I just completed an introductory course on Revit. Holy cow!!! I had an inkling of what this program can do, but actually sitting and doing it, that’s another story. Taking the class with a couple of architects who are just getting Revit (BIM) introduced to their firms was an eye opener. It’s mind-boggling to produce all the drawings that go into even the simplest of projects, let alone something as complex as two 120- x 600-feet four-story headquarters complex with an atrium in the middle project like I saw last summer. How they will ever manage to be architects AND maintain the working relationship of all the people working on a job is mind numbing. On the other hand, the built-in smartness of these BIM programs, if Revit is any indication, with the ability to become paperless from design development to manufacturing/construction is the big draw.
But, as I’ve mused in the past, although BIM is a heck of a tool, there’s still a long way to go. In the class, we were putting windows into a brick cavity wall and I asked why Revit doesn’t show the sealant joints around the perimeter of the window. The architects asked why that was important. Ok, a teaching moment: if we submit shop drawings, and assumed the rough opening was to remain as shown in the Revit Model, the windows we have to build are going to be smaller than the windows in the model to account for the sealant joint. Or vice-versa: if we kept the windows the same size as the model, the rough opening dimensions would have to change for the sealant joint. So which is correct? Would an inexperienced architect know which way to go when reviewing the window shop drawings, or just mark them up that they don’t agree with the construction documents/BIM model? What about tolerances of the opening, or windows, or both? What about the sealant capacity? I don’t think I got a straightforward answer, which I think proved the point: There is still a ways to go.
It appears the architects aren’t prepared to completely cut the model loose as a “construction document” on a level with the 2D drawings and specifications just yet. There are projects where this is done, but even if the model is released by the architects, there’s a bevy of release forms to fill out, “use at your own risk,” etc.
The general contractors are leading the push for BIM, and the coordination of the model and hand-off are real sticking points. There’s a lot of legal haggling regarding who’s responsible for what and who will manage the model (if it is truly a CD) at which points along the construction schedule/sequence. All of this still is an on-going, learning environment; it all hasn’t been worked out, but will have to be.
This whole BIM movement will lead to some paradigm shifts, both for the construction process, and for how glazing subs and their manufacturers handle submittals, do shop drawings, prove energy and structural performance, and any of the other myriad things associated with what we do for a living.
Can you imagine getting a BIM model, pulling out the windows, doing shop drawings, and automatically having the thermal and structural calcs completed? The PE who normally does the calcs based on the drawings you send him could instead review the model’s calcs (he will have been involved in writing the program that does this), and affix his stamp electronically. How about, instead of submitting product data separately, it is instead attached to the shop drawings electronically? You submit the electronic drawing(s) of the windows to the GC, and all of the supporting documentation – from calcs to product data, instruction manuals, etc. – all goes along in one gigantic submittal. And, maybe as part of the job process, the GC logs it, but it also goes directly to the architect, the project structural engineer, the curtainwall consultant, the code officials, etc., who all can immediately start their review?
Now, while none of this is done just by loading software, the programming development and management are enormous. Someone within your organization will have to set this up at the 30,000-foot level; it’s not something that can be administered from ground level. It will take insight and trial and error, but that’s what BIM is trying to do: Take a complex process (construction) and make it more seamless. I can see it. Hopefully, in 10 years (or less???), the process will be locked in.
I hope to be around to see that, as grand pop used to say, “Lord-willing and the creek don’t rise.”
Quote of the Week
President Kennedy is reported to have said, “forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” Although I believe he was talking about life in politics, this is also good advice for the construction industry.