Interview: Joseph Mady, DCT

Joseph Mady, a long-term enthusiast of BIM, tells Paul Milligan how he created a simple, cost effective easy-to-use immersive system that puts the technology right where it needs to be.

Joseph Mady, the CEO of Digital Construction Technologies G (DCT) passion for BIM , has seen a roup (Building Information Modelling) morph into his business in the last two and a half years. After seeing a sustained growth in requests for BIM systems in the construction industry, he left his employer to set up DCT, a virtual design and construction consultancy in March 2018.

His faith in BIM has been rewarded, and in that short period his company now boasts three offices in Ireland (Dublin), Croatia (Zagreb) and Argentina (Obera) with more than 30 employees. Based in Ireland, it was during his time working with the country’s CIF (Construction Industry Federation) that Mady spotted a gap in the market. “It was obvious that the industry was very far behind and lacking in digital knowledge. I went in and set up a lot of the standard documents for the CIF and realised there was a big gap in the market for someone who understands BIM and digital technologies and processes in construction.”

Over the years Mady has built up experience of building immersive environments to aid the construction process. His approach is firmly rooted in common sense; “What we try to do is create spaces that are usable, practical and functional. In the sense that they serve a purpose, you want to go to it, and you know that when you go there you’re going to get work done. It’s not something that just looks pretty, that’s always turned off, or something you always have to put a code in to get it to work, or something you need to get your IT department involved in to get up and running. We just try to keep it simple, keep it functional and it works.”

Mady’s latest project is the BIM Cube, which began when a client, Collen Construction, approached DCT with a concept to create an on-demand centre for staff out on a building site.

“We did a needs analysis and looked at VR to see if it met the client’s needs but decided against it. When we looked at what the client wanted, the goal was to do video calls so the staff could walk into the cube and make calls in the middle of a construction site. They needed to talk to someone to get something resolved from somebody who might be in a different country. We looked at the model and the drawings, getting access to information quickly was the key driver and that’s what we built together with Collen, and that became the BIM Cube.”

The construction industry is often a traditional one, technology on site often involves a ‘job box’, a makeshift room with a small PC, keyboard and printer and not much else. Staff would rarely visit it apart from first thing in the morning. “With the Cube it was different, it was really immersive, it’s perfect for a couple of people to go in and have a meeting if something in the field needs resolving and then go back out. If somebody in Sweden needs to have a chat with somebody on site in Dublin that could happen. It’s the Apple way of doing things, if you make it simple people will use it, and we like to build simple things. If people are comfortable with the technology and the process they will use it more often, and that’s what we always look to do.”

The conception of the BIM Cube began at an unlikely point admits Mady, “We started with a 10ft by 10ft container and went from there. We BIM modelled it up, and designed it from the fuse board upwards.

It has a standard plug so you plug it in and that’s it.” The first plan hit upon WiFi issues, especially getting the signal to work in the container, which was resolved by putting an antenna on the outside. The next stage was to decide what was the correct height for the screens, “A lot of work went into that, so the guys could walk in and use it straightway. Quite often you will have a concept you think is great, but then when people start using it the concept changes because the user experience will change how the layout of the area works. Will we put a seating area in? No, people will just stand. Will we have a printer? No, we’ll keep it paperless, if people want they can connect via their iPads. Do we have a keyboard and mouse? No, because the keyboard is on the screen, so the mouse is only to drive the model.”

Security issues were a central concern when designing the BIM Cube adds Mady, “Should we allow people to log in? For security reasons no, nobody can log into the system via their own email, there is a cube email, so the cube email gets sent out, because if you have individual emails then you’ll have security issues.”

The technology offers those in construction, but also those tasked with designing AV, a host of benefits. It can save time and money says Mady, something we could all do with more of. “Drawings don’t always tell you what you need to know, you can go into the Cube and check a dimension, if it’s a duct cable tray you can check the width, the height, the length, the depth. You can get so much more data out of a model, and out in the field you can resolve issues quicker. What we found on jobs was there were less RFIs, and issues were totally reduced on a project.”

VR combined with BIM can be a powerful tool says Mady, but its widespread adoption is some way off, for practical reasons. “VR does have value, we’ve made savings with it, but we haven’t made it part of our standard process because you need to have the hardware on-site that runs the VR, it’s very hard with machines that run 64GB of RAM on-site, so we don’t always have the VR on the ground.”

One criticism of BIM has been that its cost puts people off, but that’s not a valid excuse says Mady. “We can show how it’s going to be built, we can show everything. It’s a virtual version of a physical asset, if you have the correct resources - people, hardware and software, you will succeed. BIM is not a cost, it saves. For companies that don’t use BIM, or outsource BIM, they don’t see the value in it, they see it as a cost because of the processes and the procedures and maybe their senior management don’t believe in the technology, which is absolutely crazy. Every company will have a learning curve, they’ll have an initial outlay of the software, they have an initial outlay of training, initial outlay of hardware, that’s the cost that goes up but over time they get the efficiencies. Nobody measures the efficiencies over time.”

The BIM Cube has been such a success for Collen that it was disconnected and shipped off to the next job. “We built the BIM Cube for a specific purpose, to be embedded on site, to be integrated into the project, to enable the team in the delivery of the project. There’s no point having a big boardroom that you’ve paid USD60,000 for which nobody uses,” concludes Mady.

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