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Dear Community Members,


We recently had our annual virtual event, Building Together, with inspiring talks and conversations lead by AEC professionals and educators all around the world. In a dedicated discussion to BIM Education we touched on:

  • the natural evolution of tools in the industry and in academia
  • BIM education globally and it’s place in the curriculum
  • Changes in collaboration and working/learning habit of students

We based our conversation on the insights we have gathered in a recent research study that we with the Global Education Team at Graphisoft did this year, on the integration of CAD and BIM applications into the curricula of universities in ten different countries. We have welcomed 4 panelists:

  • Marco Casini, Sapienza Roma, Italy
  • Prof. John Odhiambo Onyango, PhD, Notre Dame University, USA
  • Jakob Beetz, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
  • Nathaniel Don Valdez, University of Mindanao, Philippines

If you would like to rewatch or you have missed the session, you can check out the full conversation here:


Unfortunately we didn't have the time to answer the questions coming from our audience during live broadcast, so let us share with you the replies of panelist.


Let us know if you have your own questions in the dedicated thread or if you can suggest further topics to explore with students, educators and professionals about the BIM workflows and the tools that we use for our daily work during and after university years.


Q: Do you think the teacher should choose which software to use in their discipline or it should be defined by the Institution curriculum?


Jakob Beetz, RWTH Aachen University, Germany: "The right tool for the job. There are hundreds of tools for thousands of tasks in AEC/FM. Leaving the choice for a particular subject it to the teachers allows for a greater diversity. Making an entire institution to exclusively use "Brand X", "Product portfolio Y" limits the solution search space, excludes many excellent options, and hinders experiments by students."


Nathaniel Don Valdez, University of Mindanao, Philippines: "The planning of which software to be used should be decided together by the teacher and the institution for certain factors: the industry or demands, the capability of students, the ability of the teacher to deliver and relevance, as well the institution's willingness to provide resources and support financially. All professors are practicing architects, so they are able to understand what are the needs of the students once they graduate. They are also in a better position to gauge the students' capability based on their experience of interacting with them."


Prof. John Odhiambo Onyango, PhD, Notre Dame University, USA: "The professor and/or curriculum committee should teach as they will ultimately be teaching it. The Institution curriculum is a framework not a doctrinal document, hence allows for flexibility or the means to achieve the objectives set out."


Q: What is the best way to introduce BIM into disciplines at universities, through the creation of a specific discipline or introduction into existing disciplines? Could you give us some practical examples?


Jakob Beetz, RWTH Aachen University, Germany: "Domain knowledge in a discipline (Building Physics, structural design, urban planning, construction management etc. ) leads the way. Tools serve a purpose. Each domain has excellent tools. They are integrated and woven together in a fabric of partial building information models. An example from practice: - interdisciplinary design studio "Collaborative Design and Engineering" with virtual student companies from different domains collaborating on a common design project. Each mentored by the domain expert teacher, each bringing their tools to the table."


Nathaniel Don Valdez, University of Mindanao, Philippines: "I think the ideal way is to introduce BIM into existing disciplines, encouraging students to use whatever resources they have to communicate the design. At least, for our country, BIM is still understood as a software program although it is understood to be more than just that. Creating a specific discipline would be more practical because it promotes the use of computer laboratories which provides equal access to the knowledge of BIM equally to students. It boils down to students' ability and access to BIM software and the willingness of the teachers to direct the curriculum and lean towards BIM processes."


Prof. John Odhiambo Onyango, PhD, Notre Dame University, USA: "There are two approaches that I see: firstly, at graduate level (postgraduate in some countries), it is easy to focus on use of BIM in design and delivery of projects (specialization as masters degree); secondly, if at undergraduate, probably works best as masterclasses/ short sessions to support mainly because the undergraduate curriculum is currently filled to capacity with architectural accreditation and university required courses (165 credits). If one observes architectural schools that have it at undergraduate level, they offer a 4 year no non professional accredited degree as opposed to a NAAB professional accredited degree."


Q: BIM is a process and it should be introduced into Architectural courses as an integrated approach through a selection of tools to assist in learning how to design and communicating design. Education needs to be more agile and realise that BIM isn't a separate component, it needs to be integrated.


Jakob Beetz, RWTH Aachen University, Germany: "Fully agree. Each subject area taught at uni looks at the built environment through different glasses and captures partial aspects in different, purpose- and process-driven models. Not a single Monolithic BIM. Bridging / mapping / integrating different aspect models along processes, lifecycle stages and timelines however is HARD. IMHO we don't have all answers to these challenges yet. We need more fundamental research into this."


Nathaniel Don Valdez, University of Mindanao, Philippines: "I agree, and as a process and form of communication, it will involve other stakeholders in the local industry. Asking the architecture educational system to be more agile is also asking all other related industries to be agile as well. We have to contextualize what is the immediate need of students after graduation and strategize BIM integration gradually. As someone who is just beginning to introduce BIM, I am more focused on creating awareness and interest, not just from students but for other teachers as well."


Prof. John Odhiambo Onyango, PhD, Notre Dame University, USA:  "Yes, integrated approach within a design is a better environment to introduce BIM over several studio courses."


Q: I see value in working together more closely with other disciplines, bringing integrated teams together for a better case study for our students. But I run into walls sometimes when trying to collaborate with other departments. Any suggestions are welcome on how to get started?


Jakob Beetz, RWTH Aachen University, Germany: "In my experience, personal relations to peers at other departments are essential. Form coalitions with like-minded. Don't force/coerce top-down approaches. Start in small interdisciplinary studios, scale up later. Very good experiences with the Master track "Construction Robotics" at RWTH. Students with BSc in architecture, computer science, civil engineering and engineering pooling their resources, approaches and methods. Mandatory subjects outside your own "Home area / comfort zone" to learn each other's language."


Nathaniel Don Valdez, University of Mindanao, Philippines: "Just based on this question, I think the general answer would be to identify the specific problem first. Is there resistance from other departments? Does the faculty need more training so they can understand its relevance or importance?"


Prof. John Odhiambo Onyango, PhD, Notre Dame University, USA:  "Conversations needs to be started early in on how to collaborate and coordinate the learning objectives. Sometimes, it may be easy to collaborate with a different allied discipline at a different university in a different time zone that do not have the same professional accreditation needs. "


Q: We are just getting started with setting up a BIM lab and having a bigger focus on technology at our university. I am the IT guy, I take care of licenses, set up the lab plus I create the curriculum. Do you have any suggestions on how to balance these and how to keep my focus on education?


Jakob Beetz, RWTH Aachen University, Germany: "Ask the friendly guys at Graphisoft to help you out ;-). They are very forth-coming. Pool resources with Civil Engineering/arch departments. Team up with other unis in your area."


Nathaniel Don Valdez, University of Mindanao, Philippines: "Talk to students and lecturers or professors teaching architecture at the university. The best way for us was to create at a baseline on what the students already know and what they can apply based on that knowledge to a BIM process or translate it into a BIM software program. Talking also to the professors will also help keep the focus because they can guide which aspects or topics they teach they can insert BIM knowledge or application."


Prof. John Odhiambo Onyango, PhD, Notre Dame University, USA:"Find the right balance. Many startup up will require burning the candle at both ends."


Q: I coordinate the subject of Graphic Expression of Technologies in Building (2ºC). Since 2014, the student first analyzes and sketches "by hand" the construction systems, to later introduce them in a "BIM PROJECT". What is your opinion?


Jakob Beetz, RWTH Aachen University, Germany: "Not sure if I got you right. Manual and digital approaches are complementary and each have unique advantages. Making room to allow students to use all senses/approaches/senses even in "redundant" ways seems useful. Mail me if I misunderstood."


Nathaniel Don Valdez, University of Mindanao, Philippines: "I think this is the traditional workflow or progression into introduction of a student to BIM. But the trajectory of technology and the advancement of the available BIM software should also be taken into account how to accelerate their exposure to BIM."


Prof. John Odhiambo Onyango, PhD, Notre Dame University, USA: "Every institution have their different approaches. It is difficult to speak to your situation without knowing the full breadth and depth of the curriculum. However, graphic expression and BIM Project could be very different in objectives. "


We will publish more answers as they will come in soon from our other speakers. Let us know what you think in the dedicated communication thread.


Many thanks to my colleagues @Anonymous , @Tatsuro Kawai , @Sandor Bali , @Sarah Parrillo for helping us organize the conversation.


We hope to see you all on our next event!


Warm regards,


Szabolcs Miko

Education Program Manager, Budapest, Graphisoft