The use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is gradually spreading from architects and designers to other construction professionals.
But, the technology isn't a cure-all, and needs to be learned and understood in order to get the most out of it.
In BIM in Context, Scott Chatterton, BIM and quality control manager at CEI Architecture Planning Interiors, will discuss its benefits and challenges.
His presentation will explore the practicality of using BIM in small and large projects, including its virtues and drawbacks in the different stages of a project.
"Three-dimensional BIM shows in detail the physical and functional characteristics of a building," Chatterton said.
"It allows users to build and revise building models as they go along."
The most widely used BIM tool is Autodesk's Revit (Revise It Instantly).
"It's the biggest, like Microsoft, although there are other BIM programs available," he said.
Software like Revit enables users to open up a model and explore all aspects of a building.
"It gives the design team the tools it needs to completely visualize the design it is working on," Chatterton said.
Engineers, architects and others working on a building project can add information to the model.
"The more information in, the more information out," Chatterton said.
"For example, they can determine such building details as the amount of concrete that is needed and the exact location of drywall."
In contrast to the modern version of BIM, AutoCAD, the early generation of computer-aided design, was much more limited in its capabilities.
"AutoCAD was only two-dimensional," he said.
"It was like using an electronic drafting table."
Chatterton said three-dimensional BIM has many benefits that include collaboration, co-ordination, communication and visualization, quantification and construction sequencing.
"Modeling gives the design team a tool to better visualize and understand a project, which means it can help to create a better design and a better building," Chatterton said.
"The old two-dimensional way of working showed only the separate parts of a design, not the whole picture."
Chatterton said the next stage of BIM is virtual reality.
"It's still in the early stages, but you'll be able to put on a pair of goggles and walk through a building and look side to side and up and down, as if you were in the actual completed building," he said.
"It will be revolutionary in how we model buildings and how we interact with clients."
In addition to its benefits, BIM also brings challenges to the people who use it.
"It uses and provides much more information than before, and it raises more questions," Chatterton said.
"Exact, detailed information needs to be provided early in the design process, in order to verify assemblies with other consultants and contractors."
He said BIM has changed the entire approach to design. Its basis is something called bidirectional associativity, which ensure that any change to the relationships among objects in a design model immediately changes every other relationship in the model.
"Traditional approaches to design don't work with BIM," he said.
"There's a learning curve for technical users and architects."
Chatterton said a BIM tool, such as Revit, is a giant data base.
"But, it doesn't contain every element of the design and it doesn't solve problems," he said. "It will only do what you tell it to do."
Chatterton said that about three-quarters of architects use BIM.
"Construction companies are quickly catching up," he said. "They can verify and deal with problems before they have to deal with them on-site."
However, trades and suppliers have been slow in adopting BIM.
"Technology is advancing quickly and they need to keep up with others," he said. "Fortunately, much of what they need is available free."
The seminar, BIM in Context, takes place Wednesday, Feb. 25, starting at 8 a.m. at Buildex Vancouver.