Construction/Building Industry & Free Software Development

In Computers, Facility Management, Typical on 2008-04-07 by petervk

So, what do the construction/building industry and free software development have in common? More then you’d think.

I was thinking again about git, and what an awesome concept it is. (Read everything you can find about it, it’s genius, but it does take a while to wrap your head around) Basically it provides for a common way of referencing content and its history and makes distributed development easy. It blows any previous source code management software out of the water.

I’ve always thought that through the use of computers there are two main stages of any application or “workflow”. First there is 1-to-1 transfer of the pre-computer concept to the computer. This is like Microsoft Word. (It’s really just a fancy typewriter/ sheet of paper) (think about it) Then after a while someone looks at what is really needed for this process and what computers are actually good at and there is a paradigm shift. Suddenly we have wiki’s, and google docs, and other “word-processing” programs which really have no similarity to anything pre-computers.

Git is like this, Linus looked at what was really needed, and what computers can do and came up with a new paradigm shifting application / storage method.

But what is really cool is that almost every problem that the creation of git eliminated also affect the construction industry. The Linux kernel (git’s reason for existence) is developed by many different people in many different parts of the world with different skill sets and allows for seamless, easy collaboration of all the work done. The typical building project is also designed by many different people in many different parts of the world (ok, usually not world wide, but at least across the province) but with the huge difference of the complete and utter lack of true collaboration.

Well, ok. I’m being a little harsh. The construction industry does collaborate, but when you compare their collaboration (hundreds of different copies of everything, long drawn out meetings, hundreds of man hours of checking and rechecking specifications and drawings) to the free software development collaboration (git-pull) it’s seems like the construction industry is from the dark ages.

The first step in solving the construction industries problems is a standard interoperable digital format for building information. (Proprietary Autodesk formats need not apply.) This will be like the programming language for building information. Then we put this information into a git repository and just like magic, your not in the dark ages anymore. Easy collaboration, cryptographically signed releases, full change log, etc.

I really think that a NBIMS (National Building Information Model Standard) implementation on top of a RESTful python + hadoop/couchdb + git backend would turn the construction industry on it’s head and be a major step in the right direction. Lets start claiming back the estimated 25% cost of non-interoperable software/data currently used in every single construction project across the globe.


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