Keeping BIM simple

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UK technology service provider CADline is helping customers prepare for the move to Building Information Modelling (BIM).

On the corner of a whiteboard on our sales floor there is a running count of enquiries where the customer is either asking to buy some Building Information Modelling (BIM) or attend a BIM training course.

1: A large hospital project in London where contractors collaborated by exchanging Revit models

We are, of course, more than happy to engage with these customers and take them on a journey into model-based design, but the point is that there appears to be an increasing amount of confusion within organisations outside of the corporate or enterprise space about what BIM means to them and what they should be doing about it.

The messages delivered in a series of government sponsored reports culminating in the BIM Working Party Strategy Paper delivered early in March last year, is not translating well to many companies which have found that the way they have been working with CAD software suits them just fine.

The problem appears to be that as the trade press and technology providers move the emphasis on the value of BIM away from the productivity gains that model-based design provides to the construction and post-occupancy benefits of exchanging data, those still in the 2D world become less clear about the technology decisions they should be taking.

The team that delivered the BIM strategy document is made up of the leaders in this industry and they have made excellent progress on making sense of what is effectively a step change in the capability of building design technology over the last decade.

They took on the unenviable challenge of considering how to take advantage of the ability to share design information to remove some of the inefficiencies and wastage that are inherent to construction in the UK.

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The commitment from this government to revolutionise the building construction process partly by requiring the adoption of BIM workflows within public sector projects to many is long overdue.

However, much of this collaborative effort currently appears to concentrate on BIM for Enterprise and does not always seem to be relevant to the small local architect or house builder.

Inevitably many of the recommendations provided by the BIM Working Party and others will be adopted by the construction industry and filter their way to the end of the supply chain but in the meantime what are we saying to our callers looking for some advice on BIM?

We keep it very simple and start by asking a few straightforward questions.

Initially we ask them if they feel compelled to attempt to adopt BIM. Generally the answer is either that the customer knows a bit about building modelling and can see the benefits within their company, that they have a competitor which appears to be benefiting from promoting themselves as a BIM practitioner, often some sort of deliverable has been mandated by a client and occasionally the customer believes that they need to be going to BIM to comply with some sort of regulations.

After that we establish if they are producers of data, such as a small local architect which typically should be considering a product like Revit Architecture; or a consumer of data like a house builder, which may find Navisworks can help with the construction of its greenfield developments. Finally we understand how they are set up, how they receive their data and ultimately what they actually deliver to their clients.

Taking these responses we identify the most suitable product for their company. Almost always a move to 3D, model-based design is the right thing for the customer. The first step on the road to BIM workflows for most is to adopt a product like Autodesk Revit, AutoCAD Civil 3D or Navisworks with the intention of improving design workflow.

However, sometimes that just isn’t the case and it takes twice as long to do something in Revit than it does in AutoCAD LT, why bother? Of course, if their client is very specific about a BIM deliverable such as a Revit model then the decision is made for the caller, but we have not had a customer yet who has not enjoyed the benefits of Revit.

Once we have our lead product it is just a matter of implementing it. Again we keep it simple; there are companies that make the adoption of a product like Revit far more complicated than it needs to be by trying to push an organisation to a level it does not need to be at.

2: 3ds max rendering of a multi-disciplinary Revit model courtesy of Swanke Hayden Connell Architects

Beware of BIM consultants who talk endlessly about the government mandate for BIM. According to the BIM Working Party strategy paper we are still in the mobilisation phase of the programme for establishing how the government will require the exchange of building design data. Our focus is to get our customers modelling. Again the key is to establish the typical client deliverable and the effort required to get the customer to a level where they are able to produce it to a sufficiently high level and within budget.

Migrating from one software to another is disruptive for any company and it is the consideration given to managing this disruption that can make or break a Revit adoption project. It is a project, not necessarily a complicated one, but one that should involve some degree of planning, some on-going project management and a measurement of success.

Taking Revit as an example, the aim of the implementation project for the customer new to Revit is to get the software installed and the users as productive as they were in the shortest time possible. The key here is to find individuals who are willing to support and deliver change.

For larger organisations we suggest three key roles are identified: A project manager ensures that product installations are carried out, training is delivered on time and all the things necessary to complete the first design project are in place.

The Revit expert is the visionary who can quickly understand how Revit will fit within the company, puts the hours to increase their knowledge beyond that of the standard user and is the “go to” person when problems are encountered and decisions need to be made.

An employee skilled in IT is also needed. Almost always the demands on an organisation’s IT infrastructure are different when using Revit compared to AutoCAD.

In a small architectural practice all three roles tend to fall to one person but that is fine as long as they are organised and have a clear understanding of the steps ahead.

With the team assembled the implementation project should follow a tried and tested checklist. We check the specification of the computers; is the kit capable of handling the anticipated complexity of Revit models? The cost of buying some more RAM or a new graphics card is insignificant when compared to the investment made in the technology and new skills. We help choose a design project that is suited to Revit, one that is unlikely to require the customer to drop back to their old CAD product when things get tough and one for which we are able to establish some measurement of success. Revit is installed with the correct localisation and configured it so that the customer’s preferred templates and components are immediately available to users.

Revit standards are a subject for another time but we often start by adapting existing CAD standards and templates.

More and more often our customers have a set of design standards and Revit templates from their clients for use when working on one of their projects and so we prepare them to expect to continuously update standards they establish.

After that it is all about training and support, no company takes enough training but we have refined our approach to getting our customers the right skills to make a success of their first design project. By supporting a customer through its first project and ensuring that it is a success we are repaid with their loyalty and keep them for life.

We may then start talking about the additional benefits that BIM can bring such as visualisations, early energy analysis and downstream collaboration. The important thing is that we have another customer modelling, another customer doing BIM.

Next time I would like to write about some of the other considerations in more detail once BIM has been adopted.

www.cadline.co.uk

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