How Does BIM Change Your Project Processes and Where Does Revit Fit In?

As I’ve stated before, BIM is a paradigm shift from the way we’ve worked before.  That goes for whether you’re in the architecture, engineering or construction industry.  We’re not swapping out one software application for another.  I’m not even sure there’s a “one to one” swapping of 95% of the traditional (usually CAD) project process for the new (BIM) project process.  That being said, a destructive approach (i.e. wiping out the entire project process and starting from scratch) is neither realistic nor feasible.  So, if we can’t swap out 95% of our current project process, and we can’t wipe out our current project process all together, what do we do?  The answer is, targeted changes to specific parts of the current project process.  Here are some examples of areas that will change:

  • The project phases of a traditional project on the architecture side of things are schematic design, design development, construction documentation and construction administration.  Additionally, these phases generally last for the same lengths of time.  When a project uses BIM, phases can be consolidated into design, documentation and bid/build.  The design phase lasts longer while the documentation phase is shorter.  It’s worth mentioning, however, that the design phase does include conceptual design, schematic design and design development.  The point, though, is that design becomes more important to the project process than documentation.
  • In the construction industry, estimates tend to be manual.  Finishes, door hardware, and windows, for example, all tend to be manually counted, measured and quantified using a spreadsheet (i.e. Excel).  There is no link back to the design or the construction documents.  Changes made to the design need to be filtered through to the CDs to the estimates.  When costs are found to be too expensive in an estimate, that needs to be communicated back, considered in the design (which in turn gets updated in the CDs and on and on…).  With a project done in BIM, there is a conversation being continually had by all parties (technologically, or model to model, not verbally).  Therefore, estimates are derived directly from the model.  The oft used phrase is, a change anywhere is a change everywhere.  This is exactly what makes the BIM process more efficient.

As I write this, and think about it, we really are applying a destructive process, it’s just hard to see it because it takes a long time.  If there are 10 steps to your traditional project process, a year from now those steps might be unrecognizable.  The point is, an analysis of your current project process will allow you, and your BIM Advisor, to see what the most essential, immediate and easily changeable steps of your project process are.  After that, you can devise a plan on how to integrate them.

I’ve also been saying a lot that BIM is not Revit, and that Revit is just one piece of software under the BIM umbrella.  Your question to me, then, should be, How and where does Revit fit in? Revit starts and facilitates the project process.  Revit is where design and documentation initially happens.  It is where your building information model is born.  As the design and documentation phases proceed, it is where your building information model grows.  But, (ignoring home schooling) just like children, they cannot learn, adapt and mature only within your home.  They need to explore, and be explored, in other applications to see how it reacts to other models (i.e. MEP or structure), how it effects, and is effected by, the environment.  Once these lessons are learned, the information gathered, can be applied back to the model in Revit, in the form of design changes (I didn’t want to take the children metaphor further because it would be something like the child comes back and lives with his parents).  Eventually, the model can, although doesn’t have to, leave the Revit realm as it’s given to the builders who might want to run it through cost estimation and construction scheduling applications.  The point is, Revit acts as, more or less, the main software application within the BIM process.