Think you have good excuses for not trying Building Information Modeling (BIM) yet? I’ve heard them all: “It’s too hard.” “It’s too expensive.” “I don’t need it.” But those are just excuses, not reasons. In fact, I bet you’re more ready than you think you are. Here are five reasons why.
1. You Already Think in BIM. You might not know it, but you already use BIM—at least the “building information” part. When you’re designing a building, you don’t think in 2D lines. You think in real-world objects—walls, windows, doors, floors. You know how they fit together, what their relationships should be, what elements support other elements. And you know what? BIM does, too. Because BIM is object-based, everything in your model “knows” what it is. Walls act like walls, doors act like doors. They’re not just collections of lines. This means that you can manipulate them in ways that relate to their real-world behavior, and that flow logically from your design workflow.
2. BIM Improves Coordination. In any building industry—architecture, engineering, construction—you need to be able to understand what’s going on in three dimensions. If you move a wall in a plan, you need to know what that does to your elevations. If you change the size of your floor beams, you need to know how that affects your sections. BIM helps you manage that, with live sections and elevations that instantly reflect changes in other views. Yes, you might still have to chase a change through a few different views, but you’ll immediately be able to see the changes—and that will save you time down the road.
As an example, a few weeks ago I was adding dunnage framing to the roof of a mall. I finished the plan, then checked it in 3D. Turns out there was another level of steel immediately above my framing (not visible in the original plan), and it was interfering with the dunnage posts. The 3D coordination meant we could fix it during design—if we’d been working in 2D, we might not have found this until we got into the field.
3. BIM Takes Care of the Details. In addition to the live section coordination, BIM also helps you with the housekeeping tasks for keeping a drawing set tidy. Need to change a detail number? No problem: Just change it on the sheet, and every reference is automatically updated. Same if you need to change a sheet number or update a drawing list. (Imagine, no more coordinating sheet indexes!) What if you need to change the scale of a plan or detail? Again, no problem! Simply choose your scale from the list, and all your annotations (notes, dimensions, fill patterns) will automatically adjust to the correct size.
4. BIM is Good for Business. BIM is not new technology anymore. In fact, Revit software has more than ten years’ worth of history (although I’m not sure you’d recognize the earliest versions compared to today’s software). As its adoption grows, you’re probably getting more and more requests for BIM from your clients. Imagine if your response could be, “Oh, sure, I model in 3D all the time.” Do you think they’d be impressed?
And it’s not just about documentation. Having your building modeled in 3D provides an instant source for visualizations of the finished product. You can work with the in-product views, or use other software or services to create presentation-quality graphics straight from your model.
The building industry is becoming increasingly technology-driven, and BIM will help you keep up with it.
5. BIM is an Investment Worth Making. Make no mistake: Transitioning to a BIM workflow is an investment, both in terms of time and money. Yes, there’s a learning curve. Yes, you will probably spend more time on your model at first than you’re used to. Yes, it costs more than the 2D CAD program you’re using now. But how much is your time worth?
When you divide the cost of software by the number of hours you save with it over the course of a year, you may find that what initially seems like an expensive purchase is actually an excellent value. Especially after your initial purchase, you can probably pay for the software maintenance/subscription with just a few hours of billable time per year. This requires a bit of long-term thinking because you will have to spend time learning before you can save time working, but don’t forget the other ways you save time. Every coordination issue you solve in design is one that you won’t get a call from the field about later. For more tips on CAD management, visit my friend Robert Green’s website.
Keeping up with the latest technology, impressing your clients with models and images, and all the advantages of a 3D workflow—in the end, the benefits of BIM make it a worthwhile investment.