Building Information Modeling in a Large Firm

One Indiana Square

Having previously explored the process of adaptation to Building Information Modeling in a small firm, Heather Livingston continues investigating the newest technology’s impact on a large architectural firm. In an article titled “Livin’ Large with BIM,” Livingston interviews Jordan Goldstein AIA, from the Washington, D.C., office of Gensler. With well over 200 architects on staff, of whom about half are very comfortable with the software, the branch has been applying Autodesk Revit to every project for nearly two years. Goldstein describes some of the benefits of BIM as supplied by Revit:

It asks a lot of questions of the design process earlier on so that we are able to have a deeper, richer dialogue about the design direction earlier in the project, [allowing us] to make a lot of decisions with our clients and consultants earlier in the process… From a time standpoint, what we’ve seen so far is that when it’s truly humming, it can certainly make things more efficient. I’m not drawing something three or four times. I can do it once and use that one drawing for several different things…Everything’s living in 3D as a database, and I can then filter that out to get what I’m looking for, whether it’s 2D drawings of elevation or sections, or 3D views of key details.

The interview includes diagrams of a project called One Indiana Square, formerly known as Indiana National Bank. From 1970 to 1982, it was the state of Indiana’s tallest building. In the spring of 2006, it suffered severe wind damage, not for the first time. In March of last year, the design for a new light blue curtain wall was released. Apparently, it was a bit of a challenge. The solution involved steel outriggers attached to the columns, resulting in a glass skin that floats beyond the old façade.

Although he is enthusiastic about BIM, Goldstein emphasizes that it’s still only one tool in the toolbox. The skills of hand sketching, Photoshopping and physical modeling have much to offer in the design process. Interestingly, of the related fields an architecture firm works with and depends on, Goldstein finds that structural engineers are most at home with BIM.

Building information modeling, like anything else, can be a mixed blessing. Goldstein notes that dealing with the resultant massively sized files, for instance, meant upgrading the hardware. When clients see this bandwagon, they run, not walk, to jump on it. That sounds like good news but sometimes the enthusiasm can be problematic. A client might have unrealistic notions about what BIM is and what it can do. There can be misunderstanding because a client thinks such a beautiful object must be a finished one, and have trouble adjusting to the idea that it can change. At the other end of the spectrum, a client might want to experiment a bit too freely with the possibilities, not realizing that every change entails more changes throughout, with a domino effect.

As described in Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition:

The Autodesk Revit family of products includes Autodesk Revit Building for architectural design, Autodesk Revit Structure for structrural design, and an application for HVAC, electrical and plumbing design.

Revit’s reputation is so sturdy that users of other programs feel compelled to remind Revit fans that it, too, is only one tool in the box.

Some feel that, before BIM is perfect, more needs to be done than has already been done. It is, in other words, far from perfect, and still has room for many astonishing capabilities to manifest. Experts remind us of another thing it’s good to remember: the same old fundamental principle of Garbage In – Garbage Out applies even in this rarified atmosphere. The documentation fed into the software is essential to the software’s ability to do its job. There is still plenty of room for human genius in making this thing work like it’s supposed to.

In fact, that idea is so enticing, we’re going to ask for examples of how its truth has been demonstrated. Was there a time in a project, where the computer couldn’t do it all? Where human intervention saved the day?

SOURCE: “Livin’ Large with BIM” 04/10/08
photo courtesy of Mattindy77 , used under this Creative Commons license

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