If you are the owner of a small firm who has recently heard about Building Information Modeling (BIM) and wondered what the whole fuss is about, don’t worry. You are not alone.
Most of the smaller firms are still wary of the BIM craze, especially considering that it is developed for very large and tall building projects. Many are on wait-and-see mode.
A very few are coming into their own, with a I told you so! attitude. Those are the ones who have adopted BIM tools (software) years ago, and are happy to see that the world is finally getting caught up in the BIM fever that will sweep the AEC industry!
Are you BIM(med)? If you are one of those who have been BIMming for ages, you can read on to remember. If you are not, do read on.
Decision Making: The First Step to the BIM-world
Reviewing the current standards and process, and making a strong decision to move to the BIM world is the very first step of BIM implementation in any firm/project. Once you make decision, stick to it. Do not, at any cost, draw the conclusion at the first obstacle and go back to primary colored lines on the black screen. If you have ever smoked, and quit, you know the level of the willpower that you have put forth. It is not because implementing BIM is hard, it’s because of habits, especially the old ones, are hard to get rid of. Old habits die hard.
Choose RIGHT BIM Software
The next important step is to choose the software. Very important fact that you should know, regardless of what the advertisements, software vendors, and even the popular opinions, tell you, is that there is NO BIM “industry standard”. No vendor provides full BIM suites, even packages vary according to discipline. Look around, ask, visit forums, and user groups. You need the BIM software that ticks the following boxes:
- Relatively low purchase cost
- Low running, maintenance and upgrade cost
- No requirement to upgrade your workstations, network and Internet connection
- Basic training included in the purchase cost
- Active distributor/dealer in your area
- Availability of active independent support in your area
- Availability of friendly power users in your area
- Availability of user groups in your area
- YOU LIKE IT!
BIM – BIM – BIMming
Having a BIM enabled software does not mean that you are BIMming. It means that you are ready to implement BIM procedures in your business. So the very next step is implementation. It is important to understand that you are not only introducing new software in your business, you also have to shape the way you work around its base principles. Otherwise, it simply will not work. Whichever software you choose, the general issues are the same. You should forget drafting, and concentrate on modeling. Never expect that the shortcuts, commands, even the coordinate input are the same as in what you have been using until now. You should think buildings, not drawings. The sooner that you realize that from a good BIM model you can create unlimited number of high precision and quality drawings and schedules, and of course the presentations, the better you succeed. You yourself don’t have to draw as much as before – but you have to model and bring in the data. Only the data enriched, spatially clean, and correct model gives you the best return on your investment.
To achieve this, question everything in your existing workflow. Mastering the software is of course necessary – but, there is a VERY important distinction between CAD drafting and BIM modeling. An architect who is a software expert, but professionally inexperienced will create less usable model than a professional architect with less software skills.
BIM is about buildings, not software – and you do know about buildings, right? The best way to learn the software is training. Squeeze every last minute of free training from your supplier that you can, set aside the time to browse the forums and harvest the knowledge of other people who had adopted BIM practices in their firms.
The Power Within
While in your usage of 2D CAD and even surface modeling the actual building or the building system that you are designing lived only in your mind, with BIM, you will build it in the chosen software, and then generate the documents to describe it.
For the authorities’ approval, for the colleagues that do other discipline design, for the construction managers, for the owners and others – BIM is very much beneficial. Do not worry if they use different software. The file exchange is the core of BIM, and if all else fails, you can still send DWGs to those who still need them.
Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.
The learning curve can be steep, especially if you try to do it yourself. Attend a professional training course, or, even better, hire an independent consultant who will set up the software for you, and show you things that are not written in the manuals – and who reads manuals, anyway? You will be tempted to farm out first jobs, but then, you are never going to learn. If possible, go down the true and proven BIM implementation road: assign a pilot project to a small team that can do it, and don’t push them. The third project will be profitable, and you will never look back.
Proper implementation of BIM authoring software increases the productivity at least three times. There are many research papers and case studies on the topic, but I prefer to quote my own experience. In a previous company, the design department that I ran had three architects including myself, all on the same BIM platform. Our average monthly output was five projects, from residential villas, through villa compounds, to high rise residential and commercial buildings, retail complexes and hotels. The structural design and MEP departments, using CAD software and having 12 people each, could not keep up. We had usually issued revised design before they could finalize the previous iteration.
The Longest Road Begins with the First Step
The question of whether you should implement a BIM solution in your business is not the one to ask. You should. The question is which one to choose, and the best answer to that is – the one that ticks all the boxes for you. BIM is about buildings, information, and collaboration. It is not about drawings, and it has in its procedures and essence nothing to do with CAD.
Your continuous practice will experience enhanced productivity, full coordination of all the design data and documents that you produce, and better and easier presentation tools. You will find way to create new products to offer to the existing clients. You will enable your office to offer more services, and to get involved in the blossoming BIM market. And that is a good thing. May the BIM be with you!