Why BIM is not a piece of software

Contrary to some claims from software manufacturers, you can’t go out and buy BIM; it’s not a one-stop solution that you take home and start using.

In truth, BIM applications (such as Revit and Vectorworks Architect) are only one part of the BIM workflow, and a single piece of software won’t allow for intelligent design and automatic updates where changes are made.

A conference event I attended in 2010 helped explain what BIM really is. Speakers such as Richard Saxon from RIBA, Tim Broyd from ICE and, of course, Paul Morrell (the Government’s Chief Construction Adviser) all expanded on BIM being more about collaborative working throughout the lifespan of the building, underlining that it is about an entire workflow and requires the adoption of a different philosophy.

The role of software in BIM

It should be pointed out that software does – understandably – play a role in BIM, but cultural change is more of a factor than financial investment. In the words of Paul Morrell, BIM is only “10 or 20% about technology – the rest is about cultural change.”

There are a number of BIM-friendly applications available including Autodesk Revit and Vectorworks Architect. If you consider switching from AutoCAD to Revit, there are obvious benefits. Once you’re up to speed, you’ll be able to perform energy analysis, instantaneous updates and enjoy limited requirements for line arcs and circles. Revit also gives you the power to run reports on all of the components, which can then be used to help forecast project costs. Admittedly the switch isn’t an instantaneous one – some training will be required – but, ultimately, you benefit from BIM-friendly features that you won’t find on AutoCAD.

When it comes to Vectorworks, a lot of users don’t seem to be aware that they’ve already got a very good solution at their disposal. Personally, I struggle to understand the reasoning behind switching from Vectorworks to Revit (unless, of course, the client specifically requests it). Vectorworks is capable of instantaneous updates and report running and you can unlock its full capabilities with only a day or two of training, a much cheaper and less time-demanding solution than switching software. At the moment, the built-in energy analysis tools are fairly limited. However, plenty of third-party software is available and capable of doing this better than Revit anyway.

We’re in the process of putting Vectorworks and Revit 2012 through their paces so expect more in-depth analysis soon.

Collaborative Working

Now I’ve said that, I imagine a few of youare thinking “how does that constitute collaborative working if we’re all using different bits of software?” Well, in an ideal world, everyone involved in a project would use the same application. However, everyone has their own preference and the fact that someone uses Vectorworks, and someone else uses Revit (or MicroStation, ArchiCAD, etc) doesn’t matter – so long as all the information is imported and exported in the same file format.

Navisworks Manage 2012 Box

Enter Navisworks. Autodesk’s excellent project management software allows you to take collaboration a step further. It essentially acts as a central repository for everyone’s models, information and documentation, creating a complete model so you can thoroughly analyse the complete building. Navisworks supports a whole host of file types, including Excel, DWF and FBX, so you can import your working schedule and create an animation timeline of the work actually occurring.

Roundtable discussions and cultural change

Paul Morrell Mugshot

The importance of software in BIM was recently discussed in more detail at a roundtable discussion hosted by NBS. If you’ve got the time to set aside a few hours to watch the videos, you can find them here, but I’ll try to summarise the main points for you.

So far, a lot of people have only concentrated on the modelling aspect of BIM, Paul Morrell is keen to point out that the real key to BIM is the ‘I’ at its heart: Information. BIM draws together all the information about a building: its design, construction, maintenance and composition, enabling the efficient and ongoing management of a project. Morrell has previously underlined the fact that BIM is more to do with cultural changes across the entire industry than anything else. This news should come as a relief to small architectural practices which have been holding back in the belief that they can’t afford BIM software, when in fact what they need to do (adopt these cultural changes) is relatively cheap and easy.

In short, BIM requires everyone to have the same way of thinking and working, but not necessarily the same software.

We can help with every aspect of your BIM workflow, from hardware and render farms, to software licences, consultation and ongoing support. Get in touch with us for more information about adapting to a new BIM workflow, or to enquire about the capabilities of Navisworks and other BIM-friendly software, call us on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com.

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