for validating the accuracy of the 3D model, thus maintaining the careful arrangement of sub-projects.  Any changes made to a sub-model was automatically represented in the "parent-level models" to which the sub-model was hot-linked.  However, collaboration between the project team was limited to distribution of one thousand individual sheets of drawings, because consultants and other team members only possessed 2D CAD capabilities.[14]

Typical users define both a spatial and a conceptual workspace in which they can edit elements of the building model.  The spatial workspace can comprise a specific floor zone or a space of several floors.  The conceptual workspace can be specific building systems, such as exterior walls, core, partitions, etc.  It is possible to create objects outside of one's workspace and propose changes to the workspace owner.  When the main project file is updated, new elements can be made available to other users and, when the owner of the workspace sees recommended changes, he may choose to accept it or not.  Mark-up entries are represented as a 3D place holder and a 2D revision cloud, which must be revised before the document can be issued.  When saved to the main project file, the entry is automatically added to the respective teammate's To-Do list inclusive of comments.


Dr. Khemlani used ArchiCAD to evaluate the interoperability of multiple applications certified as IFC 2.0 compliant, and concluded that some issues needed to be resolved but interoperability was definitely possible.  A floor plan was first drawn using Microsoft's Visio: a template-based 2D CAD program, which uses a drag-and-drop drawing interface.  The plan was exported as an IFC model to ArchiCAD, where it was developed as a 3D model.  Again the file was exported as an IFC model to Solibri Model Checker 1.0, where it was checked for proper relationships to enable reliable analysis (e.g. energy analysis, quantities and cost estimation) by other applications.  Finally, Timberline Software's Precision Collection 6.2 used the IFC model to estimate the cost of the building.[15] 


Dr. Khemlani concluded her investigation of interoperability by adding structural elements to the previous floor plan, repeating the process with the same suite of applications, and came to the same conclusion.  But, she noted that structural analysis tools were not interoperable with CAD applications, nor able to evaluate the suitability of structural entities at that time.  She postulated that this would not be resolved until IFC 3.0 was released: which was expected to include information on structural connectivity in building models.[16]



Besides the VectorWorks line of products, marketed by NNA, AEC Magazine states that their German parent-company Nemetschek AG has been active in the United Kingdom since 2001 and  produces the AllPlan suite which comprises modules for urban planning, architecture, mechanical and structural engineering.  Their structural and civil engineering application -- AllPlot - is credited as making the process of detailing of reinforced concrete "a whole lot more efficient".


It automatically produces plans, elevations, sections and bar schedules from 3D models.  IFC models can be imported from other CAD programs, or created in "AllPlan".  The shape, size, number and steel-grade of the reinforcement bars are selected from a "bending catalog", along with concrete cover, and the program correctly puts them in place without prior calculation of their exact lengths.  Bar marks are inserted and linked to a central steel database from which schedules are generated.  AllPlot also provides tools for detailing area and mesh reinforcement for large areas.  Recesses are accounted for and changes made to the shape of the building results in corresponding changes to the reinforcement.[17]



ADT is Autodesk's IFC-compliant 3D architectural CAD program, and Autodesk Building Systems [ABS] is the equivalent MEP CAD program.[18]  In a review of ABS 2004, Cadalyst Magazine stated that ABS was developed according to the "object-based" technology of ADT.  It uses catalogs of standard parts and equipment as well as an extensive collection of pre-defined objects used in the architecture, engineering and construction [AEC] industry: all being compatible with ADT.  It also has interference-detection capability to determine conflicts between MEP objects and those of other disciplines: such as conflicts between piping or ducts with structural elements.  However, there may be traditional or cultural resistance to its implementation , as greater input is required from the engineer early in the design, and engineers are required to work closely with the CAD operators during the design process.


Most of the electrical content is of a single-line or schematic nature appropriate for the majority of electrical drawings.  Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning [HVAC], as well as piping is the most developed discipline and a duct flow calculator is provided to assist in duct sizing.  A flow calculator is also provided for sizing plumbing pipes, and all plumbing can be automatically rendered.[19]   Drawing tools automatically insert fittings where needed and suggests layouts to complex routing problems, including symbols that can slide or be anchored along the layout.


 ABS 2005 includes tools to convert ACAD floor plans into "intelligent engineering models" storing results of analysis, as well as dimensional information. HVAC analysis that once took over a week to complete is performed in hours.  In fact, it is described as " the only truly integrated object-oriented application created specifically for Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineers".  ABS 2005 also facilitates use of "BIM data" by third-party applications for analysis of energy-use, load, fire protection and hydraulics.[20]



Change is therefore inevitable if productivity is to improve, and has to be concurrent between the education and practice of building professionals.  This can be illustrated by description of a scenario based on Dr. Khemlani's experiment.  A Caribbean architect works on his laptop awaiting a flight back home having received a major foreign commission.  He quickly completes a floor plan and uploads the IFC file to his company's project website and e-mails to his assistant as the plane descends for landing. 


Arriving at the office, the plan has been transformed to a three-dimensional model.  Elevations are completed periodically glancing at the 3D renderings and an occasional walk-through.  As works proceeds, the plan, sections and schedules are automatically updated.  Next, the master file is updated and e-mails sent to consultants to start working on it.  Later, the interior designer, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural engineers all commence work on the same model.


His to-do list includes a request from the mechanical engineer to increase the floor-to-floor height because the air-condition ducts need more space.  He makes the change, which updates all elevations, sections and perspectives.  The structural engineer's plans, elevations, sections and bar schedules are also updated.  The plumbing engineer places some openings in the floor slabs to allow pipes to pass through, and the structural engineer's drawings are again updated.  As the interior designer works to conceal the pipes, the electrical engineer suggests a light fixture. 


The IFC drawing of the fixture, complete with lighting characteristics, is downloaded from the manufacturer's web-site and placed in the proposed building.  Photo-realistic interior renderings illustrate the illumination expected from the fixture and it is approved.  The quantity surveyor then generates the quantities from the model and the client is invited to view the model on the website, complete with an estimated building cost: but without a line being drawn, no prints made, and no courier needed to deliver the drawings.

[1] Day, Martin.  "Intelligent Architectural Modeling", AEC Magazine, September 2002. .

[2]  Donelan, Jenny. "Part 6: Architecture Retrospective". Computer Graphics World, June 2002 . PennWell Corp., U.S.A.

[3] Laiserin, Jerry.  "Some Other Brics in the Wall".  The Laiserin Letter, Issue 16, December 2003.

[4] Autodesk, Inc.  "World Trade Center Design Team Partners with Autodesk to Help Facilitate Freedom Tower Design and Construction Process".  PR Newswire, 16 June 2004,

[5] Teichoiz, Paul. "Labor Productivity Declines in Construction Industry: Causes and Remedies", AEC bytes Viewpoint No. 4, 14 April 2004.

[6] Laiserin, Jerry.  "Some Other Brics in the Wall".  Laiserin Letter, Issue 16, December 2003.

[7] Filson, Ronald & Ron Nyren. "Students Learn with Integrated Building Modeling". Architecture Week, 27 August 2003, pp. T1.1 - T1.2.

[8] Nannetti, Maurizio. "Inside the Virtual Building", Multi-CAD Magazine, Dec. 2001/Jan. 2002.

[9] Khemlani, Lachmi.  "The IFC Building Model: A Look under the Hood".  AECbytes Newsletter, 30 Mar. 2004. .

[10] Bernstein, Phillip G.  "Going Further Process Evolution in the Building Industry".  AECbytes Newsletter, 11 Feb. 2004. .

[11] Day, Martin.  "Intelligent Architectural Modeling". AEC Magazine, Sept. 2002, .

[12] Khemlani, Lachmi, "Building Information Modeling". CADALYST Magazine AEC Tech News No. 90, 29 Jan. 2003. .

[13] Newton, Randall S. and David S. Cohn.  "Graphisoft Leads in the Move to Virtual Building Technology".  A-E-C Automation, Feb. 2003, Vol. 26, Issue 1.

[14] Khemlani, Lachmi. "The Eureka Tower: A Case Study of Advanced BIM Implementation".  AECbytes Newletter, 2 June 2004, .

[15] Khemlani, Lachmi. "An Exercise in Interoperability - Part 1".  CADENCE Magazine AEC Tech News No. 69. 28 Feb. 2002. .

[16] Khemlani, Lachmi.  "An Exercise in Interoperability - Part 2".  CADENCE Magazine AEC Tech News No. 70. 13 Mar. 2002. .

[17] Corke, Greg.  "AllPlot", AEC Magazine, 18 Mar. 2003.  .

[18] Autodesk Inc. "Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2005 Ships, Offering Immediate Productivity Gains to Architects". PR Newswire. .

[19] Dakan, Michael, "Autodesk Building System 2004" Cadalyst Magazine, 1 Dec. 2003.  .

[20] Autodesk Inc.  "Autodesk Delivers Increased Productivity and Process Benefits to Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing Engineers".  PR Newswire.  .

Posted by phcjam at 2:51 PM EDT

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