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Last month’s feature on the BIM schism between the architect and the contractor, (Volume 1, Issue 1) generated quite a lot of reader feedback. Typical of several responses, one subscriber, Thom Momeyer, AIA, CCS of BMA Architectural Group, asked if I had run across any architectural or engineering firms that have successfully bridged the gap. In order to answer this very pertinent question, I decided to conduct a survey of the field, subsequently contacting several architectural and contracting firms that utilize the BIM.

Surveying the Field

I interviewed personnel from several large firms and a few smaller ones. The field research confirmed two important conclusions I had previously expressed. First, at this moment in time, creating a BIM model that can be used by both the architect and contractor may be viable only in a Design/Build situation. The evidence also supports my assertion that in the traditional Design/Bid/Build scenario the BIM allows the architect to benefit from increased documentation productivity, while the contractor must subsequently create his own model, or trust and modify the architect’s model. Given that in the United States the majority of design work performed by average, small and sole proprietor firms follows the Design/Bid/Build model, these segments appear to be gaining least from the BIM.

What’s Up at Gensler

Michael LeFevre, AIA, NCARB, Director of Planning & Design Support for Holder Construction Company mentioned to me that his firm has had great BIM coordination success with Both HOK and Gensler, two of the top large architectural firms in the country. While I was unable to connect with Mario Guttman, AIA, VP & CAD Director at HOK, I did speak with Michael Patrick AIA, LEED, Design Director at Gensler, Washington DC. Michael explained that Gensler doesn’t mind giving Holder their models, but the construction documents are still the only legal documents. When sharing the model, they strip out any un-used Revit families that are proprietary to their firm. Although, by mutual agreement, contractors can utilize Gensler’s model, Gensler has found that the BIM’s greatest value is in its architect/client collaboration.

Michael Patrick, of Gensler, has been a Revit user for several years, however, he says he doesn’t get to work on the BIM models as much as he used to. Gensler has been migrating to Revit on a job by job basis, and Michael mentioned that very large databases were difficult for Revit. While I have heard this opinion before, I have also heard from several firms that are doing ten story buildings with Revit with no problems.Michael also mentioned that he sometimes preferred to do some detailing and drawing in 2D. I mentioned using AutoCAD Architecture’s detail tools for this process, but he said that in his experience, Revit’s 2D tools were perfectly capable. Some operators, however, prefer to construct an intricate model, in lieu of adding 2D details.

Turner Construction, Gehry, et al
Jan Reinhardt of Turner Construction, one of the largest construction companies in the country and an early adopter of the BIM, mentioned that his people are trying to talk with architects as early as possible in the design process, because once the architects are in the middle of the construction documentation process it is difficult to convince them to work in 3D rather than 2D. He notes “when we talk early with them we are quite successful in creating an agreement that structures the BIM project in a way that helps them and us”. He also mentioned that his firm has collaborated successfully in this manner on multiple projects with HNTB Architects of Kansas City. 

Gehry Technologies
was a very early adopter of BIM technology. According to Dennis Shelden, PhD, Chief Technology Officer of Gehry Technologies, their BIM models are being passed through as legal contract documents and are being used by the contractors on their projects. The BIM is very important because the geometric complexity of many of their projects, particulary Frank Gehry’s signature buildings, is often too difficult for contractors to parallel model. They have not had a lot of success with IFC (Industry Foundation Class, the foundation of the National BIM Standard initiative) file transfer, but have been successful with the SDNF (Structural Detail Neutral File). Using Digital Project, Gehry Technologies’ own version of Catia, they have done successful work with Hoffman, Turner, and PMA Construction. Digital Projectis trueparametric Project Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, based onDassault Systèmes’ Catia. WhileGehry Technologies is a proprietary wing of Gehry Partners, Architects, it will train other architectural firms in using Digital Project, or produce BIM solutions for other companies. Dennis also noted that the majority of their work is Design/Bid/Build.

Aaron Rumple, AIA of Kuhlmann design Group, Inc.  responded to my last newsletter by explaining his futuristic concept:

“The architect of the future should be the director. He would pull information from different vendors and manufacturers in an open source format and build the project. This would be published to the web where the bidders could view and work with the data. They each would add detail or change the model as they needed for their bid. All of this would be stored on the architect’s web site or hosted server. Come bid time, the owner or architect could evaluate the VE changes, material and product selection and sequencing of the work. In the construction phase, the contractor, subs, and manufacturers would all work on the same database, via an open source file format. They look at the model, make adjustments, add detail, and then re-submit the database to the architect. The architect can then review the data base changes in his model and check performance, materials and schedules. If accepted, the model is then updated in order to be used by the general contractor or project manager during construction and by the facility manager after construction.”
Given the limitations of time and space I was unable to include all of the reader responses and research. However, this is a representative sample which clearly demonstrates the direction in which the industry is going, as well as a bit of speculation on just how far it can go. While Ed’s Independent Voice is not a blog, I am always open to hearing about other professional’s experiences.



1St Pricing

1st Pricing – a small technology company based in Signal Hill, California –has developed Pricing CAD, a technology that instantly creates a detailed bill of materials with five or six different manufacturer’s products, based on the specifications in the CAD or BIM model of the designer. It provides precise, line-item pricing for certain building materials such as doors, windows, etc. Essentially, the designer gets a list of actual “costs to the jobsite” from the manufacturer. Accessing the list takes less than thirty seconds; think of it as a search engine for the BIM or CAD. The data originates at the architect’s desktop and passes seamlessly all the way through the procurement process to the shop floor and final delivery to the jobsite.

1st pricing has been doing “buy-it-now” pricing and fulfillment through their eCommerce portal since 2003. This process initially utilized TurboCAD, until the release of a plug-in for AutoCAD in 2005. Now, as pioneers in 5D, these guys are anticipating how far BIM can go and looking to play a pivotal role in the overall process.

On the heels of receiving a notice that the US Patent Office has awarded them a patent for Pricing CAD, they are in the final testing stages for a plug-in for AutoCAD Architecture 2008 and ArchiCAD 11, with Revit and Vectorworks soon to follow. All of the plug-ins are free and available at their website.

Two conditions have previously inhibited 1st Pricing’s growth and ability to serve a national clientele. First, as a distributor of windows and doors, they have been limited to fenestration products. Second, their territory has been primarily limited to California. These issues appear to be resolved as they have recently developed a partnership with a national lumberyard and will soon be offering all building materials in all states in the continental US.

Another development, soon to be announced, is the ability to deliver additional product specification information including geospatial information, detail sheets, RFID tags as well as the ability to identify building materials in their schedules that enjoy “energy star” and/or “green” certification.

The 1st Pricing technology transforms a set of house plans from a document requiring interpretation to a declaration of intent. Look for more innovations from these guys.






Bim World is a must use resource for anyone who creates BIM models. Here you can find many national manufacturers’ products in a multitude of formats. If you are looking for a specific Revit or SketchUp object, this is the place. The people at BIM World will also create custom content for you at a very reasonable price. Their BIMContentManager is an ambitious and exciting solution for managing and sharing Revit families and AutoCAD drawings - from the desktop, to the web and back again. BIMContentManager is comprised of two separate yet related applications, BIMContentManager Desktop and BIMContentManager Web. BIMContentManager Desktop is a content management solution for Autodesk Revit that allows you to manage Revit family (RFA) files on your computer and optionally to publish them to BIMContentManager Web for sharing and collaboration.

Key Features

  1. Manage Revit families on your computer and network
  2. Publish your families to the internet for communal sharing
  3. Dynamically resize thumbnails using a slider
  4. Find families using instantaneous "search as you type" methods
  5. Assign and edit family properties
  6. Sort families by any number of fields, including Supplier, Uniformat, Masterformat, Path, Filename, Cost, etc.
  7. Associate custom images to families
  8. Associate multiple URLs to families
  9. Create URL 'thumbshots'
  10. Link Suppliers products to families
  11. Create local Suppliers list
  12. Classify by Revit Category, Supplier, Uniformat, Masterformat 95, Masterformat 04
  13. Drag & drop families into Revit
  14. Includes type catalog editor

About Ed:

I am a well known analyst in the AEC Industry, having been a journalist and lecturer in this arena for the past 10 years.  In my primary occupation as an Architect, I use the cutting edge digital technology about which I write, for the design and construction of buildings. I have been a Licensed Architect for 30 years, and have designed and/or built dozens of commercial, multifamily, and rehab projects. I also headed the CAD and Multimedia Department at Carroll Community College and the Industrial Design Department at Towson University. For many years I wrote the AEC column in CADALYST magazine. I authored seven books, in as many years, on AutoCAD Architecture (formally Architectural Desktop), for publisher Prentice Hall. My new Revit Architecture 2009 book will be on sale this spring.

I continue to attend key industry events and keep abreast of the newest developments. If you see me at an event, please come over and chat with me; I like people, and would enjoy meeting you. You can recognize me by my trademark hat – black in winter, and white in summer.

 Please take a look at my Web Site:

© 2007 H. Edward Goldberg AIA, NCARB, Ed’s Independent Voice. All rights reserved

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Volume 1,  Issue 2            February 6 2008