BIM lets us design buildings that were never before possible
Architects have reaped the benefits of computer-aided design (CAD) software for some time now. Not having to draw everything by hand has certainly saved time, but it never really changed the game. That is, until recently; now the software has become so smart that it not only makes designing buildings simpler, it teaches you about them too.
BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a sophisticated program that allows architects to collaborate better with their teams and clients with real-time design that updates shared instantly in the cloud. It helps architects make better design decisions, alerting them to common errors such as misplaced windows before the first brick has been laid. Clients can use BIM after construction is completed to maintain and reduce running costs thanks to the information it provides. The software is even incorporating virtual reality to allow clients to walk around buildings that don’t exist yet.
Hospitals and universities are already using BIM to make sure these institutions run as smoothly as possible. In fact, BIM optimizes public building use to such a degree that the UK government has made it mandatory for architects to use the software in the design of any new projects.
Juan Lago-Novás, director of the Master in Architectural Management and Design at IE School of Architecture and Design, says BIM software such as Revit, AutoCAD and ArchiCAD is blending the design and management sides of the business seamlessly.
“The biggest advantage of BIM is that it allows you to pre-construct your designs” he said. “It’s like Formula 1, where instead of spending millions on building a car then realizing it doesn’t work as expected, they are able to build it digitally and test it in a simulator.” BIM can detect where there might be problems with an electrical supply or perhaps a rafter that’s going to obstruct something.
BIM is an essential tool in explaining a client’s return on investment and what the running costs of a building might be. Whereas previously it’s been hard to sell a client on the virtues of investing in good design, BIM makes it a simple matter of math.
“You don’t need to be a designer to get information from BIM; it can connect to an app that any building manager can use,” says Lago-Novás, who is also principal of DSC Architecture in Madrid. “It knows the model numbers of machines in the office so it can tell clients what filters, cartridges or maintenance costs they might incur over a given period.”
When teaching the course, Lago-Novás says he likes to encourage his students to think of BIM more as business information management due to how well the software handles the business side of things.
“An architect begins his design with a pencil, and CAD programs is really no different. A hand-drawn line on paper and a digital vector line on the screen are still just two points joined together.
The difference with BIM is that it understands that those lines equal a wall. It knows what the wall is made of. It knows if that wall has a skirting board or not. You can ask it how many walls are in the building. This can be very useful when working on larger-scale projects.
Some say there are limitations to BIM, suggesting that it may stifle creativity if an architect no longer needs to come up with novel solutions to design issues. But Lago-Novás argues that while BIM solves a lot of problems, it doesn’t solve design.
He adds: “The principles of architecture haven’t changed. These tools allow us to design the types of buildings that would have been impossible in the past. But there’s no substitute for a great designer.”
Juan Lago-Novás is director of the Master in Architectural Management and Design at IE School of Architecture and Design. The course is intended for those who see the potential of business opportunities in architecture and the new roles emerging from the industry’s evolution.