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I was invited to visit the city of Almaty, the largest city and major cultural and commercial centre of Kazakhstan, to present my experiences and knowledge of working with BIM. My host Aidar Tatygulov is the president of Kazgor, the oldest and one of the largest design consultancies in Kazakhstan providing a range of multi-disciplinary and language translation services. They are forward thinking, for example there are no environmental or sustainability requirements in Kazakhstan, but they are pushing hard for this to change.

Kazakhstan is just beginning to become more aware of BIM so there is a real drive, particularly among the next generation of architects and engineers, to improve the way projects are delivered through the use of BIM. Kazgor, in particular Aidar and Almat Zhamankulov, are guiding the government along with the universities and other large firms to enable BIM within Kazakhstan. They have a way to go as a nation, but are looking at the lessons learnt from places such as Singapore and Norway where BIM has been more tightly legislated than in the UK. There is an affinity with the way the UK design process and BIM guidance documents fit with Kazakh culture and processes.

The Kazgor team took me on a tour of the city and a number of their projects which range in size and architectural style. It was interesting to see that building forms are an eclectic a mixture of influences from within Kazakhstan, the Soviet Union and Europe. Almaty is within an earth quake zone so it was interesting to hear about the design of the tall buildings within Almaty and the complexities of the local legislation for building design.

The conference itself was attended by developers, contractors, design consultants, university and polytechnic professors and government officials. Apart from presenting the keynote speech, I also held a number of workshops with Kazgor employees, presented to construction firms, the Kazakh University and press interviews, a lot to do in a few days! I was helped by Tatiana, who translated Scouse into Russian and Kazakh for me.

Unless you can speak Russian, then the conference will be a struggle for you. But if you’re looking for a unique holiday destination, I strongly suggest considering Kazakhstan. From my experience of the Kazakh people, their culture and their country, I found it a friendly and welcoming place. Almaty and the surrounding countryside is spectacular. Sitting at the foot of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains, Almaty is a breathtakingly beautiful city. Its name means “apple” and the region is credited with being the origin of the apple and the city. Am looking forward to returning there in the near future!