Better Building BIM

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Issue #10231 - October 2018 | Page #38
By Joseph Sirilla

Eliminating downtime associated with Requests for Information (RFIs) when clashes or questions come to light during the building phase saves significant time, money, and – of particular interest in our current supply-constrained labor market – construction labor. Many in the residential design, engineering, and construction fields have embraced BIM technology for its ability to streamline work, cut project costs, and improve profit. A building designer’s choice of software may seem fairly straightforward for their needs to simplify inter-office processes, but what about all of the other trades that need to use the information to accomplish their tasks? How do we overcome the boundary of proper, and vibrant, communication without using up valuable time? Make your investment into the BIM realm worth it.

Assume a project is integrated with a strong and robust visual platform, primarily for the client’s design approvals. Think of the use of the virtual model during collaboration with engineers as well. It can help lower costs associated with time and labor management in the field. Their team incorporates the engineering (structural, MEP, Civil, etc.) directly into the model. The visual message given to the field in place of written 2D word and details is a large part of communicating design intentions. But the folks swinging the hammer may not have access to the software platform your team is using. Make it easy for them, too. Choosing the right software is not just based on your operations, but with all trade partners in mind.

The “I” (information) in BIM is what sets this approach apart from simple 3D visualization, or even 2D drawings. The capability of BIM software to enable the designer to model some of the wildest building designs provides infinite creative freedom, and verification of the structure. Like never before, the software can allow the designer to stretch the imagination, be much more creative, and bring to light new ideas. Along with this, the right software increases the accuracy of drawings and streamlines the management of construction documents due to parametric functionality. It removes the pressure of data management and allows designers actually to spend more time performing design studies!

Because the detailing in the typical 2D plan set is vague, think of BIM as a database of building components with embedded information and the capability of being viewed in three dimensions (four, when time, i.e., scheduling, is included). This information is relayed to, and used by, all involved. A virtual BIM model is a shared resource where component information is extracted without RFIs or digging through printed materials.

Excellence in BIM software toolsets is touted by many but not fully harnessed by some. Searching YouTube and Google has yielded great resources, but there is so much information to sift through to distinguish what is straightforward. The BIM process includes everyone, even the homeowner. BIM is not only about design efficiency, it’s also about teamwork. Search for software with sharable virtual models. Otherwise, it becomes a dead end for collaboration.

The notion of national production home builders moving to require an Autodesk Revit-based platform for construction documents is not farfetched. But for what reason? The answer was too simplistic and not a good one, “Because other firms are doing it.” I was skeptical, so I dug around a bit more. Was it to control their material takeoffs and usage quantitates? Nope. It was to keep up with the Jones’. What poor judgment. There is more than one perfect software when it comes to the full use of BIM.

Back to our guy in the field, with the RFI. He needs to know the framing system’s built-up component assembly and strapping hardware sequencing to accomplish his complicated task properly. In the typical age of 2D construction documents, this is handled by further detailing or shop drawings. Extra paperwork. Extra time. Loose revisions sheets stapled to the permit set and headaches during a municipal inspection. Loss of revenue by multiple trades. The design was completed months ago, and the RFIs never seem to arrive at a convenient time.

With the proper toolset given to all the trades, everyone from conception to construction can now open their laptop, notebook, tablet, or phone to view the virtual model’s system layering and fly around any 3D component assembly in question. She, or he, can select components and see what materials comprise the assembly. She can relay the information and nix potential problems without an RFI. But is the BIM model complete enough to do this? Was the design adequately coordinated and all the necessary information integrated? Or is it only a pretty picture without intelligent objects and component assemblies? The correct practice of using a BIM process is not just the speed of the process in the office, but the collaborative building of information ahead of the build out amongst all design professionals, builders, and the trade partners.

Consider these too – estimating teams can be helped with more accurate definitions in their takeoff, engineers have calculations behind their framing methods, and the framers have their preferred methods, not to mention the benefits to high-performance home design and value engineering. The possibilities of framing the same feature eight different ways to Tuesday is a reality, and there might be eight different costs to build them. Help the builder’s team differentiate, without question. Eliminate this type of RFI by providing a virtual model.

How does that dangerous phrase go? “They’ll figure it out in the field.” Don’t let those in the field ignore your intentions because of second-guessing. Be courageous and jump into BIM. Once you do, taking it slow is okay. But get beyond thinking only about your inter-office production and visualization. Take a leap and utilize the BIM workflow. It is time to level up, dive into the next phase of services to offer. Cut the cord of RFIs and become a trustworthy BIM source!


Joseph Sirilla has a stout, relevant presence in our industry representing the American Institute of Building Design as the AIBD, Central Florida Chapter Chairman, in serving AIBD’s BIM-R vision as the National BIM Representative, and with custom home design as a Senior Designer at an award-winning architectural firm, Keesee Associates in Apopka, Florida.

The American Institute of Building Design ( is a nationally recognized organization dedicated to supporting and promoting residential design professionals. Its members have specialized knowledge and expertise in residential design and are held to a high level of professionalism and ethics in their business practices. You can trust an AIBD member to bring a combination of talent and practical value to your project.

You're reading an article from the October 2018 issue.

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