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BIM, Future and Directions

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I've been surfing quite a lot these days. First I run accidently into a interview that has been given by Sean Flaherty in june (in architosh)about VW desire for the future to stay more on the "design-side of the BIM equation" while Allplan would be more developping the "construction BIM technology". I felt a litle worried by this dichotomization of the job... Then I found some past topics that interested me quite a lot; especially in relation with all the post on VW12 and live sections.

One of the topic was posted by G?rard Siero in april this year and intitled "Architects = visual people need visual tools + training"...

I found it very interesting for Gerard Comments but also for other people add in about the future direction of VW and various consideration on BIM being a hype... I personnaly find it a very powerfull concept and read NNA white paper on this with interest. I would like to read your comments on this, together as you view on the future perspective of VW.

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The biggest hurdle (I think) to BIM is that for it to be effective all participants in the project must use the same system. In the MCAD sector (which I am most familiar with) the idea of a single "master model" driving all functionality has been around for a long time. Most aircraft and cars are designed using this model these days from the large manufacturers. The enterprise MCAD systems like CATIA dominate this sector, and suppliers working with such companies must suppliy and recieve data in this native format (in fact Airbus have a CATIA purchase deal with Dassault for suppliers giving hugely discounted purchase prices).

Its a great idea but I think for construction that is all it will remain - a great idea, except perhaps on the largest of projects where there are budgets and good reasons for having this functionality in place.

VectorWorks is no where near the BIM ideal at the present time - there are still a lot of manual non parametric steps to be taken to get production drawings out to satisfy everybody.

Its a question of balancing efficiency for profit and efficiency for being state of the art. Personally I'd opt for the profit. Whats the sense in spending 2 days modelling up a building when you could have combined modelling with 2D drafting to get results in 1 day?

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That would be good as well...like .dwg you mean :-)

Taking my experience in the MCAD sector, no, I don't think this will happen unless companies are legally forced to provide it. How long will it be until we get law cases where the developer sues the contractor who sues the design team who sues the software developer for not providing an open communication network?

Dassault are developing an "open" 3D XML based format but I suspect this will work very well with CATIA and SolidWorks and not much else.

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Originally posted by KQ:

VectorWorks is no where near the BIM ideal at the present time - there are still a lot of manual non parametric steps to be taken to get production drawings out to satisfy everybody.

Its a question of balancing efficiency for profit and efficiency for being state of the art. Personally I'd opt for the profit. Whats the sense in spending 2 days modelling up a building when you could have combined modelling with 2D drafting to get results in 1 day?

Hmm yeah... I somehow spent sometime modeling a site with alarge building on top af it last summer. It took quite a lot of time, but then it was very useful to generate tons of section throught the site. Trouble is that it is ok for that scale of detailing (mass approach of the site). you then indeed have to combine with 2D drafting...

Also BIM is a very elastic terms right now... I just try to read more to see what has/can be achieved in our field... Also wondered why Sean Flaherty's interview splited the BIM concept into 2 directions, one for VW and the other for Allplan...

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I might be wrong, but I think it has something to do with the fact that Nemetschek North America (formerly Diehl Graphsoft) the makers of VectorWorks (NNA) are owned by Nemetschek (in Germany) (N). NNA is part of (but certainly not all of) N. NNA makes VW's and N makes Allplan. If you go to their respective websites you can verify... ;-)

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My intention with those comments in Architosh was to reflect the fact that VectorWorks remains a design-phase application. Construction management and post-construction management are very different disciplines which fall only peripherally on our future path. In fact, most of the really futuristic BIM stuff you see is mostly design phase. I still hear from architects and design/build firms plenty of wishes that make me think nobody has "solved" the design needs yet so we'll keep heading in that direction. This does include more and more detailed information about the construction technique inside VectorWorks, but not the construction process itself.

Real-estate management, construction phasing, defect management, these are all interesting areas we rely on other applications to solve. Maybe further down the road, these will be an expected part of design applications and we may need to reconsider this. I'd be interested to hear your comments. We always walk a fine line with VectorWorks to keep adding power without overwhelming you with complexity.

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Originally posted by Sean Flaherty:

My intention with those comments in Architosh was to reflect the fact that VectorWorks remains a design-phase application. [...construction ]fall only peripherally on our future path. [...] This does include more and more detailed information about the construction technique inside VectorWorks, but not the construction process itself.

I'm also looking at the problem from a Design AND Building point of view. It is very important to be able to design freely and efficiently but also to be able to conduct the phase after.

To be more exemplative. if we take the project I mentionned before (50 accommodations). VW helped a lot to generate the "concept"; visualize it, confirm some precise point etc... All the BIM like fonctions were very usefull till the introduction of the plans for the authorisation (a set of 15 A0 with mass implantation, plans, section at scale 1/100).

Now that we've entered the "pre call for tendered" phase, pushing the concept further and designing the "constructive" aspect : how the window are (hidden behind the wall), plugged in windows and doors are a litte uneasy to manipulate as our design is not classic (can't easily get them the way we wan't them). So we dropped de "BIM" thing that doesn't not work to well from now on. and started to draw thing entiraly "manually", splitting the files in 2 categories : 3D rendering and objects and 2D detailing.

I have no complains, that's basically what we were doing with other softs before we started with VW.

But when it comes to future perspectives I'm dreaming of a software that could carry on further after the "design" phase. I haven't tried them yet but I'm eager to test how easy/flexible the new windows are in VW12. We need a program that helps us continue to design things and "invent" details as freely as the overall shape of the building.

We do put a lot of strength and effort in the design in our office (more than most we know) but it still represent a very short period in the whole process (let's say for a project like this one that'll last probably 3 years in total, it represents 6 months - a lot more then what others companies do)... So if VW decides to specialise mostly on the design phase, would I need another soft for the rest of the 30 monthes process of my project... I'd rather not. Other people go directly for the option of splitting the desing/building phase and start with Sketch-up for the design and then switch to Allplan or Autocad or Microstation... I like the idea of a unique soft from start to end...

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The huge problem I see with the Model-direct-to detail drawing wish is the massive number af variations that would need to be accomodated.

Take for example a simple Window Sill to Wall detail;

To be able to directly extract a Construction Documentation Section Drg would mean having the Window model to be an acurate representation of the specific manufacturers window.

That would mean a huge library/plug-in written specifically for each region the product is sold. (imagine the plug-in parameters to be entered)

Further, the wall model would need to be able to take into account all the possible variations of flashing, sill styles, wall constructions etc that are used in each region.

Here in Australia the stock windows that are available in the south of the country are not necessarily available in the North.

Accomodating such variations would be a nightmare

Of course any Custom windows or "non-standard" construction methods could not possibly be accomodated by the model, and the construction details would still have to be hand drawn.

It seems to me that extracting construction details directly from the model could only be practical for highly conventional stock construction; and even then would be unwieldy to use (notwithstanding the huge effort to write)

just my 2c

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"...what would you like to see coming out of VectorWorks that you don't currently?"

Hello. Thanks for asking.

I think we'll have to wait sompe long monthes for '12' here in Belgium. Anyway, what is described in the pdf flyer seems very exciting.

From my point of view, it would be interesting to allow us to open more than one 'instance' of the design space for a same project, maybe in the same way as sheet tabs in excel. So switching from a viewport where you control your plans, details,.. to tabs with predefined views of the project would allow you to quickly modify things.

Maybe a control-command click on a tab would open it as a standalone window.

And/or : opening different files in tabs + viewports where views from different files would be allowed.

Just suggestions. Please don't take this for blind criticism and sorry for my limited english.

All the best.


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The various comments demonstrate the conundrum of BIM. There is no consensus on what it is and what it should be. We each have different needs and a different view on what it should be.

In the Architosh interview Sean articulated a view of there being two types of BIM - Design BIM and Construction BIM, with VW being in the Design BIM category.


I think Design BIM is where VW rightly belongs. In my view it needs to remain a flexible, adaptable easily used program. I fear that embracing Construction BIM would require a much more rigid approach, and thus diminish these characteristics.

Allplan is there for those who want Construction BIM, and it would be pointless to try and replicate its capabilities with VW.

[ 10-25-2005, 09:08 PM: Message edited by: mike m oz ]

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Originally posted by mike m oz:

Allplan is there for those who want Construction BIM, and it would be pointless to try and replicate its capabilities with VW.

Do you mean that VW is best for design BIM and Allplan (I don't know it at all) is best for construction ? So we start with VW and switch to Allplan? Or do you suggest that if one has to go in construction one'd better go to Allplan directly (as it does it all)?

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It doesn't take a genius to work out that in the longer term Nemetschek might/will build a bridge between the two applications in its camp - VectorWorks and Allplan. I'm not familiar with Allplan but from what I have seen it is like a souped up Archicad.

If the bridge can be effectively implemented there is a route to growth through VW. VW being used for the design phase, moving onto Allplan for the construction and beyond.

Having said all that I think that scenario only applies in certain sectors. There are plenty of sub 100 employee architects out there working on profitable jobs using "just" VW, producing all the construction drawings, schedules and details in that one package.

I think until the exact definition of BIM is agreed in the industry - and its actual benefits are seen - this is all academic talk to some extent.

Whatever happens the ability of the architect/technician/engineer/contractor to use the software and understand it will dictate how far these ideals are implemented in practise.

Even now how many who have architect actually use it the way it is intended? The challenge for VW/Allplan and the rest is to make the software easy to use for the average deadline pressed user - not the CAD savvy experimenters. Faced with the task of getting drawings out for a meeting are you going to tell your boss "sorry, I didn't get it done because I was trying out the new 3d modelling options to get a few sections"?

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The problem is that VW is getting caught between two camps. It is neither a simple and quick design tool nor an industry standard construction tool - we have Sketchup and AutoCAD for that. Can it do both jobs? I like to think so as that is why I got it. I do not want it to be just a design tool nor just a construction tool.

Maybe there should be VW design and VW Construct and VW Both?

Maybe more manufactures should be persuaded to do product plug ins?

I do not know what the solution is, but for me I want the best of both worlds at an affordable price - the impossible!

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I'm not sure if you answered your own question, Michael, but if you're asking if VW can do both, I would have to say yes.

Actually as a conceptual modeller, Sketchup may be a better tool but once you put accuracy into the equation, I would still recommend that you use VW --- even at the schematic stage of the project. I do a lot of visualization services for other architects and I use both software in my work. But from my own experience, I've rarely found the need in doing any modelling in Sketchup. I simply find it easier and faster doing it in VW. My typical workflow for one client usually involves the following:

1) do the initial model in VW

2) export the model to Sketchup

3) email the sketchup model to client to finalize the camera view/s

4) develop the model in VW and render in Cinema 4D.

So as you can see, I can make do without steps 2 and 3 in most of my other rendering jobs. Take note as well that this architect client owns a copy of Sketchup but still couldn't use it to model his own design. Go figure.


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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

I'll echo Sean here. Architects currently deliver a set of drawings that represent the building in situ ; in other words, all architectural drawings represent the intended result of construction, not the construction process, sequence, or method itself. At least in the United States, the construction process or sequence has been the legal province of the contractor, and the architectural drawings (even the "final CDs") are indicative of a final building concept. For more information on this topic as represented by the AIA, see this AIA webpage.

Now let's think about a very specific example, that of shop drawings. Shop drawings are typically prepared by the contractor or sub-contractor or supplier and translate the in situ drawings of the architect into detailed assembly drawings. I'll never forget my days as an intern architect when I did CDs for a very simple smallish suburban two-story spec commercial center (office above, retail below). My boss asked that I review the steel shop drawings, and the set of drawings was twice the sheet count of my construction set! It was quite a lesson in understanding exactly how a building goes together.

I cite this little steel detailing anecdote as just one example of "construction BIM modeling" that architects do not customarily do, but that would fall under the "construction BIM" category.

If, in the future and because of BIM, architects are expected to do shop drawings, let's hope they can find a way to increase their fees to cover the additional work they take on that used to be part of the contractor's scope.

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In much the same way that for engineering and product designers we may generate a 3D master model assembly of a product that we give to toolmakers and analysts to generate tooling models and drawings, or analysis reports....

I don't see architects ever having to produce shop drawings...in the same way that product designers (either in house or consultancy based) ever have to produce tooling drawings (except in very small companies!).

The BIM ideal just provides a communication device to the contractor from the designer, and it is then open to negotiation to see what can and cannot be achieved in reality! Who then changes the BIM to reflect the "as built condition" is the real question!

Again, taking parallels with engineering and product design, the manufacturer of the product will usually be asked to make these changes to the model and to return these changes as data to the designer/specifier for archive. How much actual intelligence remains in the model at this stage depends entirely on the level of integration between the team members. if they all use the same system, it is easy. If they are all on different systems, the final master model may well be a dumb solid or surface model.

For construction BIM I think to have any relevance the same system has to be used.

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I think maybe the term "design phase" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone here. For me, this phase isn't just conceptual design but continues all the way through delivery of construction documents. Your wishes for more detail about how the building is put together structurally would be included in a design-phase application.

When I talk about construction BIM, I mean the phase of the project that includes construction sequencing, change and defect management, progress information to stake-holders, etc. My general feeling is that we're better off partnering to solve these needs rather than building them into VectorWorks itself. This is definitely a fast-moving change in the industry, however, so we're still considering how to best move forward here.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

MJW, do you do shop drawings as a matter of course in your practice? This is what I meant by "construction drawings" (and what is meant by that in the AIA article, if you were looking at that). If you want to describe a difference between "design" drawings (as they are defined in the US) and "construction" drawings, design drawings are representing the building in situ, and construction drawings represent the building or its parts individually. Although there are other examples, the steel shop drawings are the best one I can think of.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

As a quick follow up, I guess what I was trying to say is that I don't believe the architectural professions (in terms of their work product) are so different between the US and EU, with the exceptions of tendering. Architects more-or-less routinely do tendering in EU, and although it is listed as an optional service in the US ("Detailed Cost Estimation") it is not a part of standard services.

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Originally posted by michael john williams:

Interesting that Contractors do all the construction drawings in the US


Originally posted by michael john williams:

here in the UK we certainly do most of the construction drawings.

It seems to me that the first obstacle to overcome in this debate is terminology; we need to agree on what certain words mean. I don't think this is currently the case, as Michael's comments above appear to convey. (I would even go so far as to suggest that Nemetschek sponsor a website dedicated to forming such a consensus).

On the other hand I don't think Nemetschek would be right to draw a rigid line between concept-construction data and actual construction data.

Robert, I don't know about the U.S. but certainly in the UK and NZ architects drawings are not only used to produce more detailed construction data but they are also used on site by site managers and builders to build from.

In the link you provide, it says, "[architects] documents do not contain sufficient information to construct the project, and much more information is required before the work can be done."

This may often be the case but it's an oversimplification in many cases, and in some circumstances even incorrect. For instance, in the case of a light timber frame building in New Zealand, the architect produces a set of drawings that may well be the only construction data ever produced, especially if the builder is an experienced one. (Such drawings are produced with the aid of a national standard for light timber frame construction.) The main point I'm making is that there is some crossover between concept-construction data and actual-construction data and Vectorworks needs to reflect this.

The other issue here is that the drawings architects produce aren't only for conveying information to a building contractor. There's also building regulators, planners, clients, etc. to convey information to, and especially in the case of building regulators we need to convey detailed information about a building that Vectorworks currently only allows us to do by drawing things in 2D (insulation in cavity walls on a live section-produced viewport for instance).

The number one thing that makes my job as a draftperson easier, faster and more satisfying is the ability to create a building without having to resort to drawing board techniques such as 2D line drawings. I think this should be the test that Nemetchek always adher to. Of course the challenge is to ensure that this doesn't become more cumbersome than 2D line drawing.

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