BIM, LEED and Sustainable Design
Those are not just buzzwords. Let’s just all accept that they are know part of the architectural and engineering lexicon. Are they part of your practice? These terms are rapidly becoming client requirements when doing work for United States Federal Government agencies such as the GSA (General Services Administration). Many state agencies such as the Massachusetts DCAM (Division of Capital Asset Management) are requiring a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) basic level of certification for large projects. Washington State just last year enacted legislation requiring a LEED Silver rating for all public projects – the third-highest possible in that system, after Platinum and Gold. In all, more than 15 states have enacted legislation requiring LEED and sustainable, high-performance buildings in some form, and other states are moving toward that goal.

Delivering a project meeting the criteria described above should not be taken lightly, and is not a task that can happen at the end of a project’s construction document delivery phase. Some foolishly work under the assumption that green design can be tacked on as a ‘feature’ without the thoughtful planning and coordination amongst multiple disciplines. And BIM is not just saving a 2D CAD file to a new format – it’s the process the project follows from pixels on the screen through to the construction process to the use / re-use and ultimate dismantling of the project – the whole building’s life-cycle needs to be designed and anticipated. Project managers need to pay very close attention when responding to an RFP as these terms can have severe impact on a firm’s ability to deliver on client requirements.

However, what can firms do to prepare to compete or continue to compete for this type of work? Do you really know what BIM is? It is such a wide-ranging term, but the one that matters in this case is the definition by the client, since they are the biggest stake holder with the most to gain from the successful delivery of on-time and on-budget projects.

The GSA defines BIM as: “3D parametric modeling software with an underlying database. Any changes made to the model or its documentation automatically update and coordinate everywhere.”

That is a very loaded statement. To help break it down a bit: This is really about managing information, and knowing that whatever changes occur in the design phase are computed, coordinated and applied – automatically. Does the software platform you use meet this stringent definition? Change it once, change it everywhere. Hmmm… sounds just like Revit to me. At the moment these organizations are only requiring deliverables during the schematic design phase, but it is required nonetheless. What better time to jump on board?

So, why the push for these drastic changes?

Inefficiency costs projects and clients a lot of money. This should be no surprise to anyone in the construction industry. BIM is a good business decision and clients are ever increasing their expectations of what design professionals can deliver. They also understand that energy costs are ever inflating and are becoming more ‘green’ aware. BIM has a potentially much larger impact than that of the transition from the drafting board to CAD ever had on the industry. The reason I believe this is, that BIM is not just a software solution – but a cultural, and process management shift. It isn’t a change to one process, as with CAD drafting tools, but when it’s full potential is realized by the architecture, engineering, construction and owner (AECO) communities, truly integrated design practices will finally emerge. That’s where the efficiencies will really show up — in the intelligent transfer of design intent, product selection, and sustainable design decisions — that will make for better buildings, with less issues during construction and operation. Sustainable design practice is in some ways easier to achieve, since success simply requires education and teamwork. BIM, on the other hand, requires an enabling technology — a software solution consisting of one or more tools — to achieve the end product. Thankfully, BIM is strongly positioned to support the sustainable design goal as well, through the use of analysis tools which can extract computable information from the model and provide visual feedback. But don’t take my word for it…

BIM Experts Share Secrets to Success – by Sara Ferris

For BIM’s Sake – by Martin Fischer

Are You a Real Player? – by Daniel Hughes

LEED® Initiatives in Governments and Schools – a report from the US Green Building Council (USGBC)

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