Understanding Building Information Modeling & BIM’s Impact on the Design Process
The construction industry is quickly making a shift to BIM and leaving 2D drafting options behind. In order to remain current, it is essential that we as professionals learn the new tools of the trade. Even seasoned architects can benefit from rudimentary knowledge of BIM software so that they can understand the benefits and challenges their team faces. We noticed the change coming and embraced the transition to BIM a few years ago. I’m happy to say that we have not looked back and now run all of our projects using BIM (unless a client requests otherwise).
What exactly is BIM?
BIM is an abbreviation of “Building Information Modeling.” It is more than just modeling in 3d. The American Institute of Architects has defined BIM as “a model-based technology linked with a database of project information.1” As you construct your model you are also applying layers of information that will be later utilized to automatically create schedules, coordinate with consultants to avoid conflicts, and can even be utilized by contractors for materials takeoffs.
The first step to implementing BIM is to decide which software to use. The two that I hear about most often are Revit and ArchiCAD but there are also others. We chose to use Revit because we already had licenses with Autodesk and had the perception that Revit would be most widely adopted in the industry. So far, that assumption seems to have been accurate. However, you should choose the software that best works for your consultants, finances, and personal preferences.
There are generally two ways to implement BIM into an office:
One method is to dedicate one team to using one project as a test run of BIM. This is an all in approach to transitioning to BIM and extra time should be allotted in the design process to allow for a steep learning curve.
2.Test the waters:
Rather than committing a project and team fully to BIM you can use revit to make parts of the documents and use a CAD program for the rest. With this method you do as much as you can in BIM then use a program you are familiar with to quickly finish the project in time for a deadline. Each time you do a new project you create more of the information in BIM till you no longer need to fill in with secondary drafting software.
Which method is best for you or your firm? Diving in is best if you have some cushion of extra budget and time to allow employees sufficient opportunity to fully research methods and solutions as they learn how to work with BIM. Testing the waters is a better approach if you have fast track projects and very little extra time in the budget. However, if a client expects a BIM project you have to Dive In if you promised them BIM. It may be beneficial to hire a Certified Revit Professionals (or similar) to help you navigate the process if you choose to go with an all in approach.
Designing with BIM in Mind
Switching from visualizing a project in 2d with manual tables to 3d with automated tables affects how Construction Documents are developed. You will likely find that you are spending significantly more time in the Schematic Design and Design Development Phase yet significantly less time in Construction Documents. You also will likely notice that, after the program is understood, projects take less time overall to complete compared to standard CAD projects. This means that you have the capacity to either take on more projects or to spend more time refining details.
In my experience, the steepest learning curve in Revit is learning how to work with and control parameters, especially parametric families. You do not need to know everything about parameters to start working with BIM but they are extremely useful in properly filling out project tables. They are also used for creating families that will automatically resize based on typed field input. Try not to get too hung up on getting everything modeled unless not doing so will hurt the end product for your particular project. It may be more efficient to hire an intern or drafter with high BIM proficiency to setup a library of standard families. There are also various places online to find families for free such as Revit City and some paid options.
Good luck with your BIM journey and please share and comment if you found this helpful. We’d also love to hear any tips you have to share.
1. Eastman, Chuck; Tiecholz, Paul; Sacks, Rafael; Liston, Kathleen (2011). BIM Handbook: A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers and Contractors (2nd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley. pp. 36–37.