digital construction/BIM – decision time for small firms
How Digital Construction (BIM) offers small firms opportunities and problems in equal measure
You heard it here first – BIM is about to be re-branded “Digital Construction”. We’re not sure by whom. Anyway, it’s very de rigueur at the moment, as soon as anyone mentions BIM, to immediately drone on about how BIM is “…so much more than Revit…”, which of course it is (even if no-one was actually talking about Revit in the first place). However, in order to do BIM Level 2 you need a sharable, construction-orientated, computer database. In engineering it’s a 50/50 chance that this is going to involve Revit.
If you are a small practice and have just bankrupted yourself to buy or lease the software, train your staff and dedicate the time to creating your BIM environment; families, templates etc, then you are about to have a big problem.
To survive as a firm, you sensibly engage in a wide variety of work, much of which is not standalone new-builds requiring digital operation manuals and so on; it’s fiddly alterations to funny-shaped existing buildings from the last 300 years built from all sorts of odd components not in any BIM-library known to mankind.
Let’s be honest – it is very time consuming to survey and model existing buildings in 3D for the subsequent production of meaningful engineering drawings.
It’s simply not what the software packages are designed to do. It’s possible (as the gurus love to point out), but it’s totally uneconomic. In fact: most of the time there’s simply no point. The client doesn’t want a BIM model, a 3D model or anything like that! So your CAD technician ends up doing the job in AutoCAD, using time honoured schematic visual conventions, based on a tape measure survey. As a result they do not become more familiar with your new Revit purchase. In fact they may well spend a lot of time moving confusingly between the two paradigms on different projects, never fully getting into the swing of either and working with reduced efficiency as a result. Because of this the potential productivity gains offered by Revit rarely manifest for small practices and in fact, it can become a productivity black hole.
Sometimes it is hard not to just see BIM as a revenue-generating exercise for the software houses, especially when the requested list of features required just to bring the popular packages in line with their old non-BIM predecessors is so long, and so slowly implemented.
Notwithstanding all of this, we don’t regret our move into DC/BIM…yet. For one thing, it’s a fact of life now, so one might as well embrace the change. The benefits of the system are clear for appropriate projects. The increase in error-detection from using the 3d visualisation and coordination aspects of the approach are considerable. Finally, for us, the ground-up renewal of our whole approach to presenting drawn information that was precipitated by the adoption of Revit as our BIM platform has been useful for the practice, if not universally welcome.