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Re: Design Checking - Here and Now and Future of Engineering

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I've got two answers, both say the same thing from different angles:


Like most advanced systems, BIM is useful only for significantly complex projects where more than a single person to performs an entire discipline and the cost of an error is "significant" in the process. BIM for projects less than $5M is probably money flushed down a toilet. To do it right requires a level of detail and completeness, level of proficiency with the software, and an understanding of the actual construction procedures and sequence which is beyond a large fraction of practicing engineers and architects, and beyond a significant majority of CADD technicians. It also requires a cradle-to-grave responsibility for pricing that A/Es don't have enough control over.

What would the fee be for drafting and detailing a bid set with paper drawings or paper drawings and a BIM model on a 50,000SF shopping center, or a 40,000SF elementary school? If you and the architect offered the plans and BIM for 18% of proposed construction costs, would you get the job?

There reason I ask these questions is that most (yes, I'm guessing) of the work that happens in the industry, happens on smaller projects, where budgets are tight, and there's probably somebody bidding on the design work who's got a similar project in a drawer and can pull it out and polish it up. Can you really convince an owner that you can save them 10% on the cost of their building? Can you successfully argue that when the building comes in at 5% over their target cost that the "other guy" would have been 20% over their (too small) budget? I think its a losing proposition.


I know that these systems are modern sliced bread. People who use them, swear by them. I don't see these people making more money, per hour, on design projects, though.

I have seen some of the demos, and I have worked in the (product) mechanical world on full 3D systems, which were fairly well integrated more than a decade ago. For a mere $50,000 a seat software license, you could create and analyze parts in a single semi-seamless environment. To do the all of the basics in such a system generally required between 100 and 150 hours of training, and most technicians were terribly inefficient until they had 4000-6000 hours operating them.

From the BIM I've seen recently, the effect has not changed. If you were to throw away the (cross) integrated BIM/analysis tools available for Revit, do you think that a two week class would really teach a technician (or an engineer, for that matter) all of the tools and proper techniques available to build a building? I would suggest that that would be a tall order for AutoCAD LT. Would you trust a major project to a young technician who had worked in that system for less than 2 years?

On the flip side, if you bought all the integrated software and add-ons (plumbing routines, hvac layout and thermal gain/loss, sizing, and balancing software, composite/non-composite/steel/concrete/wood/coldformed FEM analysis add-ons, architectural libraries and photo-realistic rendering, etc.) could you easily spend $50k on a fully-loaded seat? Absolutely. Even if you only spend a quarter of that on a typical seat, and equal amounts on formal training and learning-curve inefficiency, how long will it take to pay back that investment?

For the majority of us, I don't think it's worth it...yet. That will change. For the biggest projects, and tightly integrated teams, that efficiency point is already here. For the most of us I think it will probably be ten more years, maybe fifteen, before it becomes economical. For some of us, it will be even longer.


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