by Alistair Kell
Architects, designers and engineers’ fundamental skills rely on their creative and technical abilities, but technology is increasingly changing the way that they work. Project success relies on their ability to develop information that adequately describes design intentions for clients, and then successfully communicates technical solutions to project partners, ensuring that design intent is realised in built form. Advances in software and hardware are providing opportunities to improve the way that we work, and BIM is at the heart of this change.
With the launch of the Government’s BIM mandate in 2011, BDP took the opportunity to rationalise our software portfolio and implement a set of workflows that would allow us to focus on a reduced number of vendors. With the varying requirements of 14 different disciplines across BDP and a software estate in excess of 400 titles, this strategy was never going to be simple, but an approach was put in place which focuses on the Autodesk Building Design Suite. This has significantly advanced our position, moving the business from 2D CAD to more effective project delivery, with approximately 80% of work currently being delivered through BIM. As part of this journey, BDP also became the first company to be recognised as BIM Level 2 - compliant globally.
We have no ‘house style’; instead, we adopt a range of tools and processes, depending on building typology, project work stage and specific client requirements. As our knowledge of BIM methodologies and use of tools has increased, we have progressively leveraged the benefits of 3D model geometry, increasing the volumes of data built into models and the referencing of additional information sources to create more accurate and complex information outputs.
With the launch of the Government’s BIM mandate in 2011, BDP took the opportunity to rationalise our software portfolio and implement a set of workflows that would allow us to focus on a reduced number of vendors.
We focus on our core design activities, defining these around ‘BIM Uses’, therefore enabling model information to be developed and reused for additional value. This approach flexes to address the differing activities across all design stages, and increasingly centres on the continual development and aggregation of single sources of information.
Early stage design work using conceptual model information supports brief development, space analysis and early massing studies. A wide range of tools is adopted, but SketchUp, Revit and various ‘plug-ins’ for brief/area schedule analysis and visual communication of design concepts are provided to project teams through our Central IT group. We attempt to be as flexible as possible at early work stages, balancing the value of detailed modelling with defined elements against the fluid nature of the design process.
With developing design proposals, we ensure that projects move into Revit as our primary authoring platform. We expect accurate Revit models to be progressed from the later stages of concept design once optioneering has concluded and geometry becomes more fixed. Supporting tools are also used at this stage to address wider design communication and collaboration.
Typically, we introduce VR/ AR workflows from concept design, which add significant value for client and design team alike. The ability to place a client ‘inside’ the emerging design to better understand the quality of space, light or material is proving invaluable as a communication tool. Equally, similar exercises within the design team can greatly assist with design development prior to formal clash resolution exercises taking place.
Specification authoring linked to model development is also emerging as a key ‘BIM use’. With the adoption of NBS Create, we have established a workflow that allows the emerging design specification to be authored in parallel with the Revit model (effectively giving equal importance to both developing design proposals and the technical specification) and linking this to LoD/LoI development. The ability to align specification clauses to model elements is greatly assisting design coordination and reducing inconsistencies, and as we transition to NBS Chorus
The ability to align specification clauses to model elements is greatly assisting design coordination and reducing inconsistencies.
Typical BDP Revit/NBS Create workflow
During the developed design and technical delivery phases, the reliance on technology to improve efficiency and reduce repetitive tasks is increasingly important. The use of products such as Navisworks or Solibri to support design coordination and drive design development is key to our workflows. Equally, model/data aggregation, manipulation and automation (using tools such as Dynamo, CodeBook and dRofus, together with bespoke scripting) are providing increasingly critical tools in the design process.
BDP also has a number of standard tools supporting project information management, graphic design and desktop publishing. These are available to all staff, ensuring a consistent approach across the business.
Our technological approach and user adoption strategies are not static. In the early stages of our BIM implementation, we made significant steps to add benefit to the business on a regular basis. Practice-wide skills and knowledge have also improved through engagement and leadership outside of BDP, with many staff being involved in initiatives that are now widely adopted across the industry.
As AEC technologies improve, enabling greater collaboration and engagement across the building life cycle, it is clear that there will be a more significant step change past that triggered by the BIM Level 2 mandate. This is beginning to manifest itself in the debate over ‘Smart’ technologies (whether that be buildings, assets or cities), and we will soon see more applicable technical solutions to support such wider decision-making outside established working practices.
BDP is well placed to engage in these industry debates and drive benefit from opportunities as they emerge. Our technology strategy is intertwined with our business plan to ensure that both practical application and future vision deliver on the exciting future potential for the built environment.
Our technological approach and user adoption strategies are not static. In the early stages of our BIM implementation, we made significant steps to add benefit to the business on a regular basis.