What are you actually doing with BIM?

If only one book were to be written about BIM, it might have “DON’T PANIC” printed in large uppercase letters on the front cover. — Pete Zyskowski

Is the cat out of the bag or you still haven’t decided to adopt the building information modelling (BIM) approach in the last few years?

The concept has been around since the 1970’s, but its adoption has increased recently and challenged design professionals in the architectural practices. For many companies, it is a daunting challenge to adapt to changes and reinvent their process into more efficient and productive one. Some experts forget BIM is not just a temporary hype that will slowly die out. It is a whole new process, which has been made a global industry standard by governments.
The common question of ‘’Do you use BIM?’’ is irrelevant after the changes in the economic landscape required more optimized and efficient approach towards design in the AEC industry.

The difficulty for architects is not only that they need to adapt to these fast-paced shifts, but also the hardship of replacing traditional methods of drawing a building. Furthermore, familiarizing with the team interaction within the BIM workflow. You can’t just purchase it online and learn how it works by watching YouTube videos. Also, it takes teamwork, 3D software, extra tools and proper training to make feasible and BIM-applicable designs of your building.

What clients think I’m doing (with BIM)

New projects always come along with different requirements. Either the client or the local authorities have high expectations of the overall process of implementation regarding building standards and sustainable design. BIM allows all the parties — architects, consultants, contractors and building owners — to work simultaneously using the same access to information. So what will your role be as an architect in this diversity of experts?

  • The asset manager will lay the first challenge of the many. As an architect, you are asked to integrate financial analysis into concept stage and ensure the feasibility of the project.
  • The future property/facility manager does not ease your responsibilities. You are expected to establish practical processes for future building maintenance to be easy and accessible.
  • Future occupants also set various expectations to guarantee the building’s functionality, comfort, and quality. Furthermore, you need to consider all occupants’ senses — light, temperature, space, accessibility and attractive look&feel design.

You are in a bind of expectations and reality when designing a building. It involves a lot of everything — think of keywords such as communication, automation and efficiency. The perks in BIM-tailored software are that all teams can track each other’s changes, shorten feedback loops and save time, while reducing errors and omissions of information. The collaboration between different teams and the building owner, while working altogether on building designs and plans, is more productive and effective because of the transparent communication channels.

So where to look for similar software? Exchange Store of Autodesk Revit® is one way to go. It is a representation of heaven for the users as it opens a door to extensive collection of plugins, which automatically adapt to the latest changes of design. Imagine being able to reduce overall project duration and generate error-free, high quality construction documents with a few clicks. This is all thanks to the BIM process that helps your designs to blossom.

What the team thinks I’m doing (with BIM)

The building process is challenging from inception to completion. No project is ever the same, which is a continuous learning experience for design professionals. The diversity BIM brings is that you will be able to work with many team members on one project, who are like-minded experts. However, there are some precautions, which should be taken in consideration to ensure easy and transparent communication. So how can you direct the interaction to achieve the golden balance?

The implementation of BIM helps to bring architects closer to the asset manager, contractor, specialist subcontractors and the building owner. It is as a small family, where each member has their quirks and strengths. The client might come to you for advice on occupant preference. The civil engineer might ask for pointers for HVAC design. The contractor might want you to help him build quality and regulations for sustainability. In the end, it comes down to juggling all these teams. Take CARE (Connectedness — Authenticity — Recognition — Engagement) for all participants in the process and create a coherent environment.

Mind you that the architect sets the foundation of the process in preliminary design with the drawing of the building and uses channels of communication to distribute it. One needs to underline that the BIM model allows all the latest changes to be automatically updated and synchronized with the design. It is not a one man show, so the information is equally important for everyone. It is vital to adapt plans, deadlines and checks to alterations. Be a TEAM because Together Everyone Achieves More.

What I think I’m doing (with BIM)

In the beginning, you’ll have absolutely no clue how to even approach BIM. However, once you will familiarize yourself, it will open up a whole world of information and opportunities to enhance your 3D drawings and building’s design. You can really bring your building structure to life and take the transformational building elements into new realms.

First, you need to familiarize yourself with the building information modelling approach and understand how to use it to your advantage. For example, a 3D building information model provides excellent visualization of space. When that model illustrates the phases of construction over time, it becomes 4D (3D + time). The advance of this process is fast and substantial as architects are ‘’talking’’ 5D, 6D and 7D, which opens a whole new universe of dimensions. Second, take into consideration that the amount of rich information BIM makes available can help you throughout the entire lifecycle of the building process.

BIM 3D, 4D, 5D. 6D and 7D

What I’m actually doing (with BIM)

Design professionals can actually manage to do all of the above using BIM as it is a multilayered complex system, which incorporates all the tasks. It gives you the opportunity to run an extra mile in your project. Furthermore, is allows saving time and reducing unnecessary costs because of the latest changes in design. Imagine the whole process as a circular motion. From the internal collaboration between teams to the completed external presentation of the building site.

What if you are able to optimize and ease your workflow at the very beginning — from the briefing of your client, through the preliminary design stage with clear costs estimates, to the construction period for the building and its operation and maintenance considerations. All the chaos of scheduling, task planning, documentation, logistics and construction is nipped in the bud. One needs to fully incorporate all these activities in a consistent, controlled and directed process.

You are not involved in a constant hassle of endless manual rechecks. Also, neither in coming deadlines and disturbed communication channels between all the parties anymore. 3D drawing allows a new level of precision, you can look into each building component and analyze it individually. This gives you the freedom to go deeper into details and surprise with outstanding building drawings. It’s like you get a super power that will allow you to draw exactly what your creative mastermind imagines, but with the composure you can instantly check to make sure your design is structurally possible and feasible. BIM not only helps you to detect any design flaws in concept stage, but it also broadens your spectrum of possible innovative solutions.

Conclusion

Architects design vibrant and innovative buildings that push the boundaries of creativity. Contractors work faster with an insurance to build quality and commitment to sustainability. Building owners reduce cost. They control the workflow from concept to completion, have the clarity of the pay-off time and return-on-investment of their building. Facility managers identify maintenance requirements with just a few keystrokes. You don’t need to pinch yourself — this is not a dream. It’s the promise and potential that BIM brings — embrace it and enhance your creativity.