Six Steps to Making BIM Worth the Investment

Thomas Simmons BIM Resources, Design, Technology

Many professionals I talk with believe BIM is about learning how to use the software. Adopting BIM successfully is about much more than the tools you use. It’s about attitude. It’s about making BIM work for you … not you adapting to BIM. It’s about making music with BIM not noise.

After working with many clients on transitioning to BIM, I’ve developed six foolproof steps to making BIM worth the investment

Step 1 – Don’t Completely Reinvent the Wheel 

All architects have a workflow they are comfortable with. Some prefer starting with a sketch. Others go right to the computer. Some sell their design concepts with elaborate renderings. Others prefer more of a sketchpad approach. Some delve deep into CDs. Others hire them out.

Whatever your workflow, figure out how BIM can make it better without losing what makes you unique. If you use SketchUp to create your designs, figure out how to take your sketches right into your BIM model instead of starting from scratch. Better yet, if you’re using ARCHICAD, use the push pull design tools inside your software for design development.

Do you collaborate with DWGs? Keep it that way. There’s no need to change everything about how you work. Make BIM flow into your process then adjust where desired.

Step II – Get Your Team On Board

Whether you are a one-man shop or have a team to transition, it’s important to create an environment that allows for ideas to flow and your team to learn.

  • Find a BIM champion who can take on the role of leading the way and supporting the team. If you are on your own, join a group of like-minded individuals to share ideas.
  • Set aside time on a regular basis to review or discuss how your process is changing and what adjustments might need to be made.
  • Reward you and your team as you reach pre-determined milestones such as when you’ve created your first model or done a design study that would have taken twice as long in the 2D world.

No matter your situation embrace the challenge and make it fun. You can’t go wrong.

Step III – Take a Phased Approach

I always recommend that clients start the BIM process with a new project. It’s very difficult to transition a project mid-stream. When you start with a new project you can assess your typical design process and determine how to modify your workflow to incorporate the aspects of building information modeling that will most benefit your firm.

Most clients find that they are able to focus more on creating a design and much less time on construction documents. They also find it easier to create and demonstrate design options to the client with BIM.

Step IV – Invest in Training

While using BIM software may be intuitive in many ways, there is a lot to learn. There are many resources available to help you get up to speed quickly. Here are a few ideas:

  • Training Guides and Videos linked to your software
  • Online Courses through a website like LEARNVIRTUAL.com
  • Hands-on course
  • One-on-one coaching

No matter which method works best for you, investing in training will not only save you time and money, it will ignite new ways of thinking and designing.

Step V – Make Office Standards a Priority

I’ve had many clients struggle with maintaining consistency from project to project. They just want to jump in and start a project. While this can be done, your office will be much more efficient if you develop a standards template that can move from one project to the next.

There are a few ways to go about doing this. Many clients will start by purchasing one of the many templates out there. With a bit of customization this can work. However, many find that there are either too many details in the template that they don’t need or that there aren’t the details that make their firm stand out.

A more costly but more personalized option is to hire a consultant to help you customize and establish your office standards. This will keep you and your team working on projects while allowing someone with experience to get them set up quickly.

The least costly but most time consuming option is to create your own template. A good option if you know what you are trying to achieve and how to do it.

Step VI – Don’t Try to Do It All

While BIM offers the ability to do everything from site analysis to design studies and energy analysis, don’t try to do it all… at least not all at once. Once you have mastered designing and creating construction documents in BIM, decide what new services BIM might allow you to offer. Then try them out one at a time.

Some ideas include: sustainability studies, a virtual walk through, visualizations/renderings.

No matter what your business, BIM is worth the investment. In addition to being more fun because you can spend more time on design, you’ll be more productive and better able to communicate your designs with BIM.

About the Author

Thomas Simmons, BIM Consultant & Coach, has extensive experience in technology for building design, project management and construction. Through his work with architects, engineers, contractors and sub-contractors he has a broad understanding of BIM technology with specific emphasis on its use to inform design decisions, increase efficiency in documents, produce more accurate cost estimates and facilitate construction coordination through a Virtual Design and Construction process.