BIM Brunch: Chris Van Essen

BIM Brunch - Chris Van Essen

BIM Brunch is the perfect accompaniment to your dinner break. Featuring some major players from the #GlobalBIMCrew, BIM Brunch is an interview segment where BIM specialists talk about their passion for Building Information Modelling. Following his stint as a Best BIM Bad BIM interviewee, Senior Architectural Technologist at Stride Treglown, Chris Van Essen tells us a few of his favourite things relating to architecture, construction and BIM.

What is your favourite career related website/blog?

I would have to say this varies between Architects Journal, BD Online, BIMcrunch, The B1M and TED Talks. These websites keep me abreast on a wide range of industry news, new technology and various case studies. Between AJ and BD, there’s not much that hasn’t been captured in terms of industry interviews and news. I always find myself going to TED Talks for design inspiration and broadening of the mind. It can take you down a path never thought existed and open your mind to new methodologies. This is usually the way to break traditions and encapsulate the future.

Another site which has recently come apparent last year is the Top 500 BIM category website, partnered with CIBSE and managed by @SustMeme, Jim McClelland. This website provides a real time list of worldwide BIM influencers and will direct people to copious amounts of knowledge.

Do you have a favourite industry book, magazine or publication?

I suppose the publications mentioned above and Twitter make everything very accessible. In terms of industry books, I do not have a favourite. But, I have heard positive comments about BIM Demystified by Steve Race.

The top industry event(s) you have recently been to is(are)?

Last year’s Construction Excellence South West, The BIG BIM Theory were great, as was the Government Soft Landings event at RNLI headquarters in Poole, thankfully close to home. This event brought Deborah Rowland, John Eynon and Richard Voke to provide their opinions and experiences with BIM data, legality and building stage approaches. The ‘internet of things’ being one of the key points and how data can be used in large amounts to benefit our life.

Favourite Twitter handles to follow?

There are many twitter handles I follow with some of them listed below. But to me, most importantly are the hashtag conversation trackers for #UKBIMCrew, #GlobalBIMCrew and #BIM. These hashtags provide endless amounts of resource, expertise, case studies and communication with various members of the internet community. Regardless of location, each tag has its own strengths and uniqueness. I would plead to everyone on Twitter to contribute to each one of these.

Twitter accounts worth following:

Casey Rutland@CaseyRutland
Jared Banks@Shoegnome
The B1M@TheB1M
Bond Bryan BIM@bondbryanBIM

I do follow many more, so checkout my followers and make your own judgements!

What is your all-time favourite building?

All-time favourite building would be Tadao Ando’s Water Temple located in the former city of Hompukuji, northern part of the island Awaji, Japan. The sublime geometry and simplistic nature of materials and how the structure sits within its surroundings is mind-freeing. From the first moment I came across this building I’ve been captivated with it.

What is the best thing about the team at Stride Treglown?

We have an extremely knowledgeable support team at Strides covering all topics from Architecture, BIM, BREEAM and many more. Having this network at your fingertips is fantastic! With over 250 employees in Strides there’s not much the practice hasn’t covered or knows about. Test us, we welcome the challenge.

What was the first BIM related project you have been a part of and what did you learn from the experience?

I actually got involved with 3D modelling with Autodesk Revit before I learnt of the term BIM in 2002. It was then four years later I came across the term BIM in 2006. My first attempt and bridge cross with BIM was bringing together consultant designs and influencing others to use 3D models and share the data between companies within a 3D sharing environment. These designs were based on small residential units. However, thank god it was a small development as the learning curve was extremely high.

There was no official support or budget to learn about BIM / 3D designs, so it was more difficult in the past to practice new methods. I would have been really happy if I had started learning BIM in the recent years as there so much more support and a unofficial safety net everywhere it would seem.

The most exciting possibilities Building Information Modelling can offer are?

If you break BIM into its 3 counterpart’s 3D model authoring, intelligent data and building design the outcomes are extremely positive. If you’re modelling in 3D you are automatically reducing time and not replicating elements elsewhere in other views. By using costs, time, thermal and other data you are becoming more knowledgeable about your design. This can only help improve visualizing future construction problems and help with defining solutions earlier.

The bottom line is BIM will improve design, reduce costs and time if you let it and broaden your mind and approach.

Who or what made you want to work within the Architecture, Engineering and Construction sector?

I’m one of the lucky few who knew what they wanted to be involved in at a young age. But, it really hit home when I had a technical design and sketching book when I was approximately 7 years old. I knew from that point I wanted to design and it didn’t matter what. When I finished secondary school there was an opportunity to go to business studies or college and I tried both. College won, that’s where I got involved in CAD and then a chain of events leading me here.

What is your proudest career highlight?

I would class seeing my first BIM Level 2 compliant construction project, the RNLI’s landmark boat building facility Coventina being finished (one month left… hopefully). This building covers many building uses, forms and details. It was a massive challenge and thankfully it’s succeeded.

What is the best part about your job?


One day I am working on a cruise terminal, deciphering M&E geometry and structural designs and the next I am re-detailing construction work on a school. Not to mention, it helps being with a company who know the impact of BIM and have taken it fully on board.

Follow Chris on Twitter, @cvedesigns.

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