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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why BIM?

You may have been using ArchiCAD, or maybe Revit. Both applications are called Building Information Modeling alias BIM. Actually, BIM applications are not limited to just just those two. There are many existing BIM applications. But both are the most popular in Indonesia. Of course, there are major vendors : Bentley Architecture and Nemetschek VectorWorks just to name a few. Also there's a whole load of another software dedicated to modeling and MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing).

So as the title says, why using BIM?
Maybe you've heard that in BIM software you can create a 2D plan, and directly obtain its 3D model. Creating a section or elevation drawing is also easy : just define the line where the section and/or elevation should be, and the section will be obtained automatically. Or you can even get the schedule automatically. Or even get a quite excellent rendering How about that?

However, BIM did not stop there!

I often hear complains from established AutoCAD users. They assume difficulties if switching from their traditional CAD software to Revit or ArchiCAD. I do not mean to blame such assumptions. However, in most cases that I find, these complains come from reluctance (to substitute a much harsher word, "laziness") to learn new things. Something I find ironic considering the creative nature or architecture field (and what are creative people if not ones who are willing to do, to learn something new?). Although BIM applications could actually make draftings like the one they use to make, but BIM applications not only about draftng or images.

BIM is a digital model of a building, so it can study the building, without having to actually build it first. Model produced by BIM applications can be analyzed in detail. Drawing is just one part of the BIM.

It differs from " traditional CAD " (eg AutoCAD) in the parametric nature of it. Let's say you draw plans, elevations, and sections in AutoCAD, If there are any design changes, you have to goto each sheet and change MANUALLY. This could get very complicated and confusing, and errors are introduced this way.

BIM software tries to solve this problem by making user(s) draw OBJECTS (instead of just symbolic 2D lines) eg. walls. By doing so, the building is 'virtually constructed', (in 3D with material information and sometimes even cost of material built in) The software do all the relevent revision for you. So if say, you change the position of the window in a wall, all the plans, section, elevations, are changed accordingly and automatically by the software.

That's in the simplest level.

In a more complicated scenario, a user could group a set of design, and change one single design and have the BIM software do all the relevent changes in every level according to the "rules" setup by the user. It is the power of that "parametric-ness" (is that even a word?) that makes BIM so powerful.

So you see, compared with applications such as AutoCAD drafting ... not fair, not really an apple-to-apple comparison. For individuals, BIM is probably not an attractive thing (certainly not for me, though). Especially those already entered into the comfort zone with CAD applications used today (Come on! Do not stay too long in the comfort zone! We're supposed to be creative people here!) But for the engineering company who handle the multi-disciplinary design, BIM is very important.

BIM may also help you analyze the structure of the building. In the past, analysis of building structures should be modeled on the re-analysis applications such as SAP, STAAD, ETABS, or others. I've tried using Revit Structure is connected with the Robot Millennium. Very impressive. The model, including structural properties such as columns, beams, etc., directly analyzed by Robot Millennium. If there is property that must be changed, such as the size of the column is not big enough, a change in the model structure will also change the model. What else can be done with BIM software? Solar study is one them. We can see how the influence of sunlight on the interior or exterior of the building.

Furthermore, you can make green building analysis with software like Autodesk Ecotect, Green Building Studio or a special add-on for ArchiCAD called EcoDesigner.

Other? Facilities management, visual time schedule, high-end rendering, building cost calculation, and probably other things I'd never find.

BIM applications continues to develop the exchange of data with the format of the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes). It is not perfect yet. Then again, what is in this world? As long as the format continues to be made better and gains worldwide support, all will be well. At some point you will even perhaps be able to open the Revit model in ArchiCAD or vice versa. And I can guarantee there will be more software for the analysis of building models (quake analysis anyone?). The development will be more aggressive because it is not intended to be for one specific software. In Indonesia, sadly, BIM is not too popular yet, but it does not mean not going to develop in Indonesia. With people show more appreciation for original software instad of pirated copies, the days of expensive CAD software which only is capable of doing single task will soon be over. Why waste millions of rupiahs for CAD software and another millions for 3d modelling software when with something like ArchiCAD you can achieve both?

The future is already here, it's just that not everyone knows!

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  1. there are some critics that CADs, moreover BIMs, limit creativity. but I think that's just for master architects such as Gehry, Hadid, or Koolhaas. for the most of us, BIM would be very helpful, unless you really want to be a master architect :)

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