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Friday, January 1, 2010

Shaun's Corner: Building Information Modeling And Our Future - Making The Most Of Opportunity

If you're reading Point of View religiously, and we know you all are, you know I've been tackling the weighty subject of BIM (Building Information Modeling) and its impact on the future of the reprographics industry.

Reprographers have expressed their concerns on the sustainability of the reprographics industry, and rightly so, as more and more AEC companies begin to adopt BIM 3D software. AutoDesk's Revit Architecture, Revit Structural, SolidWorks and Bentley Systems are all up and running and in the marketplace. I believe there are some valid reasons for concern. But I also believe that BIM has its challenges and, as result, will create opportunities for those reprographic companies positioned to overcome them.

Here's a nice little video primer on BIM... check it out. Click here:

Let’s look at the design industry. Sure, every design company could buy BIM software, spend whatever limited resources (time and money) are required to train their staff and generate beautiful 3D models. But in reality not every design company has the budget, skills or the time to learn BIM. Early adopters will embrace BIM, but the rest of the market will lag a number of years behind. So, in the short term, most designers will produce and distribute documents in 2D and reprographers will continue to print and/or electronically distribute print-ready information to the construction industry.

Design firms that do adopt BIM completely will expand their mix of documents by including both 2D and 3D content. The opportunities created for reprographers in this situation are extensive. BIM models will render realistic images which reprographers will print in color - in both small and large format.

Models have been and will remain an important aspect of architectural design. The traditional (analog) model building approach is labor intensive and requires a unique fabrication skill set. It is usually a very lengthy and expensive process. Since traditional models are handmade “one-off’s” it makes it practically impossible for a design company to build multiple variations of designs for owners to review. Another shortcoming of traditional models is that they are difficult to archive and preserve for future use.

Design competition can be extremely fierce in the best of times. Design firms are doing whatever it takes to secure new business. Creating models can help designers compete more effectively by communicating a designer’s concepts in a realistic medium. But not many designers can afford to have traditional model makers on staff. They are now looking at BIM software to render their models on 3D printers. We see this as an opportunity, as there will be increasing demand for 3D printing services from those reprographers who make the investment in 3D printers.

There are other opportunities for reprographers who help their clients in the move towards BIM. Companies embracing BIM will need access to BIM software, in-house 3D printers and special training for their designers. Some reprographers are already recognizing these needs and have begun to sell, train and support BIM software and workflow solutions.

Using BIM for design does not always mean that BIM models will be available during all phases of the project life cycle. A lot of it depends mostly on the type of project delivery methods the owner contracts with the designers and builders. With the design-bid-build project delivery process we have seen significant reticence by many designers to share BIM models (due to avariety of issues: contract terms, deliverables, ownership of intellectual property and risks). Projects that contract using design-build or the latest delivery method IPD (integrated-project-delivery) are more collaborative and more likely to share BIM models throughout the project life cycle.

In my next blog posting I will share my thoughts on how construction companies are embracing BIM and IPD and the opportunities that will present themselves for our industry - if we are smart enough to take advantage of them.

Keep reading, and writing - we like hearing from you!



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