BIM isn’t new, it’s been a part of architectural software for a long time. However, it’s been taking a surprisingly long time to become more established in architectural practice. Engineering and large scale practices have been embracing and developing systems with BIM for years, but the financial outlay for smaller practices tends to make switching over a lot more challenging.
Switching from 2D CAD to a more 3D environment makes sense for so many reasons, however; the change in software can be difficult to justify. For a period, most practices will require to maintain their older 2D software as well as new BIM software, creating the luxury of a gradual crossover period which, unfortunately, many practices cannot afford. In addition to the financial expense, the main reason many smaller practices are reluctant to adopt the newer software is time; a resource they don’t often have to spare. Margins and programs are tight and introducing new software, training and workflows can cause what feels like unnecessary additional stress. Another common reason for not moving over to BIM is that much of the available software is focused a lot more on functionality and construction than aesthetics. Producing high quality imagery or even complex architectural design can be challenging in software which is often geared more towards large scale projects and engineering concepts.
All of these can be valid reasons for slowing the progress to a 3D BIM workflow, despite the many advantages. Integrating various aspects of projects into the model, such as scheduling and tagging, can save huge amounts of time once correctly set up. Drawing in 3D can enable more complex projects to be more thoroughly considered, which greatly improves construction packages and site works, and minimises contractual errors in drawings. Active updating of schedules and lists can mean more accurate costing earlier in a project, which can enable a more accurate tender process and tighter contracts.
The advantages from a simple workflow standpoint are the biggest selling point to businesses looking to streamline their process. In 2D systems, a change of plan or specification can create hours, if not days of extra work; updating construction details, plans, elevations, sections and schedules, all to be updated again at the next change. An update to a BIM model translates the information through to all outputs, saving a great deal of time and frustration. The quality control aspect of actioning changes is also minimised, as all outputs match automatically. Although the initial time in getting set up is very daunting, in practice the process works very much in favour of the tight scheduling of a small business.
Selling a new idea to a small practice which is already working successfully and comfortably in 2D can be challenging – why fix something that doesn’t feel broken, and take the plunge into starting from scratch, when the outcomes still seem abstract? BIM may not be for everyone, but as the industry moves more and more in the direction of full BIM models, any practice which doesn’t invest the time to advance will eventually find themselves left behind.
LBA decided to take the challenge to switch over and move on from 2D cad. The process has not been all plain-sailing; hidden costs such as technical support upgrading software have come as a frustrating surprise. Issues with servers and files, although rare, can bring work to a standstill as every piece of project information is in one file. These incidences have been few though and, overall, the integration of streamlined software, new workflows and schedule syncing has been a great success. In comparison to our 2D projects, BIM projects at the same stage are far more resolved, technically developed and prepared to progress to construction. Building in BIM requires early decision making, which prepares for far fewer issues or unknowns as they progress.
The more projects we do in BIM, the faster we become comfortable and proficient and the faster we can produce thoroughly resolved projects. This hopefully puts LBA a few steps ahead of many other small practices who are still reluctant to take the leap into the third dimension.