The Shift to BIM: New Ways of Thinking for the Future of Design

HaqBy Mohammed Haq, P.E.

Building information modeling (BIM) adds a new dimension to the building design process. Literally. While traditional design utilizes two-dimensional drawings to show the plan for individual disciplines, BIM generates an interactive, three dimensional layout that can contain details and data not possible in a static 2D drawing. It spans the life of the project, from concept on through to operation and maintenance, as a malleable database of design intent, constructed conditions, and operation and maintenance reference.

Consequently, BIM has changed the way designers must think. To get the most out of this technology, we front load the project with BIM development to better visualize design options for the building. The early involvement of BIM has changed the culture of design, and the modeling tools create both opportunities and challenges for staff. This workflow change requires education and training so that those leading this effort have confidence in their competency and all staff are encouraged to have a communal understanding of BIM.

There are three main effects that are correlated with this shift to BIM: collaborative design, generational differences, and mentoring. Here, we’ll touch on the benefits and challenges in these concepts.

BIM is inherently collaborative and comprehensive; the design team is literally working in the same space. This layering of information compels the necessity for communication and encourages a more comprehensive understanding of the design by all parties involved. Collaborative design requires that all disciplines work in conjunction with each other, through constant communication and on-the-fly input of data to build the BIM model. Having all disciplines incorporated into one model creates a more efficient way to visualize how every component interacts with one another. This results in greater transparency in the design process, and allows the project team a heightened ability to detect coordination issues as well as coordination opportunities.

Collaborative design requires a new level of communication not only between disciplines, but among internal team members. In a generation where engineers would direct a drafter to input their red line markups, drafters are being asked to visualize the design and have knowledge of how the building is being developed based on the interpretation from mark-up. This is pushing drafters to be more educated in engineering and have a higher level of design experience.

As with many technological advances, there is a learning curve and sometimes a resistance to change that often falls along generational lines. The most common struggle in the evolution of BIM is the generational differences of approach. As young talent is brought in to a firm, they are learning the new 3-D tool for BIM and are able to use it more proficiently than the designers/engineers who are accustomed to providing red line mark ups and a drafter doing the work. So the challenge, again, is engaging in open teamwork – how do we successfully integrate this young, highly motivated professional who knows the tool with a seasoned professional with years of internally visualizing how disciplines collaborate in the workflow of building design. The answer lies in the importance of mentoring.

In order for a firm to be successful and stay up with this new technology and its innovations, it must promote BIM mentorship from within, from the top down as well as from the ground up, and encourage all design staff to adopt a well-rounded understanding of how BIM is and can be utilized at each stage of the project, concept to completion to operation. As will all novel strategies, openness, patience, and support go a long way to strengthening capability and enthusiasm. Having structured, internal BIM sessions and brown bag best practice sessions allows all levels of competencies to develop the same level of understanding within the context of the firm’s established and evolving design culture.

Additionally, understanding how a firm’s clients and contractors are using BIM and identifying their needs is critical to achieving a fully cohesive implementation of BIM. This background knowledge allows the firm to strengthen its internal training program to produce high-value BIM models.

BIM is evolving the design industry, and we are on the cusp of this innovation. The implementation of BIM takes a shift in thought process and a change in methods, but adoption of these new strategies ultimately allows firms to be leaders in their industry, providing a highly coordinated design and encouraging Owners to further connect and engage with their buildings through BIM.

We have only scratched the surface of how BIM is used and what BIM can do. BIM also goes beyond the design and construction process and into the Owner’s operation and maintenance routines, with many features in the tool that can provide advantage for the life of the facility. BIM is exciting and ambitious territory – come explore it with us!

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

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