Participate in the BIM Conversation

One thing we hear a lot from designers is something along the lines of: “Why should we use Revit?  We’re a design-focused firm, and we like our current methods; they’re not perfect but they work.”  It’s another version of the “devil you know” argument.  A key headache for a long time in computer-aided design has been the switch from Free-thinking & Flexibility to Lockdown & Documentation.  There are many different programs of choice that offer the ability to create swoopy forms, export beautiful atmospheric renderings and respond well to the designer’s need to tweak to his/her heart’s content.

And then, much to some poor intern’s chagrin, it’s time to create real plans, elevations and sections.  Anyone who has spent any time doing this knows that translating from a modelling program to CAD can be a new, lower circle of hell.  And the management usually understands that the process takes some production muscle and late nights, but usually with just a dim understanding of why, and to some the transition process may appear to go something like this:  

Everyone knows that process is clearly flawed, but it’s a known quantity; making the switch to BIM is unknown territory, or worse, it has been attempted before at a large cost and was marginally or not-at-all successful.

Sticking with an imperfect but familiar process may get the job done, but there is a real loss in translation, and that is the loss of the 3rd dimension.  Your work is reduced to slices of just those areas that you have deemed important enough to translate into a construction detail.  And if you are collaborating with other team members and providing backgrounds, you could be further reducing your project to others’ interpretation of what areas are important enough to necessitate a construction detail.

This can be especially problematic if you are not in direct control of the conversations with clients and contractors, who are increasingly fluent in, and proponents of, BIM.  The value you’ve developed in your process from the design phase of the job is taking hits from decisions being made by others for coordination or cost reasons because that value is either not represented, or it’s not clear that those decisions have consequences that detract from the value.

If you’re not a part of that conversation, participating in a well-run BIM process puts you in that conversation.  The more of your own critical elements you can be responsible for and monitor, the better and sooner you can defend them from conflicting forces.  A virtual building process brings that conversation that used to happen while standing on a job site with a concrete truck waiting to pour, to a conference room, or better yet to an email nine months earlier saying, “Hey, can we do/not do this?”

This is why it's been worth the battle to transition to BIM, but that battle has been fought and learned from many times, and is getting easier to overcome every day.  If you're fighting this battle, or are afraid to start, comment here or send us a message and let us know your thoughts!