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RE: BIM Prevalence

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I consider Acad LT and Excel/VBA to be primary tools. ACAD LT replaces
drawing board and drawing instruments, whilst Excel/VBA replaces pencil
paper and calculator. If data is on the computer, then it can be manipulated
using VBA and presented as information in either Excel or ACAD LT.

Engineering is just a means to an end. The primary objective is to create an
abstract prototype which can be assessed so that a decision can be reached
to determine whether to go ahead with making the real thing.

The BIM argument is no different than the argument for formal drawings. If a
freehand sketch on paper can get the thing made, why waste time producing a
formal drawing with drawing instruments? Drawing is not the objective, and
neither is building virtual models.

Here the main use I have heard of for BIM, is department stores using
ArchiCAD to do virtual store walk through's to get a customers eye view and
organise shelf displays to achieve maximum sales: rearranging the store is a
regular activity. The other use is teaching carpenters building construction
at technical school.

Though a few years back it was demonstrated that steel work could be
detailed in India, faster and more accurately using Xsteel than could be
done locally, also fabricated and placed on a 747 and transported to
Australia, and also at lower cost. At that stage drafters complained about
local steel fabricators. Now Australian steel fabricators have the CNC
machine tools but few drafters to supply the information. Though seems to be

If can solve most problems with pencil and paper, and make few mistakes
doing so, then the primary value of BIM, is speed and/or access to
information over the life of the building.

Most of the data concerned with a project is largely alphanumerical and as
such can be managed with either MS Access of MS Excel: and at the end of the
day most BIM software exports data to these packages to present information
in any case. Parametric models can be built in Excel if only concerned with
the numbers: it is really a matter of how much you need the graphics to aid
with comprehension of your abstraction of the real world project.

It also depends on whether want to be graphic centred, and say have graphics
drive generation of bill of materials (BOM), or have an indented list BOM
drive the generation of the graphics. For many things we already know the
component parts and relationship (product structure) and therefore have
little need for graphics.

Also whilst BIM integrates a great many tools in a single package, there is
no accounting for software companies turning a spade into a hammer and
considering it to be an upgrade: and removing the spade which you really
need from the market.

Sticking with more generic tools and meshing them together to suit own needs
using COM automation and/or .NET framework, and XML data seems a better
option. But it depends on what you do and how adaptable need to be. You do
not buy a CNC flexible machining centre if all you need to do is make bolts,
instead you buy the purpose made thread former, similarly if have a high
level of repetition with other products make custom machine tools rather
than use the flexible machining centre. It is no different with office work:
BIM is suitable for some projects, but not all. For many projects standard
details are all that is required, and the photocopier provides the
efficiency there not CAD. For other tasks a freehand sketch fullfills the

It has been suggested using mathematical algorithms to generate structural
forms, to create novel buildings: for such purpose automating a BIM package
provides a better more complete starting point then a more generic tool.

BIM itself is also a relatively generic tool, and still require more
customised solutions for say timber framed houses, or coldformed steel
framed houses, sheds, carports. Those manufacturers involved with such
building types do have customised software to more completely fullfill the
needs of the design and manufacturing process. Including where neccessary
customising requirements and costing at point of sale, and automatincally
generating order releases for materials and production elsewhere in the

And that is where ultimately heading. Design is a means to an end, and want
that collapsed to the minimum time possible, with fabrication and
construction started as soon as possible, but want custom design, not
off-the-shelf offerings. Architects, engineers and building officials were
imposed on the supply system and slow it down. Basically the community wants
to remove the delays caused by design and approval and get its goods sooner
and at lower cost: well not exactly lower cost but better value for money
spent. BIM is a starting point in that direction, where the custom
variations are minor, or can otherwise be made parametric.

Conrad Harrison
B.Tech (mfg & mech), MIIE, gradTIEAust
South Australia

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