ArchiCAD Insights: Putting the I in BIM

14 Nov, 2005 By: Kurt Ameringer Cadalyst

ArchiCAD's Interactive Schedule makes finding the information in BIM easy.

Although BIM (building information modeling) has received an overabundance of attention lately, not much has been focused on the information part of the acronym, which started this whole process in the first place.

ArchiCAD makes data extraction a straightforward and simple process. You simply model the elements, and then use the built-in Interactive Schedule to produce quantities and information.

Many architects regard plans in general, and specifically the BIM, as a pure luxury, even frivolous. The AEC industry needs to grasp the necessity of this invaluable information. The significance of the model-generated information is in its perfection of extracted information. With BIM, the concept of an estimate will become unnecessary because BIM is not an estimate, it is a simulation of the actual building.

BIM is the process that will drive all that we do in the AEC industry and in all building related ventures. Recently, one of our users attended an AIA chapter meeting in Dallas where the presenter (John Moebes of Good Fulton & Farrell, a Dallas architectural firm) said his company would no longer accept construction documents on paper; if submissions are not digital, they aren't accepted. Companies are beginning to understand that with digital communication, they can analyze and manipulate the information digitally.

The Old Way
A colleague of mine recently shared a story about workeding with a historic purveyor and manufacturer of high-end hardware in New York that prepares their hardware quotes by hand and faxes them to clients. They had a project that involved only about 50 doors that resulted in approximately 250 pieces of hardware. He had to manually check each hand-prepared, faxed quote against his ArchiCAD Virtual Building generated lists. He would make corrections to typos, mathematical errors, etc. They would redo the list, and he would get an entirely new quote to manually check again.

The BIM Way
In contrast, BIM is a much better way to work with vendors. Here's how it works. You draw a model for the project that includes walls, room area names and doors. You use a dialog box to apply settings for inserting a door into a wall (figure 1). These settings include such inherent door properties as width, height, thickness, materials, door design, swing, jamb information, trim information, hardware location, sill, line color and weight, section fill, etc. The inherent settings define how the door is displayed in the drawing, (plan, elevation, section or 3D). You can apply additional manual attributes in this dialog box. Manual attributes have no effect on the display of the door, but are paramount in the extracted information world.

Figure 1. Applying settings.
Figure 2. Saving your favorite settings.
Figure 3. Place a door in the floor plan.
Figure 4. ArchiCAD's Interactive Schedule.

In the case of the hardware schedule, the key manual attribute is the designation of the hardware assembly. You can save the settings established in the dialog box as favorites (figure 2). To place a door with the favorite settings only requires selection of the favorite. You also can use the favorites in other projects.

Once you place the door in the floor plan (figure 3), the ArchiCAD Interactive Schedule extracts the elements (figure 4). This listing, as the name applies, is entirely interactive. The door in the top row that is blue has two manual elements that you can modify (highlighted in yellow) in the schedule. You can easily change the door number and the hardware assembly designation.

It's much easier to change these elements in the schedule than to modify each one on the plans (although you can do this, if you prefer). The elements in blue are inherent, and you cannot adjust them in the schedule because they are the location of the door. These three elements in the schedule indicate what room the door is in and which room it swings to and from.

You can easily design or modify the Interactive Schedule (figure 5). The left column is a partial listing of parameters to choose from and place in the column on the right. All items listed on the right appear in the Interactive Schedule. You can change the listing order, sum the columns, determine font and font size, etc. When the items are listed, you can place the list directly in the plans or export it to Microsoft Excel (figure 6).

Figure 5. Modifying the Interactive Schedule is easy.
Figure 6. You can export the schedule into Microsoft Excel.

It's exciting that ArchiCAD correctly includes every single door in the floor plan along with which rooms it swings to and from and what hardware assembly is used on each and every door. And, because this list is digital, no one has to re-type or re-enter any of this data.

Analyzing the Information
Let's take this information one step further and dump the Excel file into a Microsoft Access database. In the database we have a table that defines each of the assembly types. We also have a table that defines each of the hardware items. The item list includes the manufacturer, the model number, the finish and the price of each hardware item. Once the ArchiCAD Interactive Schedule information is in the database, you can view and sort it in a multitude of ways to represent the information in the best fashion for the person who needs to use and review it for approval or for purchasing.

The hardware assembly report lists every piece of hardware that is used in each individual assembly type (figure 7). When the assembly type information is combined with the specific information from the ArchiCAD model, one result is the listing of doors by assembly type (figure 8). A report that is most meaningful to the client is the report that lists each piece of hardware sorted by the door number (figure 9). The project total of all the hardware is summarized in figure 10.

Figure 7. The hardware assembly report.
Figure 8. List of doors by assembly type.
Figure 9. Each piece of hardware sorted by the door number.
Figure 10. Project total for all hardware.

Herein lies the importance of the "I" in "BIM." Minimal data entry, leveraged many ways to create valuable data that no one needs to re-entered. If a door is changed in the floor plan, all of the information associated with that door filters through the entire system. Anyone who has ever had to produce a complicated hardware schedule understands the time and difficulty involved by doing it the old way.

About the Author: Kurt Ameringer

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