SCRUG at BIM workshop

On September 25, 2014, the SCRUG meeting was held after the first day of the BIM workshop held at the Anaheim/Garden Grove Wyndham Hotel. I know I've missed a couple of the last meetings; this meeting was definitely not one to miss. There was a panel discussion about Building Information Modeling, BIM. I apologize for not getting the names of all the panel participants. You may leave you name in the comments below and I will update the post. While this is a long post, it is not meant as a verbatim transcript of the event. It is one architect's perspective of what occurred. Please enjoy.

The discussion focused about coordinating during design between the different disciplines using BIM. For example, you have architectural, mechanical, structural, electrical, plumbing and civil. Our panel discussion included people representing most of those and we also had people in the audience to represent the contractors. The discussion started out with workflow. When is it best to bring the consultants into the process? Design is traditionally driven by floor plans. While the plans are in flux, it is problematic to decide on the size of structural members or the space to allot for electrical rooms.

One of the difficulties that we often have in the design professions, is that the designers don't  work in the same software as the people documenting the design. The question came up what do we do about SketchUp? Should SketchUp be treated just like trace paper or bum wad? Or is SketchUp treated as the gospel truth of design?

One of the challenges of the production side of design is taking that SketchUp model that undefined series of shapes and rationalizing them into something that is documented for the construction professions. One of the challenges along this line is that the design team often wants to stick with the SketchUp model and that means two different models: one by the design team and one by the production team.

Nick Kramer shared his experience in China that oftentimes things are done very differently from here in the United States. In some cases in China the construction actually begins before the owner has title to the land. It then becomes an arguing. To the government which basically owns all the land hey we've started building give us permission to finish. I think as a group, SCRUG feels that the SketchUp model is a sketch. It's sketchy; it is not to be taken literally.

A question to our group of about 24 people (design professionals, re-sellers and contractors) was what's the expectation when does the lead profession require their consultants to start modeling? There were a couple of different answers. Ideally, we would have the consultant start right away with the model, however, while the design is still in flux, it triggers rework on the part of the consultants with each new design. Essentially. the architect wants to cut a section and see if the design works. Are there conflicts? Will everything will fit in the space allotted? From my experience, I remember many projects adding on square footage to fit the electrical room or mechanical room. It is even happening on projects I manage now.

A lively part of the discussion centered around civil engineering and documentation. As an architect, getting the civil right is critical. The interface between the design parts - civil, electrical, plumbing, accessibility, structure and architecture is the difference between a successful project, on time and on budget and one riddled with delays and change orders. One of the civil engineers spoke to this issue on the panel. He said frankly that the civil tools presently are not at the same level as the Revit tools. That the civil tools, meaning specifically Autodesk Civil 3D, does not have accuracy to a shop drawing level. Often, architects want the point of connection at the same level or just to know what the level is so that we can verify that our plumbing drawings will be able to make the amount of fall that we need for the sewer connection.

The history of Civil 3D is that Autodesk bought it and developed that software. They transitioned all of their civil customers to Civil 3D from AutoCAD just a few months before they bought Revit and decided to spend a lot of resources on it. Autodesk could not in good conscience and with the support of their customers switch every civil license (about 75,000) from Civil 3D to Revit in such a short a time. Civil 3D has been developed on a more less a parallel track is Revit.

The beginning of the recession in 2007 and 2008 severely affected the civil profession. One civil engineer commented that the civil engineering profession shrink their offices, laid off employees and stopped buying new software and in some cases switched to hand drafting because they were in survival mode until nearly 2014. The fact of the matter is that most civil engineers do not work in three dimensions there a pipe networks are usually two-dimensional lines shown in plan and then they do a separate set of drawings to show the profiles and that each individual. That has to have an elevation that's done by hand and adjusted individually as needed. For the Civil Engineers that do work in three dimensions the exporting from Civil 3D to Revit is not a satisfying experience in some cases its just a sweep in AutoCAD in most cases it does not translate well. Civil engineers day don't like they don't work having continuous daily updates to a project team. Often times not just civil engineers but other professions as well will only export at milestones for coordination. That's works fine for smaller projects before large complicated projects it can be problematic.

Now some requests for proposals are asking for the civil engineering to be done three dimensionally for three-dimensional coordination.

The question came up on ways that we could maybe get a little bit more from civil; something that would be easy to coordinate in Revit and one suggestion was for each. Of connection for each critical point along the slope to have the civil drop in a 1 inch high 1 inch diameter cylinder at the right height. That cylinder when brought into Revit could then be scheduled and tagged. We want as a profession to make it easier for the people in the field to find their critical points. Where is the top of the pipe? What are the coordinates? Civil 3D includes a point of connection tool, however like many tools in many bits of software, very few people take full advantage. One civil engineering firm spoke up saying that they are looking at Revit work as a new revenue stream. They are taking Revit and using it to do as builts for clients. They take all of their potholing information instead of doing it 2D, as is tradition they are doing it three dimensionally using the Revit tools. They think of the model as being a 3d puzzle. And their model then becomes a tool for the long-term.

One point of information: Landscaping consultants often sub out their irrigation drawings.  Landscape Architects just focus on squares and circles to show the different types of plants and the over all areas; the actual plumbing is done by someone else.

Another point of information, in reality, design teams have to go to the lowest common denominator which in a lot of cases is AutoCAD. I have a consultant I'm working with and the version of AutoCAD they use is 10 years old. What winds up happening is the design team at the start of a project has to agree which version of software to use. On a long-term project most teams lock in their software right at the beginning. That may mean by the end of the project there using a version of software that is 6 or 7 years old. Some owners are actually rewarding companies that will not upgrade to the current software. That makes it difficult for those that stay current. For example the Irvine Company they just reward laggards they say well we'll be using an older version of software for the duration of the project.for projects where you want to upgrade in the middle, there is the danger that the upgrade translation portion of the software may break your model it may screw up the images or something else in the project. It was mentioned that one consultant may give you an additional service charge for upgrading in the middle of a project. That may cost between $500 and $5,000 in additional fees.

Autodesk is now offering a way to rent software. The rental of software has you locked into whatever the current version is and you can't use older versions.

The question a design team has to ask each consultant at the start is,  "are they equipped to do the project?" Eventually the prime in each project will need to start asking or in many cases telling the consultants, "if you want to work with us you need to be on subscription or you need to use this version of the software."

In speaking about the efficiency of using BIM on a project it may take about five to seven projects using the same team members have a sweet spot.  Those first couple of projects maybe you'll break even, maybe you lose money, but by the end of that process you will have a great team that will do great work. For companies or design teams with frequent turn over, they will be perpetually inefficient.

One of the real life situations about upgrading between versions of software or staying with older versions of software is a correction factor. One person said that in their projects there's about a five to seven percent correction factor. Companies have multiple versions of software installed and projects using different versions of software. They will often have to resort to back ups when projects are accidentally upgraded. They will use work arounds to copy work from one project to the next.

A note on the food: The pizza served was the best pizza I've had at a SCRUG meeting. The BIM Workshop mixer before the meeting had great food and plenty of it.

In the interest of timeliness, I am publishing this first draft "as is". I look forward to your comments and perspectives.


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