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So where are we at with BIM in v2009?

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I went to a seminar on BIM at Ecobuild in London today. It was quite good and it's the first time I've come away from such a talk with a feeling of inevitability about BIM and its potential.

Noticeably absent from Adrian Dobson's presentation (Director of Practice at RIBA), when he mentioned a list BIM vendors, was NNA. Maybe the guy is a Windows fascist and VW doesn't enter his radar but it got me wondering where we're at with VW and BIM?

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Good question. I've always thought BIM was an inevitability. Not to pretend I have second sight or something, but it always seemed to me, a couple decades or so ago when I started in this business, that what we now call BIM is and should be what/how we design anyway. Or at the very least, it was the way that I looked at buildings as I was creating them (I came to architecture from the construction side, as a carpenter in my younger days).

Buildings are systems, I've always thought. Not unlike the amalgam of chemicals that is a human body. Everything depends upon everything else to function correctly. It's never just four walls, a roof and some strong feet. Because of this inexorable systemic nature of buildings, why shouldn't we be thinking that way in our drawing? Always three dimensional and always as a system, a collection of parts not only as discrete and individual objects but as they work with each other, serving and benefiting the very existence of the structure.

I think the direction we're going is exciting. Not only has BIM software increased my capability as an architect, it has broadened my understanding of how buildings are shaped and can be constructed. I've always thought that an interesting add-in to BIM software would be some way of actualising loads?being able to assign actual load values to the objects we are creating. Something measurable. Maybe I'm being fantastical here, but perhaps even having beam objects respond visually (deflect, shear, etc) when loads are placed upon them.

Ultimately I question whether the concept of BIM is getting spread throughout the industry enough. While the "movers" of the technology can certainly think up systems and workflows that make sense, and further, come up with interesting new ways of thinking about information architecture as a component of BIM, implementing them in the field is always the challenge. That is certainly an area that I am watching with interest. I work closely with the build team of my company and often get my lead carpenters to participate in the drawing process. This has helped them all immensely in understanding the projects we are working on.

With the BIM software "ice" broken, the possibilities seems endless to me. And that's very exciting.

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VW is a BIM tool, but not BIM in and of itself. Our competitors would like you to believe that they ARE BIM, but such is hubris. As time goes on, our feature set and interoperability (I mean true interoperability, not just one family product to another) will grow and improve.

The penetration of BIM in the global building industry really depends on the business practices, building knowledge, and associative technology trickling down through the strata of all the entities that participate in the design, construction/fabrication, occupation/ownership, and management of projects. The push for the implementation of BIM has come from Owner/Operators, Architects, and Technology Vendors. And it has tended to be focused on very large, relatively complex projects. As the rest of the industry becomes more educated about what BIM is, isn't, and could be, then the value case is easier to make to all participants for all project, no matter the size, type, or complexity.

I am excited by the possibilities, also. At the same time, I am always frustrated by the resistance I see in many places and many parts of the industry to such a radical change in the way buildings are conceived, built, and occupied.

Mr. Dobson apparently needs some more information to broaden his knowledge and understanding of Vectorworks and how it works as a BIM tool. I'll see what we can do.

Thanks for the lead, Christiaan.

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Charlie, I've always thought this was coming to the industry too. What I meant by inevitable in the above post was that it's the first time I've felt it inevitable for our office, which is largely involved in Design & Build contracts and social housing.

One of the epiphanies for me was the news that a major contractor reported a 10% saving when using BIM because so much of the risk is removed from the contract. You can't compete with those kinds of savings.

There are still many things to come together (not in the least vendor interoperability) but the window is certainly closing quicker than I initially thought.

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Yes, savings are good. We're seeing similar cost reductions with our so-far limited implementation of BIM concepts. Certainly our use of VW, which I just now feel I am much more fluent (bowing respectfully to the learning hill climbed so far) has improved our ability to design carefully, with fewer errors due to "in-the-field generated solutions" ;-). Finally buying a plotter reduced our costs even more.

That conference looks to have been interesting?some seminars I should have enjoyed participating.

I wonder, how much LEED and "green build" talk was bandied about the halls and coffeetalk between seminars? It seems here that those concepts are exciting, go hand-in-hand with BIM implementation, but taking a while for larger contractors to implement. Smaller firms like ours can do it more easily?our clients certainly re amenable to it. I just wonder how larger entities are following suit.

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It seems here that those concepts are exciting, go hand-in-hand with BIM implementation, but taking a while for larger contractors to implement. Smaller firms like ours can do it more easily

From my understanding it's the other way round here in UK. Are you talking about real BIM with one shared model between engineers and architects?

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Christiaan, how was the traffic on the road to Damascus?

This Mr. Ten Per Cent ? was he a contractor or a developer? In a fully implemented BIM-process there should ? at least in complex projects ? be a possibility for even bigger savings. These may or may not affect the total project cost, but should always have ramifications in life-cycle costs.

Not that space planning and cost planning would be anything new, but BIM techniques and process enable much better means for these. A needs & requirements model can be used to test the space program and space program to test the design of the day. The cost plan is maintained throughout the project and corrective measures can be applied earlier than in the conventional process. (When 20% of fees have been spent, 80% of total costs have typically been fixed.)

Let's assume that the design solution is such that construction costs are lower than expected. The client can either pocket the money or get a better and/or larger facility. In the opposite situation, the requirements may need to be critically reviewed and the design reworked at concept level, instead of these desperate and meaningless cost cutting exercises after receiving the tenders.

So, risks and uncertainty are reduced at all stages of the project. This benefits everyone ? and the architect should gain more control over the project.

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Yes, one shared model. For example, when I initially developed the relationship with the engineer I use regularly now, we immediately were able to discuss projects using the same model. I was able to send him all my data, which he incorporated and was able to use immediately. What used to take a couple of weeks for the engineer to study all the drawings and get a real understanding of the building, we were able to do together in a few days.

My comment had more to do with the levels of mid-management inherent in larger contractor firms, and to a degree the desire for individuals to nurse their individual relationships. Larger firms generally have systems, preferred suppliers and supply contracts already in place that, in my experience, tend to govern the choices they make in the build process, which ultimately ends up affecting the design process, as well. Perhaps echoing panta's comment a bit, if I, as an informed architect with build experience under my belt, can identify design solutions that have additional cost benefits, then I'd prefer to implement them, rather than altering my design to accommodate the "Costco" model of only designing around what is in a contractor's existent inventory or supply chain. This ultimately can save money for my client, or allows us to design with higher-quality materials or even a "bigger/better" design, if that's what's called for. Notwithstanding the economic benefits of supplier relationships and using those when appropriate, I'd rather see the building and design possibilities define the choices, rather than the other way round.

Ultimately, I see BIM as a crucial aspect of addressing this all-to-familiar challenge in design & build (or AEC as an an industry, for that matter). If we're all working from the same model, with the same idea in mind, then hopefully all the related disciplines can be addressing the same challenges together, rather than each working on their own and spending more money on overlapping concerns.

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Thanks Charlie, so what application does your engineer use?

What sort of Class structure are you using? How are you dealing with issues of liability when you're both working on the same model? And copyright for that matter.

And, presumably (for now at least, without a BIM web server) you pass the model between yourselves and can't work on it until you receive it back? Or are you on a local area network?

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He uses AutoCAD primarily, but recently bought a seat of VW for his office, because he was trying to "keep things moving". It's an interesting story, actually. He's a young-at-heart visionary trapped in an old-school engineer's body. It's a perfect combination, really. Anyway, he was fooling around on the Internet one day quite a while ago, discovered Sketchup and downloaded a copy, thinking it'd be a cool thing for his son to play with. That evening after supper, his boy was drawing away with it, and he comes in to have a look. He says he sat down, saw what his son had done in an hour or so and immediately went back to his computer, loaded Sketchup and apparently didn't get to sleep until about 2.30 in the morning!

But that got him basically seeded into the concept of 3D building design as, being an AutoCAD-using engineer, he'd always thought about drawings in 2D and only dreamed and imagined in 3D, never having the opportunity to see what happened until whatever was built. He'd heard about VW after using ArchiCAD, but he liked VW a bit better, and the cost was more reasonable for him at the time. That's got his office on a better track to BIM, and we are as well, so in a way, we're learning BIM implementation from each other.

So now I just give him my VW files by posting them to an FTP server I have and we both have a copy of Dreamweaver (web design software), which has a rudimentary CVS (software design version control) system built into the FTP module, so we post the files with that and with the telephone or email, we manage to control changes to the most recent version. I'd actually like to set up a VPN/MAN with his office, so we can share a server and incorporate a real CVS system so we can eliminate the FTP thing. Later...later...

Liability is actually something we've discussed at great length. We have an agreement that structural elements are his responsibility, and we both prefer it that way. Fortunately, I do have a good sense of structural design as it is, and I always defer to him for anything I don't understand or feel is outside of my ability. But if I read you correctly, I think you're referring to liability with changing the file. We use our hacked little CVS system to avoid those troubles.

None of our methods are by any means elegant. But they're simple, using tools we already had on our machines, and it's working without any major glitches. I'm constantly amazed at how far we've come with networking and computing, and how truly simple things can be. Where there's a will, there's a way, right?

Classing is another thing entirely. He uses ISO, and I've been simply using the Arch system that is the default in VW. While that is easy to read, I actually prefer the ISO classing system. I've already set up my accounting to use the CSI Masterformat, and we've been implementing that in our project binders also since the start of the year. It's a change that isn't without some grumbling, but we feel it's more universal. In a perfect world, we'd get this country to start using the metric system too, but that's a whole other argument, and a whole army that will tell me to go jump off a metric cliff! ;-)

How about you? Do you employ similar systems?

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Ah, so he uses Vectorworks! I wondered how you were managing so smoothly.

Yes BIMserver does look interesting. Interoperability seems to be the main bottle neck for us all at this point.

With regard to Classes we're using Uniclass (which is based on ISO 13567). And we've steered clear of BIM so far. Having tried it in house on one project one of the main stumbling blocks was actually the difficulty and workarounds needed when modelling the kinds of constructions we do in 3D. Which are not complex constructions. They're just not houses, which Vectorworks' dynamic tools generally assume you're constructing. Rather they're multi-storey blocks of flats.

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With regard to Classes we're using Uniclass (which is based on ISO 13567). And we've steered clear of BIM so far. Having tried it in house on one project one of the main stumbling blocks was actually the difficulty and workarounds needed when modelling the kinds of constructions we do in 3D. Which are not complex constructions. They're just not houses, which Vectorworks' dynamic tools generally assume you're constructing. Rather they're multi-storey blocks of flats.

I've had to (or need to) create replacements for practically every NNA tool, in addition to creating the ones entirely missing! Door, window, floor, beam, column, ceiling, space ? even tiling. Precast sandwich elements and stairs are on the to-do list.

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Hmm, will there ever really be a monoCADism? That'd be nice.

I definitely hear what you you're saying Petri about the tools in VW. Some drive me bonkers. I did use ArchiCAD briefly for a bit, and it was interesting. At least the tools seemed intuitive. I will say this: in an attempt to build a BIM software that enhances workflow, NNA has certainly confounded me from time to time. I have a running list now of stuff that I feel is totally backwards, from a GUI and usability standpoint. I don't want to take this thread too far off-topic, but that's the real key, it seems. The tools we use to do our work should essentially be as invisible as possible, I think. That's a tie-in to the interoperability point as well. Adobe did a great thing with PostScript and its incorporation into the PDF format. We have DWG and DXF, but really, how interchangeable is it? Our industry could learn a lot from the Open Source geekdom.

We are on a very exciting jumpoff position with BIM right now, and I'd love to see it taken further, but also done sensibly. Why Microsoft-ify our work, cluttering it up with confusion? Certainly, Christiaan, I can see how projects of the type you are doing have their own set of complications without the software being confusing.

CADism. I just want to draw...

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IFC? Right! Well there's some work to be done still, but VW2009 seems already more capable then VW2008 (which I'm using at the moment, my boss doesn't want to upgrade due to the economic climate, but that's a different topic). Regarding BIM, it would be nice to have more samples at the Nemetschek homepage. Maybe a simple officebuilding or some kind. It would also be nice to have a tutorial like ArchiCAD (cough) has with it's Frank Lloyd Wright house! I think that is a good way to let people experience how it's like to make a BIM model. At the moment there aren't any tutorials or classes (at least not in the Netherlands) that teach you how to make such a model.

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I agree we need more BIM-related resources for our users. Robert and I are working on it. Mike P., Wes G., Luis R., and Eric G. are also hard at work on it. My efforts will be posted to the BIM in Practice web page and other forthcoming refreshed user resources in the not too distant future. Our collective efforts will grow and be made available when they are ready. Believe me when I say we want to get you more BIM information. But it seemed for a long time nobody wanted to listen and now everyone wants it yesterday....

Part of it, though, remains an issue of perception about BIM and VW.

When a user talks about BIM, are they talking about 3D? Data? Integrated models and linked drawings? aka "Desktop" BIM, "little bim"

Or are they talking about "true" BIM, aka Interoperability, "Big BIM"

If a VW user is using Architect and using it in a "best practice" way, they are already doing "desktop" BIM. VW-style. Parametric, semantic objects, model environment linked to the presentation environment, linked database schedules/reports. I feel like VW was ahead of its time, for a while, in many respects, but admittedly needs to catch up to the current pace of expectations, marketing, spin AND functionality.

As for "Big BIM", VW does have IFC exchange capability which does improve with each version and service pack release.

VW is a BIM tool, but not BIM itself... no single application or platform is.

But BIM, the "Big Picture", the whole picture, the future, is about using IFC exchange (and other open standard, open data formats) with other IFC capable applications for various workflows and functions (e.g. energy analysis, code analysis, collision detection), as part of necessary industry-wide changes to cooperative business practices, along with global standards of communication and data exchange.

In the meantime, there are the resources on the BIM in Practice web page (see the link in the VW Community Links Island, top right), that a user can download and begin to understand VW from a desktop BIM perspective. Over the next couple months I hope to finish updating the projects to VW2009 and maybe add one or two more, in the process.

This Board is also a good resource to ask questions about specific BIM issues. As I said, if it related to using VW Architect in its full capacity, then it is also a BIM issue.

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Jeff, I would love to see what you're talking about with "Big BIM", i.e.: interoperability. What direction VW would like to go with that. To be able to dynamically collaborate with colleagues would be a welcome feature, especially in my situation, where my engineer is using VW. It seems to me as though the trend is going there in other software industries. Open source, plug-in modular programming, etc. Not just that, but the ability to transfer data cleanly, be that via IFC or even Acad's DWG's, although because its text-based, IFC seems to be a better choice.

There certainly seems to be an aspect of modularity on VW's programming. But to include a simple CVS and networking interoperability would be wonderful.

PS: sent you the list, BTW. Did you get it?

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@Christiaan, it's called the BIM Experience kit. You can download it here: https://trialregistration.graphisoft.com/

@Jeffrey, good to hear you are working on it. There's one thing about this board that bothers me. You can't search for three letter words like "ifc" and "bim". As for the projects you mentioned, I downloaded them both but maybe a simpler office building would be nice as well. As for the "BIM" I want to use, it's would be a 3d data model, which will incorporate ifc elements from a structural engineer (from another company that works with Bentley). Also I want to be able to create all 2d drawings (floorplans, facades, sections) from the same 3d model. I hope this works out...

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