We, like many architectural practices, find ourselves facing a technology revolution in the form of BIM software.

What is Building Information Modelling?

BIM has been described as a process driven, integrated digital prototype of infrastructure, structures and building fabric, created in a virtual environment before it is built. A BIM model could be considered an assembled kit of parts, created and integrated into a single entity that can then be checked, verified, examined, quantified, chopped and diced then put back together, all in an effort to reduce errors and maintain design efficiency.

Our CAD and 3D software history

We have been proponents of 2D CAD for over 15 years. Over time, we developed procedures and protocols to match evolving software; but now we, like many architectural practices, find ourselves facing a technology revolution in the form of BIM software.

Our uptake of BIM software has been a slower, more transitional process than that for Autodesk's AutoCad product. However, we have been encouraged to continue our transition by the ability to critique designs in three dimensions. Witnessing industry trends and the role of BIM software, we have purchased Revit licences and developed our hardware infrastructure to cope with the demands of this new software.

We have used Revit primarily as a design tool; producing three dimensional visualisations for internal analysis, Client presentations and marketing materials, in both static images and video forms. More recently, with smaller scale projects, our office has developed documentation standard drawings suitable for Tender and construction purposes. As our skills improve and our Revit management develops we see a clear pathway to embracing a fully Revit environment.

Impacts of BIM on our practice

A BIM process has the capacity to significantly shift our workflow, how we introduce our Clients to concept designs of their building, how we integrate and coordinate our efforts with those of our consultants and, potentially, how we involve Contractors earlier in the design and documentation process. We have started to involve our regular team of consultants in conversations about BIM. We see that developing our existing relationships with our consultants towards an integrated model will take time and careful planning; however, it is time and energy that we are keen to invest.

What does BIM mean for our Clients?

For those involved in facilities management (the maintenance and care of institutional/commercial buildings) BIM models assist functionality by integrating people, places, processes and technology. Central information sources, updated over the lifetime of a building and/or a campus of buildings can assist asset tracking, maintenance scheduling and tagging equipment redundancy.

But for our Clients who are not in need of an integrated project delivery approach to their building design, documentation and management, what is the value of this process?

Visualisation as a by-product of developing a Revit project may be all that is needed for some Clients. Others may choose to use models for quantity measurements and early cost estimation purposes.

Regardless of outcome, setting a BIM standard from the outset is critical for all involved. We see one of our roles in this process as assisting our Clients in determining the standard for their particular circumstance and need. For PGA as a practice, we see great benefit in Revit’s design analysis potential.

Challenges with BIM

We have found that adoption of BIM technology poses challenges in terms of change, not unlike those which we faced in the mid 1990’s with AutoCAD. We see that our industry (particularly in Western Australia) is finding its feet when it comes to a unified approach. However, with the recent work of the Australian Institue of Architects and Consult Australia amongst many other examples we feel that the emergence of this technology will be transformational for design practices; we at PGA are particularly excited to be a part of the transition that BIM promises.