The digital revolution in architecture encompasses a number of different topics – advances in what can be digitally modelled, in what can be physically constructed, in how we think about documentation. The term ‘Building Information Modelling’ (BIM) encompasses a number of these concepts, but it is often confusing as to what BIM specifically refers to, or how an company can successfully tailor their content to integrate into a BIM model.
A key component of the BIM philosophy is that a 3D model should not be simply static representation of an object in space. That object could have any number of additional fields associated with it, from cost, installation instructions, maintenance and material information, electrical requirements, or anything else deemed useful. All of this additional information allows those who are relying on the BIM model to make informed decisions about what is best for a specific project, and for the cost of changes to the plan to be easily quantified.
Additionally, BIM Objects may be parametric, allowing architects to intuitively work with products that may have a large number of different customisation options. Correctly constructed parametric objects, imbued with the right information, allow architects to quickly identify the possibilities and limitations of systems and products, facilitating high quality design.
The digital revolution is not just about creating robust BIM models. Engineers and Architects beginning to understand the benefit of computer programming in the workplace, and as a result an explosion of intuitive, specialised software tools are being produced, aimed squarely at the building industry.
Visual programming languages, notably Grasshopper (for Rhino 3D) and Dynamo (for Revit) are at the forefront of this movement. These plug-ins allow users to access and automate processes in an intuitive visual way, doing everything from complex 3D modelling to interfacing with Google Docs, CNC Routers, or Arduino microcontrollers.
Using these same tools, Architects and designers can automate documentation, or use a BIM itself as the basis of a digital fabrication process. The Wellington startup ‘Makers of Architecture’ are using Dynamo and Grasshopper to produce CNC router paths directly out of the Revit model that they are designing their buildings in. Using this process, the team can accurately and quickly scope the cost of the digital fabrication process, from the number of sheets that they are using all the way down to the total amount of tooling time required. These numbers can be dynamically updated at any time, allowing for a process of iteration and testing over the course of the design process.
These tools are being used to solve complex problems and optimise tasks that simplify the documentation and construction process, allowing Architects to design, document and build things that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Huge swaths of the work we currently busy ourselves with can be automated, transforming a laborious, bordering on impossible, task into a short checklist of programs to run on each model.
The creation of usable BIM content and the development of custom design tools require specialised knowledge and a different approach to architecture, focused on information management and smart geometry, and we’re excited to see companies that are pushing the boundaries of the industry, and to be involved in that process ourselves.