Reprinted with permission from BIG BIM 4.0: Ecosystems for a Connected World.
Little-bim is the part of BIM that has passed the tipping point to become a commodity product. Yet, carefully selecting a little-bim platform is vitally important and deserves careful consideration. In this arena, brand name recognition means less than one might think.
Any of the vendors that sell Industry Foundation Class (IFC) certified products can sell you a little-bim solution that will get the job done. These vendors develop all types of strategies for getting people to purchase their products. They try everything from reduced feature limited versions to giving away updates for non-BIM legacy products, to subscription services. Ignore the vendor hype and forget the marketing that surrounds the little-bim authoring tool market.
Too many of those that have tried to implement BIM tools based on their legacy systems or vendor recommendations have seen suboptimal results. In fact, depending on how one defines the term, many of them have failed. Such an approach to BIM tools can be an excruciating experience.
Sometimes the vendors are more interested in making a sale than in imparting the truth. Battles for market share and dominance among software and hardware vendors leads to messages designed to put products in the best light. Sometimes reality gets lost in the hype. BIM Washing is rampant. Find products that are a comfortable fit and which enable you to be productive.
In a world of interoperability, the monolithic approach favored by most little-bim vendors is old-school. Based on their experiences with legacy products, many professionals continue to believe that a single product line is needed to do BIM—Not so. In fact, no single project line or individual tool can do all the tasks required.
The real winners from monolithic product lines in this area are the vendors, not the users. Today you should aim toward using the best tool for the job at hand, rather than using the same tool, or product line, for all things. Find the product that lets you do work, as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Your selection should consider such elements as:
- How much training will be required to be productive? How intuitive is the interface?
- How much will it cost annually to stay up to date?
- How much storage capacity, of what type, will be required to archive your work safely? Can you keep your files on an encrypted drive for increased security?
- What workflows are standard? What workflows can be done using either workarounds or add-on products?
- What file-exchanges are standard? What data-interchanges are standard? Do they work in both directions?
- Are appropriately trained people available for surges, should you get busy and need short-term help?
- Are senior staff and non-techies able to use the tool, or is it only for the technical at heart?
- And, much more.
Communication, Connection, Interoperability, Knowledge, and FACTS drive BIM. Focus on creating the most efficient and effective way to support your needs. Once you start to improve your processes and begin to see success, you can then widen your reach. If you are like others that have taken this path, you will, over time add more and more capabilities. You will create greater value in the built environment.
The better one understands the underlying needs of any business, the easier it is to find one or more BIM solutions. Take it a step at a time. Make the changes in the way that works best for you and your customers.
Most users focus on the graphic modeling capabilities with some steps into clash detection and other analysis built into the system. Remember to also seek opportunities to exploit the I of BIM beyond schedules and other internal uses.
Desktop little-bim authoring systems are typically file-based, welded together software applications with the data tightly embedded. Data is usually internal rather than able to interface with external databases. This data is relatively hard to access and subject to data rot. Both may limit your long-term benefits.
Some vendors are making strides toward greater access to the information in the models created using their systems. The ability to fully capitalize on the information side of little-bim systems isn’t mature. Data interchange via IFC and COBie can be quite advanced, but be aware that no two tools have the same capabilities in this area. To fully use the information side of little-bim solutions requires expertise and training. Simplicity and clarity are often missing.
Each of the major little-bim authoring tools has a different approach to BIM. Each does some things exceedingly well and others not so well. Dig deeply and you will see that each has pros and cons that will likely impact how one works. Find the tool or tools that most closely aligns with your workflows, strategy, and philosophy. Your projects may require any number of processes unique to your organization. You can improve any of them with a BIM solution. Finding the right product may take some trial and error.
Testing little-bim products
Put your preconceptions aside. None of the noise matters to your decision. If the software does not improve your process and provide you long-term connected data, don’t buy it. The costs of little-bim software products pale in comparison to the direct and hidden costs of a 12-month trial that turns out to be a mistake. The following approach to testing little-bim products has worked for others:
- The first day you download a little-bim software trial version, go through the product tutorial, step by step.
- Alternately, sign up for the vendor’s one-day introductory course.
The second day, begin a new project. It should be a project that is typical for your business, whether a new facility or a renovation. This should be something real, not something from the tutorial. Do not select the project for simplicity. You want to make this a real-life test.
- By the end of the third day, your model should include—floors, walls, roofs, doors, windows, stairs, toilet and kitchen fixtures, and a basic ground plane. As a minimum, you should have produced photo-rendered images, presentation-grade plans, and elevations. These images should be at a quality level that is good enough to present to customers, with no apologies.
- Extract the areas for all spaces with quantities and areas of doors, windows, and wall and roof surfaces. Some people going through this process have also produced a virtual reality model or tested their model on mobile-oriented systems such as BIMx™ at this point.
You have created your first prototype. You have had a productive three-day exercise much of which should be billable. If you are comfortable with the product, you may have found your modeling tool. If you cannot achieve at least this level of work-product by the end of the third day, try another modeling tool!
Explore how real-world practice changes when BIM enters the equation: Read Finith Jernigan’s BIG BIM little bim—The practical approach to Building Information Modeling—Integrated practice done the right way! Dana K. (Deke) Smith, FAIA, said of BIG BIM little bim: Finith’s writing and speaking have positively influenced the entire construction industry. His first book hit a home run for all practitioners of BIM. It is relevant to both the neophyte just making the BIM decision as well as the mature BIM organization looking for what is next.