The time when projects were done “by hand”, with pencil and ink, is long gone. As much as it is nice to us and it stirs beautiful feelings and no matter how much we engage in discussions debating that the drawing made in pencil and ink has a special beauty and creates a special bond between the designer and the project, that time is long behind us. Hereby, I want to emphasize that, in my opinion, freehand sketches are still an irreplaceable tool which enable your thoughts to convert into space, but this is not the case with technical drawings. Even if nowadays, there were no mandatory electronic formats in which projects need to be prepared, no one would continue to work on the projects in the old-fashioned way, i.e., “manually”. CAD software has completely replaced the manually prepared technical drawings.
CAD software (AutoCAD is the most commonly used in our country) is a type of universal software that is used to create projects for microchips, mobile phones, cars, airplanes and it is even used to draw astronomical maps including light years as a measuring unit. These universal softwares are also used in civil engineering, for preparation of architectural, construction, electrical projects, plumbing, heating / cooling / ventilation, fire protection etc. However, since the civil engineering industry is too large a sector to use universal tools, the BIM (Building Information Modeling) methodology was created upon request of the designers, which means that during the process of 3D modeling of the building, we will be able to get all the information about all elements used in the project and the final product will be a complete 3D model in which all elements from all stages are integrated including all of the necessary information about those elements. The BIM methodology is completely adapted for designers in civil engineering, including full or partial automation of all processes that take place during the project design.
But what does this all mean if you are an owner or an employee of a project design company?
1. Company or individuals, whose primary activity is designing interiors and smaller buildings
I guess, the largest number of companies and individuals in our country who are working in this industry can be enclosed here. While designing interiors, usually, the process includes taking measures of the existing premises, designing the proposed floor plan, sections and elevations, 3D models and renders, and upon approval by the investor, additional corrections are being made (or not) to the project. The next stage consists of preparation of all of the construction drawings including masonry, plaster works, electricity, plumbing, stone paneling, wood works, various furniture with workshop drawings and a bill of quantities. Here, unfortunately, I cannot rely on any statistics, or any research. However, knowing many companies and their way of operation, I can emphasize that in our country, the designing process for all 2D drawings usually takes place in Autodesk AutoCAD, which is followed by a 3D model made in Google SketchUP resulting in hyper-realistic renders (which are already set-up as a standard) in Chaosgroup V-ray.
If there are any corrections to be made in the process, this usually includes making corrections in the 2D drawings and the 3D model and lastly, in the renders, which are in no way related; which means that in order to make corrections in one file, all of the corrections will have to be entered manually in the rest of the files as well. For example, corrections in the 2D floor plan shall mean that corrections must also be made to the other floor plans, sections and elevations, furniture, bill of quantities, 3D model, renders, and anything else affected by the corrections in the floor plan.
This process in BIM would usually take place in one software (Graphisoft ArchiCAD and Autodesk Revit are most commonly used in our country). Floor plans, sections, elevations, details, bill of quantities, 3D model, all of them are prepared in one software, and the renders are prepared either in the same software with different plug-ins, or in a software which is directly linked to the model from the BIM software. Additionally, the software allows work in stages (time stages such as existing condition, demolition stage, newly designed condition and documentation of the as-built drawings), as well as includes options that can remain hidden and invoked as needed. There is no need to emphasize the time savings, accuracy and precision of the project developed in the BIM methodology, compared to a project developed in a CAD software.
2. A company designing individual housing projects and projects for smaller residential buildings
Our current process of project design preparation is as follows: upon receiving all of the information about the project, sketches and analyzes regarding the size and number of the apartments, the number and organization of parking spaces, heights, are being made. Once all of this is adopted, an architectural project solution or a primary project design is being prepared, which at a more advanced stage, continues towards the other stages (construction, plumbing, electricity, machinery, fire protection…); a 3D model is then prepared in another software (usually SketchUP or in case ArchiCAD is used, it is only for the 3D model and for preparation of sections and elevations, which are later refined in AutoCAD). Much of the time goes into calculations of square footage of rooms and apartments, total square footage that is usually done by hatching the floor plans and insertion in Excel. Once again, all of the project corrections should be made “manually”, i.e., excluding any automation. Even more, in all drawings and at this stage, it is almost impossible not to make mistakes, be it in 2D drawings or in the bill of quantities. When making corrections, measures usually have to be taken from the beginning. On the other hand, such a project made in BIM methodology, is usually prepared in a single 3D model and the corrections are made in the same model and all drawings are automatically updated. The work on a single detail is visible on the final 3D model. At the same time, in a situation where on an already completed project design, for some reason, the height of the ground floor needs to be changed (for example, instead of 360cm, the height should be 340cm), this operation would take us a few days in AutoCAD (and no, the stretch command will not provide the desired effect, because it is very certain that the dimensions, hatches, height measurements etc. will be incorrect) and it should be done in all sections, elevations and the 3D model. In Revit this procedure would take 5 seconds, all floors will be corrected and all drawings will be updated automatically, walls will be shortened, stairs will either be shortened or the software itself will report a problem where we need to pay attention.
3. Large company working on drawings for large projects (large residential complexes, hotels, industrial halls, business buildings, community buildings, commercial buildings)
If you are part of such a company and you have not yet introduced BIM in the company, and you still work with classic CAD software, then, by all means, I have nothing else to say.
But indeed, how to get BIM? I know individuals and companies in Macedonia who have tried to get it and returned to the warm embrace of the good old 2D AutoCAD.
- Train your employees in one of our courses. There are huge number of courses and at an affordable price. Unfortunately, the most frequent visitors to BIM courses in our country are those who need BIM knowledge in order to get more job opportunities abroad. Train your employees, it will come back to you tenfold. Employees moving to another company right after you have provided BIM training for them, is always a possibility. But even worse is for them to stay and work for you untrained.
- Forget that there is AutoCAD or any other way for 2D line drawing. Create a discipline where, no matter how banal the project may seem, preparation of a 3D model of it is included in every occasion. It always pays off.
- There are two scenarios in case you find yourself in a situation where you do not know how to do something: The first is, someone else before you had the same problem, solved it and published a solution, whether on a forum, and more often a short video can be found on YouTube; The other scenario is, if you do not know how to model the object in 3D, you will not even know how to build it either.
The very first project is the most difficult and complex thing to do in BIM. For example, if you needed 30 days to complete a project in the old way, you will need 40 days to complete your first project in BIM, but you will complete the second one in 15 days, the third in 10 days etc. This is all from the experience of people who had the same issues and today, have successfully migrated from CAD to BIM. It’s scary if someone runs out of time. There are a huge number of good architects, both in Macedonia and in the world, who did not adapt to the “new age” and 15 or 20 years ago did not start working on projects on computers and did not have or could not pay younger collaborators to help them with the preparation of the projects. BIM is a technology that arrives and cannot be avoided, it can very easily happen, entire companies to lose their jobs, and as scary as it sounds, all EU supported infrastructure projects to have to be done in BIM technology. If the designers do not adapt, it can very easily happen designers from other countries to win the tenders for designing projects in Macedonia, and in that case, the adaptation will cost us all and will be terribly expensive.
About the Author
Nikola Strezovski was born in Resen in 1981. He completed primary and secondary education in Resen, and today he lives and works in Skopje. He obtained the degree of Graduate Engineer Architect at the Faculty of Architecture, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. After graduating, he has actively participated in teaching at the same faculty and later at FON University as a Teaching Assistant. He is the author of a large number of architectural designs from all areas, as well as a large number of constructed buildings. He has taken part in architectural competitions, winning 9 first places and numerous second and third places, as well as special recognitions of his works. He has also participated in numerous exhibitions, most notably at the Venice Biennale and an exhibition in New York City. Additionally, he has delivered CAD computer software training, and today he is actively advocating for the introduction of BIM in architectural design. He is professionally engaged with Mason Engineering, a construction company from Skopje that constantly introduces innovation and novelty to construction. For him, architecture is both a job and a hobby; he constantly thinks about how to make the world a better place through architecture. Nikola is married and has two children.