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Facing up to the Challenge of Building Information Modelling

ASCA 2006: Facing up to the Challenge of Building Information Modelling.

University of Nottingham, 4th-5th April 2006

In recent years, development of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has become one of the key innovations in Architectural Computing. The use of BIM within the profession and the construction industry is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Traditionally students in schools of architecture have used CAD packages to generate 2D line drawings. Some might also generate a 3D model, often with an aim to create glossy presentation images, or animations. In addition students may use a simple 3D modelling packages such as SketchUp to explore design ideas at early stages. Often these operations would be completed separately, using different pieces of software.

With BIM, architects produce a single intelligent 3D model of their building from which plans, sections and elevations can be automatically generated. The 3D model can be used to generate conceptual drawings, renderings and animations at the early stages of the design process, and production drawings and schedules at the later stages. BIM uses a series of intelligent parametric objects such as walls, doors floors and ceilings. For instance when a door is inserted into a wall, the software knows to cut an appropriate opening in the wall, and to apply the appropriate detailing to the opening.

If this is the way that the profession is moving, then should schools of architecture be following suit, or are the 'old fashioned' methods of working more appropriate for the educational environment? If BIM is introduced into schools, how might it best be introduced and taught? What support do students using BIM need from specialist CAD teachers and design tutors in general? What pitfalls exist in the use of BIM and how can they be avoided?

This year's ASCA symposium will provide the opportunity to discuss how schools of architecture might address the challenges that arise as a result of working with BIM.

We intend to start the programme on the evening of the 4th April. Accommodation will be available on the Nottingham University campus.

Details, and a booking form will shortly be made available on the CEBE web site ( In the meantime, for further information, Contact Andy Roberts ( at CEBE or David Nicholson-Cole at Nottingham (

More about the BIM conference.......

Andy wrote the blurb in the previous message based on discussions I had held with him.
The schools in the UK are in need of a new direction, the ACSA meetings have become shorter and worse attended in recent years, with little to inspire. The idea is to grasp the opportunity to get the idea of the BIM across and think about effective ways of working this into the teaching. People from outside the UK, and from related disciplines, e.g. construction management, are especially welcome, and we can provide accommodation for stayovers on the evening of 5th april.

The symposium commenced with a presentation from Ben Wallbank of John Robertson Architects, a practice that now commonly uses BIM in its project work. Ben used case studies from his own practice to give a clear demonstration as to how BIM can provide benefits to project communication and coordination, giving a greater probability that schemes will be completed on time and to budget.

Presentations were also provided by Graphisoft, outlining the potential of their suite of software products (ArchiCAD, Constructor and MaxonForm) for Conceptual and Constructional Modelling. They also demonstrated how simple Sketchup models can be converted into ArchiCAD building information models. John Counsell, from UWE also demonstrated an online resource, funded as part of a CEBE educational development grant, that allows students to access a record of the process of constructing UWE’s new architecture building. Demonstrations were also given on Digital 3D printing, and the integration of 3D models and Google Earth.

The symposium concluded with a series of discussions on the value of BIM in architectural education. Participants felt that BIM provided an opportunity to integrate building technology and design studio teaching in a way that has previously not been possible. Nevertheless, it is possible that BIM can weaken a student’s ability to think and it was suggested that physical models still have some role to play in the development of a design. It was also questioned whether the capabilities of BIM, related to what was commonly expected of students in schools of architecture, for instance students often do not have to generate construction information and documentation. The needs of education and practice differ with the goals of architectural education being to educate and the goals of practice to build buildings.

Discussion was also conducted on how BIM can be best integrated into the teaching in schools. It was felt that there needs to be a plurality in what gets taught; BIM should not be taught in isolation away from the design project. Nevertheless, it was recognised that it is often difficult to persuade some tutors in schools of architecture as to the benefit of BIM. One possible way of achieving this integration was by using BIM to model existing buildings, which may also enhance students’ critical thinking skills.

One of the key features of BIM is its capability to generate 2D orthographic drawings automatically from a 3D Model. Traditionally the conventions of 2D drawing are taught within the curriculum, but with BIM school’s approaches to this may have to change, including teaching how to customise the drawing styles output by BIM Questions were also raised about whether the evaluation of a design in crits be via 3D real time models or through conventional orthographic drawings.

One of the further advantages of using BIM software is its ability to use Industry Foundation Classes to share data between software packages. This enables greater possibilities for collaborative projects, across disciplines. Furthermore this ability to transfer data unleashes possibilities for use of environmental analysis software.

Beyond the realm of education, much of the discussion also focused on how the role of the practicing architect might change as a result of the introduction of BIM. Would smaller practices be able to take on bigger jobs. Could architects invest more time in early stage design, if BIM can allow them to spend less time drafting and completing schedules? To what extent should schools recognise this likely change, and should academia be leading practice towards these new ways of working?

FULL REPORT (including report of breakout sessions) AT:

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