Tuesday, September 22, 2009

IPD Essentials: Model-based design

State-of-the-art use of building information modeling (BIM) today encompasses creating a design intent model (e.g. Revit Architecture), a structural analysis model (e.g. Tekla), an energy performance model (e.g. IES), a constructability and quantity take off model (e.g. Vico), a space program model (e.g. Trelligence), a facilities management model (e.g. Archibus), a coordination model (e.g. Navsiworks), and more.

IPD project teams need to embrace the reality and the associated challenges of managing multiple purpose-built building information models (BIMs).

(As a quick aside, the “the great debate” of April 2003, hosted and moderated by LaiserinLetter editor Jerry Laiserin, speculated on the future role of BIM. Wind the clock forward and the vision of a federated project model has prevailed over the alternate concept of a single building model. It is fascinating to observe that while Bentley was promoting the correct vision in 2003, it has been Autodesk that has promoted the most commercially successful product.)

So much has already been written about the now-proven advantages of using BIM that I do not want to regurgitate them here. Suffice to say that BIM and its close relative, virtual design and construction (VDC), are both essential ingredients to achieving integrated project delivery (IPD). In fact, certain IPD contracts actually dictate that the project team must use BIM.

Instead, I want to offer you a different perspective. Adopting BIM is not just about training your staff on how to use a particular BIM system. Rather it is about transforming your firm’s best practices from being drafting- and document-centric to implementing new and still-to-be-refined model-based design processes. What exactly does this entail ? I think as an industry we are all still working out the full meaning of that question, but there are some key lessons that have already been learned that offer great guidance:

  • BIM is not synonymous with IPD – it is only one of 5 Essential Ingredients.
  • Two different approaches – either ‘sharing the model’ or ‘exchanging model views’ – are currently being used each with a different set of pros and cons.
  • The letter “I” is the most powerful part of BIM - should this information be locked into a proprietary file format ?
  • In the world of a federated project model it is important to focus on the purpose-driven exchange of project information between different purpose-built BIMs.
  • Virtual building models allow early prototyping and simulation as additional inputs to the design process.
  • Integrated project delivery remains a function of people, process and tools.
  • Model-based design is not just about geometry, but about arriving at a common understanding of the intersection of disciplines, the interaction of building fabric and systems and the involvement of everyone on the project team.

You are invited to join our conversation as we continue to explore these ideas in future posts on this Newforma Blog and on PIM in the UK, our sister blog authored by Tim Bates.


  1. I actually think BIM is not mandatory to do IPD. It is perfectly possible to do an IPD project using 2D CAD drawings alone -- BIM just makes the IPD process easier by facilitating coordination and information sharing. IPD is simply an alternative way of designing, constructing, and delivering a building, and it can be facilitated by currently available tools (BIM being one of them) and still to be developed ones.

    AECbytes just published an article authored by a team from DPR Construction that talks about both BIM (and the hype surrounding it) as well as IPD: http://www.aecbytes.com/viewpoint/2009/issue_48.html. It should be relevant to this discussion.

    By the way, I do not agree that it is a foregone conclusion that Bentley's federated approach to BIM is indeed the "correct vision" for the AEC technology industry. As a case in point, just look at the new collaboration capability in ArchiCAD 13, which uses the single building model approach and is still able to support a distributed project workflow. Also, Bentley's federated approach has more to do with their building model being distributed across multiple files rather than the recognition of multiple models such as architecture, structure, energy, spatial, constructability, etc.

  2. RE: So much has already been written about the now-proven advantages of using BIM ....
    McGraw-Hill Construction has just issued a new 52 page SmartMarket Report titled "The Business Value of BIM: Getting Building Information Modeling (BIM) to the Bottom Line” that contains new insights on BIM adoption and the value that users are experiencing. The Report is free and can be downloaded at http://www.bim.construction.com/research/FreeReport/default.asp