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    Thinking About BIM


    Beliefs and Integrated Practice

    The beliefs that guide you today are the culmination of many years of experience and training. These beliefs are based on what you have been taught and learned as you worked your way up in the business. Your beliefs guide your actions and can change the way you do business, for the better. Your beliefs can also make your business stall and never reach its full potential.

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    No one can learn everything. The world is just too big and too complicated. By necessity, you can only become expert in a limited range of issues. This makes collaboration with many other people a necessity, not a luxury. The sheer volume of data that affects you everyday can be a blessing or a curse. By developing strategies for managing this data, you maximize its value in your life. You can either use the data or let the information inundate you.

    Integrated practice using building information models to manage data offers you a way to manage these issues in your firm. The change will likely require you to reassess some of your beliefs. You can look at integrated practice as a new skill that requires training to master. It requires that you reassess many of the things that you know. It requires that you reconsider some of your closely held beliefs.

    Success in any endeavor often comes from how you apply your beliefs and values. By applying them consistently, you create your own way of doing things. The same is true in integrated practice.

    The concepts included in this list are not revolutionary. In fact, they likely make sense to you. They seem a bit obvious. However, have you really integrated these beliefs in how you work, every day?

    Architects are known as creative problem solvers. Yet sometimes their closely held beliefs cause them to repeat errors and sub-optimize how they do business. An architect who applies the same level of creativity to business and delivery processes as he or she does to design becomes a strong force in the economy.

    Integrated practice offers significant benefits to you and your clients. Changing how you look at projects and the building industry gives you many advantages. As you explore how the list above affects your beliefs, consider the advantages to a process that achieves more, faster while also improving relationships. You will find that it is well worth the effort.

    The beliefs and values that drive successful integrated practice include:

    • Design is part of everything you do.

    • The process is managed by constraints.

    • Design and implementation can work in parallel.

    • Early decisions affect the quality of outcomes.

    • Tradition and legacy systems must not overshadow good business decisions.

    • Working together, you can define mutually beneficial objectives that create more value.

    • Good communication and knowledge sharing build strong project teams.

    • You are part of integrated supply networks that are critical to clients' success.

    • It is not enough to have a good idea. Only when you act and implement can you make innovation happen day in and day out.

    What BIM is Not

    BIM is managing information to improve understanding. BIM is not CAD. BIM is not 3D. BIM is not application-oriented. BIM maximizes the creation of value. Up, down, and across the built environment value network.

    In the traditional process, you lose information as you move from phase to phase. You make decisions when information becomes available, not necessarily at the optimal time.

    BIM is much different. The easiest way to understand BIM is to understand what BIM is not.

    BIM is not a single building model or a single database. Vendors may tell you that everything has to be in a single model to be BIM. It is not true. They would be more accurate describing BIM as a series of interconnected models and databases. These models can take many forms while maintaining relationships and allowing information to be extracted and shared. The single model or single database description is one of the major confusions about BIM.

    BIM is not a replacement for people. BIM is still a lot of hard work. By reducing the mundane, BIM lets you work smarter. It requires different training and a different mindset.

    BIM will not automate you out of existence. You will always gather information. You will always process this information with your unique problem solving skills. You will always need to be a master of visual communications. However, you will do it with less effort.

    BIM is not perfect. People input data into BIM. Because people are not perfect, sometimes they will incorrectly enter data. Since you enter information once, there is less chance for error. This allows you to capture knowledge easily and reduces repetitive input. Errors that creep in are easier to find, before they cause harm.

    BIM is not Revit (or ArchiCAD, or Bentley). Those who do not understand the technology think that BIM and Revit mean the same thing. They are the same people who tell you that they use "CAD," when they really mean "AutoCAD." They make "Xerox" copies even when using a Minolta photocopier. Software companies do a wonderful marketing job. However, these programs are all wonderful "little bim" solutions, not "the" BIM solution. You can use any of them and not be doing BIM at all.

    BIM is not 3D. 3D software lets you model geometry. It is one of the great visualization tools. 3D modelers have greatly improved our ability to communicate ideas. In concept, 3D models are little more than lengths, widths, heights, and surface material images. With a 3D model, you still have to interpret what things mean, how they connect to other things and where they reside in space. Building information models know all these things. BIM knows how it relates to others. It is defined by standards. It can be shared. BIM is not a piece of software. It is not a 3D model. It is not a project phase. However, it can be any or all of these.

    BIM does not have to be 3D. A spreadsheet can be BIM. One example is a simple address spreadsheet. It includes the names, street addresses, city, state, zip code, and perhaps the Web site addresses. The data is in a standardized format. It is a useful tool, but not yet BIM. When you import this data into Google Earth, each line of the spreadsheet is analyzed and placed (georeferenced) in context. The data takes on new dimensions and power. You can share it, add to it, and use it for comparisons. The data from the spreadsheet interacts with the complexity, and interrelationships of today's organizations and environment. It becomes BIM.

    BIM is not complete. Some people argue that all standards and tools must be in place before BIM can be successful. Others assume that BIM is not possible unless everyone in the process is involved. They are wrong. Standards and defined processes are certainly necessary — in the long view. Involving everyone in the building industry is certainly the long-range goal. The fact is that today, BIM is being applied effectively. BIM is increasing efficiency and leveraging our ability to support owners. BIM is profitable.

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Finith E. Jernigan, AIA, was born in Texas, raised in England, Colorado, and Germany, and now lives in Maryland, where he is president of Design Atlantic Ltd, an integrated architecture, planning, and management firm. An expert in integrated practice and BIM technology, Jernigan lectures extensively and briefs architects, scientists, educators, technology experts, government agencies, private sector clients, and members of Congress. In 1997, he created 4SiteSystems™ to provide information-centric architecture, management, and planning support for institutional clients.

    This article is excerpted from Big BIM little BIM: The Practical Approach to Building Information Modeling, 2nd edition, by Finith E. Jernigan, copyright © 2008, with permission of the publisher, 4Site Press.



    ArchWeek Image

    A BIM design process allows collaborators to fully model a building and to explore, analyze, and document it. A concept-visualization model of the Children's Theater of Delmarva, in Delmar, Delaware, is shown here. Renderings of the model were used to generate public interest and attract funding.
    Image: Courtesy Finith E. Jernigan Extra Large Image

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    Mind maps allow rapid exploration of space relationships. This tool, used for the Children's Theater of Delmarva, can be helpful for communicating and documenting group discussions and decision-making sessions.
    Image: Courtesy Finith E. Jernigan Extra Large Image

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    Prototype BIM models, such as this one for a building design in Ocean City, Maryland, contain usable data from the beginning and can help clients to make informed decisions early on.
    Image: Courtesy Finith E. Jernigan

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    BIM can also be used in adaptive reuse projects to model buildings and project costs, as was the case for this project in Annapolis, Maryland.
    Image: Courtesy Finith E. Jernigan

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    BIM can be used to document existing buildings to create as-built facility models that aid building owners in assessment and management. Such models are also helpful when new design projects are initiated.
    Image: Courtesy Finith E. Jernigan

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    As-built facility models can be used to document not only physical properties of a facility, but also business process information.
    Image: Courtesy Finith E. Jernigan

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    Big BIM little BIM: The Practical Approach to Building Information Modeling — Integrated practice done the right way!, 2nd edition, by Finith E. Jernigan.
    Image: 4Site Press Extra Large Image


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