DCN Talks To…Karl Thurston

DCN talks to…Karl Thurston, BIM Consultant, Graphisoft UK

DCN: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself, and your role in the built environment?

KT: I joined Graphisoft as BIM consultant in 2017, to help customers improve their workflows and use Graphisoft’s BIM software ARCHICAD more effectively.

An architectural technologist by training, I am passionate about buildings and the built environment. I’m always looking for ways to innovate, developing systems and procedures to mitigate risks, improve quality and drive efficiency.

Previously an associate at LSI Architects, I have more than 20 years’ experience working within the construction industry and I’ve worked across a range of sectors from master planning through to health and education with budgets ranging from under £500k to £64m.

I support Open BIM and believe it’s very important to bring design and construction teams closer together, by facilitating more effective collaboration and communication to deliver improved building assets.

DCN: What for you is the most exciting thing about working in the built environment?

KT: I love the variety. There is always a new challenge which keeps the work interesting and fun.

It’s great to be involved in projects that are going to change people’s lives. For example, my previous practice worked on a lot of healthcare and education projects including a palliative care centre, and the team put their energy into creating an environment that was as pleasant as possible for patients and their families while also being as user-friendly as possible for nurses. It’s very rewarding to work on projects that can have such a positive impact on society.

DCN: What do you feel would help improve and encourage greater collaboration in the built environment?

KT: Better leadership is key. From business leaders through to clients, it’s essential to have more people who can help and guide others, but not necessarily in a hierarchical way.

I was very lucky to work with a fantastic client who brought the entire team together at the start of the project, he set the tone, the ambition and drive saying, “We are a team, I will defend you and support you in all your decisions and actions, but we need to work together as a team.” This was a very powerful and inspirational ethos and has always stayed with me as an example of how we should aspire to work together.

We also need to work hard to gain a better understanding of other people’s unique challenges and to eliminate the blame culture which is often rife within our industry. Teams often work in siloes and there is frequently a lack of understanding between different parties.

We should pick up the phone and talk to people more often. By building closer working relationships, we can solve problems and challenges together, rather than taking the adversarial route.

DCN: What challenge in your work life would you most like a technology or process to help solve?

KT: I would move away from typed communication and I would love to get rid of email.

People communicate and understand things in different ways and it would be great to be able to consume our information as we choose. In my case, it would be face-to-face or at least verbally.

I would like to have a technology that could take the essence of a verbal recording, extract the key points, send it back to you for checking in whatever format you choose and then distribute it in the recipient’s preferred format.

DCN: Tell us about a recent innovation or technology that you’ve been most impressed by?

KT: I love all technology and for years I have bought the latest gadgets that cost a fortune, took ages to set up and then didn’t work as well as I had envisioned.

However, the latest round in consumer devices such as Amazon Echo, work straight out of the box. They are useful, easy and fun to use. Technology should complement our lives, not complicate them. In fact, that’s why I chose to work for Graphisoft as that’s exactly what ARCHICAD does.

There has been a sea change in consumer technology recently where the world’s population is changing its habits. For example, we no longer watch live TV, instead we choose what we want to watch and when.

Our phones are incredibly powerful now and the Internet of Things will continue to grow. As momentum builds with new technologies and they become more widespread, that’s when exciting new developments start to happen exponentially.

DCN: Can you tell us a bit about the projects you’re working on and what role (if any) innovation and technology is playing?

KT: My role as BIM Consultant at Graphisoft includes helping customers to improve their workflows and use ARCHICAD more effectively. I also work closely with the Graphisoft product development teams, providing detailed customer insight and feedback to make sure our software solutions continue to meet the market needs.

I’m currently working on a global knowledge project, working with teams around the world to identify and document best practice using ARCHICAD. By gathering and collating this knowledge, more customers will benefit from real-world experiences of other architects using the technology.

DCN: What do you fear or struggle with the most in terms of technology?

KT: There is a generational challenge with technology. There are many inexperienced people in positions of authority, simply because they understand technology. But technology is useless without the interpersonal and technical skills to back it up.

There is a risk that younger or less experienced people who pick up technologies very quickly are given responsibility too fast, but don’t necessarily have the depth of knowledge and people skills to manage situations in a business-like and effective way.

Often older generations aren’t as savvy with technology, but have far more experience and understand the processes better.

Every project within the construction industry has some challenges and we need more investment in softer skills training such as problem solving, crisis management and conflict resolution.

Collaboration and personal relationships are key. With good negotiation and interpersonal skills, projects run much more smoothly.

DCN: What is Digital Construction to you and why is it important?

KT: For me it’s about using technology to do what it is good at, and freeing up time and energy for humans to do what we are good at.

Digital construction allows us to test and prototype digitally for more predictable outcomes. We can now construct buildings virtually before we build them physically. This saves time and money and means we have a “fits first time” approach.

Also, we can gain greater efficiencies where projects can be replicated with an auditable, managed workflow; for example, for buildings such as university halls of residence, hotels, retail units and warehouses where there is a repeated design.

DCN: What does the next 12 months have in store for you?

KT: Hopefully there will be a lot of learning; I never want to stop learning. I’ll be building relationships with customers, universities and our own teams. I’d also like to have some fun along the way – otherwise what’s the point?

DCN: What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

KT: Inception – the “architect” plays a key role.

Don’t miss the chance to see Karl Thurston present at this year’s Digital Construction Week event, taking place from 18-19th October at London’s ExCeL. Register for a free ticket today >