Blog: 4 May 2017Why BIM?

As part of our national Architecture team’s ambitions to lead the way in BIM, our Edinburgh team have used the modelling system for the City of Edinburgh Council Small Sites Programme.

I must say, I love BIM, I’m a total convert to 3D modelling and all the benefits it brings.

So why did we choose to use BIM on our social housing project? The pressure didn’t come from the contractor or the client, it was a decision made by Barton Willmore and this decision has proven to have had benefits for many…

For architects, it’s the future! Indeed it’s now the present. It’s inevitable that we won’t be drawing drawings anymore, we’ll be modelling buildings. It’s more fulfilling as an architect to be modelling, after all we’re designing spaces, so it’s better to be creating them virtually rather than drawing them in two dimensions. Yes, BIM takes a lot of energy to produce a good set of documents, but these documents will be more coordinated and more rigorous.

What’s more, you can walk around your drawing set, which in turn produces better designs. It can quickly highlight areas that are needing a bit of design TLC. When you model in 3D you also, by necessity, think about the buildability - if it’s difficult to model, chances are it’s difficult to build so you become much more aware of the construction.

So it’s good for the designer, but what about the client and contractors?

For the 7 sites programme, we were able to present our scheme in a much more dynamic way. As well as presenting plans on a table we could walk the client around the schemes. This was vital for engaging them and getting their understanding and buy in. In this instance the housing officers, waste contractors and maintenance team were all shown the schemes in 2D then in 3D and everyone just got it. The queries we received were more considered and the level of engagement across the board was fantastic.

The QS team, in particular, saw enormous benefit in understanding the scheme from concept stage to price accurately. They could quickly understand where we as architects were coming from, and also highlight early on areas they thought were going to be unaffordable. BIM was very helpful when coming to a balance between affordability and high quality design features. We could very quickly test and quantify design changes, such as differing roof pitches, and could therefore make value engineering judgements whilst ensuring we were happy with the resulting design.

And finally, there is the general public. We have had community consultation events for each of our 7 Sites. On the occasions that we could use the 3D images to walk people around the site, the public were much more engaged, and were able to make much more informed comments. They could readily see how the area would be impacted by the development. The massing and scale of the buildings are much easier to appreciate when walking through the proposal than, say, from a 1:1250 section through the site. People were interested in roof pitches, heights of eaves, massing of the buildings and, naturally, ‘how will my house be affected?’ We can demonstrate how shadows will fall and various times of the year, how the building will look from a neighbour’s garden and many other design considerations.

We have been very encouraged by the success of implementing BIM on these small scale social housing projects and will continue to refine and improve our systems for future projects.

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A is for Architecture, BIM, Scotland, Affordable Housing