Moving to Model-based Design

How do you migrate from 2D draughting to model-based design? How should training be rolled out? And what are the common issues usually encountered?

What we call ‘modern technology’ might seem fairly antiquated – possibly even laughable – in years to come. It will be interesting to see which of the current workflow and process stand the test of time and which become consigned to history.

Large design studios, contractors, national governments and clients are implementing collaborative processes that effectively and efficiently collate and manage data. In the meantime, while some small to medium companies are at the forefront of this move, others are unaware of it or dismiss it as irrelevant, too expensive or too disruptive.

Despite the slow adoption in certain quarters, those who have embraced the new technologies might feel that the current changes could revolutionise the industry. On the other hand, it could all fizzle out and be considered in retrospect as a failed experiment.

There will always be people who prefer others to take the lead, letting them discover and rectify the problems, especially if the solutions prove to be expensive.

But despite this, the construction industry is in a period of change with regard to collaborative workflow and the corresponding technology that is needed to support these advances. Furthermore, the concepts themselves are not new and no single individual or organisation can claim having invented them.

model-based design workflow

Designing and building better with model-based design

We live in a 3D world and yet, when it comes to building design, we have always converted this 3D world into a series of 2D representations.

Interpretation is a personal perspective, often leading to miscommunication, especially when it comes to passing information from one designer to another, or from designer to client. Yet some designers still hesitate to design in 3D, to put all of their information into one place so that they can present their ideas and solutions from many different perspectives with the same (or arguably less) amount of effort. 2D technical drawings can, of course, still be produced for those who want them, but we can equally deliver multiple sections, perspectives, annotated 3D cutaways, full colour renders, detailed schedules, or any other interrogation of the model that will ensure that the entire audience is left in no doubt as to what is intended and what the implications are.

Communicating better with everyone around us means we get more informed feedback – and this helps to speed the whole design process. But another real benefit of model-based design is often that the designer understands better the project vision. This results in us being able to nip problems in the bud much earlier and enables us to work through more iterations where we make incremental improvements, in turn delivering better designs.

In essence, model-based design helps us to achieve the following:

  • Better understanding of a concept or design.
  • Better communication of ideas, requirements and problems.
  • Less repeated work and ultimately more productivity.

Having access to good graphical and non-graphical data in the form of a 3D model allows us to transfer this data in digital formats to other disciplines and stakeholders with less human interaction. This also means that as more and more data is input into the model, and more and more software learns to read that data from the model, we can also perform more accurate simulation analysis of a design.

How to implement model-based design

The big question for small to medium sized studios is whether it is really worth changing workflows and potentially software applications in order to adopt this new approach. Can the cost of software, hardware upgrade, staff training and the associated short-term productivity dip, actually be justified if it’s not something the client is actually demanding?

The primary objective in moving to model-based design for most studios is to improve internal processes, and therefore increasing productivity and quality and improving communication. If we are going to announce to clients that we use model based design and BIM enabled software, such as ARCHICAD, then we need to be able to outline to them what that means in terms of demonstrable standards and protocols. These same foundations are essential to underpin good office templates and software usage.

As part of your implementation, Applecore Designs can advise on the considerations involved in ARCHICAD projects and templates, and assist in customising project templates tailored to your own office standards. This means that when you start working on your first projects, you will not have to worry about setting up your title blocks, drawing IDs, etc.

Peer-to-peer online video tutorials instructing on software and processes don’t necessarily represent good practice. It is therefore very easy to pick up bad habits and a lot harder to break them afterwards. A structured course, on the other hand, should incorporate workflow as well. Furthermore, to ensure that training is cost-effective, timing is key; if your newly learned skills are not applied within a short time-frame, then you will have wasted time and effort.

model-based design Transition

Implementing model-based design can bring performance improvements beyond measure. Regardless of whether or not fee pricing changes, you can rest assured that a) the advantages and efficiency improvements of model-based design justify the expense in-house and that b) costs on future jobs should decrease. With that in mind, it won’t be long before all design studios are embracing the latest technology. And whether or not it is consigned to history by future generations, the immediate benefits of model-based design and its associated workflows are clear for all to see.

Applecore Designs specialises in the implementation of model-based design software solutions (BIM authoring and validation) and services (training and coaching) for architecture and the building industry. For software enquiries, contact us here or call us on 0121 447 7747.