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Will 2D design go the way of the fax?
When was the last time you heard a team member say, “Didn’t you get my fax?” Years, if you’re lucky. Faxes were efficient and revolutionary—until they weren’t. Being able to send an exact document instantly was amazing. Of course, fax technology wasn’t always ideally reliable or convenient. Better technology came along, and, except for a few types of situations, people moved away quickly.
As building design technology has evolved, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is becoming ubiquitous in many aspects of building and infrastructure design. Surveys show that 70% of architects are using it. And efficiency is one of the key drivers. Teams using BIM work faster and collaborate better, and 68% of architects who use BIM find that it helps to reduce time on project activities and delivery.
How BIM delivers operational efficiencies
One of the first things people notice about BIM is that it’s 3D. You design from models, so it’s easier to visualize design intent. From a visualization standpoint, there’s efficiency to be gained from working in 3D. But you can generate 3D views of 2D drawings that look pretty good. So why would the efficiency gains be so huge? Because the “I” in BIM is just as important as the “M.” The models are rich with information and intelligence.
When you make a change to an intelligent model, the design accommodates the change. Modify the shape of the façade on a building, and the design adjusts dynamically so you don’t have to apply it manually throughout the model. Changes made anywhere update everywhere in the model. Intelligence also enables you to automate many routine tasks.
The dynamic aspect of working with models saves time on virtually every change you make. You can explore more design options and still save time as compared to working in 2D tools. The timesavings show up in your bottom line. Consider the impact on fixed-fee projects. As you complete projects more quickly, your margins improve—and you can take on more work with the same resources, further increasing profitability.
Fewer errors and RFIs
Designing in a 3D environment can help prevent errors as you work. Many types of small errors simply look wrong in 3D, so you validate several design choices visually. Even an experienced drafter can miss small issues in 2D, which necessitates reliance on frequent and time-consuming quality checks. Most issues get caught, but some make it to the field.
The advantages of BIM show clearly in one of the most tangible—and expensive—consequences or errors: requests for information (RFIs) issued during construction. Mortensen Construction compared two similar projects where one used BIM and the other didn’t. On the BIM project, there were 74% fewer RFIs issued during the foundation phase and 47% fewer during steel erection.
Keep the band together
Collaboration shines with BIM, especially when you use models to connect the extended project team. Many firms who use a limited degree of BIM are missing the efficiency gains of closer collaboration. That’s because they share information as infrequently with BIM as they did using 2D tools. When you rely on intelligent models, it no longer makes sense to share designs at a few scheduled milestones. BIM makes it practical to share and collaborate continuously, and 74% of architects find that BIM improves multiparty communication.
You work from the same or linked models across disciplines. The structural engineers see what you’re doing, and you see their progress. Coordination takes place between disciplines just as easily as it does between colleagues in the same office. One engineer on the project isn’t running duct work through structural steel. No one is inadvertently working from old room specifications because they missed an email. Coordination takes place in real time—not at weekly or monthly coordination meetings. And the coordination meetings you do hold are about optimizing the design, not about listing days of rework for everyone.
BIM raises the whole team’s game, and you may find that many of the consultants you work with are ready to join your connected, model-based workflow. You may also find that BIM works especially well on projects that demand close teamwork, such as design/build projects. As Strahan Forgan, director of digital design and an architect at Sasaki Associates, says, “BIM helps to enable the close collaboration and insight that can make all the difference on design/build projects.”
Get on board
BIM takes your projects where they need to go faster, more efficiently, and more profitably. It’s like transferring from a local train to the express. Or like ditching a fax machine for email or cloud-based sharing. The difference shows. How much?
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The ultimate resource to guide you through growing your firm, this handbook details how implementing BIM in architecture practices can help you grow profitability, win work, work better, and keep your clients happy.
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