BIM solutions are being utilized in underserved comminutes throughout the world for infrastructure and historical preservation. KnowledgeWell, comprised of professionals who volunteer to share their capabilities with the emerging world, has had a hand in multiple BIM projects that aim to better the quality of life in emerging communities. Aaron Smith, KnowledgeWell founder, spoke with the GovDesignHub about the history of KnowledgeWell and the services it provides to those in need.
GovDesignHub (GDH): Can you tell our readers a bit about KnowledgeWell? What does the organization do, and how did it get its start?
Aaron Smith: KnowledgeWell is a UNC Business School Executive MBA team venture founded in 2005. After observing the waste related to money given to solve problems, our solution delivers needed expertise rather than dollars. It is also a unique business model proof of concept which leverages limited resources to accomplish great things. We are an all volunteer US 501c3 organization. We deliver the world’s top experts on any subject. The primary requests over the last decade have been historic preservation and BIM related needing architects, engineers, construction, infrastructure, and natural resources.
GDH: Why is BIM so in demand in emerging countries and underserved communities?
Aaron Smith: BIM and related BIM activities deliver opportunities to under-resourced communities. Since 2005, AEC & ENI expertise requests have outnumbered all other volunteer requests combined. Over 80 percent of these projects have benefited National, State and Local governments along with some Utilities. Infrastructure solutions and building are the most needed areas in underserved parts of the world. BIM addresses many issues from workforce shortage to being able to bring processes “in-house” and lessen dependencies on outsiders which help lead communities to self-sustainability.
GDH: What types of projects do emerging countries need BIM solutions for? What different ways can they utilize them? What types of programs can they help enable?
Aaron Smith: On the ENI side, the greatest need is managing, planning and preserving natural resources followed closely by infrastructure. One country has a unique situation in that it has one of the world’s only undisturbed watersheds and at the same time is developing infrastructure and has a growing reef ecosystem. BIM tools allow the community to do both. From an AEC perspective, we give much thought to the “end of life” phase of a building and its materials reuse. From infrastructure to rising sea levels, BIM solutions help us empower local leaders to face a variety of challenges.
GDH: Do you have any anecdotes of places where KnowledgeWell’s BIM instruction helped to make a difference in the community?
Aaron Smith: In 2009, KnowledgeWell traveled to Pohnpei where the island’s only landfill was greatly over capacity. As all islands have very limited land, the solution to reducing the landfill was setting it on fire, but that scarred the pristine blue sky with a column of smoke and air pollution with fossil fuel products. Micronesian leaders approached us and asked if we would be willing to tackle this problem.
Volunteers offered their expertise and created a sustainable landfill solution using GPS technology, data collection and 3D modeling. Volunteers spent days ensuring local team members understood how the data moves to and from stakeholders from initial planning to operation. Ultimately, the crew was able to create a dynamic 3D model that included precision surveying data and engineering design that allowed the project to be analyzed and simulated at various stages.
KnowledgeWell also participated in surveying Kosrae, an island in the Pacific Ocean and part of the Federated States of Micronesia, after UNESCO decided to consider Lelu as a World Heritage Site.
KnowledgeWell’s team worked with Kosrae on surveying, sustainability work and the creation of a UNESCO World Heritage City Strategic Sustainable Tourism Plan. Together, these things ensure a sustainable future for the people and their unique culture. The training provided to Kosrae professionals enabled them to learn valuable skills and gain the knowledge necessary to utilize powerful surveying and modeling tools.
GDH: If someone wants to get involved with KnowledgeWell how do they do so?
Aaron Smith: Both public and private sector volunteers are welcome to join us on our next excursion to the Pacific Islands. You will be added to our list and we will keep you informed regarding the 2019 volunteer expeditions. We’ll be hopping to communities from Marshalls to Micronesia to Marianas to Melekeok to Manila. This expedition will be divided into two parts lasting 7-10 days each. All travel arrangements and logistics are handled by KnowledgeWell sponsors, giving volunteers the time to network in each community so they can choose a focused experience to immerse themselves in the following year. Anyone that’s interested in that program can find additional information on the KnowledgeWell Website.