BIM Brunch: Peter Barker

BIM Brunch - Peter Barker

BIM Brunch is the perfect accompaniment to your dinner break. Featuring some major players from the #GlobalBIMCrew, BIM Brunch is an interview feature where industry specialists talk about their passion for Building Information Modelling amongst other topics of conversation.

Today’s interviewee is from a fellow Newcastle, UK-based business, BIM Academy. An international centre of Building Information Modelling Excellence, BIM Academy have enjoyed a monumental 2015, with achievements including: participation in two Build Earth Live competitions; being one of the influential companies to form the new Dynamo Build initiative; project bidding triumphs on the Sydney Opera House; Knowledge Transfer Partnership success; and perhaps most importantly, their continued growth in Australia.

At the helm of the success is Peter Barker, Managing Director of BIM Academy and Director at Ryder Architecture. He explains what is best about his team and the key element at the heart of good design and building performance – human creativity and ingenuity.

What is your favourite career related website/blog?

Career related, probably Dezeen for design related content and Building and Sourceable for industry news. Otherwise Retronaut is a fantastic digital archive of the past.

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

The first book which got me hooked on building design was “A History of Architecture of the Comparative Method” by Bannister Fletcher which my dad owned back in the 60s. It is incredibly detailed with beautiful drawings. More up to date it would be “BIM and Integrated Design” by Randy Deutsch which I got into around 2010. It’s a refreshing common-sense insight into the value of BIM from the time before the industry became obsessed with overcomplicating things.

The top industry event you have recently been to is?

The Greater Manchester Construction Summit in July was excellent, the largest event of its type outside London. It was great to see the genuine determination to turn the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse concept into reality; we just need to get the North East with its powerful digital skills tied into the network!

Favourite Twitter handles to follow?

Work related – @bondbryanBIM is consistently good, but I think there’s too much hot air in the BIM twittersphere. For general music, fun and other bizarrity (new word!) I would go for @WFMU.

What is your all-time favourite building?

I studied Classics at Leeds University in the 70s and have always had a soft spot for The Parthenon and other buildings on the acropolis. However, I’m a modernist at heart so contemporary faves would be the Neue Nationalgalerie by Mies Van Der Rohe or more recently David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum, both in Berlin which we visited on our team study trip in 2011.

What is your favourite project/initiative you have worked on?

It’s got to be the Sydney Opera House BIM4FM initiative which BIM Academy won against international competition in 2013. It was an amazing experience to get under skin of building fabric (literally) and get to know what makes the building tick from a business and operational perspective. Mind you, it was a tough commute across Sydney Harbour from Manly every morning!

What is the best thing about the team at BIM Academy?

In my dual role as MD of BIM Academy and Director at Ryder I get the best of both worlds, involvement in some exciting design and construction projects but at same time engaging with owners and operators on helping them curate and manage their data and help drive real value from the BIM process.

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

In 2005 at Ryder we shifted up a gear in our use of Revit. For the previous couple of years we had been playing around with its visualisation potential, using it occasionally to show off and impress clients but little else.

In 2005 I had a moment of revelation chatting to Paul Woddy who was delivering some training for us at the time. It became apparent we were just scratching the surface and there was massive potential to turn this into a major differentiator for us in terms of productivity, design quality and client service. After a couple of challenging pilot projects in 2006 with my work pals Drew Wiggett and Glenn Tate, we had the catalyst for mandating Revit across the practice, thankfully creating a robust platform for us to weather the global economic crisis in the following years.

The most exciting possibilities Building Information Modelling can offer are?

There’s no doubt in my mind that good design and building performance has human creativity and ingenuity at its heart. On the other hand, there are huge possibilities for further automation of the design process to supplement and support the human factor, getting the best possible solution quicker, more accurately and cost effectively. Another underdeveloped area for the industry is performance monitoring and evaluation which is an area where we are still just scratching the surface. Both are going to be major focus for Ryder over the coming year.

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

I think I was fascinated by the idea of taking a brief, listening to a client’s needs and then interpreting these and balancing them against constraints such as budget and programme. Then, the task of producing the right quality of information to turn the needs into reality before seeing it built and occupied and getting (mostly) positive feedback. Not many people have that privilege and it’s very rewarding when it all comes together.

What is your proudest career highlight?

There are a few, probably the Sydney Opera House project mentioned earlier, or winning our recent commission for M+ Museum of Art in Hong Kong. Another is the change management programme for our move to BIM in Ryder from 2003-09. Last but not least the fantastic success we have had in the Build Earth Live competitions which both Ryder and BIM Academy have entered and won since 2009.

What is the best part about your job?

The sheer variety of clients, businesses and users of buildings and environments we have the opportunity to engage with when designing or managing a project, and more recently the ability to export our skills around the globe which is fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of the north-east and the UK.

Continue the conversation with Peter on social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

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