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Efficient architectural design is instrumental in setting the tone and DNA of a building, defining what makes it unique. The entire design process involves detailed data and designs, changes and modifications and a varied output of drawings and models. Building Information Modelling (BIM) helps streamline this process by reducing errors, coordinating the design and speeding up the design process. Architectural drafting services, BIM modelling or 3D architectural modelling are employed to produce the required drawings and models to communicate error-free architectural design.

The way architectural design ideas are generated has changed noticeably since the implementation of BIM processes and a digital design workflow which involves the collaboration of different disciplines. Within the BIM environment, mechanical, structural, electrical and construction engineers and architects can evaluate and modify design concepts early in the process. The BIM process links design seamlessly to 2D and 3D output, including architectural drafting services and 3D architectural modelling, and utilises a varied library of elements, and the increased and easy collaboration between disciplines that BIM technology enables leads to the creation of accurate and efficient designs from the early stages.

Just what are these stages, or phases?

Although subject to geographical variations, the general architectural design process consists of three broad phases. They are as follows:

Schematic Design Phase: Field surveys and client meetings are conducted, where the information gathered is used to create design options which are discussed with the client. Concept design sketches are created and presented for consideration and discussion. Generally, a rough cost estimate is provided for each option and modifications are made if necessary. Following the selection of a design option, the design will undergo further refinement before progressing to the next phase.

Design Development Phase: Further revisions are made to the selected schematic design in this phase. Cost estimates are updated as a result of any design changes that affect the cost of materials and other factors. There is a substantial amount of back-and-forth communication to finalise the details of the design.

Construction Documents Phase: Once a design and its details are finalised, drawings, blueprints, notes and technical specifications are prepared. These documents are known as construction documents sets or CD sets.

With the advent of BIM technology, the architectural design process has been streamlined to a significant extent. The influence and advantages of using BIM technology can be seen in several aspects of the design process, such as:

  • Time Saved: The use of BIM technology advances the drawing process in ways that drawing in 2D cannot. For example, a line drawn in 2D is simply a line, whereas when drawn using a BIM tool (such as Revit), a 3D element such as a wall is created, which then becomes part of the section, elevation and a base for construction details. Similarly, a door drawn in 2D is just a door, while a door drawn in a BIM environment becomes a 3D component in a section, elevation, 3D view and consists of the door’s parameters, which are subsequently included in a door schedule. The architect thus saves cost, materials and time, and accuracy is improved.
  • Design Retention: In the early stages of design, architects can use BIM technology to ensure that the design stays constant throughout the design process and that no deviations or dilution of the design occurs. In 2D drafting, this can consume a valuable amount of time. Being able to review a 3D model can reduce this time and ensure that the design is correctly interpreted. Though more widely known as a clash-detection tool, Navisworks can be useful for early stage reviews, tracking and monitoring.
  • Design Communication: BIM software presents technical and interactive options to easily communicate design. These options help to communicate and reassure clients and ensure they fully understand the design.
  • Design Coordination: Collaboration throughout the entire team is enhanced in a BIM environment, and designs can be fully coordinated, thereby reducing errors and clashes, and helping the process run smoothly.
  • Error Reduction: The use of BIM technology reduces the time taken to check data. For example, in a design involving a large number of doors, perhaps hundreds, individual doors need not be checked for correct data when using BIM. Within the BIM environment, door type, fire rating, acoustic rating, insulation, protection, signage, etc. can be checked by applying filters to quickly scan the accuracy of a model.
  • Options: BIM software allows easier use of ‘Options’, which can help develop design efficiently. This feature allows a part of a building to be projected as a model onto a screen. The design team and the client can view different design options, such as entrance design details or roofing changes as well as other features to determine what works best or what may be preferred.
  • RFIs: In a BIM environment, it becomes easier to extract the information required to answer RFIs. This extends even to stakeholders who were not involved in the concept stage of the design process.
  • Spatial Awareness: Using BIM technology, 3D perspective views of a design can be generated to provide a clear and detailed understanding of the space involved and its limitations.
  • Detailing: Details created in 2D can be converted to a 3D model in a BIM environment to easily and accurately detail the design. These details can be checked to monitor the design development. Different teams can review the design and its details, enabling greater collaboration and the creation of accurate details.

Part of the advantage and success of the BIM process is dependent on the different software used and their interoperability. The ability to collaborate, anticipate and solve problems has become key to the success of using BIM technology. Revit is an application that has been created for the BIM process and has special features specifically for architectural design, MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) and structural engineering and construction. Revit, in conjunction with other software applications, helps to design, simulate, visualise and collaborate, whilst creating a data-rich BIM model. You can use Revit to create family objects within BIM models. These families are parametric, and any changes made to an object is automatically updated in all views, and changes are automatically made to related objects.

So, the three main advantages of using BIM are:

  • Efficiency: Using Revit, designers and clients can instantaneously view any changes to building design. Designing in 3D to create Revit BIM models makes it possible to view a variety of designs quickly, while accurate and precise documentation enables the detection and prevention of clashes early on. This leads to substantial savings of time and money. Parametric design elements in Revit can be customised and retained for future use.
  • Flexibility: Besides being a useful modelling tool, another feature of Revit is that it works as an impressive database. It stores project data in a single file, allowing all stakeholders to change and merge their changes on the same file. These changes are coordinated automatically throughout the project. All changes in views, elevations and schedules are on the single model, so no separate updates are required.
  • Multi-faceted: Revit enables design, construction, procurement, pricing, safety measures, facility management and more.

Though popular, Revit is not always the sole choice for design. CAD software such as AutoCAD is used for detailing and documentation. Photoshop and 3ds Max are used for detailed visualisations. In comparison to AutoCAD, however, Revit BIM has proved to have the following advantages:

  • Improved coordination and collaboration
  • Shorter turnaround time (TAT)
  • Minimisation of waste
  • Greater error detection and risk mitigation
  • Improved communication
  • Increased accuracy

Ultimately, BIM models enhance the effectiveness of the architectural process from design to construction, and BIM solutions enable the creation of designs at a faster and more cost-effective rate, ensuring these designs are of optimum efficiency. BIM modelling, therefore, is part of a desirable workflow to streamline the architectural drafting and design process through all of its phases.

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