Sunday, July 22, 2012

Autodesk AEC Newsletter Interview


I gave an interview for the July 2012 Autodesk AEC Newsletter, the text from the article is copied below, and the whole article including images can be seen here

1) Introduction and positioning

How would you describe your company, capabilities and what differentiates your company?
Opus is a leading international multidisciplinary consultancy offering a full range of engineering and architectural services for the built environment including; civil, structural and infrastructure engineering, water, geotechnical and environmental engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, architecture and interior design and project and asset management. With such a portfolio of services, Opus can offer truly collaborative solutions to our clients.

Are you a local, regional, national, international or global company?
We have a network of 76 offices throughout Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Our teams work not only within our five primary markets but we actively share and foster co-operation and knowledge among all our offices worldwide. We have a global reach whilst maintaining a local identity in the countries we operate.

What sectors do you specialise in?
We work closely with an increasingly diverse range of clients to help visualise and achieve their goals with commitment, integrity and innovation. Whilst we specialise in a vast array of sectors throughout our global business, we think it is important to apply our core values to each project, these include; strong client relationships, excellent service delivery, respect for and sharing of knowledge, urgency through empowerment, and sharing and enjoying success. Our values reflect the way we operate, our philosophy and our attitude to business, providing clients with value added solutions.

How many employees do you have?
Opus is a company that is on the move, both through the expansion of our services and through acquisition growth. We have developed rapidly since becoming a private company, and we now have some 2,400 employees worldwide.

2) Industry

What have been the major changes in the industry in recent years, and how have you coped with those changes?
In recent years, the most dominant factor influencing all markets has been the Global Financial Crisis. Like 99% of companies in the construction industry, this has obviously had an impact on parts of our business. Because we are a diverse, international company we have been able to cope with difficult market conditions in certain countries and sectors by developing our Global Projects Initiative (GPI.)

This initiative has demonstrated Opus’ agility and ability to respond to the ever changing market conditions by allowing the company to provide international resources to the more prosperous markets we operate in; this enabled the sharing of knowledge among our offices across our international markets to bring a global best practice approach to problem solving.

What emerging trends do you see that will affect the industry in the future, and how?
BIM is the most obvious answer; the number of BIM related conferences that have taken place in the UK over the last 12 months certainly supports that statement. With the UK government looking to mandate BIM, and “Level 2 BIM” set to become a minimum requirement for all public sector projects by 2016, this ‘trend’ is fast becoming the norm for project procurement and delivery. 

How does the industry need to change to improve the delivery of projects to clients?
Project delivery could be improved by encouraging all professions to embrace the move towards collaborative working, by removing the ‘SILO’ mentality and engaging with clients and supply chains in open discussions and information sharing to identify best practices and collectively learn from bad (and good) experiences.

The use of ‘BIM’ platforms such as Autodesk® Revit®  and Autodesk® Navisworks® will help to foster this sense of collaboration and lead to a more integrated design approach with significant benefits to clients. Project deliveries will be improved through fewer abortive costs (both during design and construction), less waste on site and improved (shortened) construction periods delivering cost savings to the client whilst improving product quality.

How has the 'sustainability' debate impacted recent projects or views of clients?
Only the most forward thinking have embraced this currently, and they tend to be the contractors working on local authority projects. Whilst acknowledging the increasing pressure to develop ‘environmentally friendly’ solutions, a large proportion of private clients are mainly focused on financial cost, and not necessarily environmental impact.

However, as technologies improve and new methods of working are developed (such as the move into BIM), design teams are able to consider alternative solutions in a more thorough and integrated manner helping to identify sustainability benefits through reduced wastage etc that might otherwise have been ignored / missed.

Clients are also much more amenable to the possibilities of considering changes of use of buildings to allow reuse of existing building stock as opposed to automatically assuming that new build is the only solution. Advancement in technologies such as laser scanning have now enabled refurbishment projects to be treated in a BIM environment with the same level of design consideration as would previously only been available to new build options. Again this can often lead to sustainability benefits for the reasons identified above.

3) Technology

Which Autodesk solutions do you use?
In total we use 18 different Autodesk® Software solutions throughout the global business. Our Architecture teams use Autodesk® Revit® Architecture as their primary design tool, with Autodesk® 3Ds Max® Design for the production of high resolution renders and animations, as well as Autodesk® Ecotect® Analysis for sustainable design. For structural design Autodesk® Revit ® Structure is again our main modelling tool, with the use of Robot Structural Analysis in our UK offices for design. M&E design follows on with that trend, Autodesk® Revit® MEP being the primary design package.

Our Landscape Architecture and Civil Engineering disciplines use a combination of Autodesk Revit Architecture, Autodesk Revit Structure, AutoCAD®, AutoCAD® Map 3D and AutoCAD® Civil 3D. Autodesk® 3Ds Max Design is also used by our graphic design teams, as well as Autodesk® Stitcher. Autodesk Navisworks is a package that we are currently investigating with the ability to produce 4D construction sequences being of particular interest to us.

How do they fit into your design process?
Each discipline within Opus utilises specific Autodesk® products chosen for their ability to enhance the service offered to our clients on a daily basis. Products such as Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Navisworks increase the effectiveness of our service delivery by allowing multiple disciplines to be coordinated providing a fully integrated solution.

Do you think that your Autodesk solutions provide you with any competitive advantage, and if so, how?
Our Autodesk® solutions provide us with the opportunity to produce high quality products quickly and efficiently, thereby maximising our competitiveness within the marketplace and increasing Opus’ attractiveness to prospective clients.

What technologies are you aware of that you would like to try, and what benefits do you think they would bring?
Technology is a key part of our business, as a company we have over 550 different software packages, albeit not all of these are directly related to design. We have gone through a staged implementation process for new design software, our architecture business in New Zealand made the transition from traditional CAD packages into Autodesk Revit a number of years ago, and by 2008 this move filtered through our Structural and M&E Engineering disciplines.

We are beyond the information production stage, and having all three disciplines in house allowed us to easily get to grips with the collaboration aspect of 3D design. The use of schedules for quantities ran parallel with information production for architecture, and certainly from a structural design point of view, we have systems in place for things such as scheduling steel weights, right down to being able to schedule the total length of slab joints. Moving forward from a structural design point of view we are exploring the links between Autodesk Revit and the analysis packages that we use.

We also have a dedicated survey team within the company who specialise in laser scanning; currently we are exploring the best methods for integrating point cloud files into our design process.

4) People:

What attracts people to work for your company?
It is people who drive excellence – and it’s by investing in our people that we’ve built a reputation for excellence.

Our continued success begins and ends with the investment we make in our own people. This starts with a very strong set of company values that are at the very heart of what we do and how we work together. We are a global company that thrives on working together as one team, yet we still maintain a strong local identity and character.

Many of our team are globally recognised leaders in their respective fields, giving you the opportunity to work with and learn from only the best professionals in the business.

What’s more, the Opus International Consultants brand is built to last. Many projects and assets we design, construct and then manage around the world go to the very core of a country’s ability to develop, function and communicate. In New Zealand alone we are responsible for much of the nation’s public infrastructure including roading, railways, airports, hydro-dams and telecommunications networks.

We are a 2,400 strong team with 76 offices in five markets including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States of America. In short, we can develop a career path across a wide range of roles, sectors and global locations.

What motivates your staff to learn about or evaluate new technology, materials or methods?
One of Opus’ company values is to develop staff to reach their full potential, and this is encouraged through the adoption of new technologies and techniques. Opus have significant resources on a global scale, but recognise the need to share information across the company to promote best practice and deliver continuous improvement in our service offering to clients.

Staff are encouraged to actively participate in the internal Practice Interest Networks (PIN’s)  which are established within the various disciplines in Opus to share knowledge and experiences, and to act as ‘Champions’ within their offices.

Through a comprehensive staff development programme, Opus personnel are also motivated to learn about / evaluate new technologies, materials and / or methods through their personal appraisals and the promotion of internal Opus awards rewarding / recognising individual and project level successes.