Interoperability, Programming and Collaboration: The Future of the AEC Industry in Europe

This week, we interviewed BILT Europe Speaker, Radu Gidei from Grimshaw. Radu was the BIM Manager there working in London, with a unique perspective on BIM and Implementing BIM workflows. With a background in algorithms and  computer programming, he brings with him a unique background on how to apply this within the architectural workplace and is excited for the future in our industry, particularly when it comes to collaboration and interoperability. He tells us where he sees the industry heading and what will be crucial for the future.

1. Who are you? Tell us what you really do and help us to get to know you a little bit better (I.e., what got you excited last Wednesday?)

Unsurprisingly maybe, I trained and worked as an architect before completely moving over to the design technology side, and now I often joke that I’m a BIM Manager by day and developer by night. That’s certainly been true in the past 2 years though, whilst I headed up BIM for Grimshaw’s London office & HQ. In terms of what I did there, it’s the usual suspects (BIM strategy, implementation & support) but also a lot of management in the more classic sense of the word and then software development as an add-on activity.

2. What is interesting about what you do (what motivates you at both work and play)?

It’s great to see this year’s theme be about breaking down discipline barriers as that’s exactly what I find interesting about what I do both at work and outside: operating in that awkward space between different fields or occupations, like between design and technology, between design projects and standardisation, between creativity and efficiency.

What motivated me to choose this career is that I love helping people, but what’s kept me even more motivated these past few years has been building & scaling up an incredibly talented team, it’s been highly rewarding.

3. What’s interesting to you outside of your work?

Learning : reading articles & books about how different fields work, what their challenges and solutions are & ultimately understanding how it relates or can interact with everything else. Yes, I do that outside work too :) I guess this is also where I should mention that I really enjoy tennis or playing & building electric guitars.

4. Our theme this year is ‘Death of Disciplinary Silos and Birth of Integrated Industries’. What does that mean to you? Is BIM and digitization breaking down old borders and hierarchies? Here is a link to the blog post if you have not read it (and would like to!): https://tinyurl.com/yceot9zp

I think the blog post nailed it, so will only say this: about time! It means that our AECO industry is finally reaching that critical mass of accepting that “the way it’s always been done” is not good enough and being open to learning from & collaborating with other industries.

5. Your class this year is being highly anticipated not only for the exciting content, but also because last year both your classes went straight into the TOP TEN. Tell us a little about your session, what was the motivation behind it and why should delegates attend?

First, i want to thank all that attended my sessions last year, I really think great sessions can only happen as a collaboration between attendees & instructors, so hopefully being shortlisted means everyone had as much fun as I did exploring the topics together.

The motivation for this year’s session is that interoperability and connected workflows are starting to be high up on everyone’s agenda, so I wanted to explore how we can leverage established principles from the computer science (CS) world to help us more easily tackle these tough problems.

Yes, we’ll be learning some programming principles & approaches, but they are quite universally applicable, so I would recommend attending if you wanted a more zoomed out perspective, learning to think in a more abstract & platform-neutral way.

Also, we’ll look at developing apps for at least 4 platforms (Revit, Dynamo, Rhino, Grasshopper) in one single session, which should be very useful for people trying to branch out more :) much like myself.

6. You have a background in computer programming and also as an architect. Do you think these 2 worlds are important and should come together during tertiary education for architects?

I do and my class this year is my (tiny) contribution towards that.

In essence, I think that whilst very different, design & computational thinking are highly complementary and see almost no downside to exposing people to both paradigms. There’s a range of course that fuse these two worlds starting to appear at different universities. My only wish is that I could go back to being a student :)

7. Do you feel there has been an improvement on your practice as an Architect by having a background in computer programming? If so in what ways?

Certainly! Knowing programming before going to architecture school helped me tremendously in many aspects, from learning how to use design software very quickly, to realising my visions more accurately & discovering new ones, or knowing when to not let myself be seduced/impressed by a new tool (& Grasshopper-ize everything like the trend was back then), to applying parallel computing principles to improve circulation in my building designs and completely re-think layouts of entire projects.

8. Machine Learning is becoming a trend within the construction industry and you are one of the most well-known forerunners on this, sharing your work and findings with the community on multiple occasions. What are the main risks associated in using such algorithms?

I think mis-understanding the capabilities & how these systems work leads to mis-use and erroneous conclusions/decisions . So it’s not the algorithms, but how we use them that’s the biggest risk. They’re not silver bullets and need to be approached in a very structured (& often different) way to how we design, so I’ve been advocating for years to seek out & partner with data scientists when building a ML system.

9. Do you think we will become more and more data analysts supported by computer scientists? Is our perception of experience going to change because we can use data as experience?

I certainly hope our experiences & perceptions of them will change due to data and by that I mean be better informed, which should lead to better decisions and better designs.

However, I don’t think (or hope) we’ll all become data analysts or programmers, but rather learn to use, leverage and collaborate with these specialisms.

10. What do you enjoy most about BILT?

The learning & the community. You learn so much during those few days of BiLT, and it’s not just about technical know-how, but also being exposed to a myriad of different fields, specialisms & approaches – it really opens up the mind.

Then, the community at BiLT events is wonderful : you have fascinating & engaging conversations, meet like-minded folk and make new friends.

11. Have you ever been to Ljubljana? If yes, what tips do you have? If not, what are you looking forward to  and maybe give us one thing you would like a tip on?

I’ve never been to Ljubljana and really look forward to taking everything in, I’m purposefully not reading up on it beforehand at all. I’d love tips on places nearby the conference/hotels to go to in the evenings as a group.

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