Welcome to the premiere issue of Ed’s Independent Voice!

You are receiving this newsletter because you are part of a select group of 1,500 + AEC/O professionals who I have either had the pleasure of meeting personally, corresponding with via email or in my Cadalyst BIM forum, counting as readers of my magazine articles and/or books, addressing as attendees at my lectures or mixing with as colleagues at industry events.

The mission of Ed’s Independent Voice is to present information about innovative technology and industry trends that I consider to be of value to the practicing AEC/O professional. I believe I am uniquely qualified to evaluate and assess products and practices, as I myself am a practicing licensed Architect—the only one, to my knowledge, who is also an industry analyst. As a busy individual, with limited time and a short attention span, I believe I am typical of many of my fellow professionals. Therefore, I intend that my newsletter be short and to the point; about 1,500 words.

Ed’s Independent Voice will be published monthly and will contain a main feature article, highlighting either one distinctive product, a genre of products a significant trend or a newsworthy event, followed by related recommendations.  In this newsletter, for the first time in my journalistic career, I am free to express my opinions without the intervention of editorial oversight. Hence, the name “Independent” Voice.


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About me:

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.


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Architects and Contractors are Divided on the Utilization of the BIM

Traditionally the architect and contractor have had separate roles in different phases of a building project, however, the advent of the Building Information Model (BIM) has created an overlapping of responsibilities and liabilities between these two sectors. The ramifications of this shifting paradigm were brought home to me at two events I attended recently, sponsored by chapters of the Association of General Contractors (AGC). The AGC is a national trade organization with 101 regional chapters whose members consist of construction contractors and industry related companies.

The Kansas City Chapter of the AGC invited me to lecture on the BIM at their annual meeting, and I also attended a special BIM Forum hosted by the Boston Chapter. Prior to attending these conferences I was cognizant of the benefits of BIM technology from the perspective of the architect, however much to my chagrin, I learned from these organizations that the models architects were creating did not necessarily meet the needs of contractors.
At these events, BIM managers from several major construction companies gave presentations demonstrating how each utilized the BIM. Each of the participating companies has its own in-house BIM modeling group that services their estimating, planning and management departments. Their major focus was to increase profitability by imbuing the model with project and construction specific information. As a result, they reap the benefits of project simulation, automated estimating and scheduling, and elimination of most change orders. Some of the BIM models created by these groups were built from the architect’s 2D drawings, but many were newly created– even though the architect had previously supplied a BIM model! This practice of re-creating new, proprietary BIM models, also known as “parallel modeling” is becoming common among the large construction companies.
Mark Sawyer of VICO Software, publishers of VICO Constructor a popular BIM construction, estimation and scheduling program, explained the reasoning behind this seeming duplication of efforts. According to Mark, “it is often easier for an estimating and scheduling department to create a new BIM model from scratch than it is to modify an architect’s existing BIM model”. Any architect’s model must be thoroughly checked and analyzed, a time consuming, expensive and error prone process. Most important, the BIM model must reflect the timing, pricing, and construction methodology particular to a given contractor. Mark also expressed the opinion that automated estimating and scheduling from a BIM model is presently only viable on projects of $40 million and more, due to the high cost of developing and maintaining the BIM model throughout the building process.

The New BIM Team

In order to create BIM models, many of the construction companies are hiring architects and/or architectural graduates to head up in-house BIM teams. Dace A. Campbell, an architect and BIM Specialist for Mortenson Construction, is one of this new breed of professionals.  In his role as Design Manager, he leads a team of five men who manage BIM models for projects. According to Dace, while BIM software increases productivity in the design and construction document phases, differences between the standard “design intent” model of the independent architect and the “means and methods” model of the contractor can effect the realization of potential benefits which are much greater when a single BIM model is used throughout the project.  Additionally, in a traditional Design/Bid/Build scenario, contractors are reticent to depend on the architect’s information model for pricing or scheduling.

Brad Hardin, Assoc. AIA, BIM Manager for McCownGordon Construction, L.L.C. in
Kansas City, Missouri, believes that “there is a huge disconnect between what architect’s draw and contractors build”. In order to maximize the potential of the BIM, Brad prefers the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) method whereby all participants--the architect, engineer, owner, contractor, facility manager, and end user-- meet at the beginning of the project to exchange information. This approach is, in Brad’s words, “project focused” rather than “profession focused”. Brad recalls, “Recently, I was lucky enough to work on a couple of projects that involved the entire team in this type of method. It was the most fun I’ve ever had, both in learning what information contractors need and how the architect wants the design to look (not to mention shrinking the paper trail and endless phone calls).” In this author’s opinion, The IPD model, an approach synonymous with what the industry terms “Lean Construction”, is presently only workable in situations where the project is proprietary, has been pre-negotiated, or is under the auspices of a design/build contract.

Bridging the Gap

In order for the architect to bridge the BIM schism, two factors come into play. First, the architect must understand the psyche of the construction industry which is organized around the mitigation of risk. Big bucks are involved when an owner and contractor commit to a project. Secondly, because the BIM represents a paradigm change in the practice of architecture and construction, I believe architects, especially those just entering the profession, or moving up the ladder, will need more digital education and construction knowledge. Among possibilities for the future practice of architecture is the division of professionals into specialties such as virtual architect and virtual contractor – a concept similar to the differentiation in the medical profession between general practitioners and surgeons. Given the much more sophisticated problems the architectural profession is facing, it is going to have to embrace total digital design and construction technology. Some architects are already expanding their BIM capabilities through the use of programs such as Ecotech , IES, Green Building Studio, and Solabri for energy analysis, clash detection and code checking.


Ed's recomendations and Opinions


Revit Architecture, Revit Structure, Revit  MEP
In my opinion, the entire industry BIM “buzz” is with the Revit solutions. Revit Architecture, owned by Autodesk, is becoming the most used BIM authoring software. This program seems to have taken hold across the entire professional spectrum from sole proprietors to large firms and construction companies that are utilizing BIM software tools. The reason for its acceptance is Revit’s relative ease of use, and excellent modeling and documenting capability. Besides this, it makes an excellent platform, through IFC (Industry Foundation Class) file transfer for analysis by all energy, estimating, and analysis programs. Revit’s rendering capability is more than adequate for all but the most high quality photo-realistic presentations. Available for Windows only. 

This is the grandfather of the BIM solutions, and the development team has always been innovative. ArchiCAD did not use the BIM moniker until the term “BIM” had become an industry standard. This is an excellent BIM authoring tool, and is very popular in Europe. In my opinion, the capability between ArchiCAD and Revit are roughly equal. Pat Mays, VP of Graphisoft USA claims that ArchiCAD handles very large models more easily. This statement was also mentioned by a Revit BIM manager at a very large AE firm. Rendering capability is excellent, as is IFC (Industry Foundation Class) file transfer for analysis by all energy, estimating, and analysis programs. Available for Windows or Mac operating systems

NavisWorks  JetStream 5
This program, now owned by Autodesk, is becoming a “must have” for the Contractors that are using BIM software. It will integrate into one Naviswork file, files from almost any 3D program such as Tekla; Bentley structure, Autodesk Building Systems MEP, etc; allowing for “clash detection”, 3D coordination, collaboration and sequencing in design and construction.



VICO Constructor 2008
The Vico Software Constructor Suite allows you to design, cost, schedule, and control your project with one product. The modeling tool is ArchiCAD. This product has been around for several years, and has an excellent reputation. The VICO company will create a BIM model for your first project by demand. Operating this system requires a knowledgeable estimating and construction team. This software is favored by construction companies such as Webcore and Swinerton Builders, Inc


Innovaya will extract information from AutoCAD Architecture and Revit Architecture; this information can then be passed down to an estimating program such as Timberline, and a scheduling program such as Primavera.  Many estimators like the information they get from Innovaya, and prefer to place it into their own spread sheets for estimating. Gilbert Garcia of Virtual Building Logistics in North Kansas City, Missouri  uses Innovaya to provide Gilbane Construction’s estimators with information from AutoCAD Architecture Models.


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