Implementing BIM, Part 2: Planning for Process and Staffing Changes

14 Dec, 2004 By: AIA ,Rick Rundell Cadalyst

Invest time and money up front to ensure a successful transition

Last month's article (click here to view) was the first in a series of articles on best practices for implementing BIM (building information modeling) solutions. It highlighted success factors for transitioning to a purpose-built BIM solution like Autodesk Revit.

This month we'll explore how best to organize an office for BIM, identifying potential process changes that BIM will bring about and how to apply the right mix of people and skills to those new processes.

Key Factors in Transitioning to BIM
In a recent Autodesk survey of Revit customers, 82% of the respondents noted that BIM was changing their design process, forcing them to reevaluate existing ways of working. As a result, our consulting team often begins a BIM implementation with a process assessment. Over the past several years, these assessments have produced some key learnings that can be leveraged by any firm adopting BIM. Following are the four most important ones.

Rebalance team effort to design phases. Perhaps the most significant change resulting from BIM is the luxury of being able to increase the amount of time spent in the design phase. Revit creates and coordinates drawings dynamically, directly in the building information model, so the documentation effort is dramatically reduced. Therefore, firms should plan to budget much less time (and staff) on documentation and coordination, and more time in early design, resulting in better decisions early on.

Avoid overdocumenting. Revit produces drawings so easily, it can lure a firm into overdocumenting a project. So at the beginning of a project, it's a good idea to create a cartoon set of drawings (which is also part of the building information model) to serve as a guideline and scoping mechanism for documentation as the design progresses.

Use more visualizations for client communication. Revit can produce high-quality renderings and walk-throughs on demand, which facilitates communication with the client and enables a firm to be much more responsive in the design process -- at little or no additional expense. As a result, firms implementing Revit may want to revisit policies and procedures surrounding client deliverables and the provision of renderings.

Consider some expanded services. Finally, the Revit building information model can interface with and drive certain analyses and tasks such day lighting, energy use, quantity takeoffs, and specification coordination.

By taking advantage of some of these capabilities of the building information model, firms can offer expanded services to their customers.

Creating the BIM Team
These process changes also affect project staffing and the distribution of skill sets. Here's what we've found:

The makeup of a traditional architectural project team is governed by the huge effort required to produce a construction document set, with roles corresponding to drawing types: plans, elevations, sections, details, and so forth. As described earlier, Revit significantly reduces the documentation effort, thus rendering this traditional project structure obsolete. Instead, a Revit building information modeling team should be organized around functions such as project management, content creation, building design, and documentation.

Firms will also find that they can budget for much smaller project teams as they reduce the overhead of traditional documentation and CAD tools. In some cases, as few as half as many people are required to complete a BIM project compared with traditional ways of working. The smaller team -- three to five people is the most common size we find -- encourages agility during the implementation period and sets the right expectations for the rest of the firm that BIM doesn't require resources beyond conventional methods to succeed. As the implementation expands, let the BIM team grow organically, folding in new staff as needed.

Investing for Productivity
One firm that has experienced these transition learnings directly is URS.

A global architecture, planning, and engineering firm, URS provides consulting services in planning, design, and construction management for architectural and engineering projects as well as planning and environmental consulting services to both public- and private-sector clients. Ranked number one in Engineering News-Record's list of the top 500 design firms, UGS is one of the nation's largest professional service organizations. Its staff of more than 26,000 includes some of the most distinguished and experienced representatives of the architectural and engineering professions.

In fall 2003, URS was middesign for a prominent corporate college conference and training center in northwestern Ohio when its client came forward with additional budget and a request to add features to the project. Using Revit, URS was able to swiftly redesign the building (in about 40% less time than would have been required if the firm had been using a traditional CAD program) and meet the project's first fast-track construction deadline. Following this success, URS decided to implement the software on two additional projects and continues today to expand its use of Revit to additional projects (figure 1).

Figure 1. URS used Autodesk Revit to design this 107,000 ft2, $14 million Ohio middle school.

URS recognized at the outset that implementing Autodesk Revit software would require a new way of working. Wanting to ensure success in its Cleveland office, where the software was first being rolled out, the firm engaged the Autodesk Consulting team for a comprehensive training and implementation program. This program included an initial two-day process assessment, a week of product training, and subsequent, staged implementation and evaluation services.

"By investing in implementation services, we were able to quickly become productive in using the software," said Laura Rees, director of architecture for URS Cleveland. "We had no idea then how much time we would eventually save by making this crucial initial technology decision."

Building information modeling can radically transform the process of designing, constructing, and operating a building. But take a cue from the experiences of forward-looking firms like URS that have experienced the transition: Invest the time and energy up front to carefully plan for that transformation. Know what you're trying to do before you do it!

About the Author: AIA

About the Author: Rick Rundell

Rick Rundell

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