Ensure Success in Your Transition to BIM

22 Nov, 2004 By: AIA ,Rick Rundell Cadalyst

Know what to expect and how to prepare before moving from 2D to Revit

This month, I begin a series of articles on best practices for implementing BIM (building information modeling) solutions. In the coming months, I will delve into the process and staffing changes you can expect when deploying a BIM solution and the requisite training needs for BIM.

But let's begin by focusing on the key factors for a successful BIM deployment and what firms can expect as they transition from 2D, or object-based CAD systems (sometimes called single-building modelers or virtual building modelers), to a purpose-built BIM solution such as Autodesk Revit.

A New Order of Things
At the end of 2003, Autodesk commissioned an independent research study that looked at the process changes, benefits, and challenges experienced by firms implementing Autodesk Revit. A key finding of the research is that practically all the participants in the study were grappling with issues of change. To supplement the study, Autodesk conducted an online survey of its Revit customers, which included questions relating to change. In the survey, 82% of respondents noted their design process was changing as a result of using Revit, and 80% reported that their deliverables were changing as well.


For those of you who are old enough, think back about the resistance to the first 2D CAD systems. Then came 3D modeling systems and even more grumbling. This same resistance to change exists for BIM solutions.

A purpose-built BIM solution such as Revit provides architects a distinct, intuitive, and powerful means for building design. Its parametric approach to modeling is the essence of true architectural design, but it also represents a groundbreaking new way of using a computer to design. Transitioning from CAD-based technology to object CAD technology is an incremental change. Moving to parametric building modeling is a bigger change, but one that's particularly attractive to firms that want to use technology as effectively as possible.

Education and awareness about BIM -- the dramatic benefits it can bring as well as the work-flow changes it requires -- are key weapons when tackling this natural resistance to change.

Implementation Strategy for BIM
A formal implementation strategy is an essential component of any successful BIM deployment and must go well beyond a simple training and rollout schedule. It should address head-on the work-flow and organizational changes inherent to BIM.

The implementation strategy also needs to address how the new solution will initially coexist with 2D drafting or 3D modeling applications already in use. Wholesale abandonment of these legacy design applications is impractical and often ill-advised, but as the implementation expands, the strategy may also include plans for the phased retirement of legacy systems if applicable.

Firms should look at how the building information model can be accessed by related applications such as energy analysis, cost estimating, and specifications.

Specifically, look at the work you need to accomplish today, and match that to the tools you put in place today.

If your firm manages very large projects, your implementation strategy should include guidelines for creating and working with large models, including additional hardware requirements, techniques for reducing model complexity, and so forth.

The Right Stuff
Because BIM represents a new approach to building design -- not just the implementation of new supporting technology -- firms should pay close attention to the make-up of the transition team. The team should be comprised of progressive individuals who understand the big picture and will act as evangelists for BIM.

Your team needs to represent the entire organization, reflecting the underlying process changes that come with BIM. And your user community should extend beyond your core group of CAD operators. In fact, don't put your best CAD operators on a solution like Revit -- put your best building designers and architects on it!

Bread and Butter Projects Starting Out
Select the right project to start with, something your firm already knows how to do, so there's only a single dimension of learning required.

If possible, select a project type with known metrics, so you can accurately gauge the benefits of the new solution. Some of the most important benefits of BIM are difficult to quantify: more time for up-front design, clearer presentation of the design to the client, and so on. But some benefits, such as increased documentation productivity, are more immediate and relatively easy to measure. Gathering these statistics can substantiate the promised ROI of the system and help garner support from the "show-me" members of the firm.

The Way Forward
RTKL Associates is one of the world's foremost architectural, engineering, and planning firms, with more than 700 employees in ten offices worldwide. The company's portfolio of large-scale projects includes the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.; the Chinese Museum of Film in Beijing; and the Maryland Museum of African-American History and Culture in Baltimore, Maryland. RTKL is currently in the process of converting to Autodesk Revit after experiencing the benefits of BIM on four major projects, including an addition to the Union Station parking garage in Washington, D.C. (figure 1).

Figure 1. RTKL Associates is converting its offices to Autodesk Revit after experiencing the benefits of building information modeling on major projects such as this addition for Union Station parking garage in Washington, D.C.

"Our implementation of Revit reflects our belief that its database concept is the future of architectural design and document software," reports Douglas Palladino, AIA, a principal at RTKL's Washington, D.C., office. "We know that the transition to Revit will change how we do business. We can't send everyone off to a class for a couple of days and just expect everything to fall into place. Revit is much more than a new design tool: It changes everything!"

Checklist for Success
At the top of the checklist for a smooth deployment of a BIM solution are these critical success factors:

  • Develop a sound, comprehensive implementation strategy
  • Assemble the right team
  • Select a suitable starting project

And be prepared for the inevitable resistance to change that a revolutionary approach like BIM will provoke. But after the tedious error-prone world of systems that the architectural profession has tolerated until now, those who initially resist will soon realize that the parametric building modeling technology of Revit is a dream come true. As stated in the conclusion of the implementation study referenced above, "Those who have persevered in their learning and use of Revit have come to love the application and find it an anathema to go back to traditional CAD. For them, the practice of architecture will never be the same again."

About the Author: AIA

About the Author: Rick Rundell

Rick Rundell