An Interview with Clint Undseth, Stuart Olson

June 2, 2017

Clint Undseth, VP innovation with Stuart Olson shares his thoughts on the meaning of BIM, the challenges involved in collaboration, areas for innovation and improvement and Stuart Olson’s initiatives in improving change and information management.

Karan: What does BIM mean to you?

Clint: BIM is a tool. I don't like to use the term BIM, rather prefer Virtual Design and construction. BIM as a tool in some respect can further enable collaboration.

Karan: Why is collaboration important in our industry and what are some of the challenges?

Clint: Innovation often requires collaboration. Collaboration is the key ingredient for successful outcomes in construction. Yet in this industry, procurement process and contractual structures are such that they don't always promote or enable collaboration. In fact, often times our contractual arrangements and our historical engagement models perpetuate silos, the antithesis of collaboration. When I look at the BIM sector, the buzzword these days is BIM-FM, I would rather talk about information management. When we consider BIM today, architects can generally be heard saying, “I am not sharing that file, that's my intellectual property”. Now consider the information requirements of Facility Management. From an architect to building operations, there are a number of stakeholders throughout the buildings lifecycle that have different needs from any particular dataset. If we are not sharing that information from the earliest design source, that means we are repeating or replicating- ultimately being inefficient and thus not productive or collaborative.

In the world of BIM, the vendors talk about APIs, open standards, protocols and interoperability, a lot of technical jargon. In many respects it is true we have addressed the interfaces. What we have not addressed is change management - how do you bring together stakeholders/parties that historically have not shared such information throughout the lifecycle?

Karan: How are you encouraging innovation and addressing these issues at Stuart Olson?

Clint: Within Stuart Olson, we are establishing common language with innovation in 3 areas - 1) Collaboration 2) Modular Construction 3) Building performance solutions (high performance buildings).

We define High performance buildings by addressing 4 key areas - Financial Value, Occupant Wellbeing and Productivity, Resource Management Global responsibility (are we reducing carbon, are we reducing waste associated with construction). Construction and demolition materials represent 30-35% of landfills in most Canadian urban centers. So when we define building performance, we focus holistically with these 4 pillars.

Consider BIM, it’s a toolset, a database, that generates and stores data objects, that isn't necessarily anything about collaboration. Certainly BIM can be an enabler to have a better process for virtual design and construction. But through all of this we still have a need for true “information management” - especially in the case of BIM FM. This we see as the future trend within the context of BIM-FM and VDC.

As a rule of thumb, 20-25% of the cost of a building is design and construction. 75-80 % is maintaining it through the lifecycle. BIM serves a crucial role in optimizing construction schedule and costs. Yet as earlier discussed we see an opportunity to better share information between design and construction stakeholders.

Now we have to ask when we hand over the building to operations, how can we better leverage BIM related data to help operations better operate and maintain their building?

In my view, we as an industry have an opportunity to do better. There is an opportunity through true collaboration to improve communications and processes around information management. Different stakeholders through the life of a building need different kinds of tools but often require the same data even though each will consume the same data differently. Integration of these disparate applications/ data systems may include energy modeling, metering management systems, building management systems, asset management systems, leasing systems and so on.

To get systems integration right we need to apply true information management methodologies for the lifecycle and this I see as our opportunity to bridge the gap.

Karan: How is BIM relevant to your clients? How could it be made more relevant?

Clint: In the commercial real estate sector, I believe it’s approximately 90% of commercial estate is pension funds or REITs. Buildings as an asset class are measured in financial returns. As such I think our BIM community can better serve those financial targets. I think those are very important questions that we need to address, it isn't just about build a building to a spec, hand over the keys and move on to the next project. So let us ask- How are we as a community going to use tools, Revit, Archibus etc. to better achieve those financial objectives for our end customers who ultimately pay us? I believe we need to elevate our discussion beyond the technical aspects of BIM and more into how are we helping our customers better achieve their business objectives through technologies like BIM and processes like VDC and Information Management. As an industry I believe we need to answer these questions.

Karan: What are some of the things Stuart Olson is doing to address issues in FM

Clint: We are invested heavily in this area. As a construction manager, we are the facilitators of the BIM models and datasets from the various stakeholders. We are investing and learning the process of how we can better leverage or transform the data into actionable information. What we're learning is equally about change management. It is about bringing different stakeholders, cultures and processes together. Stuart Olson has invested in a Centre for Building Performance where we address strategic change management and information management. This center is used for research, systems interoperability testing, mentorship, training and use-case development. Fundamentally it is a market driven Centre for our clients and collaborative eco-system.

Karan: How is BIM related to sustainability / how does BIM help in delivering buildings sustainably?

Clint: That's an area that we are working on right now. I’ve recently accepted a role as co-chair of the Construction and Demolition Working Group for the National Zero Waste Council. It is an organization made up of cross industry representation from the construction sector, finance, municipal, materials and tech sectors. In our terms of reference, one of the areas is to leverage BIM VDC to reduce waste.

In fact we’ve invited CanBIM to contribute with our Construction and Demolition working group. We are committed to developing a plan including a pilot to demonstrate how we can reduce construction waste. Construction waste represents 30-35% landfill so we believe it’s important to address this issue. How with data integrity can we accurately report accordingly through a circular economy- these are important questions where I believe BIM and Information Management will be able to serve an important role.

About Clint Undseth

Clint Undseth is the Vice President of Innovation at Stuart Olson where his responsibilities include strategy development for building performance solutions and promoting collaboration with industry leaders in sustainable development.

In his spare time, he coaches his children’s soccer teams and currently serves his community with fundraising. He started his career as an industrial electrician on large construction projects, then moved into technology and business. He is currently studying change management and design thinking. Clint chairs the Innovation committee with Richmond Chamber of Commerce and co-chairs the Construction Demolition working group with the National Zero Waste Council.

This article is a first in a 2 part series. The second part would shed light on Stuart Olson’s initiatives in this area through a case study on BIM FM.