With BIM, Practice Makes Perfect

23 Jul, 2008 By: Cadalyst Staff

Covington Architects discovers that custom training lays the foundation for a successful transition to Revit.

Hindsight is 20/20. But then, you never know until you try. When Covington Hendrix Anderson Architects moved to building information modeling (BIM) using Autodesk's Revit Architecture in early 2007, the firm made the decision to adopt it company-wide. Resolved to start off right, management closed doors for a week so all employees could receive training.

The firm went through Revit basic training as a team, attending on-site training at the facilities of its technology partner, Avatech Solutions. The training familiarized staffers with basic Revit functionality and introduced them to the free online libraries of architectural components available for use in Revit models.

However, when employees returned to their production environment, specific details of real-world projects took a toll on staff productivity.

Back at the Office
"While we knew how to use most of the functions in the software, it was harder to translate what we learned in the classroom to our own projects than I had originally thought," said firm principal Jon Covington. "You do not realize how much you don't understand about the software until you try to make things work for real."

"We tried helping each other out when we got back to the office, but that wasn't the most productive solution," Covington explained. "For example, we needed to know how to make store fronts work in Revit and to create wall sections that were accurate and also looked right. We needed some coaching to help with the specifics of our projects."

Covington and partners Chris Hendrix and Wayne Anderson had all been watching the development of Revit over time. They knew that implementing BIM would help ensure their leading edge within the architectural industry -- so when the first round of training didn't work out as well as they planned, they went back for help.

"We needed help with real projects, so we went back to Avatech. They provided us with a Revit Architecture applications expert who worked with us in an over-the-shoulder capacity to manage the successful implementation of the technology and a new BIM process using real projects."

The trainer from Avatech worked side by side with designers providing examples from his own Revit experience. He helped users build projects in their own production environment and created content and templates to help them get started. When training on actual projects, users accomplish two things: They learn how to use the software and they get work done at the same time.

"Because every firm does things differently, we see custom training, based on real projects, paying off for firms implementing BIM," said Joe Eichenseer, professional services manager at Avatech. "The additional investment is more than made up for in the ability to adjust to process changes and to gain more immediate results."

According to Covington, the project-specific training and the employees' persistence made all the difference. Today, all projects are started in Revit and the firm is reaping the benefits.

More Work with Fewer Resources
Convington saves approximately 20% in drawing time using BIM. This translates to performing more work using existing resources, building top-line revenue with the same cost structure, leading to a more profitable business. Designers also believe that by taking advantage of 3D modeling, over the long run they gain a competitive advantage. They are able to provide their clients with renderings earlier in the process -- renderings that also can be used for marketing purposes -- as well as deliver more accurate and creative designs because time that used to be spent on monotonous redrawing can be put to better use designing.

Reduced Time to Higher Quality Design
"With Revit, we can go from schematics to 3D renderings in all angles and views far more rapidly and accurately than when we needed to use three different programs," said Covington. This allows the firm to show clients detailed renderings far earlier in the process, meaning the client can provide valuable feedback prior to construction documentation. This is a huge time- and cost-savings benefit. "Our models provide value to clients because they can see what the final building will be like and, as a result, can enter into the design process more effectively," Covington added.

Gaining Project Acceptance
One of the most exciting projects the firm created in Revit is Island House Hotel and Villas, a luxury multistory and multibuilding condominium complex on waterfront property governed by strict municipal building regulations. The owner had a vision for the area that was outside the city's design parameters.

"Our client wanted to show the city that his vision would enhance the area. From a generic footprint, we created 3D views and renderings that the client could present to the city to obtain building permits," explains Covington. "While we know the council will make some changes to the design, we believe they will be excited by what they see."

Revit rendering of Island House Hotel and Villas project in Bay Creek (Cape Charles, Virginia).

More Than a Fad
Today, Covington Hendrix Anderson Architects doesn't just provide drawings to clients. Using BIM, the firm provides customers with a database of building information. This information can be used to create management processes including facility management, energy management, space allocation, and building maintenance. "More and more of our clients will come to expect these benefits and may actually require a building information model for all projects. We will be way ahead of them on that count," Covington said.

"BIM is not a trend. It is a true paradigm shift in the way that architects provide design and other services to clients," Covington continued. "Making the move to BIM requires a real commitment to facing and managing change. Custom training was crucial in helping us understand and overcome the challenges that we faced. Now we are market leaders in BIM technology and process, and our projects will only get better moving forward."

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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