“BIM! BIM! BIM! I’ve heard about BIM, and I want to… What is BIM? I don’t want BIM, I want Revit. I don’t want Revit, I want BIM. OK, BIM, Revit, I get it now, how can I integrate into my…” I’ve heard this a lot and and what I have found, as someone who manages BIM at an architecture firm as well as someone who consultants on the use and integration of it within the Architecture/Engineering/Construction communities, is that the more information you can give me, the better I can tailor my presentation to you about how BIM can benefit you as well as how you can integrate it into your company. The question is, why is that? The reason is exactly the same as why people struggle to get over the initial hump/learning curve/paradigm shift of a transition to BIM in and of itself. BIM involves a lotta stuff!!! Then, once you get into an actual software application (i.e. Revit, Navisworks, Ecotect, etc.), they do a lotta stuff too!! When I, and you, have a better understanding of what it is you and your organization do (and want to do), we can figure out which aspects of BIM, and its associated applications, will be most beneficial to you. Otherwise you’ll hear phrases like:
- You can make a change in one place and it makes that change everywhere!
- Everything is in 3D!
- You can create automatic schedules!
- Need a section drawing? Put in a section line!
- Construction documents are done for you!
- You never have to draw again!
- There will be zero change orders!
It’s not to say that a lot of these points aren’t correct but (or almost correct), but odds are, you’ll respond to me in the same way, I swear, someone did recently, “Scott, I’m going to stop you right there because I don’t know what the f*#k you’re talking about.” I actually was hysterically laughing after that was said, but it was a good point. Since then, I’ve insisted to those I was advising that they tell me as much as possible about the way they work and what they’re looking to achieve. So, the first question is, what kind of company are you? Architecture firm? Engineering firm? Construction company? The answer to this will determine the extent to which you actually need to use BIM. It’s most important to get your current practices in a BIM environment and then, once they are comfortably integrated, explore what else you could be doing. There are, however, some questions to consider that are independent of which of the three industries you’re in. That being said, the answers could be quite different for each industry. These questions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- What types of projects do you do?
- This is especially important because, initially, we need to figure out which software applications you need. Additionally, it’ll allow us to begin to determine which aspects of those applications we need to focus on developing processes for. For example, Revit might not, by default, have a single button that will simultaneously create quantity takeoffs and apply costs to them. That being said, if it’s a process that you consistently go through, an automated set of tasks can be set up to do just that.
- How many people in your office will be working in Revit?
- This will tell us how many licenses of Revit you need to purchase and, if there will be many people, whether you need to buy standalone copies or a network license. Additionally, and this will come up in the next question, how many people do you need to purchase computer hardware for?
- Do you have the computer hardware capable of handling Revit?
- Revit is a fairly intensive program that requires somewhat powerful hardware. Additionally, the latest version of Revit, 2011 (soon to be 2012) requires Windows 7 (preferably the 64-bit version). Do your computers have it? Do the have enough RAM and are their processors and graphics cards powerful enough. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on copies of Revit and find that your hardware can’t handle it.
- Do you have a person, internally or externally, who can act as technical support?
- Depending on the skill level of project team members that you either have or are planning on hiring, it is usually a good idea to have a go-to-person who you can rely on for installation and upgrade issues, quick teaching tasks, technical support and any other advice that will help you make more informed decisions about how best to proceed with BIM.
- Will people need to be trained?
- If people will need to be trained, which is likely, you’ll need to decide how you would like this training to be done. Do you want to bring someone into your office? If so, you’ll need to have space and both the software and hardware set up and working. Do you want to rent a space? If so, you’ll pretty much need the same things. Do you want to hire a service? If so, you’ll need to locate one and arrange a time for everyone to attend. Additionally, no mater which way you choose to go, you’ll have to be prepared for these people to be out of service, and therefore non-billable, for the entire time. I’ve often seen people step out of training for phone calls or emails and they tend to miss valuable lessons.
- Do you have an existing set of graphical (and/or more specifically CAD) standards?
- Just as with CAD, a set of standards is important to be able to create a template in Revit which will ensure that all of your deliverables (ie. drawing sheets) look as you expect them to look both architecturally as well as graphically. The creation of template can be an extensive process depending on the extent with which you will be using Revit.
- What types of deliverables do you create at the various submittal milestones?
- The types of products that you produce for various recipients will help to assess which best practices need to be determined. For example, if you tend to issue drawing sheets, you’ll need to consider, for example, sheet size and title blocks. If you issue schedules (or spreadsheets), you’ll need to have them set up to extract the type of data you want, quantify and calculate it based on your normal processes, and then display it as you normally would.
- What are the typical objects that you use (or draw) in your drawings from project to project (i.e. curtain walls, furniture, structural beams, HVAC ducts, etc.)?
- Computers in general increase the speed in which we doing things by giving us a library of predefined options to choose from. For example, which type in a word processing program, the list of available fonts is a library of choices. With Revit, it is very helpful to have a library, or kit of parts, that you can use over and over for the typical work you do. If you use a specific manufacturers furniture, having a library of all of their furniture, modeled in three dimensions for Revit, make it very easy to drag and drop them into your space and then schedule their properties based on data that has been built into them.
- What are the typical calculations you perform while producing drawing and/or estimations on projects?
- As previously mentioned, to keep you from having to set up schedules which will perform your commonly used calculations and estimations, we can set them up to automatically extract the necessary information and quantify them as you normally would. That being said, it is helpful to both know and understand how and why those calculations are done.
- What three-dimensional work are you currently doing for both production as well as design purposes?
- This question can have two possible outcomes depending on your answers. If you’re doing 3D work currently, we can recreate and enhance the way that you’re doing it by using the model that you’re already building. If you’re not doing any 3D work, it is important to learn how you can use the tool for both production as well as design purposes. Most likely, you’re familiar with the fact that you can create 3D, wireframe models, renderings, etc. for printing and presenting to people. It’s important to understand that by designing and modeling in both two dimensions and three dimensions simultaneously, you can ensure that your drawings, calculations, cost estimations and analyses are more accurate.
These questions, and their answers, should get you to a point where your firm is producing similar products that you were with your old, most likely CAD, system, and you are beginning to see increased productivity and reduced costs. As time goes on, personnel will become more facile with the software, they’ll strategize better and work will get done even faster. At that point, you can begin asking the next set of questions which will allow you to start doing what you didn’t, or couldn’t, do before. The following questions are the second half of the sentence, “Can the work your firm does benefit from…”:
- …advanced three-dimensional coordination of building information models from various consultants (i.e. structural, MEP, lighting, etc.)?
- …three-dimensional detailing?
- …automated cost estimating and quantity take-offs?
- …energy modeling?
- …sustainability analysis?
- …life safety simulation?
- …facilities management?
Needless to say, there are many other things that BIM can do, but these questions, and their answers, will allow you to make better decisions when a project starts. This early strategizing informs the BIM process helping you to create what is know as a purpose-built model. That is to say, a model built for the purpose of…(see the previous list). Understand what integrating BIM into your office really means. Understand that it’s more than installing Revit. Furthermore, understand that the use of BIM, and or Revit, is not simply a technology issue. If anything, it is important that everyone understand (each up to an appropriate point) what you’re getting yourself into and how it will change everything from the software you’re using, the submittals you’re generating, the way you staff projects, assemble fees and create project schedules. Most importantly, get someone to help you. Revit is not the 2025 version of AutoCAD, and having someone who has been through it before can help you prepare for it, avoid pitfalls and help you deal with the inevitable issues that will arise.