To BIM or Not to BIM?

24, May 2017


This powerful technology offers exciting benefits to builders — with the proper planning


By Rich Kashian
Business Development Director, Sapphire Build by MiTek 

Over the past 15 years or so, people have contemplated changing their processes for producing architectural drawings. The benefits of building information modeling, or BIM, can be great. Once you create the BIM model, which is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a house, you can extract take-off quantities for purchasing, provide photorealistic 3D models for marketing, and evaluate new plan designs in 3D for form, function, and value engineering. 

But what does it take to get there? This should be an easy question to answer in 2017 as software is readily available for builders to convert their 2D plan portfolios to 3D models, and software companies will wow you with the exciting benefits of BIM. But before you make the investment to move your 2D plans to 3D BIM models, you have to ask yourself if the conversion is worth the expense.

Converting a portfolio of plans to BIM can be a costly and intensive endeavor for any company. Depending on your goals for BIM, the impact on your existing resources to be retrained and to maintain their existing workload, building a BIM software environment and converting plans can take months and even years without a huge bang for your buck in the short term.

If you are committed to move to BIM, here are a few questions to ask to help select the right BIM software for your company. First, you should perform a comprehensive review of your plan portfolio offering and evaluate which plans should you convert to BIM. How many times do you sell that specific plan? Will the plan be part of your plan portfolio for years to come? 

Do you have structural options in your plans? How many structural options do you have? 

More broadly, what are your expected deliverables from your BIM models? Construction documents? Material take offs? 3D models for marketing? Value engineering or new product concepts?

Once you define your BIM goals and have an understanding of your plan portfolio, you will need to create a BIM software environment, which consists of your CAD standards, libraries of 3D content, components needed to build your BIM models, as well as the BIM templates for your construction documents and deliverables. This is an upfront investment that will drive the success of your initiative.

The BIM software environment is a crucial component to manage before you begin converting plans. The more time and effort put into the BIM environment, the more streamlined your plan conversion will be. 

For production builders, the structural options will drive your BIM investment. To convert your 2D plans to 3D modeling, you will have to address the structural options that you offer for each plan. For example, if you have 10 structural options on a plan, you will need to model each option in 3D as part of the existing standard base model and if those options intersect (meaning that the options are not independent, such as an elevation B with a slab basement or full basement). This complexity can multiply the number of option combinations that must be represented in your BIM model.

The Sapphire Build team has worked through these BIM challenges for production builders of all sizes around the US and Canada by integrating BIM with the home builder enterprise sales, operations and accounting software, SAPPHIRE BUILD Enterprise Suite.

With the proper planning, BIM 3D modeling can provide you with an exceptional tool to create exciting new plans, value engineer the construction process, and market your homes to prospective buyers. We can help you make the decision about whether BIM is a good investment for you. 

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