Using BIM to its full potential in a small practice, focusing on the residential end user market.

 

What is BIM?

BIM or Building Information Modelling is a process for creating and managing information on a construction project across the project lifecycle. One of the key outputs of this process is the Building Information Model, the digital description of every aspect of the built asset. This model draws on information assembled collaboratively and updated at key stages of a project. Creating a digital Building Information Model enables those who interact with the building to understand how changes effect them and make alterations, resulting in a greater end result with no surprises.

 

Scenario Architecture and BIM

Our main focus is creating functional and beautiful homes for private residential clients through a uniquely collaborative process which involves a thorough understanding of our client’s requirements and aspirations and the unique way in which they would like to interact with their home. From the outset we were using advanced 3D software applications to design and visualise our proposals to clients.

We always believed that accurate and realistic 3D representation of any scheme we worked on is a key element in our ability to have a meaningful and productive discussion with our clients who are normally not used to reading plans, sections and elevations.

While Autodesk Maya (the software, not the director of Scenario) proved great in fluid design, renderings and fly through animations, the translation from 3D models to 2D drawings was always tricky and extremely laborious. As our first few projects progressed in the pipelines towards realisation we started to realise the potential benefits of using 3D modelling tools to coordinate the various elements of the schemes, mainly structural, mechanical and electrical items.

Although BIM tools such as ArchiCAD and Revit were obviously already in use for many years in several countries, and to an extent also in the UK, the concept of BIM as we know it was at a very early stage of development. Blissfully unaware that there are in fact existing tools, specifically designed to enable 3D coordination of all building elements, we were effectively using Autodesk Maya as BIM.

Based on 2D and sometimes hand drawn schemes by structural and building services engineers, we spent a lot of time modelling in great detail these elements and coordinating into our architectural schemes. Even in its naive form our own BIM process proved effective in preventing typical mistakes misunderstandings, and coordination issues with other consultants and with contractors.

Scenario Architecture grew organically hiring the first two employees and during 2013 our four-strong team worked on 6-8 residential projects at any given time. It was during that period that our newest recruit (and now our lead design architect, Fanis Anastasiadis) introduced us to ArchiCAD and began to convince the team that there was an immediate value for Scenario and our clients by adopting it fully.

 

Moving to ArchiCAD BIM

Even then with just two employees and a handful of small-scale projects we feared the transition, software cost and learning curve. This postponed the transition until one Monday morning Fanis showed us one of our projects fully built in ArchiCAD which he created over the weekend. Seeing how fast he could create an accurate model and extract fully-coordinated data blew our minds. We purchased our first copy of the software, planning a gradual transition for new projects only, but a few months later ended up migrating all of our existing projects to BIM and soon enough we started to insist that our clients appoint BIM-only consultants.

The preconception was that BIM is suitable for large practices and large projects and simply “not worth it” for small projects. Today, having completed numerous small projects solely using ArchiCAD as BIM we could not disagree more with this preconception of BIM.

When explaining the benefits of using BIM for residential projects to our clients we often use a metaphor of a small shoe, which contains all the elements of a large one, all of which must receive the same quality of attention separately and in coordinating the whole as they do on a larger scale.

Although a residential project will typically contain a relatively simple structural and building services systems, with the budgetary and time frame limitations we always have to face, it is as important if not more important than it is in a large project that all professional will work off a single coordinated and updated model.

Today ArchiCAD is fully and seamlessly integrated into our standard workflow and we use it extensively on all projects from inception to completion.