BIM’s Impact on Design

The current trend, especially for government projects, seems to be towards providing a BIM deliverable with your submittals. And so I ask a very fundamental question, what is BIM? Yes, I know its definition, Building Information Model, but what does it mean to create a BIM deliverable? Modern-day design platforms have instilled into our DNA that the word model = 3D. In both Revit and Civil 3D we “model” in 3D, and so the relationship is quickly formed. With that relationship in place, it’s very easy to conclude that BIM is simply the act of designing in 3D using one of these next-gen design platforms.

I hate to fall onto the now infamous saying from GEICO “It’s so easy a caveman could do it”, but I will. When fire was first discovered it quickly proved itself as a wonderful heat source. Now man stay warm on cold night. But after some time a novel discovery was made, using fire man could heat food. Just as fire changed the way we looked at food preparation, BIM has the same potential to change the way we look at design.

What do I mean by that? Well looking at BIM as just taking our designs from 2D to 3D is completely missing the boat. BIM is less about the model, and more about the process by which we created that model. The paradigm shift to create BIM is less about the way we draft, and more about the way we think, collaborate, and exchange ideas. And so we introduce another buzzword getting a lot of fan fare these days – Sustainable Design.

BIM isn’t about creating a 3D model for the sake of creating a 3D model. It’s about creating that 3D model, and using it throughout the project as a design aid. If I were to change the height of my windows, what effect might that have on HVAC loads? If I were to build a green roof, how might that help me save energy throughout the life of the building? What if I shifted my parking lot further from the building and planted some trees between the building and the parking lot? Might that reduce the amount of radiant heat entering the building during the summertime? What about using stormwater runoff for irrigation purposes?

I’ll stop with the questions, as I suspect you get my point. The cause and effect of such scenarios could be very difficult to analyze without a 3D model. Function is not the only consideration in design, we must create something with some aesthetics. 3D modeling affords us the opportunity to see what these ideas mean to my final design in both form and function. Likewise, exploring the full impact of such scenarios means the Mechanical team talking with the Civil team about the location of their parking lot, the Civil team talking to the Landscape team on the potential tree buffer, etc. This is a vast departure away from the traditional approach of, “send me your files and I’ll make my stuff tie in”.

What we’re doing now is collaborating not just at submittal time, but throughout the entire lifecycle of a project. Our model is used not only to design, but to evaluate these ideas. Collaboration is no longer just a matter of posting files to a FTP server. Instead it’s using online collaboration tools, or hosting Design Charettes with the entire design team to determine the most Sustainable Design.

In the end, we now have a sustainable project, which works in unison with itself.  And in a time where side-effects usually indicate a negative (prescription drugs), the side-effect of subscribing to such a concept is nothing but a positive. We now have a well thought out design, and an incredibly robust 3D model.  That 3D model can then be used by your client to manage the facility once it’s built, further adding value to the overall project.

Additional Reading:

Donnie Gladfelter
Donnie Gladfelter

Donnie is author of the book and Autodesk Official Press, AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required, a columnist for AUGIWorld Magazine, Autodesk University speaker, and former member of the AUGI Board of Directors.

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