Changing the Way Houses Are Built Using bsBIM

Using bsBIM software technology to ensure the ABC Green Home 1.0 process with multiple partners.  
By Chuck Good-Man

Even though affordability is a hallmark of the project, the ABC Green Home won’t be simple. The innovative house will display a broad range of energy-efficient, sustainable, buildable and aesthetic features. As a result, it will take many hands to realize the dream.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology supports the collaboration of multiple participants in a building project like this. It enables the creation of a comprehensive 3-D model representing an entire project, including architectural, engineering, facilities and materials data. Compared to working with traditional 2-D plans for each specialty, BIM dramatically enhances communication and minimizes time, cost and errors.

The Challenge: The ABC Green Home, however, involved a very large group of stakeholders that need access to the master building model: the lead architect with two teammates, the landscape architect, the energy certification consultant, the structural engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, plumbing contractor, general contractor, general manager, owner, consulting utility, aging-in-place consultant and the students who eventually will build it. And then there’s me, Integrated Project Delivery Associates LLC (iPda) project manager.

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Given the unusual size and diversity of the team, we needed a way to incorporate all the players without creating chaos. Our chief concern was the “falling leaf” problem we sometimes see in other projects. The “falling leaves” are the documents an architect generates from the master building model, as it is being refined and distributed to the players involved. Like leaves dropping from trees in autumn, these documents immediately start growing brittle, losing their relevance, value and timeliness even as the master design — like the tree — lives on. This problem would have added time, cost and potential errors to the ABC Green Home project.

Enter bsBIM: A new approach, combining methodology and technology, is bsBIM. It brings all the stakeholders into a project and lets them work directly in the model at the very same time, rather than having them work separately and take turns offering data that might or might not be incorporated into the master design. It eliminates the falling leaf problem and keeps the leaves connected to the tree.

The bs in the name stands for the technology that enables this closer collaboration, the GRAPHISOFT BIM Server. This innovative technology was developed to extend the value of the company’s already popular and powerful BIM software, ArchiCAD. With BIM Server, everyone collaborates on the master model via his or her Internet connection. Unique to GRAPHISOFT, the technology has given rise to a budding new era in architecture by compressing the traditional building cycle by half.

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For example, if I changed the dimensions of a room on the ABC Green Home, the plumbing and HVAC contractors will see that change and route pipes accordingly — if it doesn’t happen automatically. Everyone involved in the ABC Green Home project will be plugged directly into the master design. Any design change by any authorized user shows up in real time, and the lead architect will have final authority to accept or reject changes.

A Revolution in Home Design: The GRAPHISOFT BIM Server is not the company’s first groundbreaking technology for architecture. The company has pioneered Virtual Building solutions for 25 years, empowering designers, architects and others to deliver model-based projects that are better designed, more predictable to construct and less expensive to operate. More than 150,000 individuals around the world use ArchiCAD.

You might think BIM collaboration would present a bandwidth problem given the huge amounts of data involved. Actually, it does not. The GRAPHISOFT BIM Server introduced a new paradigm in design file sharing. Its DELTA-server technology ensures only the changed elements, not entire new models, are sent across the Internet.

bsBIM and the ABC Green Home represent a revolution in the design of the home. The bsBIM workflow enables more experts to make more improvements without driving up cost. No longer will modest homes necessarily reflect a modest amount of expertise. Every home can reflect the contributions of experts making thoughtful decisions in concert with the main players. Meanwhile, “standard” projects will become a lot faster and more affordable.

Even though they’re connected by the BIM Server, stakeholders are free to use their own software for their work, such as Microsoft Excel for financial information. Participants can easily extract the data they need into their software. Importantly, the interaction goes both ways. Any stakeholder can interoperate with the model using any software that supports IFC standards for building information data, as many structural, mechanical and energy analysis applications do. If a structural engineer makes a change in Tekla Structures or Revit Structure, for example, it shows up as a proposed change in the master ArchiCAD / BIM Server model.

As you can see, we’re on the cutting edge of architectural collaboration. No more silos, no more miscommunication, no more ruffled feathers owing to conflicts that naturally arise when communication isn’t what it could be. With the use of bsBIM with this project, work is smoother, simpler, faster, more cost-effective and more satisfying. Everyone works together at the same time. All the information is transparent and integrated from the beginning. The leaves stay connected to the tree.

Chuck Good-Man is founder and principal of iPda, Integrated Project Delivery Associates LLC, a coordinator of diversified building project teams. He may be contacted at cgoodman.ipda@gmail.com.

 

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