In previous blogs we made reference to BIM breakthrough, because we believe that is what BIM needs to get to the next level of its development journey. Archicad’s new building materials and priority-based connection (PBC) is an excellent example of what we mean by BIM breakthrough. It is a powerful tool that goes beyond simply imparting intelligence to objects and materials and call it the day. We believe that it would be a fundamental mistake to underestimate the significance of PBC as a major BIM breakthrough capable of setting the tone for the role BIM can play in different phases of a project. This is the kind of breakthrough that excites us and bolsters the possibilities of BIM.
Objects and materials in the real world get out of each other’s way when they intersect, depending on which is stronger or weaker. PBC is based on the same concept. It assumes that in the virtual world of BIM, object and materials should have intelligence similar to what we find in the real world of construction. With that intelligence, they should exhibit a behavior that makes it possible for them to get out of each other’s way without the architect having a hand in it. Based on PBC, when a masonry wall and a stud wall intersect, the masonry wall gets the right-of-way because it is stronger, and that is how it works mostly in the real world. Likewise, when a steel column is in the path of a masonry wall, the steel column has the right-of-way without the architect signaling the green light.
However, for PBC to work, materials need to have a priority attribute in the first place so the rules of the game can be set, and if your BIM/BIMINO application does not have material priority attributes, how can it regulate the interaction of materials and decide which should go first? It can’t; it just hands the responsibility to the architect to step in and manage the intersection traffic until it clears. That is not BIM in our view; it is BIMINO, and there is no excuse why any serious BIM program on the market today should not have something similar to a priority attribute to deal with material intersections.
What is remarkable about PBC is Graphisoft’s foresight and vision of setting PBC as the next logical step for BIM to grow and make the architect’s toil easier. For us, it makes perfect sense, and we wonder why other BIM outfits are not coming up with BIM breakthroughs similar to PBC, instead of spending most of their time and resources in software acquisition integration? PBC does something else very interesting: It shows Graphisoft redefining the meaning of BIM from a holistic perspective by filling in an important gap between design and construction detailing. Nowhere is the weakness of BIM more apparent than the link between the design and construction document phases of projects. If we accept that premise, then the question would be why BIM companies are not focusing all their energies in closing the gap? That is where we need the breakthroughs the most.
If our work as architects was limited to just the two phases of schematic design and design development, BIM would be nearing the finish line, because it covers both phases very well. The shortfall comes when we step into the construction document phase, and in the last few years, there has not been meaningful progress by BIM companies to address the gap. BIM companies should take the time to know up close what architects do between the different phases of a project and come up with tools to make the construction document phase easier to handle.
We will argue also that it is time for BIM to outgrowth its simple 3-D label and start exceeding our work expectations. There are many 3-D programs out there that will let you model just about anything you want but will also let you know that you are on your own to find another program for your construction documents. Many BIMINO programs on the market today, despite their BIM claims, are not too far from that. Graphisoft is throwing down the gauntlet that PBC is a BIM breakthrough capable of playing an important role in bridging the gap between design and construction documents. We like that attitude and foresight, and that is what we expect from a BIM leader.
We now need Graphisoft’s competitors to step up and let us know what they have in mind for BIM beyond sticking data to objects and materials and calling it BIM. They also have to know that just following Graphisoft’s innovation footsteps is not an acceptable response. Of course BIM companies learn from each other, and that is a good thing, but it cannot be a standard modus operandi on which to base a BIM product development, otherwise why should users stick with your product.
As architects we have a major role to play in shaping the future of BIM. We need to be more assertive about what strategic direction BIM should take. It is time for the novelty of BIM to start wearing off so we can concentrate on the substance of how it should perform and not remain at the receiving end of what BIM companies feed us. Let’s critique all BIM programs and their makers and sort out those committed to achieving the next breakthroughs from those discretely riding the hype train for their gain. BIM needs a lot of breakthroughs similar to PBC, and we should insist on seeing more of it.