This year marked my fifth year attending the Australian leg of the BiLT conference (formerly ArchiCON, and formerly Revit Technology Conference) and I am regularly asked why we make the effort to keep going back. While the conferences may have been started with goals of getting together to, “nerd out and drink beer,” there is much to be gained from gathering together with the leading minds in the field to share, collaborate and expand our approach to technology in the built environment. 

Dictionary definition of collaboration
Collaboration: the power of teamwork

As well as pushing the boundaries of what we can do with the hardware and software of technology, there was a significant amount of discussion around the wetware of how teams of people can work together. Collaboration (the working together on a project kind, not the cooperating traitorously with an enemy kind) was the starting point of many discussions, whether they be about collaborating in a digital environment, communicating designs using new digital techniques, or the simple act of getting a group of people to reach agreement on the best way to approach a solution or define a process. 

Amongst the presentations, we saw grizzled old brickies using augmented reality goggles to lay intricate patterns while the presenter tried in vain to live censor his colourful appreciation of the technology. 

Augmented reality goggles support intricate bricklaying work.

There were panels of heads of state government departments covering the entire east coast of Australia, sharing common points of view on the broader adoption of BIM and the various mandates, standards, formats and implementations. Giving the audience the ability to post questions live to the big screen with this group of panellists in the firing line was brave but very rewarding, and no one shied away from the difficult questions.  

State government department representatives fronted a live Q&A session.

You’ll have to take my word for it that there were also great halls filled with people discussing the new BIM standard ISO19650, because while we all reached general consensus of how we should be working on and with the standard and how the processes should be challenged and expanded, there were too many slides of unpublished work that were not allowed to leave the room. I spotted a few phones left on desks at odd angles to catch a glimpse of the forbidden content, but we have all been well enough behaved that I haven’t seen any images on-line yet, so I won’t be the first to break the confessional seal. 

The presentations however were just the beginning of many conversations that lasted well into the evening. In far flung corners of hotel lobbies there were huddled groups hatching ideas to build a brave new world of digital twins, golden threads, alternate realities, and data driven utopias fed by the ever-growing size of big data. Arguments raged on into the wee hours about automated workflows versus inherited behaviours. Hypothesis’ were created, challenged and laid to rest on how to best manage information within the built environment. Designers, managers, vendors and stakeholders postulated and pontificated until they passed out. 

We crawled back to our rooms each evening exhausted but content that we had finally solved the problems of the digital world, only to rise the next morning and continue the debate over the buffet breakfast and sponsored coffees. 

Melbourne hosted BiLT ANZ 2019.

After three and a half days of relentless discovery, discussion, and debate, we gathered ourselves to return to our respective practices challenged to take the conversation to the greater industry. We made plans to do it all again in 362 days’ time; In a different city and with another year of development behind us. We get together once a year to check in with each other and throw forth our best ideas. But it is what happens with those ideas, in the company of trusted colleagues, that keep us coming back to expand, explore, and enhance our approach to technology in the built environment. It is why next year I’ll again return to BiLT. 

This was Matthew’s fourth year presenting at the BiLT conference. His session on “Classification: Unlocking the Power of Properties” was so well received that it is currently being reworked as part of a user group tour of capital cities later in 2019.