Stephen Edge: Demystifying BIM (Building Information Modeling) software, for Sustainable Design and Construction

Stephen Edge posterAt the CIBSE BIM: Who benefits? Conference in December 2010, Dr Stephen Hamil of NBS said that it was revealed that over 30% of respondents use BIM for all or some projects, while almost 90% believe that they will be using BIM for at least a minority of projects by 2015.

The software (BIM) to capture the ‘knowledge, skills and experience’ of all the professional consultants and contractors involved in the design and construction of a building, and then contain it within an ‘intelligent’ single computer file i.e. a single model environment, has been around for over 20 years. Over the last few years however its potential to harness and financially control the interoperability of the disparate built environment professions i.e. architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors etc., has received a lot of support and publicity from consecutive UK governments, and it’s now being seriously promoted by the current government as the only ‘virtual’ way forward for the built environment industry for the foreseeable future.

On May 31st 2011 Cabinet Minster Frances Maude announced that any architectural or Construction Company wanting to work on a government building contract from 2016 onwards will have to use BIM. If BIM is therefore going to be the pre-eminent software of the future, taking over from the likes of AutoCAD and ArchiCAD, then this transformation will no doubt have a profound impact on the design and construction industry. It also will be a mammoth task for the educators and trainers to undertake this transformation, as many of them are relatively unprepared for this paradigm shift. However more importantly from an interior architects and designers viewpoint we need to be better and consistently informed.

Interior architecture and design students and professional interior designers don’t necessarily need to know how to use BIM to design buildings in the way in which architects do, however they will increasingly need to know how new green building technologies work, and equally as important they will need to know what their role will be in this new vision in the future. The interoperability of BIM will be paramount to ensuring that this transformation is implemented as smoothly as possible for all concerned. The interoperability (its capacity to link with other software programmes) of BIM also provides interior students with the opportunity to work with new buildings as well as existing structures, and to use the latest eco-design software to accurately test e.g. the affects on the lighting levels on the materials they’ve specified, this in turn will aid in reducing energy levels and ultimately Carbon Footprints.

Research results also indicate that there are very few interior architecture and design programmes in GB and Europe which have fully integrated BIM into their curriculum. There is also evidence in the USA where BIM is more embedded in practice and education that even Masters in Architecture students (Kensek, K. 2010) don’t have the proper academic background to understand how to create energy models of buildings using BIM.

The main aim of my research is to demystify BIM for interior architecture and design students and professionals, to then also identify the most appropriate and relevant interoperable software for them to work with in the foreseeable future.
My research further investigates the practicalities of up-skilling interior architecture and design students and professionals in the role of BIM for their futures. This is being done through an examination and dissemination of best practice pedagogy from the States in the use of BIM for Environmentally Sustainable Design, in order to see how this might translate into an EU and UK framework. The project will hopefully produce a ‘model’ to disseminate to different age groups, with various levels of expertise and skill sets. This will eventually and hopefully be supported by Lifelong Learning and Erasmus for all – EU funding.