Mark Flamer, P.E., Registered Civil Engineer and General Building Contractor, Structural Engineering Consultant for Nemetschek Scia, and Software Engineer for Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc.
Jeff M. Server, LEED AP BD+C, ASLA, Assoc. AIA, Architect Product Specialist at Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc. and Adjunct Professor at Morgan State University
One of the greatest benefits of BIM is also one of its biggest challenges. The ability to share information between designers and firms is invaluable, but since different designers use different software applications, exchanging this information accurately and efficiently can be tricky. That’s where open BIM can be a solution. Using the context of the Arboleda project, a multi-family, multi-story residential building in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, we’ll show you how open BIM improves communication and file sharing among project team members.
The firm that designed the Arboleda building originally used the BIM capabilities of Vectorworks software strictly for architectural purposes (Little BIM). More recently, we were part of a team that revisited the project as a proof-of-concept in order to explore and apply innovative features and technologies (Big BIM), such as new and open means of collaboration with engineers and contractors. The team members used various software platforms (e.g., Vectorworks Architect, Scia Engineer, Solibri Model Checker, DDS-CAD, IESVE for Engineers, and Synchro Professional), all of which are Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) file format compliant and capable of open BIM.
The project moved from an initial freehand sketch, to a georeferenced BIM and site information model (SIM), to a detailed visualization complete with Structural and MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) systems, and a complete energy analysis. This approach was possible because of the flexibility of open BIM and collaborative workflows. Each industry professional used their preferred tools, meaning they didn’t have to learn their team member’s software, but they could still exchange, coordinate, and validate the design throughout every phase of the project, while retaining control of their part of the model. In other words, they could see and interact with all the data available without having their design information edited without their approval.
Beneficial changes were made to the building because team members collaborated from the onset. For example, they were able to reduce the depth of the floor plates using a post-tensioned slab, allowing the architect to add a new floor or adjust floor-to-floor heights. Also, the engineer and the architect benefited from streamlined communication and the ability to filter out objects and information within the file, which helped everyone work faster and more easily.
Open BIM collaboration saves time, money, and energy for all of the people involved in the design and construction of a new building. Plus, with all the information combined into one master design, the building owner has the tools necessary to make changes in the future. If you’re interested in additional details about this project, read our article in the Journal for the National Institute of Building Sciences. You can also learn how to incorporate BIM into your Vectorworks software workflow on our BIM in Practice webpage.