1-2-3 REVIT: BIM in China

14 Nov, 2005 By: AIA ,Rick Rundell Cadalyst

BIM provides a competitive edge in the midst of the world's largest construction boom.

Several months ago we explored how BIM (building information model) was adopted by firms in India, a country experiencing one of the largest construction booms in the world. This month we examine how BIM is working in a country experiencing the largest construction boom in the world: China.

Unparalleled Growth
In 2005, China's economic growth will most likely be three times the growth of the U.S. economy. Consumer products bearing the "Made in China" label are ubiquitous -- underscoring the country's dominance as a global mass-manufacturing center. In fact, it's one of the few nations building multibillion-dollar electronics and heavy industrial plants.

China's acceptance into the World Trade Organization in 2001 has further boosted the confidence level of foreign investors, and that investment influx is spurring new construction projects, particularly in major urban centers. The Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai are prompting billions of dollars in new construction in those cities, both of which already have some of the highest commercial and industrial rents in Asia.

In its March 2004 issue, Architectural Record reported that China was spending more than $375 billion a year on construction (16% of its gross domestic product) and consumed 55% of the world's production of concrete, 36% of the world's steel and 30% of the world's coal. China's Ministry of Construction estimates that China will double its current building stock by 2020. World Bank estimates are equally staggering: between now and 2015, approximately half of the world's new building construction will take place in China.

BIM in China
China's economic boom and ensuing building frenzy has, of course, produced an environment of intense time pressure and local competition for Chinese architects. While AutoCAD-based 2D drafting solutions are the technology standard, architects are now turning to BIM to give them a competitive advantage to stay afloat in China's frantic building market.

Many Chinese architects also have a keen interest in sustainable design, as China struggles with its burgeoning pollution problems. The robustness of a BIM facilitates the complex design evaluations and analyses that support key aspects of sustainable design, enabling architects to balance China's construction growth with environmental interests.

The largest challenges for Chinese architects transitioning to BIM involve the issue of implementation costs (software, hardware and training), compounded by a reluctance to abandon a work methodology based on 2D design that, until recently, has served its purpose.

Let's take a look at how a few architectural organizations in China have overcome these obstacles and successfully integrated Autodesk Revit Building into their design processes and practices.

Wuhan Architectural Design Institute
Founded in 1952, Wuhan Architectural Design Institute (WADI) is a multi-discipline architectural design firm, with 625 employees -- including 242 architects. China's construction boom prompted an exponential increase in the number of projects WADI was handling, placing a tremendous strain on their resources. Their architects and project managers soon realized that they needed more than their existing 2D drafting tools and began evaluating BIM. In 2004, they selected Autodesk Revit and transitioned directly from their existing 2D drafting solution (AutoCAD) to BIM.

WADI's first Revit project was a 15,000 square meter auditorium complex. In preparation for the bidding, one architect produced all of the schematic design and presentation documentation in just four days, capitalizing on Revit's ability to shorten design cycles and quickly produce construction drawings and schedules (figure 1). According to Song Li, director of the 6th Architecture Office, "As a design solution, Revit integrates the design process with the drawing process, enabling us to finish both processes simultaneously -- drastically increasing our productivity."

Figure 1. In preparation for bidding, it took just four days for one WADI architect to produce all of the schematic design and presentation documentation for this 15,000 square meter auditorium complex.

WADI is currently using Revit on Prince Hotel -- a 20,000 square meter project planned for Wuhan, as well as other high profile projects.

Shenyang Municipal Architectural Design Institute
Founded in 1972, Shenyang Municipal Architectural Design Institute (SMADI), located in Northeast of China, has more than 150 employees, including 31 architects in four design offices. Like many other design institutes in China, SMADI faces strong business competition in this building boom -- not only from China, but also foreign architects.

In March 2005 SMADI's chief architect Yu Zhao -- after just one look at how Revit's parametric change engine coordinated changes, keeping the construction documents and data synchronized with the building model -- made the decision to migrate the company's design tool from 2D AutoCAD-based drafting tools to BIM. In addition to the overall coordination, he was also impressed with the ease and speed of generating presentation material from the BIM.

Its first Revit project was a new courthouse complex slated for Linzhi, Tibet (figure 2). All the presentation material of the 20,000 square meter building was completed within 20 hours -- in spite of design change requests from owner the day before the project was due for bidding.


Figure 2. SMADI uses Revit to their competitive advantage on projects such as this Tibetan courthouse complex.

The ability to coordinate all plans, elevations and sections automatically has given SMADI a competitive edge it has never had before. "Revit gives us the ability to generate creative designs as well as high-quality documentation. As architects, we can focus our imagination and resources on design, and let technology handle the tedious task of drawing management. For the past decade we've been searching for a competitive edge like this. Now we've found it," reports Mr. Zhao.

China's Challenges and Opportunities
China's rapid building growth and industry modernization presents great challenges and exciting opportunities. By embracing BIM, China's building industry can catapult beyond the technology adoption and legacy issues that plague many western firms -- taking immediate advantage of the productivity benefits that surround a digital building methodology and giving architects a competitive edge in the midst of the largest construction boom in history.

About the Author: AIA

About the Author: Rick Rundell

Rick Rundell

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