This month I’m talking to John Staves, Chartered Structural Engineer and Managing Director at Michael Aubrey Partnership about running an SME and how BIM adoption can benefit construction businesses, no matter how small.
So John, Why Did You Decide To Become A Structural Engineer?
Because I wanted to apply Maths and I wanted to make it do something for real, rather than just be an academic subject, I could see you could apply it and I wanted to be able to create things with it, make use of it.
What Prompted You To Start Your Own Business?
After a few years in industry I could see that things were done as they had always been done. I could see that workflows could be better to improve delivery, so that projects were realised in a better way – there is always room for improvement.
What’s Your Favourite Part Of Your Job?
Actually succeeding in getting somebody into their project. Typically, our projects are building structures. It’s great when a Client gets to use their new facility. To see our Clients realise their vision – I like seeing someone from when they have that initial idea, to getting their vision realised.
What’s The Most Surprising Thing You Have Learnt During Your Time Running Your Own Business?
Structural Engineering isn’t what people actually want. They want their building – technical excellence isn’t the key thing.
Getting the right solution to peoples issues / problems. For example, Clients don’t want a beam designed, they want a large open plan space. So although structural engineering facilitates what they want … structural engineering is seen as a “distressed purchase”
It is seen as something that you have to have, rather than something that can add value, helping you achieve want you want to achieve with your building.
What Was The Main Reason For Your BIM Adoption In 2009?
Fundamentally it fitted so well with the way we liked to work. Because we are trying to deliver somebody’s project, its allows for better communication, it allows us to make sure our designs are much more buildable than perhaps they would have been traditionally if we hadn’t thought them through in a modelling environment.
It fitted so well with our collaborative approach to working, the way we wanted to work. We saw Revit in 2007 when we were looking for some structural analysis software .. it was an American stand alone business, now of course owned by Autodesk. It seemed to fit with the way we wanted to work.
How Has BIM Changed Your Business?
It has made us more efficient, it’s allowing us to spend more time designing because there is a level of automation within producing the construction information. Some of the laborious steps that have been in the process traditionally, are now much more automated.
BIM allows us to spend the time improving the designs, refining the design, making sure things work better before they ever get to site. Rather spending time on internal communication. eg engineer to draftsman, we now spend more time making sure that design is as good as it can be, and less time producing the actual information because it’s much more automated, the link between engineering and production information is now much closer.
To my mind, it means that the emphasis has now gone back to the engineering and the design quality, not where it had got to … we were spending a lot of time checking and re-checking that internal communication, making sure that the product going out of the door was right.
Inevitable what was happening was, it was taking so much time within the fee, that it meant that the first solution that worked was what was published, whereas now we get chance to refine that design, a much more efficient process. Designs that go out to site are much better and much better thought out.
Are you an SME? Do you use BIM? What’s the biggest benefit you’ve derived from using BIM?
In the second and final part of our interview next week … find out what John would say to convince an Architect or a Contractor to use BIM.