4-D Modeling: Is 'Virtual Building' In Your Future?
When Frank Gehry, the architect of such prominent structures as the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, speaks, the building design community listens. And right now he’s talking about building information modeling (BIM).
BIM is a computerized model — a “virtual building” database ― that stores all of your project’s information in a variety of forms and formats that are easily retrievable by every discipline involved in a project. BIM can generate specifications, drawings, schedules and other documents so that everyone involved in the project has access to the same information ― in the format required for their specific task.
BIM also can generate work schedules, coordinate documents and — since everyone is working on the same model — update all that information universally as new design data is added or work is performed.
Gehry said BIM is creating a “culture of collaboration” among architects, specifiers, engineers, contractors, product representatives and others in the construction industry because of its ability to tie so much information together at once.
“You cannot do this without the architect, engineer and everyone working together,” he said during the CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) Show earlier this year.
BIM will have a profound effect on the way everyone in the design community does their jobs, especially architects.
BIM Adds Fourth Dimension of Time to Commercial Modeling
What’s particularly revolutionary about BIM is the addition of the fourth dimension of time to traditional CAD systems that operate in 2-D or 3-D.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles
In 4-D, BIM will be able to provide object- and process-oriented building information continuously over time. This will include project drawings, physical asset management data, information needed for decommissioning and everything in between.
Owners and managers will recognize the real value that BIM presents over the full life cycle of a facility because they will be able to take data generated during design and construction and modify and re-use it throughout maintenance and repair activities.
Many industry leaders like Gehry are already using BIM in advanced forms to design and construct buildings. In addition to the Bilbao Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, renovations of the Sydney Opera House and design of the Freedom Tower on the site of the World Trade Center in New York involved BIM. Several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and the General Services Administration, now require contractors to incorporate BIM in their projects.
'Virtual Building:' Advantages for Every Discipline
BIM will give designers a faster, richer design process. It will give owners more budget control through predictions about the project’s construction process. And contractors will have fewer surprises. BIM can generate schedules, coordinate documents and automatically update drawings as new data is added. They are a natural step for anyone dedicated to construction documents that meet the Construction Specifications Institute’s “4 Cs” — clear, concise, correct and complete.
Because it brings advantages to every discipline involved in creating and sustaining the built environment, the shift to BIM is expected to be very quick.
While we know the benefits that BIM will bring, and which industry leaders are blazing that trail, we don’t quite know where that trail is heading or how long the journey will be. This presents a conundrum for architects, who will have to make some very important decisions over the next several years.
A Substantial Learning Curve Ahead
Every individual architect and firm must take a close look at their bottom lines and business plans and choose the right time to move on BIM. They will have to walk a very narrow tightrope: Act too soon and the technology may evolve away from their choices and render their substantial investment in time and money obsolete. Wait too long, and competitors may move ahead and cost them business.
The Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Bilbao Museum
Once architects decide to adopt BIM, they also will have to think about the necessary training involved. Those who have been in the profession for 20 years or more surely remember the CAD revolution — and the challenges it presented. Like CAD, BIM will involve a substantial learning curve.
Find More About BIM on the Web
Fortunately, members of the commercial building community have some time to get familiar with BIM.
My advice, get to know and understand the basic concepts of BIM — and to accept that this revolutionary technology is here to stay.
While each industry professional will have to make his or her own choice, plenty of sources of information about BIM exist.
Because of its historic role as a provider of building-oriented information, CSI is an important source. Visit the Web site at www.csinet.org, and watch for CSI-sponsored conferences and seminars that feature BIM-related information.
The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), which is leading an effort to create a National BIM Standard (in which CSI is heavily involved), also provides information about BIM on its Web site at www.nibs.org.
The American Institute of Architects (www.aia.org), as well as individual AIA chapters, is also a good source of information. Numerous trade publications follow the issue closely as well.
As Frank Gehry made clear at the CSI Show in Las Vegas, it’s an exciting time to be involved in the construction industry. New technologies allow architects, engineers, contractors and others to do and try things that simply weren’t possible before.
To me, BIM is the most important. While no one is sure exactly where the BIM revolution will take us, we can all rest assured that when it comes it will change the way we do our jobs forever — and for the better.
Dennis Hall, FAIA, FCSI, serves as a vice president on the Construction Specifications Institute and is the founder and managing principal at Hall Architects Inc. based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, e-mail Hall, or call him at 704-334-2101.
‘How-to Manual’ for Diversifying Into Light Commercial Building Available
“Light Commercial Construction for Home Builders: A How-to Manual for Diversifying Your Business” to help residential builders who are considering diversifying into light commercial construction is available through NAHB's National Commercial Builders Council (NCBC).
Light commercial construction is a competitive, $50 billion-a-year industry with a potential for substantial profits.
NCBC’s new how-to manual points out three areas that are keys to builders who are diversifying into the industry:
- Building for investment (either solo or in partnership with a client)
- Working for a stand-alone client
- Pursuing public construction projects
The manual explains the differences between residential and light commercial construction, methods of contracting, OSHA requirements, building materials, licensing issues and codes and standards. It reviews the common types of light commercial buildings and points out the difference between residential and commercial customers.
For more information about the manual or the National Commercial Builders Council, e-mail Petra Beane at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8433. To download an order form, click here.
'Moving to Commercial Construction' Available at BuilderBooks.com
"Moving to Commercial Construction," available through BuilderBooks.com, offers the general contractor, subcontractor and designer several step-by-step methods that will make the move from residential to commercial building a successful one.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.