We, at SYLLA International, a modern design-oriented firm in Tampa, Florida, like to write about Building Information Modeling (BIM) in non-technical terms because of our history of using BIM-related technology, which predates BIM. About 18 years ago, when we started using a 3-D approach to designing our projects, it was not because we were enamored with the impact of computer technology on architecture.
We were simply yearning for design tools to make our lives and work in architecture easier. We had long felt that the way we have been practicing architecture for centuries, with reliance on 2-D orthographic drawings, is tedious, error-prone, time-consuming, and frustrating. It is a process that invites often too many hands in the pot with some hands not knowing what the others are doing. The process becomes even more helter-skelter when a client at the last minute changes their mind, unaware of what they just did to you and the rest of your team. We, at SYLLA International, were not happy with the burdensome and mind-losing approach to architectural practice.
So when CAD (or CADD) was the new kid on the block, and some design firms were touting themselves as “CAD-equipped,” we were not taken by the 2-D CAD drafting novelty. At a minimum we wanted to be able to design buildings in 3-D and generate floor plans, building elevations, and sections from the model. Short of staff with 3-D skills to work on a large project at the time, we broke the large models into floor plan components and shell components. The staff, comfortable in 2-D, worked on the floor plans, which referenced the exterior shell of buildings, and those with 3-D skills worked on the exterior shell of the buildings, which referenced the floor plans. From the exterior shell of the buildings, we were able to generate all building elevations and building sections, and even some wall sections. Some building elements were already parametric, though crudely, and walls had some nascent intelligence. In some cases we had to model 3-D objects where content offered none at the time.
Did BIM exist as an acronym when we started that process about 18 years ago? We do not believe so. Was our early process fitting for BIM even in today’s standard? Of course. The process of designing buildings in 3-D with some components having limited intelligence predates BIM by at least a decade, though we do not know exactly when. That is what Graphisoft means when it says that Archicad has been a BIM program from the get-go 20 years ago and that it nearly invented BIM at a time when others were priding themselves as Cad companies strategically outsourcing their nascent architectural application design to the widest network of “third party developers” and today holding themselves as BIM luminaries and pioneers who are blazing the trail that has become our own BIM journey. Can you believe that?
Why was SYLLA International an early adopter of a BIM-related approach to design? The answer is: To make our lives and work easier. That is why to us, BIM is not about technology nor computer programming. The purpose of BIM is about making the life and work of an architect easier. There may be any number of reasons and functions served by BIM, but to us, the most important function is to improve the process of designing and collaborating on building projects without losing our minds: We need our sanity to practice architecture. In fact, we would argue that anything that a software program does to make your life easier in designing a building and generating a coordinated set of construction documents is BIM. On the other hand, if a program calls itself BIM but does not make your life and workflow easier, it is not BIM but BIMINO™ (BIM in name only), and you should press them to up their BIMINO™ game to make your architectural workflow better or you should look elsewhere where BIM is BIM.
If you are an architect new to BIM, do not let anyone dazzle you about what is BIM or is not. That is not important. What is important is this: Is BIM making your life easier as an architect? Does it improve your workflow? If you are struggling to do something and your BIM program is not helping but getting in your way and workflow, then it is not BIM but BIMINO™. At the same time, you do not have to move from zero to sixty on your first project in order to implement BIM. There are interim steps to progressively get you there. However, technology and progress wait for no one. There is no good and convincing argument today for any firm to hold out on BIM. So get on board if you have not and make sure you decide whether you want BIM or BIMINO™.
Here is today’s question: Does anyone know who specifically coined the acronym BIM and when? Please let us know if you do.