Paul Beaty Pownall, bpr Managing Director, explains how to arrange projects to focus on the needs of the end user, by sub-dividing the project into zones and volumes that are structured to suit the building's functional requirements in use. Paul describes BIM as a form of communication, improving accuracy and efficiency in delivering projects.
The benefits offered by the preparation of good BIM data, will have the greatest impact during the buildings period of occupation, long after it has been completed on site. BIM should act to support the management of the building, to enable the facilities team to let space, control rental income, manage the cost of bills, maintain equipment and organise long term repairs, and the government hopes to achieve the greatest savings in cost and carbon through the use of BIM systems during the period when the building is in use. But in order to achieve this goal, BIM projects need to be structured to suit the clients building management team’s requirements from the early inception stage of the design process.
The BIM structure must also support the construction team to ensure that the supply chain receives relevant packages of data and that the contractor’s project information model provides the building management team with a useful set of information. A properly structured BIM project will enable efficient workflow for the wider design team and has helped bpr distribute work packages and responsibility across their own team of architects.
This insight looks at how bpr architects use vectorworks as their primary tool for the preparation of good BIM projects. As bpr use the functions within vectorworks, including work group referencing, design layers and stories to shape a model, that is then shared with the wider team by exporting to IFC.
bpr are based in west london and comprise a team of 16 architects, working on a wide range of university, rail and regeneration projects. As a second generation family business we have developed strong values that aim to support our staff to define their personal aspirations and challenge them to achieve their goals. We have recently taken the company to the next stage in its evolution by transferring all the company shares to a trust, entrusting the ownership of the business in the staff that work here.
We encourage our staff to take responsibility for their designs and we train them to manage projects efficiently, to lead the design process. As such, the working culture at bpr fits well with the new working practices that are expected from teams that are working in the BIM environment.
BIM requires a much greater level of collaboration, where every individual action should focus on making a positive contribution to the project as a whole. As an employee owned business we provide an open and collaborative environment and it is common practice at bpr for information to be shared to support each other knowing that this will be to the benefit of the business as a whole.
A positive working environment, based on trust. These values are also essential to the success of the wider BIM project team and the sharing of project data through an open and honest set of rules facilitates a collaborative design team, working together to the benefit of their projects.
implementation at bpr
bpr found that the recession of 2007/8 provided an opportunity to introduce new working practices to a smaller team reduced by necessity.
It was also around this time that the government published its intentions to press the industry to adopt BIM and to mandate that all public sector projects must be delivered using BIM level 2 standards from 2016. Our key clients include a number of universities, network rail and a range of train operating companies, all predominately funded by the public sector. We realised that we would need to adopt BIM working practices if we were going to be able to support our clients past 2016.
We initially established what this meant to our team and their training requirements, the type of software we needed and its impact on our hardware. We found that our vectorworks cad package already had the necessary capabilities to deliver architectural design information to BIMstandards, and provided we kept vectorworks up to date, it wasn’t necessary to buy any new software.
To test the systems I undertook a small BIM pilot project, replicating a set of drawings for a small gatehouse building that had already been completed for which we had a very good set of example working drawings. The task i set myself was to prove that BIM methods could replicate the same level and quality of information that we were accustomed to using 2d techniques.
I quickly realised that I was being far too ambitious in my determination to re-produce all 2d information from a single source 3d model. But it was a very useful exercise for testing the capabilities of the software, demonstrating the potential of BIM to the more traditional members of the team, and pushing the limits of our hardware. The pilot project gave us the confidence to apply BIM methods to our live projects, knowing that we could still replicate the information produced in a 2d format as necessary.
This shift to BIM required us to fundamentally change the way we worked. Luckily we didn’t have to change our basic cad package which kept our training needs to a minimum, but we did have to change the tools that we were in the habit of using and more significantly, we had to change the way we approached and developed the project. The sequential development of the design became far more interactive. Rather than developing design ideas, then using a 2d plan to test the special arrangement before developing sections, elevations and 3d models, BIM allows us to develop all of these elements in conjunction with each other. BIM workflows enable architects to prepare a 3d model, to present a concept, from which the relationship, size and hierarchy of rooms can be tested and plans sections and elevations called off.
This change in thought process has had a positive and possibly fundamental impact on our ability to develop ideas and present the design proposal to the team. We can now explore challenging design ideas, and quickly show how they might improve the project. We can also respond to requests for changes by other members of the design team and test their effectiveness, without having such a significant impact on the design programme.
However this process of change can be difficult to adopt for experienced architects who have become expert at using traditional 2d techniques supported by 3d models. The natural enthusiasm to impress your client with a high quality presentation by using tools that you are familiar with, has had to be supressed in order to ensure that we take the time to learn new tools and techniques using the wider capabilities of vectorworks to better support our clients in the long term.
A level of technical discipline has had to be imposed to ensure that everyone uses parametric tools and objects for all drawing elements that already contain IFC data, and are therefore ready to be exported and shared with the other members of the design team. The need to use parametric objects has also imposed a new way of using cad for design, for example a staircase is no longer designed using plans, sections and a calculator. Instead the dialogue box offered by the stair tool asks for the designer to enter basic numerical requirements from which vectorworks will draw the stair. Designing by numbers can feel a bit remote for an experienced architect, but the solution can be rewarding and more reliable with the stair available for use in all drawing formats. However extra care needs to be taken that the result is also elegant and achieves the desired level of quality of performance and that we don’t assume that vectorworks will design for us.
The choice of which tools to be used and how to use them to deliver the right level of information for the project stage, is key to managing a BIM project efficiently. Parametric tools are capable of saying too much too soon which runs the risk that decisions can appear to have been made long before they have been agreed with the wider team. For example the wall tool can very easily illustrate components such as inner skin-cavity-cladding at feasibility stage, long before the wall construction has been determined.
The effort we have spent over the last 7 to 8 years to embed BIM working practices in everything we do at bpr is now beginning to pay off. The information we produce is more robust, and we are able to share this information with the other members of the design or client team, but most importantly, i believe that our designs are becoming better, as a result of being able to explore and test ideas with greater confidence.