AEC Tech News (#215)

14 Nov, 2007 By: Heather Livingston

A Small Firm Switches to BIM

The real deal: Badger and Associates jumps head-first into the 3D world and survives to tell the tale.

By Heather Livingston

Most of the largest AEC firms are transitioning to 3D modeling in some form. They have the financial and human resources to break that new ground. Smaller firms fall in behind, responding to this trend as the need and demand grow. To better understand how the ongoing transition to 3D and BIM (building information modeling) impacts small shops, their clients, and key collaborators, I spoke with William C. Badger, AIA, principal of Badger and Associates in Manchester, Vermont. Badger, whose office is down the road from where I live and work, made the switch to 3D nearly two years ago. In the following Q&A, he shares some interesting insights about the process and illuminates the reality for many small firms when it comes to BIM's interoperability and cost-saving potential.

Which BIM program are you using?
We started with AutoCAD LT and then ended up with [Nemetschek's] VectorWorks for a variety of reasons. We were working with a former employee who was doing some drafting for us from Florida. That was the program he was using and he recommended it. We switched over mostly because hand drafting was getting to be a lost art and trying to hire somebody that could know which end of a pencil to sharpen was getting tough. I figured at least it would give a level of quality to the drawings.

I'm still convinced that design is a paper thing. Maybe the next generation of kids [will be] used to thinking through a computer, but I can come up with an idea and the basic scheme in a fraction of the time. I can do it a whole lot faster than they can, trying to come up with a design because you have to know too much [to design with a program]. The computer wants to know exactly how big that window is. I don't care. I just draw a window. So while somebody else is trying to figure out exactly what size this is or what size that is, I've got it drawn, and then [later I'll] figure out exact sizes.

How did you make the switch to VectorWorks?
My son Theodore was here over Christmas. He's a techie guy, headed for med school but taking time off and doing some work for me, and he was the one who figured it out. He said, "You know, a lot of our problems seem to be we're not using the program as it was designed to be used." It used to be that the gold standard was hand-drawn drawings, and that's what the computer was trying to create, but the hand-drawn elevations look so much better. We did a pretty good job of doing 2D elevations that really looked like something. We had some guys at one point who could draw stuff on the computer, but it was still trying to copy hand drawings. [We stepped back and realized] that the program has taken us far beyond that. There is potential that you could never reach with a hand drawing, and we should try to use the program like it was designed. Theodore got in and figured out what it was doing and came back to the rest of the office and said, "Here's how it works." Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Heather Livingston is a Vermont-based freelance writer specializing in design, sustainability, and architectural technology. She can be reached at


To BIMfinity and Beyond!

By Jerry Laiserin

Five years into the industrywide conversation about building information modeling (BIM), it has become clear that BIM is simultaneously bigger, smaller, and more diverse than many first imagined. It's bigger in that its process encompasses far more than do many of the current so-called BIM software programs. It's smaller in that early steps in BIM automation will -- as with any technology adoption cycle -- mimic earlier tools and methods. It's more diverse in that the BIM model is fragmenting into discipline-, phase-, and role-specific models that mirror the business facts of life in designing, constructing, and operating buildings.Read more  »


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

Autodesk University
November 27-30, 2007
Las Vegas, Nevada
Autodesk University offers more than 500 classes, hands-on labs, business-management solutions and strategies, an exhibit hall, briefings on key business trends, and social events. Read more

Ecobuild Fall and AEC-ST Fall
December 10-13, 2007
Washington, D.C.
This annual event goes beyond green to cover the breadth of green building, sustainable design, renewable energy, environmental planning processes, and information collaboration strategies for commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential construction. Cadalyst readers are eligible for free exhibit and keynote admission -- a $25 value. To take advantage of this offer, go to and enter the code HSEOC.

For Cadalyst’s full calendar of eventsclick here.


What’s New at

Case Study: "House of the Year" Presents New Translation of Classic Design
Besides its beauty, the Aatrial House was recognized by World Architecture News for its innovation in the creation of a unique atrial concept.

Get the Code!
Cadalyst 's November code from Hot Tip Harry is available for download. Jeffery Sanders submitted another of his professional-quality programs -- Calculate Weight -- that earns this month's top tip honor and wins the $100 prize.

Cadalyst November Content Now Live Online
A fresh batch of Cadalyst Labs reviews, CAD Central news, Cadalyst exclusive columns, and much more -- all from the latest edition of Cadalyst magazine -- is ready to view on .

Cadalyst 's Exclusive CAD Tutorials for November Now Live Online
The latest editions of all your favorite AutoCAD tutorials, including Steve Johnson's "Bug Watch," Lynn Allen's "Circles and Lines," and Bill Fane's "Learning Curve" are now available on And check our online archives for the latest editions of exclusive tutorials for ArchiCAD, Revit, MicroStation, and more.