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Forum discussion: BIM for the Sole Practitioner

A recent discussion about Building Information Modeling (BIM) on a McGraw Hill Construction forum provides some interesting reading as small business owners were asked about their use of BIM software and how much they value it.  Use of specific programs was discussed as well as more conceptual topics such as whether BIM is good or bad for architects’ creativity.  Many discussed how the advantages of using BIM depended on the size of the project and how much work the business sold.

Most believe that using BIM provided consistency, eased collaboration with other firms, and reduced overhead by identifying conflicts early when they could be resolved in the planning phase.  The visuals which could be provided impressed potential clients, although one unmoved blogger noted “But our drawings are not the final product they are just a means to the final product: the building.”

Of the BIM programs talked about, Revit appears to be the most widely used in North America.  Due to its popularity, it has another advantage in that many manufacturers provide free content for it.  However, it is not instantly profitable because there is a learning period for the user, even if the user is already familiar with Computer-Aided Design (CAD).  Additionally, the program itself is costly and requires a yearly subscription after the initial price.  One user felt that although it was extremely useful for large commercial projects, it was not cost effective on small projects because the time even an experienced user spent at the beginning of the project did not justify the added profit or benefits.  Some suggested less expensive programs with less capability.  One user recommended that sole practitioners shop for a program which could be purchased with a limited subscription for those who would need to use it less often.

One blogger summarized several of the software programs available, saying “It is important to recognize the difference between 3D cad and BIM.  3D cad just contains the geometry while BIM includes Information and Interoperability.  SketchUP, Rhino and FormZ are 3D cad while ArchiCAD, Revit, Bentley and Vectorworks are BIM.”  Other programs mentioned were TurboCad and SoftPlan.

One architect expressed his belief that BIM is the future of the industry.  “Revit is not the perfect medium, but its concept – BIM – is the revolution to our industry that is even more significant than the introduction of computing itself.  As a licensed architect for 20 years, I've been in the midst of both revolutions.”

Are you adopting BIM for your projects?

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