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Making Money With BIM

29 Oct

Once in a while I will post something nontechnical- a rant if you will. Today is one of those in a whiles. My experience in architecture has led me to believe that architecture firms care only about construction drawings and the tools that are immediately required to produce said drawings. That is being a bit harsh, they might throw in a render here or there. Research and development are nonexistent as is exploring new technology. Maybe I should restate my previous claim that architects care only about CDs and say that: If it ain’t billable, it ain’t doable. Architects also seem interested in selling their design services only. The economic downturn should have taught them that they possess more than design skills and there is money to be made in other areas – but I fear it did not. Let’s explore making money with BIM in light of these observations about architecture firms.

BIM is expensive – if you buy Revit – and has a learning curve. Training doesn’t come cheap and lots of firms want to hire a BIM specialist to train everyone to keep costs down. This just results in slower learning and inefficiencies in projects. Firms tend not to give the model away and can’t command higher commissions because they use BIM. The client only wants the CDs anyway so why would they pay extra for anything else? If all this is true, how do we make money with BIM?

The usual way to justify BIM is that you will save money by decreasing the number of change orders or competing your project faster. This is the old sell my design skills thinking. Why not leverage the model to sell additional services on the back end.

Architectural data a a service.

The architect has a model that can be updated throughout the lifecycle of the building. Repairs and maintenance on the building can be updated in the model and given back to the client. The BIM can be sold as a subscription based software package for facility management through a web based front end. The client doesn’t need, nor do they often want, the BIM in some proprietary format like .RVT. They want a schedule and maybe an image showing where something is. This makes the task even easier. 90% of a clients needs will be updated properties of the building – not changes to the geometry. Simplifying the job even further. Data is valuable. Data is worth $$. The architect holds more data about a building than the owner. Multiplied by the number of buildings the firm has built.

Why let a client go when a building is done? Architects need to expand their services. Architects hold data that is vital in operating the building for decades to come. The data was created and paid for during the design of the building. Any money made off of it after design is profit. How easy with all the tools available today to stand out and find additional revenue streams based off work that is already being done. It could be something as simple as handing over an HTML version of an owners manual – not a pdf. Or if a pdf, at least embed hyperlinks or other interactive features.

The future of architecture is data. Those that have it and can use it will win. Design is important, and always will be, but the services you can provide above and beyond that is where value resides for you and the client.

This concludes my rant. It is lacking in detail but it is my preliminary thoughts on the issue. The ideas need to be flushed out and elaborated on but the meat is there.

Don’t Get BIMBoozled

6 Feb

I love BIM. I think it is a great process for the AEC industry. I also think that it has become a buzzword. Architecture firms are putting BIM in every piece of marketing material. They are telling their clients that they “use BIM” and how this makes them the right firm for the job. But it’s not just architects throwing BIM around. Owners are doing it too. RFPs are requesting firms with experience in BIM. Do these clients actually know what they are getting or why they need BIM? All I am asking is that if you are going to promote BIM or if you are going to request a firm to have BIM experience, at least know why you are doing this. I want to share a sample contract that pushed BIM. This contract is real. I stumbled upon it while searching the web. The names have been removed to protect the innocent, and the not-so-innocent.

Convert existing as-built construction documents of all facilities…into REVIT, an electronic building information management system…After the REVIT drawings have been generated, COMPANY will walk through each facility to verify the information. Inconsistencies …will be corrected on the REVIT drawings. The REVIT drawings will be for information only and should not be used for construction documents without verification of dimensions and room layouts. Electronic files of each facility will be provided to the District in both .pdf and REVIT format.

The first thing to notice about this contract is that it never mentions BIM, but rather is selling Revit drawings. It is clear from the second sentence that Revit is equated with BIM. However, the writer of the contract is not clear on what the acronym BIM actually stands for and states that Revit is a “building information management” system. Revit is not BIM. And BIM stands for Building Information Modeling.

Secondly, The company will verify the information in the Revit drawings. What information? This is the whole scope of work detailed in the contract. At no point is there any reference to what the I in BIM is to include. It appears, from the few sentences I have truncated, that the Revit drawings will be drawn to match the as built conditions. Having a floor plan that is accurate is not usually what the I in BIM stands for. Also, it is interesting that the drawings will be verified but should not be used by the client unless they are verified again. It’s almost as if the company is stating that they will not verify them very well. Lastly, on this point, the drawings are for “information only.” Again, the use of the word information, without any clarification as to what this means. If you are just giving me a floor plan, why do I need it in Revit? Can’t you do it in AutoCAD? Am I paying more for this because Revit is being sold as BIM?

My last criticism of this contract is that the deliverable is a “.pdf and Revit format.” I can guess what this means, but in contracts one should not have to infer what the deliverable is, it should be stated clearly – unless you like litigation. A “.pdf” is a specific file type. The contract makes no statement as to which program would be used to create it. A PDF of a 2D floor plan from Revit, however, removes any “information” that may have been included in the model. I cannot click a window and see the properties. The drawing is now no different than if it were done in CAD. The second deliverable is a drawing in the “Revit format.” A filetype was not stated, as was done in the first deliverable, but rather the software used to create it was. We can guess the filetype would be a .rvt. That’s great, but does the client have Revit? would a DWF and a copy of Design Review make more sense? They would then have access to the data in the model. How about an .ifc and a copy of FZKViewer? Let’s hope the client has Revit and can utilize this deliverable.

What is an .rvt? I know I can save as.. and pick .rvt, but what should that file look like when I open it? Should it be 3D? What level of detail is the model built to? Are the walls generic? This contract does not say. It is wide open to interpretation. This contract is an example of someone getting BIMboozled. It appears that neither the client, nor the company, knows what BIM is. What is being sold in this contract? What does the client think they are buying? I wish I knew.

Architects, if you are going to write your own contracts, please have a lawyer look them over.

Clients, if you are going to sign a contract, please know what you are getting and make it clear — in writing!

And finally, if you are going to promote or require BIM, know why you are doing so. Don’t just use buzzwords.