Sunday, October 26, 2008


Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse (photo by Tim Griffith)

As an AIA component president-elect, I am sent a bi-weekly national media coverage report from AIA National. The latest report included an account of the AIA Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) Knowledge Community 2008 BIM Awards. I took note of this report because Eugene’s own Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse, designed by Thom Mayne and his firm Morphosis, won the award for Creating Stellar Architecture Using Building Information Modeling (BIM). The jury commented that “the courthouse moved into an aspect of fabrication that you couldn’t do without BIM.” The project team utilized BIM tools that enabled precise coordination of structure and building systems within the tight and geometrically complex architectural envelope of the courthouse.

BIM has been defined as the process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle.(1) BIM typically uses three-dimensional, real-time, dynamic building modeling software to increase productivity in building design and construction. BIM has been around for many years already, but its acceptance in the design and construction industry now appears to be accelerating. Proponents claim that BIM offers:
  • Improved visualization
  • Improved productivity due to easy retrieval of information
  • Increased coordination of construction documents
  • Embedding and linking of vital information such as vendors for specific materials, location of details and quantities required for estimation and bidding
  • Increased speed of delivery
  • Reduced costs
I’m no expert on the subject; however, my firm, Robertson/Sherwood/Architects, experimented with an early version of Revit back in 2001 before concluding that its practical application to our projects was still years away. It’s now 2008 and it’s clear that BIM is quickly supplanting the use of orthodox two-dimensional CAD as the standard for building design and documentation. The move toward BIM is being hastened by institutional clients such as the General Services Administration. The GSA established the National 3D-4D-BIM Program in 2003, requiring that all major projects receiving funding starting in 2007 use these programs. Firms that work with the GSA have thus been motivated to acquire BIM software. However, it’s not only the impetus from large institutional and corporate clients that is now favoring the widespread adoption of BIM; the inherent advantages of the approach to design development, documentation, coordination, and fabrication are beginning to outweigh the natural resistance to a changing of the status quo. Autodesk’s purchase of Revit in 2002 was one bellwether indicator that BIM is the new paradigm; another is the willingness of students in schools of architecture, engineering, and construction to explore the potential of BIM technology.

For its part, the AIA has developed a new standard document – E202-2008 – as a tool to manage the use of BIM across an entire project. The document sets the requirements and authorized uses for BIM content and identifies BIM authors at five progressive levels of development. It also establishes protocols for model ownership, conflict resolution, storage, viewing, and archiving.

Robertson/Sherwood/Architects, like many small firms, sees the biggest potential benefit of BIM as enhancing project quality and the design process. The benefits of producing projects of higher quality through more accurate documents (resulting in fewer change orders during construction) and the sharing of digital models for ease of collaboration are very attractive to us. We will be moving towards the use of BIM as soon as we can.

Early AIA-SWO adopters of BIM include PIVOT Architecture, and Dustrud Architecture (I think Berry Architects are also users of BIM). AIA-SWO secretary Paul Dustrud is one of the organizers of the new Eugene Revit Users Group (ERUG). This user group will provide ongoing opportunities to inform and educate about Revit (Architecture, MEP and Structure) BIM in particular. The first informational meeting of ERUG will take place at 5:00 – 6:00 PM on November 13, 2008, in the PIVOT Architecture conference room at 72 West Broadway in downtown Eugene. The goal of the meeting will be to bring together likeminded Revit users and potential users, to network and discuss what topics are of most interest for upcoming meetings, and to determine how best to make this user group of the strongest benefit to its members. For more information, e-mail

(1) The A/E firm Burt Hill, along with Cisco Systems, is pioneering the extension of BIM to focus on monitoring and managing building systems throughout a facility’s life cycle. They envision the “Building Information Network” (BIN) as an entirely new utility that would make the vision of “smart buildings” a reality. Rather than building systems operating independently on multiple, parallel networks, they would converge into a single BIN network, the framework of which would have its origin in the earliest design stages in the BIM model.

1 comment:

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