Is BIM Transformational?
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a frequent topic of conversation in the design and construction industries. Trade journals frequently write about BIM, its adoption, and potential to transform the industry. How many firms have moved to the BIM platforms? Are subcontractors using BIM? Do BIM projects have fewer RFIs (requests for information)?
BIM in Eastern Maine?
Let’s get some things out of the way, right away. BIM is not being used by contractors in eastern Maine. It is not being used by subcontractors in eastern Maine. Most eastern Maine consulting engineering firms are not using BIM. Very few owners are using BIM. So what is transformational about an eastern Maine architecture firm using BIM, when the rest of the region is barely on board?
Sealander Architects, located in Ellsworth, Maine, has been an all-BIM design firm since 2004, the last year we delivered a project using AutoCAD. BIM offers three major value propositions: speed, iteration, and visualization. Combined, these three value propositions create a design paradigm I call “slow design fast production.”
Time is money when delivering architectural services. Tools and techniques that speed the design process benefit design firms, and owners. Since design fees have low margins, incentives exist to minimize the time spent solving design problems, to cover the cost of producing design documents. If less time were spent producing drawings, more time could be spent designing. BIM has cut our production time to less than one quarter what it used to be.
The benefit to spending more time designing is due to design’s iterative nature. A satisfactory design comes about through a process of triangulation. We have an initial meeting with a client, and we produce an some initial designs. The client sees these designs, and provides feedback. We produce subsequent designs, and receive subsequent feedback. BIM speeds up the rate at which this iterative process can happen. Whereas more than three conceptual designs used to break the schematic design budget, now we can cycle through dozens.
Gone are the days of drafting in two dimensions and walking clients through a plan, elevations and sections, hoping they can visualize the design we created. Three-dimensional design software has been around for a while, but BIM maturity is such that three-dimensional images are now part of our construction documents. Gone are the days of hoping contractors and subcontractors understand our contract documents. On every project we have done over the past ten years, at least on member of the construction team has thanked us for embedding parametric three-dimensional drawings in the set.
The Future State
One day, my prince will come, and the design and construction industries in eastern Maine will be all BIM all the time. Until that day, we plan on having a compelling value proposition by offering clients the benefits of “slow design fast production” through the speed, iteration and visualization capabilities of our office. BIM brings other benefits as well, a topic for another day.