Cadalyst AEC Tech News #109 (Nov. 20, 2003)

19 Nov, 2003 By: Michael Dakan

In This Issue: Planning to Implement Building Information Modeling

  • First step

  • Training is key

  • Target what you need

Many building design firms and individual design professionals are looking at the latest developments in BIM (building information management) toolsand thinking about making the transition. With BIM, the architect createsa 3D model, using BIM creation and editing tools, and uses this "virtualbuilding" model to generate 2D drawings that can be used for a variety of purposes, including design presentations, client communications, and construction contract documents.

FIRST STEP. When you think about all the steps you or your firm may need to undertake to move into BIM, the most important first step is always to create animplementation plan. The plan should consider how you will achieve thegreatest success with minimum cost and disruption to ongoing work that you must continue to produce without significant delays. If you investigateand consider all the things that must be accomplished in order tosuccessfully implement a new working methodology for a design practice, you may quickly come to the realization that it's difficult to doeverything all at once. You need to approach the problem incrementally.

TRAINING IS KEY. Though it might be nice to think you could install software, read atutorial or take a short training class, set up standards and procedures,and be fully functional in just a few days, the reality is that implementing BIM can be a daunting prospect, perhaps even overwhelming,especially if you haven't previously worked in 3D with design software. BIM authoring and editing tools are getting quite sophisticated and make working with 3D very similar to familiar 2D CAD, but you still have to pay attention to the third dimension and be aware that everything you do is in 3D space, even it may not be immediately apparent from the view you're working in.

BIM software applications are generally large and somewhat complex, andthere's a lot to learn to become proficient and fully productive with them. The best tools offer a wide range of functionality and attempt to beapplicable to the entire building model over time. They also try toautomate as much design effort as possible. For this reason, some trainingis required in order to get users started as quickly and efficiently aspossible.

Training can be difficult. Tutorials that come with the products and thatare sometimes available on-line are generally very broad and shallow, not detailed enough to provide much more than an introduction to the range oftools and routines available. Likewise, the training that is sometimes provided as part of the purchase price is usually very general. It tries to touch on everything in a short period of time without really providing detailed, in-depth training. Other classes can be expensive andtime-consuming, especially if you have to travel and stay in another city for a few days because they aren't available locally.

TARGET WHAT YOU NEED. If you do some research into successful implementation strategies, younearly always find that those who report the greatest success in getting up to speed didn't try to implement the entire toolset all at once. They often work with just a limited subset of the complete functional capabilities of the program. This simplifies and speeds initial startup and training. You can start with the basics, then implement additional specialized training as familiarity, skills, and enthusiasm for the software grow.

So one of the first things you may need to do to do is carefully test andassess the capabilities and functionality of your chosen software toolsfor maximum applicability to your design practice and needs. You may wantto postpone the implementation of those functions that are second andthird priority. Also put off using those tools that are not as welldeveloped, are more difficult to train and use, or are used lessfrequently. This is a good time to apply the 80-20 rule: 80% of your initial needs may be accomplished with 20% of the total cost and effort.

One of the fundamental concepts inherent in the BIM approach is that to bemost effective and valuable in the overall building lifecycle, the"virtual building" model should be as complete as possible. It needs tocontain the full range of information inherent in a real"bricks-and-mortar" building. But the tools available to create the virtual model are not yet adequately developed to readily accomplish this. Your need to maintain a profitable stream of productive work to support a design practice may dictate that an interim, partial solution is your best approach for a while.