BIMFreak in the World – Sharing is caring

It’s been a pretty eventful year so far for the BIMFreak:

  • I was the people profile in AEC bytes Q4 2016 publication
  • In 2015 Ideate Inc. invited me down to present in San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland at the local Revit User Groups. Due to the amount of requests for me to come back from the users they have asked me to return the week before AU; November 8th and 9th to present the topic that formed from my blog post The Mechanic and the Designer. I will focus on the disruption in the Design workflow – post to follow.
  • I am collaborating on a BIM curriculum with the Department Head of the CAD and BIM Technology Department at Vancouver Community College in the fall semester. CAD and BIM Technologies
  • I am working with Scott Chatterton (BIM Jedi) for the VRCA to create a BIM 101 class that I will be teaching in the fall to help contractors in the Vancouver area understand and use BIM tools on projects. The goal of this course is to encourage an understanding of BIM, it’s technology and how it can enhance projects.
  • I will be presenting at Autodesk University November 14-16, check back for the schedule when it comes out, hope to see you in the audience.
  • I have begun work on a new book that will help you in becoming a BIM Manager, with a focus on:
    • Teaching BIM to an office
    • Strategies to understand and respond to design needs
    • Adjusting working strategies to suit different processes, personalities and project needs.

My new book is a continuation from my previous exploration on Becoming a BIM Advocate, the next step towards advancing your office in BIM.


I have also taken a step in a new direction, learning a new language and a greater understanding of how to implement BIM in a Designers world. It has always amazed me that I started this journey supporting in Architecture firms back in 1995. Of course the digital landscape changed very slowly from 1995 to 2008 simply using 2D software, once we took that hard turn towards the 3D world we have had an explosion. Looking back it is amazingly the same problem yet we all look at in a different way, the fact that Architectural firms now regularly employ Technology staff alongside the design staff proves the importance the digital tools have become.

Thinking outside the box

As a BIM advocate I have found myself trying to pull others into my linear workflow instead of working with their design workflow. In my last post  “the Mechanic and the Designer“, I talked about my breakthrough on how I can support the less direct workflow used by designers. My new struggle is; how can I do that? I’m a geek that loves BIM process and the idea of Open BIM (yep, it’s what I dream about), it’s hard for me to understand and anticipate the needs of designers.

So how do I support the non-linear workflow of designers?

I’ve been working on the basics of this for a while: this kind of support always starts with trust. I need the designers I work with to feel comfortable chatting with me about what they need and what will help them move forward with design. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this — designers need the space and time to work through a project and find the best approach, and often aren’t aware of the Revit support that’s available. Regular chats about the direction of the project and design options gives me information about what tools I can provide, and providing designers with simple tasks using BIM tools can encourage team members to be more adventurous in their BIM strategies.

Once I understood designers don’t use the BIM standard workflow and I decided to try to support a design-based non-linear workflow, I realized the only way to promote and encourage BIM use is to help designers find new (and BIM-based) solutions to their design problems. My opportunity to test this came when one of my teams needed to present a large multi-phase, multiyear project to a group of investors. The challenge? They needed to efficiently show phasing and construction for the site. When I learned of this need, I suggested using a 4D timeliner to show each phase as it is built. The team had never considered coming to me for help with this because they didn’t know this type of presentation tool was possible.

I took this opportunity to show them the power and interoperability of BIM tools by providing them a timeline video building massing for each phase of the design. This lead to questions of “how can we do that on more projects?”, and my favourite, “you mean I can get all the areas in real time using this massing and develop something to present?” Suddenly I was working with a team that was interested and excited about using BIM for presentation, and who wanted to learn more about how BIM could be collaborative and assist with the design of their project.

I broke down the steps for the designers and showed them that Revit massing is not very different from Sketchup, once you know how to put the different parts together. The benefit to using Revit is that it is designed for easy data extraction: there is no need to export to CAD and draw a polyline to figure out area.

I provided a simple massing process, and I didn’t try to convince them not to work in Sketchup. Instead, I let the designers start in a software with procedures where they were comfortable, and I asked them to let me move the work into Revit when they were ready to start calculations. Instead of asking them to start the Revit model from scratch, I took the Sketchup model into Revit and massed up the buildings.  I think because I don’t know Sketchup and I’m skilled at Revit it took me very little time. Once I had their model in place they used it to generate area numbers, and found they were comfortable enough in the model to edit the massing to review the impact of different floor plates on their maximum area calculations.

Now that team rarely opens Sketchup and they have used Revit to develop their design and take the model onto Design Development documents.

Funny how having passion to teach and drive BIM in the industry creates opportunities to lead designers into BIM without even planning it.