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How to have an engaging project using BIM and virtual reality

With its steep learning curve and technical complexity, BIM can leave some project participants feeling excluded. Here are some ways to solve that problem.

By Aubrey Tucker, Associate and Regional BIM Lead, Vancouver, BC

Before a client can walk through a fully constructed project, many people—designers, stakeholders, end users—will influence what gets built. Imagining what a space will look like is a difficult task and even more difficult to know confidently that one person’s vision is perceived correctly by another. Fortunately, we have building information modeling (BIM), a collaborative tool that can help clarify a project’s vision for all project stakeholders.

BIM is a technological marvel. However, because of BIM’s steep learning curve, it carries the unfortunate characteristic of preventing some of the most experienced design team members from participating directly in the BIM environment. This type of problem is common whenever disruptive technology enters an industry. However, by leveraging a variety of digital tools, people working with BIM can find a workflow that enables all of the team to participate.

Cost Schedules
Clients often think BIM is a great concept when interviewing us for a job but then a greatly misunderstood benefit later in the project. A simple way you can engage clients with BIM is by running costing scenarios from the Revit model, which lets them instantly see how design changes impact cost. 

Use Revit like Excel
Another way to engage team members with BIM is to use Revit like Excel (not in place of it) for team management. Managing people and work on large projects is especially cumbersome when the work is multi-office and quality is controlled by several people. Using Revit to control the flow of redlined information within the model that’s generating the base documentation can help the production team.

One of the solutions used on Brentwood Tower 3 (Burnaby, British Columbia) was a Revit schedule that managed the team workload, which was very similar to working in Excel. Leveraging Revit for something typically done in other software afforded two opportunities. First, people learned Revit by doing a task that’s similar in other software. Second, we set up an information structure that was easily exported between Revit and Excel.

Parametric deductive modeling in Revit
Parametric deductive modeling allows complex objects to be one simple piece of geometry, like a box or a cylinder, and then be voided by other simple pieces of geometry to represent the reality of a manufacturer’s product. The modeling effort pertains to the design constraints that needed to be related to other components of the building.

Parametric deductive modeling is definitely not something everyone on the team will need to do. But the entire team benefits from engaging with the design through visualizations easily provided by the model. 

Sharing virtual reality for design reviews
Designers use many types of images to communicate ideas: floorplans, sections, elevations, perspectives, and isometrics with many graphic styles to help distinguish the concepts. For non-designers, perspectives help communicate the design far better than floorplans but the issue of imagining scale is still present.

That’s where virtual reality (VR) can help. VR has the incredible ability to transcend common perception issues by allowing an individual to be present within a space, digitally. The psychological advantage of reality is once again present. Robson Square, a small, complex project, went from Sketchup to Navisworks to Revit to 3DSMax and finally to Spherecast for a virtual reality presentation that could be texted via SMS to a client for design review on a mobile browser—no app download required. This is an example of pushing the best of several softwares for a completely tech enabled design.

It may be difficult to imagine how this image—a screen shot taken from a virtual tour of Robson Square is helping to convey a design or visualize a space, but that’s just because you need a Google cardboard and this link

As BIM technology continues to develop, one thing is certain: the best workflows are going to be made from leveraging multiple software platforms with one common strategy for structured information.

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As the Regional BIM Lead for British Columbia, Aubrey oversees the use of BIM and technology to deliver great projects and win new ones. He will be presenting “Parametric Modeling to Google Cardboard” with Kim Glauber as a case study of Robson Square and “Super Schedules” at RTC North American July 14-16 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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