Ms Laura Smagin

Hear from Ms Laura Smagin as she shares her passion for BIM and vast work experiences in BIM with us.


Ms Laura Smagin
Ms Laura Smagin,
Senior Associate (Technical), BIM Head of Department, DPA

Ms Laura Smagin graduated from the Wellington Polytechnical Institute in 1988.  Since then, she has gained experience in various projects from Single Residential to large-scaled Commercial, Defense, Corporate, Industrial, Transport, Retail, Health and Institutional.

In 2011, she was invited to move permanently to Singapore to establish BIM practices in the local region. She has continued her reputation as an industry leader and is regularly invited to speak with Local Organizations, Authorities, Industry Events, Seminars, Education Facilities local organizations, authorities, industry events, seminars, education facilities and International Conferences.

In 2012 Laura joined DPA as Studio BIM Manager, and has been instrumental in establishing corporate BIM protocol, process and procedures. She has established and coordinated the corporate internal training program for staff, to assist with the migration from 2D to BIM. Her role is to lead the BIM Managers and to ensure DPA maintain their reputation as BIM Leaders. Working with all levels inside DPA to ensure the company can focus on the design, with the knowledge that they have the right people with the right technical knowledge and experience to ensure on-time, accurate and high quality documentation.  Laura also has over 2 years’ experience in e-submission for Various Authorities in Singapore including but not limited to BCA, LTA, FSSD, URA, NParks.

1. Q: Could you share with us about your passion for BIM? What motivated you to adopt BIM in your work and take up BIM as a career?
A:  A long term acquaintance of mine once called me “A Change Agent”. He explained; every time we met I was taking on a new challenge, sometimes completely outside the field where I was when we last met.

I actively embrace change and have no fear in taking that first step ahead of others. I have always had a passion for technology and data. Long before BIM was an acronym, I was extracting data from my CAD files and automating spreadsheets and tables with ‘smart/intelligent’ data. I get really excited about technology. When others simply roll their eyes or fall asleep, my brain goes into over-drive just thinking about the possibilities and trying to make them a reality!

I have discovered over the years that my enthusiasm is contagious and is easily shared. I have been involved in educating people in software applications from early in my career.  I have a sound background in the learning experience and I am able to translate my enthusiasm and energy into a comfortable, dynamic learning experience for my students. I still find joy every time a student challenges me with a new problem, one I have not encountered previously. I find, every day, there are new things to learn.

Sharing and receiving information is fundamental to my work and continuing education for me is critical. Technology is so rapidly changing in our world; it’s either – be at the front of the wave or drown in the wash! I choose to surf at the front of the wave!

2. Q: How long have you been using BIM technologies/tools? Could you share with us your personal struggles or challenges with BIM and how you overcame them?
A: My BIM journey began in early 2005. I was fortunate to be given a project and told that it was to be delivered in Revit®. The project ‘Brief’:-brief; private dwelling,: environmental and sustainable design, using ‘back to the grid’ solar panels, energy efficient glazing systems, fully automated digital controls for the whole house, 6 bedroom owner residence, with entertainment pavilion, in-ground indoor pool and spa, gym, wine bar and fully stocked cellar, 10 bedroom private guest suites with full en-suite, 4 car garage, 1 bedroom caretakers quarters, overlooking the vineyard and valley beyond. WOW cool, right!

I was asked to complete:-  full visualisation, walk-throughs, construction sequencing and documentation from concept to construction, delivered out of Revit®…; Hmm, let the journey begin!

I call it a journey because the first thing I did was book a flight to a BIM conference to learn about BIM and Revit. The conference was several days long and I was overwhelmed. The language was all new. Most sessions talked about ‘relationships’, ‘parameters’, ‘families’, ‘associates’ and ‘associations’, ‘links’, ‘work-sharing’, ‘the cloud’, ‘timelines’, ‘LOD’, ‘nesting’, ‘interoperability’, ‘IPD’, ‘Big BIM’, ‘Little BIM’, and ‘datasets’.  I wondered what they were all talking about. So with my head swimming with all this new information I returned to the office and simply just got on with it.

I had a small group of colleagues who were in the same boat, so day by day, step by step, we shared our experience and progressed with our projects. We were pioneers; we wrote blogs, surfed for answers and gave back what we learnt, so we could all grow. There was no ‘YouTube®’, ‘Facebook®’ was 1 year young, and our office ‘Internet’ was only available to a limited few. My brand new Revit® application was nowhere near what we have today, and my workstation: a Pentium 4, with the new 64 Bit OS, 1GB RAM was the envy of my office. And we think we have it tough now, right!

The project was delivered (there may have been tears, mostly mine), but the client loved it!

After this initial successful project I was encouraged by my company to continue sharing the Revit® and BIM experience and took up the position of Educator in the company, touring and sharing with our staff across Australia, Asia, and India.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to educate others and grow my own experience. I would not change it for anything!

3. Q: In your opinion, how has BIM changed the way things are being done in the local construction industry? What more do you think, could be done to encourage greater implementation of BIM and process transformation in the industry, not just at the design stage of a project but throughout the entire building project lifecycle down to facilities and assets management?
A: Looking at the construction industry from the outside in, I would have to say that most of us are only just finding the out the multitude of ways it has changed it. Processes, procedures and protocols are continually changing, with new ideas surfacing all the time.  Sharing is the only way to keep up. BIM is not just a new application aimed to churn out drawings in a traditional production style. It is a brand new way of life. The whole industry has to take this head on.

BIM is not going to go away.

When you look back on building technology history you find that we manually drafted for thousands of years, after which we drew in CAD for only 30-40 years. We know that technology grows exponentially and as BIM is already over 10 years old, although we have learnt so much, every day the technology gives us more, much more.

We should all actively encourage anyone to get into the data stream, as every day you delay is a day you are further behind. Every journey begins with just one step. Each additional step takes you closer to your destination. Right now we don’t know where the journey will lead us, but it sure is exciting to be taking the steps along the path.

Traditionally the disciplines of the construction industry do not play well together; after all, they are each other’s competitors. We all like to have the competitive edge. However with BIM this concept is turned on its head. We need to collaborate and coordinate our efforts. The BIM environment is foreign to our ‘traditional’ work practices. All of those who have started the BIM journey are well on their way and they realise the bigger BIM picture. They realise we are not in competition but we are travel partners all trying to get to the same destination.

I would encourage our Faculties, Institutions, Government Organisations, Design and Construction Companies and Vendors to constantly seek out collaborative audiences to share and learn this method by holding seminars, conferences, talks, forums and workshops either via the web or live, to nurture and support our fellow participants in the BIM journey. After all we are on the journey together, so it might as well be enjoyable.

4. Q: What advice would you give to those who would like to learn all about BIM or take up a career in BIM?
A: Don’t hesitate!  In our age of ever increasing technological advances, the best time to start is now. Get actively involved in groups, chats, blogs, and get surrounded with like-minded people. Take a course or two. Learn as much as you can from others. If no-one else knows the answer to your problem, experiment and find your own answer. Then share it with everyone else, giving the next generation a flying start.

Ask questions, believe me there is no such thing as a silly question.  If you don’t ask the questions, you won’t get the answers.

BIM takes time to learn and understand. It is not about the applications, the computer functions or the tools; it is about the processes, the procedures and the protocols. It is about the way we communicate and work together. Understanding a building’s life cycle from concept, through its occupancy and refit, and on to decommissioning, together with the construction and operation process is fundamental to understanding BIM.

You can no longer work in an isolated industry silo, you need to talk to and understand all the other players in the game, regardless of what you do. You are part of a bigger puzzle. Understanding where you fit into the BIM puzzle is the key.

5. Q: Where do you see BIM in Singapore in the next 3 to 5 years?
A: What an exciting place it is to be in Singapore right now. Singapore has such a unique opportunity that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. In my opinion we can be ‘BIM central’!

Why? Because, Singapore had a unique system already established for the whole construction industry within the CAD environment, created by the Authority Submission Systems, and controlled by local Authorities. If we can take that same approach and structure it for BIM, Singapore can lead the world. Where other continent’s and regions struggle with aligning industry practices and creating industry wide standards, Singapore is already leaps and bounds ahead …

With the current take up and initiatives offered in Singapore, we can become strong leaders in BIM, potentially establishing global practices. This is very exciting indeed!.

6. Q: Where do you see yourself in this BIM journey in the next 3 to 5 years?
A: As I see it, this region is one of the strongest economically diverse areas, with a strong growth in the Construction Industry. With global predictions that the majority of our population will be migrating to world cities in the very near future, Singapore, as a central hub, is the place to be.

As for my BIM journey I don’t know what’s over the horizon. But I can guarantee it will be even more exciting. Technology will come to the rescue for the challenges we face in the future.  One thing is for sure.  I’ll still be standing up front, looking forward with the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. No matter what direction BIM takes.