Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, the chances are you know about the impending government BIM reform. Numerous articles have been written about what BIM is, how it can save everyone in the construction chain money and ultimately how those that don’t adapt will be left behind. The deadline looms and is now less than 2 years away.
Scaremongering is rife but what is lacking is practical and sound advice on how to proceed as an AEC manufacturer. You have questions that need to be answered: How do I invest in BIM? Do I need to train my staff in BIM? What kind of return on investment am I looking at? How long will it take? Can I create BIM versions of my products by myself?
So where are you in the global race to adopt BIM? Well, most accept BIM is the way forward for the construction industry, but there exist vast cultural differences when it comes to the uptake of the technology. Early adopters in the US and parts of Europe are already reporting a significant return on investment for BIM.
Some are being forced to change by law, as in the UK. This list also includes the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Norway – all of which will require the use of BIM on publicly-funded building projects by 2016.
Others are being encouraged more ‘gently’. The European Parliament recently voted to « encourage all European countries to recommend the use of electronic tools, including BIM, on public works contracts. »
As usual, Asia is steaming ahead. One UK construction expert recently lamented that « In Japan, modular construction is used on more than 50% of its buildings, while the UK uses it in less than five per cent. »
When it comes to BIM uptake though, the real disparity is not geographical, it is between the actors involved in the construction chain. That’s somewhat ironic as the whole point of BIM is to enable manufacturers, architects, quantity surveyors, engineers, builders and owners to better communicate. By 2016, we are told, if any of these groups want to have a hand in lucrative public projects, they will all need to have a firm grasp of what BIM is and how to use it. BIM is no different to any other new technology in that some are more willing and able to get on board than others.
So here’s the good news for you as an AEC manufacturer. This really isn’t your problem because of all the actors in the chain, you have the most simple part to play in the whole reform process. All you need to do is to provide a BIM version or catalog of your products. This is not only simple, you are the group most likely to see a return on investment. Why? well, a BIM catalog will help you to promote and sell your products to the very people that prescribe them.
So you’ve accepted BIM is the way forward and you’ve decided to go ahead and create a BIM objects catalog. You now have two options, outsource the process to a CAD and BIM objects expert manufacturer or attempt to create your catalog yourself. Whichever option you choose, don’t forget that albeit the fact that more and more specifiers and AEC professionals use BIM. A BIM method is only mandatory in the public market. If 39% of architects knew about or were already using BIM in the UK in 2013 (according to the NBS) – this also means that the remaining 61% don’t use it yet. The US, which is a « ripe BIM market » had 60% of architects using BIM according to Autodesk’s report if this is what we can expect in 2016’s UK it still means that a big chunk of AEC professionals will never be BIM ready or at least will be extreme laggers. These architects and specifiers will continue using « traditional CAD » indefinitely and you, as an AEC manufacturer cannot allow yourself to ignore them. Make sure you’re not only BIM ready then. Make sure no matter which professionals using no matter which solution or method – has access to your catalogs.
Vmzinc, the specialist in innovative zinc solutions for building covering published its first fifty Rendering and BIM textures compatible with 100% of professional software used by architects and AEC professionals.
This first VMzinc BIM catalog is part of the company’s communication strategy and its group: Umicore – an international specialist in metals and materials technology. VMzinc is its international brand name of rolled zinc solutions for the building industry.
VMzinc manufactures a broad range of products for the building industry, including a full range of Titanium-Zinc products available as sheets, coils or as specially tailored systems. Their extensive range of products reflects their wealth of professional and practical experience. These products are designed to meet needs of various climates and standards worldwide.
The first 50 BIM objects for VMzinc were specially designed by Polantis so that they could seamlessly fit and integrate into any kind of building project. The product categories « Systems and and products for roofing » and « Systems and products for façades » were conceived first in order to reply for the increasing demand of architects, specifiers and other AEC professionals. The other product categories are already under production by Polantis’ expert architects and will be published during 2014.
VMzinc hopes to profit from the ongoing BIM revolution and make sure architects and specifiers in the UK and elsewhere in the world could employ their range of products easily into their projects. The VMzinc catalog joins hundreds of other CAD and BIM objects catalogs recently published by a many AEC manufacturers in anticipation for the extensive UK BIM reform that will be in full effect on the 1st of January 2016.
UPM the Finnish giant of wood for construction enters the BIM era with the publication of a first CAD and BIM objects catalog made available for Architects and other specifiers in the UK and the rest of the world online at polantis.com
The first products to be published are systems of wood panels for cladding. UPM chose to make them available in 16 different CAD, BIM and Rendering formats. The BIM components could be easily integrated into a 3D BIM model and enrich any project with an extended palette of colors and motives.
UPM is a frontrunner of the new forest industry. The company leads the integration of bio and forest industries into a new, sustainable and innovation-driven future. UPM is known to create value from renewable and recyclable materials.
UPM’s structure consists of the following business areas: UPM Biorefining, UPM Energy, UPM Raflatac, UPM Paper Asia, UPM Paper ENA (Europe and North America) and UPM Plywood.
In 2012, UPM’s sales exceed 10 billion euros. They are present in 65 countries and their production plants exist in 15 different countries. UPM employs over 22,000 people worldwide and their shares are listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki stock exchange.
It’s likely you have a team of technical experts at the heart of your business. This team is probably made up of experienced engineers who design and process your products. The question is do they have the specific skills necessary to develop a professional CAD and BIM catalogue in house?
Most product and industrial engineers are well versed in PLM computer design but are not architects. None of them have previously worked in architectural firms or specified products in an architectural design. Only an architect can create a high quality, professional CAD and BIM catalogue because only an architect has the specific experience in BIM or CAD software and the understanding of the proper functioning of an architectural practice.
A professional CAD and BIM catalogue needs to make your objects available in as many formats as possible. In order to maximise your return on investment, architects and prescribers must be able to download and manipulate the 3D versions of your products in to the software they habitually use. Today there are four BIM software versions in use as well as dozens of CAD and rendering programs.
Converting objects between one BIM program and another is quite simply impossible (this despite the claims of IFC and IFD’s so called « interoperability »). Converting CAD objects from one format to another is possible(in most cases) but it can be tricky.
The upshot is, if you fail to produce your catalogue in the maximum number of formats (at least 10) you will be limiting your business to a very small number of architects and prescribers. (i.e only those who use the few programs your objects are available in)
CAD architectural programs, and to a greater extent BIM programs, are far removed from the programs used by your designers and engineers. They really are distant cousins and converting an object from PLM to CAD (for example from .igs format to .dwg format) will more often than not produce monstrously large files with too much detail, in the wrong scale and may contain sensitive information you don’t want out of your premisses.
Converting an object from a PLM format to a BIM format is simply impossible today. (.sat to .gsm for example) Even if you manage somehow to make a « geometrical conversion » of a PLM object into a BIM format (i.e – you manage to convert the 3D form from one software format to the other) – you will end up with a heavy « dummy » object that has none of the attributes and parameters necessary for a proper functioning in a BIM project environment.
If you want to create your CAD and BIM catalogue in house, you will need to think about acquiring a number of BIM and CAD software programs. Consult our cost analysis below for more detail.
Creating a 3D catalogue can be immensely time consuming without the aid of technologies specially adapted to the task. Even if you do manage to hire top notch architects, they will still have to spend time mastering the programs they’re not familiar with. Once they do, they will then have to learn how to create an object using this software. After all, these programs are designed for the purpose of architectural design, not creating objects for catalogues.
Your architects will need to learn how to ‘divert’ or ‘hack’ to properly create your objects. A lot of these programs come with a ‘catalogue object creation mode’ but its rare to find someone with the know how in this domaine because very few architects pass their time creating catalogue objects.
At the bottom of this article you’ll see how it will take two excellent architects 19 years to create 1000 catalogue objects in all the necessary formats – don’t underestimate the time it takes!
Creating a CAD and BIM catalogue is good, but getting it to the people who will use it is even better. If you have managed to create a professional catalogue you will now have thousands of files, some in 2D format, some in 3D, others in BIM. Some will be purely textures or ‘shaders’ that can cover polygonal surfaces etc. How do you intend to get all of this out to architects and prescribers? Remember, each uses a different software program and perhaps different methods within a program.
-If you wish to distribute these files online, you will need to think about a costly web upgrade for your site. Aside from the distribution you’ll have to think about costs associated with hosting and downloading these objects.
– If you’re thinking about sending your catalogue via email, how will you go about managing a group of files that might totalize 8Go and how will you ensure your mail isn’t flagged as spam? Do you have a good list of contacts when it comes to architects and designers?
-If you want to hand out copies of your catalogue at trade fairs and other events which is the best format? A QR code? A DVD? a USB key? All of these need to be properly designed and thought of.
Let’s imagine you produce a range of 1000 different products and you want to create a CAO/BIM catalogue
– You will need to find and hire the services of two experienced architects who are content to abandon their career in architecture in favor of designing catalogue objects (no mean feat!) Assuming you manage to negotiate a salary of £2500 for each per month, you’re looking at an annual cost of : £60,000
– You’ll need to buy software licenses for CAD and BIM for 2 desks + any other essential software (Adobe creative suite, pack office, etc) That’s 12 software packages X 2 at an average cost of £3700 per license = £88,800
– An architect who can master several CAD and BIM software is a rare thing. You will need to pay for training. It takes around 5 days to properly master each program at an acceptable level. On top of that each architect will need to learn how to use the object creation mode of each software package. A day’s training costs around £250. £250 X 5 days for each program X 10 programs = £12,500
– 2 workstations properly adapted to high level 3D creation = £5000
The time it takes to create a professional CAO/BIM catalogue will also have an impact on costs… There are about 230 working days in a year (52 weeks X 5 days a week less 30 days of vacations / sick leave / bank holidays etc)
The time it will take to train your two architects will end up at around 50 work days. Add to that around 30 days each to learn how to use the object creation mode in each program. So each architect will need 150 days of training in the first year.
A very good architect who is also an expert in CAD and BIM will create, on average, one complex object per day. In just one format. Remember, you need to create objects in 10 – 15 formats. So let’s imagine your architects are particularly efficient and they manage to produce all the formats for one object in 10 days. At the end of the first year you will have 30 finished objects for your catalogue.
So the first year’s cost: 60,000 + 88,000 + 12,500 + 5,000 = £165,500
That’s £5,500 per object
The second year will cost the architect’s salaries + the software updates. Let’s assume your architects produce around 50 complete objects in all of the required formates each year. You will be looking at a cost of about £2,600 per object.
It will take your firm around 19 years and cost you more than £2,6 million to create a professional CAD and BIM catalogue in house covering your range of 1000 objects. That’s with two architects. If you hire 4, you will of course halve the time and double the costs. If you hire 6 architects and a project manager, they could get the time down to around 3 years but that will cost you significantly more.
Creating a CAD and BIM catalogue in house at the cost of around £5000 per object probably isn’t a very good idea, especially when a cheaper, easier alternative exists.
Get a professional CAD and BIM objects manufacturer to work on your catalogue. A good service provider and an expert in CAD and BIM catalogue creation will:
If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in to our comments box
“Now regard this pure white sheet of paper! It is ready for recording the logic of the plan. T-square, triangle, scale – seductive invitation lying upon the spotless surface. Temptation!
“Boy! Go tell Black Kelly to make a blaze there in the work-room fireplace! Ask Brown Sadie if it’s too late to have Baked Bermudas for supper! Then go ask your Mother – I shall hear her in here – To play something – Bach prefered, or Beethoven if she prefers.”
Now comes to brood – to suffer doubt, hesitate yet burn with eagerness. To test bearings and prove ground already assumed by putting all together in definite scale on paper. Preferably small scale study at first. then larger. Finally still larger scale detail studies of parts.”
Frank Lloyd Wright – An Autobiography – P. 156 – (Published – 1932)
Replace the T-Square, triangle and scale by CAD software, telemeter and a digital camera and you pretty much have the same methods today. Practicing architecture is all about proportions and scales, Architects start with an idea, a concept and they just keep on “zooming in” until the full picture comes to full effect in their imagination and of course, on their plans.
There are many methods, concepts, and “schools” to CREATE architecture, but what remains almost the same is that “coming and going” process; those constant cycles of analysis and synthesis. That, and the very final outcome: A universally readable drawing with strict rules – the execution plan.
Here are the most common phases of architectural work:
1. Getting and analyzing the program. After the contract between an architect and its client is established the architect takes the time to carefully study the program allocated. If it’s a public building, the program is usually crafted by specially trained architects and engineers providing a huge amount of norms, technical sheets and regulations to follow. In other cases, the architect builds the program along with his clients (for smaller projects usually, like private houses, cult facilities etc.)
2. First draft: 1/500 – 1/200 scale. Once the program is well defined and known to the designing team, the first drafting starts. Now methods vary: Some architects “attack” the 2D plans, sections and elevations that in due time will be transformed into the final execution plans and some start with 3D construction of volumes that will gradually become the spaces and shapes of the built project. In this very early stage, few architects turn to go over manufacturers catalogs.
3. First validation by client: 1/200 – 1/100 scale. This is where things start to “get hot”… The first validation of a project’s design is always a bit stressful for the designing team. This is where the architect needs to “re-seduce” the client in some sort. In most architecture practices, this is done with plain, traditional 2D plans sections and elevations and… lots of verbal explanations. Then there are those who are more “technique savvy” – In order to make sure the client properly understands the project they use computer generated imagery like this:
Over the past few years, we’ve been witnessing a genuine increase both in the performance of 3D CAD software and in the skill and talent of young architects. Computer generated imagery is becoming more and more abundant in today’s architectural design market. This is also partly due to the fact that clients tend to demand this kind of high-end service more frequently. Those images could be easily sent by email to friends and family for them to give their opinion.
4. Second client validation and construction permit: 1/100 – 1/50 scale. No architect dares to hope that his client will be 100% satisfied with his initial design. Often, there are many modifications and changes, but the path is clearer and the team is reassured once the concept has been accepted. Now is the time to get “down to business” The design team’s work now, is to get the project approved by the authorities for construction. In most western countries, the construction permit drawings are handed in 1/50 scale with an “in-site” integration of the building (CGI again…) Like the following example:
Although in the first client validation phase, CGI is not mandatory, most competent authorities demand one, so that they could make an idea of the project’s integration impact on its surrounding environment.
5. Execution plans: Detailed 1/50 scale and some parts in 1/20 or 1/10. Finally! The project was approved by both client and the authorities now comes the final part of architectural designing where “all hell breaks loose” – This is usually where our poor design team discovers that the plumbing doesn’t perfectly fit with the foundations and that the window they chose for the hallway is no longer manufactured because the draftsman used an outdated catalog from 1988… The plans are sent back and forth to the contractors and engineers for review and there is much rejoicing. It’s during this phase that most of the materials and architectural elements are specified. In some places, plans are not enough and architects actually write down – for every room and corridor – a full detailed textual description of all of the amounts and materials. At this point, the client tends to develop nostalgic feelings towards his initial budget and the days his local bank manager actually smiled at him…
6. Construction. Oh dear, now we actually have to build all that??
IMPORTANT NOTE: These 6 phases are generalized. There are lots of variations. The process I described fits the description of building for a private client. Building for governmental or other institutions is somewhat different than the described above. I’ll be happy to detail it in the comments or future posts if there’ll be a demand.
Where do YOU come in?
Well, it depends on what you are manufacturing:
Usually, architects work on several projects at the same time, and their phases do not overlap, how can you make sure you are reaching the designing team at the appropriate moment? Who should be your contact person? How do you find him or her? – All that and much more – in the following chapters.
Architect at work from « Catalogue modèle de l’architecte 1913 » (Paris, France)
According to our estimations, there are about 1.3 million active architects working in the building industry at any given time. Worldwide. You can safely double that figure if you want to include interior architects, decorators, office space planners, booth builders and other design related professionals. Those are key actors holding a “few” dozen billion dollar market.
Architects are decision makers. They are specifiers of building related goods as doctors prescribe medicine. And while pharmaceutical companies understood the later long time ago, most of the building related manufacturers didn’t seem to quite “get it” about architects. Yet.
The main reason behind that lack of comprehension is probably due to a profound misunderstanding of the architect’s work and role as a “prescriber of goods”. Here are, briefly, some points to take into account:
So how can you overcome all those points and how can you make sure you understand the relevant needs and related technology? In the upcoming posts, it will provide you with a complete overview, set of rules and guidance so you could start working and selling to architects in no time. Stay tuned.