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Graphisoft on BIM

Expanding our debate on Building Information Modeling (BIM) as the successor/superset to "CAD" in AEC design, modeling pioneer Graphisoft—makers of ArchiCAD—stake out their position. Vice President for Architecture Chris Barron argues Graphisoft's case.

> For those following along, our original screed on BIM appeared in IssueFifteen
> We've had extensive reader dialog on this subject, featured in IssueSixteen and in our LLLetters department from Issues Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, and in this Issue.
> Autodesk marked its territory with a statement on BIM in IssueEighteen, backed up by a BIM white paper at Autodesk.com (PDF).
> Bentley Systems tossed their hat in the ring with a statement on BIM that we also published in IssueEighteen, supplemented by a BIM white paper at Bentley.com (PDF).
> Graphisoft, in addition to their statement here, has sponsored a a BIM white paper by CyonResearch (PDF).

We will compare and contrast these competing position statements and their supporting white papers in an upcoming Issue. But for now, without further ado, here's what Graphisoft's Chris Barron has to say:

Dear Jerry,

Thanks for taking on the task of consolidating a lot of proprietary terminology into one upon which the industry can agree, and one which hopefully will be meaningful to the end-users. For Graphisoft, the concept underlying the Building Information Model is not a new vision, but one upon which our company was founded over 20 years ago with ArchiCAD’s “Virtual Building” approach, and we applaud the fact that the broader industry has agreed that this approach will bring the greatest rewards to our customers both today and in the future. Our history here is significant because with over 120,000 users of our BIM technology and several hundred thousand built projects resulting from its use, we have been able to leverage that experience to enrich, broaden and deepen the application of BIM for real world use. For Graphisoft, this is not only the future, but our past and present as well.

The most important word in the BIM nomenclature is "information", because that is what the BIM is designed to capture and re-present in a way that is meaningful to the users of that information. That information should encompass the architect’s design intent with respect to the building program, site, budget, building systems, energy performance, aesthetics, building codes, etc. For the contractor it should include construction methodology, quantity takeoffs, costing information, schedules, construction simulation, and so on. Finally, one of the true benefits of BIM is that this information lives beyond construction and presents the owner with an informational model for ongoing management, operations and maintenance, and with ArchiFM, we offer an FM application which can take the building information model generated in ArchiCAD and use it for the ongoing operations of the built facility.

Because the power of the BIM is in the information it contains, it is critical to keep in mind that this information belongs not to the BIM software, but rather to the architect, the contractor and the building owner. As such, this information [must be] both accessible and interoperable, and for this reason, Graphisoft has been a direct and an active participant in the International Alliance for Interoperability, with ArchiCAD 8 recently receiving IFC 2.x certification. This level of interoperability opens the BIM to the kinds of design analysis and simulation for things like energy analysis, construction cost analysis and code checking that were simply not possible with 2D CAD, and which should ultimately result in better building design. We believe that the accessibility of the information in the BIM [is] too important to leave to a 3rd party translator. In addition, with its open API, direct ODBC connectivity and extensible GDL object technology, ArchiCAD enables further customization of its BIM application and accessibility to its information.

In response to the comments of my colleagues from Autodesk and Bentley I would like to add a couple of things. The best way to accelerate the adoption of the BIM in practice is 1) show that it is a better way to get construction documentation done, 2) show that it gives the architect more control over the design, document and construction processes, 3) show that it is a more predictable way to deliver the finished building project and 4) show that it provides a way to extend the value of design services into the operations of the built facility. Yes, it involves a process change in a way that CAD never did, but there’s no need to fear that change—thousands of firms have already made that transition successfully. CAD automated the drafting task; BIM automates the building delivery process. However, process change in the AEC industry is inevitable, as more and more projects are delivered via the design-build process, and more investment will be made in the renovation and management of existing buildings. And finally, I would challenge the assertion that BIM is a superset of CAD—I’d prefer to submit that CAD is a subset of BIM. We’ve seen too many failed products that tried to build a BIM on top of CAD. Drawings will be, for the foreseeable future, a critical by-product of BIM, but ultimately the value of the information in a BIM will exceed the value of the documentation set.

Best regards, and thanks for providing this valuable forum.

Thanks, Chris! I cut you some slack re expounding at greater length than your competitors combined, because Graphisoft has been developing, delivering and refining BIM solutions far longer than your competitors combined —making ArchiCAD one of the most mature BIM solutions on the market. You've also struck a couple of other responsive chords with your points on interoperability (via IAI/IFC certification) and open extensibility/programmability (via GDL and ODBC).

Further, I see modeling—the "M" in BIM—not as an end in itself, but as a means to something that is richer, broader and deeper. In private discussions, Brad Holtz and his fellow Cyoneers prefer to call this next thing "Project Lifecycle Management"—on the not unreasonable theory that Project Lifecycle Management should be to AEC CAD as Product Lifecycle Management has been to MCAD. Autodesk's Phil Bernstein makes much the same point with "Building Lifecycle Management." The folks at Bentley Systems also speak about the demands of the "building lifecycle" in formulating and evaluating a BIM strategy.

I prefer to view modeling as the necessary precondition for simulation—building the building in the computer before building it in the real world. Thus, BIM enables the simulation of construction cost, construction scheduling, energy performance, lighting and acoustical behavior and so on (which, in turn, leads to simulation of operating characteristics, preventive maintenance and the like—in other words, the building lifecycle). Universal support for the widest possible range of analysis and simulation tools is or should be an important distinguishing characteristic of successful BIM solutions.

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