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Thursday31 July 2014

The shape of things to come in building information modelling

HOK used BIM for its design of 5 Churchill Place at Canary Wharf.
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A new era of collaborative design and project management could be ushered in by building information modelling

It has been talked about in hushed tones by the more IT-minded architects and construction industry professionals for 20 years or more. BIM, or building information modelling, has long been hailed as the next generation of computer-aided design, offering the capability to create an easily altered 3D model of a building, and the opportunity to make that model intelligent.

Traditionally, computer modelling in architecture has been viewed as a purely graphical tool that can help deliver consistent drawing information. The BIM model encourages a shift away from that mentality, encompassing real-life simulation and analysis of a building’s performance.

Ultimately, the software developers behind the technology aim to deliver programs that enable architects to create a prototype of their building while measuring its performance from the earliest conceptual stages.

Tests can be run after every design decision or change to see what the effect would be on the project, while information from the model could be used by engineers, component manufacturers, service providers and clients to make projects more efficient.

By including information from manufacturers of individual components, the software can enable architects to make better decisions about what materials to use. It can also test the environmental performance of a building, checking it against Breeam and Leed standards.

Centralising all this information into a data file is intended to help foster a more collaborative process so that engineering and building services information becomes part of the design process, enabling each team that works on a building to input its own information while the architect adapts the design.

In Singapore, BIM models are now mandatory as part of the planning process, and are uploaded into a central model. In January, they will also become mandatory in Denmark.

Pete Baxter, Autodesk sales director and architecture specialist, says BIM could now begin to make its mark in the UK, with better technology offering a new approach to cost management and project efficiency. Baxter, who qualified as an architect just as the recession of the early nineties hit, is one of BIM’s proselytising evangelists.

The software he promotes, Revit, undergoes yearly updates and provides programs for architecture, planning and services.

“Revit has grown by about 50% year on year in terms of installations. It allows the project team to collaborate through a single model environment, and that has made a big difference to the way people perceive BIM,” says Baxter.

In Singapore, BIM models are mandatory... In January, they become so in Denmark

“People are starting to get it. They’re starting to understand the value of it, and now we’re able to talk about BIM not as a product but as a process.”

The latest generation of BIM products has reaffirmed its potential to change the way buildings are designed and constructed, with programs that can integrate electrical and plumbing information into the model, for instance.

While BIM’s potential expands, architects remain slow on the uptake. To work effectively, BIM requires not only complete co-operation between all parties involved with a project, but also that they have the same expensive software. A more collaborative design-and-build process also raises contractual issues between clients, architects, engineers and other contractors, and data ownership is an unresolved major issue.

“That’s not something that we as a technology company can solve,” says Baxter.

“What we can do, though, is ensure that the tools are there to support the process that the professionals want to deploy.”

These stumbling blocks haven’t stopped some big names like Zaha Hadid Architects and HOK from testing the technology. And it is slowly becoming popular among small practices around the globe, which use it to speed up the design process and enable them to take on more ambitious projects.

Demand from clients who want easy-to-manage buildings delivered to schedule and on budget is also driving the adoption of BIM, although only time will tell if the promised savings outweigh the initial outlay for the technology.

“There are many different issues to address before BIM can be adopted widely, but we’re getting through that now,” says Baxter.

“BIM is a process change engine, and that change is happening — maybe not at the speed people thought or would have liked, but it is starting to happen.

“The limitations are our capability to deliver applications to the market, and the community’s willingness to adopt them. The technology is capable of a whole lot more.”

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Readers' comments (9)

  • BIM is making huge changes to the world of Architecture and design as we know it. I wanted share make a note that Vectorworks is now on V2009, see our review: http://www.bdonline.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=452&storycode=3125109, or for more info check out: http://www.nemetschek.net/architect/index.php Nick La Forest Industry Specialist Nemetschek North America

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  • We've run 3 projects on BIM and have now returned to 2D 'vanilla' cad. We created intelligent objects, IFC exports, searched for clashes in 3rd party software, imported the Mech Elecs 3d model, the structural engineers model - cut sections, created elevations - and then sent the whole thing to the quantity surveyor and contractor for them to use. ..and the house of cards came crashing down. A single example, but not the most compeling as to why not to bother - clash detection is a waste of time, unless you really want to filter through '20,000 detected clashes'. But I don't want to detect clashes between concrete and concrete under a clash volume of say 10cm3. But that is asking too much of the software. So 20,000 clashes it is. People will say they use BIM, but they don't. We found nobody in Europe. Unless the QS and construction manager can track objects (including those deleted and replaced) in a model, it's a dangerous software package to use. Oneday it'll come right - but nothing on the current market works at the construction stage of the model - only the fancy 3d glass wall rendering 'show the client' front end.

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  • I just want to say to Helsinki Dave do 'nt be too serious about technology. If something is awkward just work around. Software, in Revit case is about 10 years old and we are seeing changes all ready, it is not a buzz word anymore like it was in 2000. Just remember the time when AutoCAD came in in early 1980's when most people din't have mouse for input. Frastration with new technology is not the answer. I don't work for any BIM company...

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  • Great article. I'm convinced that 3D and BIM is the future of Architecture. However, more effective collaboration between the software developer and the Architect is needed before this will become reality. The wrong entities are driving the development of BIM which are creating unrealistic expectations of the output.

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  • The industry is paying close attention to rise of BIM. Our firm is US is starting to use BIM. It definitely has a learning curve and I know firms who are already working on setting up templates and smart blocks 'families' for firm wide use. However I believe, it still has to go long way before its adopted in mainstream. In my understanding, following are some of the current low points in Revit 1. The file size is one of the biggest drawback of Revit models 2.The process of dividing the work between various team members is complicated and not simple and streamlined. 3.Conceptually design is still very weak component. Exploring various curved forms in 3d is very difficult.

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  • Firts, I would suggest that BIM is currently a set of federated (related and integrated) information databases generated and maintained over the life cycle of a building. Rarely will one model be capable of accomodating all of the data associated with a building (structural analysis, energy simulation, human behavior simulation, O&M data, etc.). To handle the large file issues mentioned by Milan K, I believe there is a trend among software developers to actually associate object level files linked together so that only small fractions of the entire data file will be accessed at one time in the future to increase process speed and productivity. Second, to Helsinki Dave, if everyone took his approach there would be no incentive to develop this technology further to try and improve the industry. We'd be like the tree that kills the drunk driver, we wouldn't do anything but we'd still kill the technology. The 70's and 80's model of design and construction is not working. Owner's are tiring of RFI's, Change Orders and the like. BIM and an Integrated Design and Construction Process is going to be an Owner driven transformation and those of us who chose not to adapt will be left in the dust.

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  • I use Archicad 12. Since my first works in healthcare buildings I applied the BIM methodology. Now I thing this methodology is the best to achieve the better result in the shortest time. The hardest thing in large building is to manage the 3d model between more people. However with faster computer you can really improve your time schedule. You can see all my works made with BIM method on my web site: http://www.mariosacco.it/ Mario

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  • It's very interesting article. -------------------- Fredrick.William

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  • I have tried using BIM in a generally 2d-centric environment and found it impossible. Without a complete dedication to the change to 3d by all parties of a practice, and the acceptance of an expensive training/gearing up period of several months, I found that most bosses just arent willing to weather the degree of change required. 3d requires a lot of upfront work before any documents can be produced, a steep learning curve, ongoing training, and suitable office procedures setting up, and an acceptance that the early results are likely to be pretty rubbish. It also requires changing away from the present client expectation of submitting quick planning applications, and professional fee ratios need to be revised to suit the new working methodology. 3d may be the way of the future, and I can definitely see the possibiltiies, but until architectural firms are willing to change big time, architectural manufacturers start releasing addons for their products, and consultants get onboard, its going to remain a very long, very expensive, and generally unproductive route for a long long time. Let not forget that many senior architects still dont even know how to use AutoCAD and some struggle with the simplest of computer tasks such as using Word and Excel. 3d software firms and some farsighted architects are trying to suggest that a big change is on the horizon but in reality 3d acceptance is still lightyears away.

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