Self-Taught MBA: Are You Ready for Building Information Modeling?comments (4) February 15th, 2013 in Blogs
Guest post by Kristin Dispenza
Unlike traditional building design, which relies on two-dimensional drawings, building information modeling (BIM) provides design information in five dimensions: width, height, depth, time, and cost. More than just a construction plan, BIM also covers geographic information, light analysis, and details about a building's components.
The resulting building information models include every layer of a building--not just a superficial line representation but a complete virtual construction with fine detail and depth. They include frame, mechanical, and electrical installations, and finish layers, such as drywall and paint. It's all there, with associated costs and labor timetables--a complete model of the structure that can be manipulated in every dimension, including the schedule and budget, before anything at all is actually built.
Let's step back a few decades, when businesses began the full-scale adoption of personal computers and when software purchases would arrive in oversize cartons accompanied by entire sets of user manuals--sometimes as many as ten separate volumes! We all know that those days are gone, yet maybe when you imagine learning new software, somewhere in the back of your mind a vision of those ten manuals is lurking.
Add to that the fact that one thing hasn't changed over those same decades: We are still seeing software releases that represent a completely new way of doing business, pushing us out of our comfort zone and challenging our day-to-day workflow. For the design and construction industries, this means BIM.
When it's 'just you'
Surveys conducted by Building Design & Construction over the past couple of years indicate that among large design firms, BIM adoption has topped 80%. The numbers also are growing among the nation's top 50 home-building firms, and the promised benefits to the bottom line are being realized, with the principle benefits coming during construction, as critical details on how different systems interact are resolved before ground is broken, thereby eliminating job-site head scratching. BIM not only will help tailor ductwork layouts and waste lines that don't require improvised chases and drops, but it will also prevent job-site design problems--such a roofline that makes it impossible to properly flash a window, or a bulkhead that forces a trim carpenter to cut down all the lintel casings along a corridor--which can be almost invisible in two dimensions.
With BIM, plans can be so accurate that your lumberyard could drill precise plumbing holes in your joists and wall studs, saving hours of on-site labor.
Unfortunately, among smaller design and construction firms, the number of early adopters has not been robust. Yet small firms know that they are competing in the same landscape as the larger ones, and that the practices that are becoming so established among the profession's trailblazers will end up changing the work environment for everyone. Still, for most small firms, BIM continues to loom in the distance.
Joy Stark, industry marketing manager for the popular architecture design software company Autodesk, confirms that while some small firms have been convinced of the benefits of BIM and have adopted a new workflow, many others still haven't made the move to BIM. In response, Autodesk started a conversation with a few of those reluctant firms several years ago to find out precisely what the barriers were. The two main culprits were time and expense. In a small firm, explains Stark, where there may only be two or three employees, committing the time to learn new software often takes too much time away from talking with clients or working on current projects. "Expenses often come right out of the owner's pockets," she says. "Sometimes it is a question of 'Do I go on vacation, or do I invest in a software upgrade?' Yet the pressure is on to provide the same services [as other firms]."
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