What is BIM? Should Your Firm Upgrade? by @FrankCunhaIII

What is BIM?

BIM stands for Building Information Modeling. It is not a technology but a culmination of different concepts and technologies that come together in one central package.

Architects & Designers:
“Either upgrade from 2-D drawing to BIM now or get left behind.”

How is BIM different than CAD? 

Many people who first see the concept of BIM may just shrug it off as nothing more than a different version of CAD software. BIM is to CAD is what CAD was to hand drafting.  Because both BIM and CAD are computer based the difference on first glance is not easily recognizable.

In using CAD, we are essentially drawing the same way we did on paper – in two dimensions.  The only difference is that now the drawings are electronic and easier to manipulate and reproduce.  We can move entire walls with a few clicks of the mouse where as on paper the entire sheet had to be redrawn.  This drastically speeds up the process but also creates some challenges as well.

For example:

In CAD, as easy as it is to move a wall, it is also just as easy to move it to the wrong spot – creating its own set of coordination issues.

With BIM, the design team does not draw in 2D and we do not need to draw traditional floor plans, sections, elevations.  Instead, you create a full 3D model of your entire building, complete with walls, floors, doors, concrete, steel, etc exactly how you want it to be built in the real world.  Then you tell the computer what drawings you want generated from this central Building Information Model.  If you want a section, simply draw a section line and the program will understand that you want a section cut at that point.  The beauty of this is that when you move walls or change floor to floor dimensions that particular aspect of the building model is automatically updated.  If your client wants to know updated square footage totals, you don’t need to add up anything manually – this information is built into the model and is simple to extract.  Instead of the contractor estimating how much concrete the building contains you can tell him how much.

How much does BIM cost?

This depends on how your firm decides to implement Building Information Modeling.  We actually already have BIM – it is built into Autocad Architecture that we are currently using and have many licenses of.  Unfortunately, we are not using the program anywhere near its full capacity, only bits and pieces of BIM functionality.  Although we have CAD standards, we don’t have all of the standards put in place for BIM.

Where do we start?

There are a few different ways to implement BIM into our current practices.  Many companies have begun to do so with various methods and levels of success.

Method 1 – Software Training. 
This would involve people from a consulting company coming in and giving us presentations on how to use the software.  In addition, we would have people go through exercises on their own computers.

Recommendation: Because of the nature of BIM, with the multitude of options it provides, this is not the best solution.  It is simply too much to take in a few training sessions.

Method 2 – Project Based. 

Method two would involve using our current software but picking a project to use it on and make an effort from the start to specifically make that project a complete BIM.  There would have to a member of the team that was more adept at the software that would assist in implementing it throughout the process.  This person could be a trained employee or an outside consultant.


Method 3 – New Software.

Ultimately, Autocad Architecture will be phased out over the next few years.  Replacing it with true BIM software packages such as Autodesk REVIT, ArchiCAD, Vectorworks or Digital Project (CATIA) will be the next logical step.  The choice to move to one of these packages should be analyzed based on the type of work we are doing, the monetary investment we are willing to make, and how we go about phasing in the software.  Once one of these software packages are chosen, we can then use a new project as the basis for learning the software similar to Method 2.


The Firm Model – Doing what is good for the Client, Company, Office, and Employees. 


BIM helps the client by producing a more accurate set of construction documents.  Estimating is far more accurate and fewer change orders will occur.

Company and Office
BIM has been shown to produce documents that have far less coordination issues than standard CAD drawings, projects have faster turn around time, and design changes are easy to implement at any stage.

If we want to attract the best people and create effective project teams, having the right tools for the job is important.


Either upgrade from 2-D drawing to BIM now or get left behind.

Download a free sample by clicking on the links below:




We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post.  We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
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