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The BIM journey from a small practice’s point of view

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To find out how a small architectural practice is adopting BIM, we talked to Kyle Buchanan, director at Archio.

As a small practice why do you believe that BIM is important?

Ultimately BIM is about improving collaboration and information exchange between different members of the design team. From our perspective BIM has two key benefits in the short-term: providing a better service for our clients; and improving our efficiency and profitability on projects.

However, it is the future benefits of BIM that we are most excited about. Applications such as live costing, fully integrated energy modelling and trailing of maintenance plans, have the potential to be hugely powerful in driving up quality and speed of delivery on projects.

Some of the benefits of BIM are a couple of years away but we want to make sure that we are in a position to take advantage of them as they are introduced and become more widely used. 

How far has the practice progressed in its BIM journey?

We introduced BIM into the office in early 2016 using Autodesk Revit. Initially we trialled the process on a single project before we rolled it out on others across the practice.

We had a big push on Revit training in January 2017, part of which included reviewing our processes and working methods. As a result of this we now have around 90% of projects on Revit, with just a handful of legacy projects remaining in AutoCAD.

Where did you go to learn about BIM?

Initially we did a fair amount of the legwork ourselves, setting up our internal BIM systems looking at different BIM packages and so on. Once we had decided on Revit, we used online resources and videos for the initial part of the training. This allowed us to test Revit, and be sure it was right for us, before we made the more significant investment of training the whole office. 

In terms of the in-person training we spoke to a number of companies, and in the end went with the company who could best tailor the training to our needs, with our staff at various different stages of BIM learning, and who could deliver it on site in our office.

How have you justified investing in BIM?

We have always aspired to run our relatively young practice like a larger office, with a view that having systems and processes in place early will allow us to expand quickly and efficiently when the time comes. Introducing BIM was a part of this philosophy.

As an eight-person practice the quantum of investment is relatively low. I have spoken to directors in well-known medium-sized practices who are currently investing six-figure sums in bringing their teams up to speed with BIM, as opposed to the circa £5,000 that we spent.

By introducing Revit relatively early in the life of our business we save a huge amount over the long-term as our expertise can grow with the company. When you combine this with the competitive advantage that using BIM can bring, and the benefits that we see of embracing new technologies, tools and approaches, it’s an obvious choice.

What benefits are you hoping to see?

In the short-term the benefits are the obvious ones, better coordination with other consultants allowing things to progress more smoothly pre-construction and on site, fewer designer errors, plus efficiencies through better change management at detailed design and building libraries of standard construction types.  

Once you start using BIM it is clear that it is the future of how information is produced in our industry and that is where things get really exciting.

Are you seeing any benefits already?

Yes we are, although there is certainly a learning curve. For instance it takes time to adjust to different workflows because the way you build information into a design differs from traditional CAD. We have also seen real benefits when sharing a model with other consultants, largely because clashes are so much easier to pick up.

As well as the expected advantages there have been other indirect benefits, for example switching to Revit has led us to push clients to undertake point cloud surveys, which means we are working in 3D from the outset of a project.

It seems to me that when working with one new technology you find you are more open to others, and that cumulative effect has real potential for change.

We have always aspired to run our relatively young practice like a larger office, with a view that having systems and processes in place early will allow us to expand quickly and efficiently when the time comes. Introducing BIM was a part of this philosophy.– Kyle Buchanan, Archio