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8 Ways Architects Use BIM for Design

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a technology-based approach to design that has revolutionized the way we design buildings. It’s especially helpful for those in architecture, structural engineering, and construction industries (AEC).

BIM technology improves the design process by allowing architects, engineers, and other design team members to work collaboratively in 3D computer-aided design (CAD) environments. 

This data-driven building design methodology provides a comprehensive view of a project lifecycle and aids stakeholders in the decision-making process. Aside from that, BIM allows design teams to accurately render realistic models and simulations to use for clash detection, case studies, construction documentation, and more. 

This brief overview only scratches the surface of what architects can do with this powerful technology. Let’s dive deeper into the ways architects use BIM for design.

BIM’s role in architecture

Using BIM for architectural design provides many benefits, including enhanced project management. Here are the top 8 ways BIM can help architects and building designers realize the benefits of BIM in streamlining their project management processes.

1. 3D modeling and rendering

BIM software allows architects to create detailed parametric 3D models of a building and its systems. This helps them visualize the overall design, provide renderings to stakeholders, and make design decisions more efficiently, thus improving the construction process.

Using Autodesk Revit’s “Design Options” feature, teams can efficiently create, evaluate, and modify building components within a single file.

For instance, while designing a roof terrace, architects can develop option sets that help them cycle through various trellis features like  sunscreens, louvers, or beam sizes. These options can be adjusted independently, enabling stakeholders to compare each design’s visual appeal, structure, and functionality. 

The finalized design can then be integrated into the main model, discarding unused alternatives and streamlining the process. This enhances architects’ ability to offer tailored, high-quality building solutions.

2. Design discipline integration

Various architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professions may need to collaborate during the building design process. These disciplines can all coordinate workflows using a single shared BIM model where everyone can collaborate and see each other’s changes.

BIM’s integral feature of issue tracking enhances design accountability and simplifies problem-solving, a process further streamlined by tools like BIM Collaborate Pro

These cloud-based tools facilitate collaboration, efficient management, and effective issue tracking in real-time, with remote accessibility and transparent progress tracking. 

BIM Collaborate Pro enables seamless issue identification and assignment, ensuring meticulous resolution tracking. BIM Track provides a comprehensive, up-to-date overview of all issues, quickening resolution and improving design quality. With these tools, architects and engineers can collaboratively minimize errors and foster a cohesive building design.

3. Virtual reality walkthroughs

As the world leans towards adopting more immersive design technologies, it has been observed that Virtual Reality (VR) hasn’t quite gained as much traction in the AEC industry as anticipated. The need for special hardware, such as VR headsets, can be a deterrent for building owners and designers — a challenge to the industry.

Solutions like Enscape and Twinmotion (which is now included with Revit subscriptions) provide an effective alternative by enabling Revit users to convert their Revit models into an interactive, game-like experience. Architects can navigate their designs virtually using familiar hardware such as an Xbox controller. These interactive explorations offer a more accessible format that realistically depicts the building’s appearance.

This approach provides a tangible experience for stakeholders, and it is also valuable for architects to identify potential design flaws and better understand the construction process. With tools like Enscape and Twinmotion, exploring architectural models becomes as easy as navigating through a video game, making the design and review process more engaging and user-friendly.

4. Clash detection

Building Information Modeling (BIM) revolutionizes architecture and construction by enabling 3D visualization of buildings and their internal systems like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. Studies show BIM technology can decrease unexpected project changes by up to 40%, reduce cost estimate production time by 80%, and save up to 10% of contract value through early clash detection, marking a significant advancement in architecture and construction.

BIM allows stakeholders to identify design issues early, refine them virtually, and achieve exceptional precision as minute as 1/64” of an inch! The tedious process of overlaying 2D drawings for clash detection is outdated and is also prone to errors due to varying precision levels.

Software such as Navisworks, Revizto, or Solibri offers comprehensive clash detection analyses, identifying conflicts between systems and object sizes, locations, and orientations. This early detection streamlines construction, reducing delays and cost overruns. The advantages extend to coordinating stakeholders, enhancing project quality, lowering costs, and accelerating delivery.

5. Project cost tracking

Automating the takeoff process is another major benefit of using BIM software. Users can use their Revit models to get detailed, accurate estimates of material quantities and costs without manual counting or estimation.

A good number of architects are primarily focused on preserving the integrity of their design visions, not just managing costs or materials. Value engineering poses a risk to design integrity as it alters original designs. With BIM, architects can mitigate this through all project stages, from conception to construction.

One way to mitigate the disastrous effects of value engineering is the use of Revit models. These models allow architects to track cost implications and the feasibility of their designs in real time, helping them make informed decisions to ensure their original concepts aren’t compromised during construction.

So, the key is not just about budget control or materials ordering but about enabling architects to protect their design vision. The use of the Revit model is critical for this, playing a central role in safeguarding original design intent and achieving desired project outcomes.

6. Detailing and annotation

Architects can quickly and accurately create detailed Revit drawings and annotations with BIM technology, helping them communicate their design ideas to engineering teams and other collaborators.

BIM software also allows architects to quickly add text, symbols, and colors to their drawings so they can give their collaborators detailed information on each building component. This helps ensure that everyone involved in the project understands the design plan, reducing potential construction issues.

7. Construction documentation

Construction documentation provides detailed instructions via drawings and specifications. And using Building Information Modeling (BIM) with tools like Revit software accelerates this process further by generating precise 3D models and 2D drawings. In turn, this improves contractor understanding, minimizes errors, and automates drawing updates in response to design modifications. 

In the United States, BIM technology ensures adherence to regional codes by automating code analysis and integrating regulations into software. It also validates building elements through digital simulations, prompting adjustments if necessary.

BIM software can also assist architects in designing energy-efficient buildings. This reduces the environmental impact of construction projects and contributes to a healthier planet.

8. Life cycle assessment

A project’s life cycle assessment looks at the environmental impacts of a building project over its entire lifespan. Using BIM, architects can quickly analyze a project’s life cycle and use the data to make design decisions and ensure that a project is both sustainable and efficient in the long term.

In addition, BIM allows architects to modify existing designs and compare them side by side to determine which are the most sustainable and yield the best performance. This helps them implement the most efficient and sustainable solutions, further reducing projects’ environmental impact.

The future of BIM in architecture

Most of the ways BIM can help architects and building designers have to do with collaboration, communication, and reducing human error. As BIM technology continues to advance, it will likely become even more helpful and widely used for architecture.

Other emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), are also expected to integrate into BIM software, allowing architects to simulate building performance in greater detail. Furthermore, BIM data interoperability is expected to improve, allowing for increased collaboration between different teams and stakeholders.

So far, we have seen how BIM technology has already revolutionized the way architects create and manage their projects. BIM combines 3D modeling, data management, and digital analysis tools into one comprehensive platform to create more accurate and sustainable designs that can be delivered faster and at lower costs.

The future of BIM technology will likely bring even more revolutionary changes and opportunities for architects, making the process of designing and constructing buildings faster, easier, and more efficient.

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