Canadian Consulting Engineer

True Tales of BIM

February 1, 2012
By By Jay Polding and Bill Wright

What is more important, tools or the people who use them? The answer may be obvious but it is not always applied. BIM (building information modeling) is more than just a new software tool, it is a process. A proper BIM implementation focuses on...

What is more important, tools or the people who use them? The answer may be obvious but it is not always applied. BIM (building information modeling) is more than just a new software tool, it is a process. A proper BIM implementation focuses on the people and the process first, and on the tools last.

The Importance of People

First, the client needs to know what is “on the menu.” Clients may think, for example, that because you are using BIM on their project you will be able to automatically provide the price of their building at a moment’s notice. Although it is possible to do that with BIM, it may take your firm more time and energy to provide the information. Would the client like to pay for this option ‘à la carte’? It’s up to you to define what other services you provide.

Second, upper management and project managers in consulting firms need to make it clear that they are committed to the new process. The comments that I have heard from sources make this clear, as follows:

Quote: “The upper levels of the firm should be entirely committed to adopting the software and a new approach to work and project management. Even if the partners have all bought in, it is very difficult for the ‘seasoned’ CAD project managers to accept the change to BIM. There are firms that have removed AutoCAD from workstations and forced people to swim. I’m starting to think that in some situations this is a good option.”

BIM Manager

Large Architectural Firm

Quote: “One of the biggest challenges today seems to be the disconnect between upper management’s desire to implement BIM and the project manager/engineer who has used CAD for many years and doesn’t see the need to change. The project manager is used to working from a pool of standard CAD details and staff who are familiar with the CAD workflow. In some cases Revit is being forced to behave and look like AutoCAD for the sake of familiarity. This method should be avoided at all cost because of the problems it can cause when revisions come.

Problems can be mitigated by making sure the right people are involved in the transition to BIM and by having them properly trained. This small advance team should then carry a project or two to completion. They will be able to show others in the firm just how effective BIM can be. The advance team should also make the office templates and share their knowledge.”

Senior Structural Designer

Large Engineering Firm

Not Just Young People

Some managers wrongly assume that young people are the best candidates for the BIM team. But a desire to learn is the main criteria. If someone really wants to be a part of the BIM team, they are a good candidate.

The second criteria is experience. Does the person understand how a building goes together? This can be taught to those who have a desire to learn.

The BIM process requires that drafters, for example, learn not only the software but also more about the buildings they are detailing. Because they are ‘modeling’ and not ‘drawing’ there will be many opportunities to learn about the building process. They may ask “Why am I placing this beam here?” Or, “When I place this duct here, it sticks into that beam. Is that a problem?”

Quote: “Apprenticeship for Revit is key to making new users understand procedures and protocols quicker. By apprenticeship I mean that any Revit job should always have an experienced person or at least a non-beginner on the team. Every so often you do come across the new user who in a very short time becomes a master with Revit. When you do get individuals like this they should be encouraged and used to their full potential. Loading or stacking a team with inexperienced Revit users is not only detrimental to the project, but also to the team itself.”

BIM Manager

Large Architectural Firm

Working with Other Consultants

Open communication is key to working with other consultants. Each discipline has their own model and the models are linked together. The main question is “Who is modeling what?” This is tough to answer once the fees and contracts have been defined, so it is critical to clarify these issues early on in the project.

For example, an architect may model exposed trusses to indicate design intent to the client. Once that part of the building is more certain, the structural engineer may now build his own trusses in his model, using the architect’s model as a background. The technology allows for the various redundant objects to be filtered out.

Other issues are arising because companies in the construction industry are not all embracing BIM at the same rate.

Quote: “We are using BIM on other projects but not necessarily because we have been asked to by our clients or architects. For the most part we continue to use it as a drawing/coordination tool in developing 3D mechanical rooms or similar rooms that may require extensive mechanical detail and coordination. Unfortunately we have not been able to take the next step and use the design capabilities on projects … mainly because we need other disciplines to be involved also. Architects, structural, and electrical engineers all have to be on board for us to take advantage of the design functions.

We have seen contractors using BIM as a coordination tool. They develop coordination drawings without our input. In some cases we do the project in CAD and they redraw it in Revit.

We believe we will eventually get a project that will be done utilizing the full potential of BIM and it will more than likely be a large project.”

BIM Manager

Large Mechanical Firm

Your Company First

“Thinking about your company first” means focusing on the ways BIM can make you more profitable. And you will be profitable if you avoid promising too much, too early. Pick a good team, focus on your deliverables and don’t worry about getting everything out of BIM right away.

This may mean that someone else in the wider BIM team is disappointed. For example, a contractor may want you to model every piece of steel angle for coordination but you decide that a 2D detail is better. You should always be on the lookout for streamlining your internal workflow and expanding your services. It might mean altering the way you model in Revit so that you can link into a structural analysis software or other process enhancements. The key is to take basic steps and keep building on them with each project. And remember the fundamental rule: the model is king. If the model is accurate, the drawings will be accurate and the building will be accurate. cce

Jay Polding is a Certified Revit Implementation Specialist and Bill Wright is a Certified Revit MEP Implementation Specialist, both with SolidCAD in Toronto.

Tips for Implementing

Managers need
to commit to the
BIM process

Hand pick
and train a
small team

early and
often with the
design team

Get help with implementation

The model is king


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