To BIM or not to BIM, that is the question

In the two weeks since we decided to join forces and launch a startup, we have been confronting a number of pretty fundamental questions head on. The first of these is this: what tools do we use in our new business?

Some relatively new modes of practice are pushing the virtual nature of architectural work to new heights. Some say that BIM - building information modelling - is the future of practice. For those of you not in the know, BIM is the opposite of drawing. It involves realising architectural projects by creating a three dimensional model and comprehensive database of building information, from which the documentation that gets things built is taken. All of the consultants involved in a project can theoretically collaborate on the model, and you build up a resolved model of all of the building components coming together. (The image of a BIM model below is from BIM-MEP. I hope they don't mind that I borrowed it. You can see in the model that all of the air conditioning and hydraulics systems have been modelled - this is stuff that architects usually don't draw in 2D.)

BIM is on our mind as we set up our new venture; do we stick with 2D digital drafting and drawing, or begin the long process of becoming proficient in information modelling? Conceptually, the idea of building virtual informational models of our buildings appeals to me. It feels like the next step.

I am particularly interested in other opportunities that might emerge from a BIM approach. How can it aid creative collaboration? O alternatively, is collaboration only for technical subconsultants? If so, is this enough to warrant the investment? 

To BIM or not to BIM is just one of the questions we face as we edge our startup closer to launch. Partly it is a question of up-front investment, in time and in money. We are quick at 2D drafting; it would initially slow us right down to switch. On the other hand, switching right at the inception of the business is probably a good time to do it, when we are getting up to speed on a number of fronts. What do you think?

The other question is, once one decides to use BIM, which application does one invest in? At the moment, the answer is being dictated by our preference for Macintosh computers; ArchiCad is leading the pack. Not sure if REVIT works on Macs; I know that AutoCAD now has a Mac version. Need to speak to some people with experience of using it to fill out the picture more. 

Fortunately, this is not a decision we need to make today.