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Getting Started With BIM

by Ben Thum, SIACAD Pte Ltd



While the title is about getting started with BIM, we have taken the liberty to assume that the audience already knows what BIM is. With BCA already accepting BIM submissions since January 2010, there has been ample publicity from both the Authorities and the BIM Vendors to introduce and promote BIM. The aim of this presentation is to touch on the more practical aspects of BIM. It is also a collection of ideas shared by a wide range of BIM users and research done on the web and other sources. While there are many BIM solutions available, we have limited this presentation to only AutoDesk Revit and Graphisoft ArchiCAD. The reason is that both these companies have been active in engaging with us and there are indeed lots of public domain material available regarding their solutions. One of the most common questions we get from SIA members is that whether they should get into BIM now and which solution to adopt. We started with BIM back in 2001, with Revit. ArchiCAD has been available way before that in 1987 but we wanted to look for an alternative solution that can run on the Windows Platform. When AutoDesk purchased Revit in 2002, we focused on other aspects of IT, most notably the development of our APEX on-line management system. In 2006, Graphisoft collaborated with us to offer ArchiCAD and training to SIA Members. In 2010, AutoDesk signed an MOU with SIA to jointly promote BIM to SIA Members. This has resulted in several workshops and promotional offers. By end 2010, SIACAD signed up with the AutoDesk Developer Network and will be working on several add-ons and solutions for BIM. Our goal has always been to be platform independent and neutral. As such, we will be working with as many parties as possible to cover the needs and requirements of our members.


What You Can Achieve

To find out what you can achieve, let us show you what others have achieved. We have attempted to get a good range of firms from the one-person practice to that of larger firms. However, this was not forthcoming as many of the firms are too busy or they have signed a NDA with their clients not to show their project. For such cases, we have to make use of public domain sources. We'll start with the smallest of firms : one-person practice. Seah Chay Loon (White Leaf Architects) used to work for big practices where she had a team working under her. When she started her own one-person practice, she had to learn to do everything herself. She started with our SIACAD solutions and even embarked on Revit way back in 2001. In 2006, she invested in the special ArchiCAD + training package. Since then she has been doing all her work in BIM. In fact, she doesn't need to use any other solution the 2D, 3D, Rendering, animations are all done within one package BIM. She is using BIM for the complete process from preliminary design studies, all the way to submission, production, detail drawings, scheduling etc.

BIM Project by Chay Loon complete set from design to tendering.

Although most of her work consist of houses and small projects, BIM has indeed enable her to do the work of 10 persons or to put it in her own words: I am still alone. With ArchiCAD, corenet, BIM, email, no problem to work alone! In the old days, I need 10 draftsmen working under me, now only me and me and I can handle 10 times more work than last time. It would not be possible if I dont have all these technology! Many thanks to you, Lay Kuan, and many friends who guide me along the way. The journey is hard but very rewarding. Another small firm which has benefit from BIM is Tay & Wong Associates, a 5-person practice headed by Gerald Tay. Ironically, Gerald started way back on ArchiCAD but switched to Revit. He consulted the BCA CCIT (Centre for Construction IT), has been extremely successful in implementing BIM and has submitted more than15 BIM projects, including addition & alteration (A&A) works, for regulatory approval since January 2009.

Some BIM projects done by TWA from BCA Academy e-Newsletter Issue 05-1 Besides sending his own staff for BIM training, he also worked closely with the consultant to reengineer the current process and establish new operating procedures for his office. One key success factor in BIM adoption is to immediately put the new knowledge into practice after the training. As a result, TWA is able to switch completely from 2D CAD to BIM technology in a very short time. The firm has submitted 15 BIM projects, including addition & alteration (A&A) works, for regulatory approval since January 2009. It is all about vision, conviction and determination. The new CCIT will continue to provide this service if the industry finds it relevant and useful.-1 LAUD Architects, a 32-person firm, used BIM to submit and complete the Revival Centre Church. Since then, they have used BIM for various projects.

LAUD Architect Revival Centre Church Project (source AutoDesk Customer Showcase-2)

Autodesk Revit Architecture was a critical 3D design tool that ensured consistency and efficiency throughout the design and construction of the Revival Center Church ....Weve enjoyed a good return on our software investment to date, and realised savings in terms of man-hours, and are better able to create winning designs for our clients....Thanks to Autodesk Revit Architecture a smaller team of architects and technical staff were empowered to generate many versions of coordinated plans, sections, elevations and 3D renderings, which would easily have taken twice the time and staff count, said Ho. -2 GreenhilLi Pte Ltd-35 is another company who attended the ArchiCAD training and since then have implemented BIM company-wide. Over the past 3 years, they have successfully documented in BIM 4 large projects : 2 underground MRT Stations in Singapore and 2 Office Buildings overseas. All of these are very different from each other and illustrate different levels of complexities.

Al Shoail Plaza , Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - GreenhilLi Pte Ltd

Steel Structure frame

Downtown Line 3 Station

- GreenhilLi Pte Ltd

CPG Corporation-3 started with BIM before AutoDesk had Revit. Today, they have indeed the largest implementation of BIM in Singapore. They have completed a wide range of projects using BIM and have a team of BIM professionals who train and support the staff. They have also implemented their own in-house templates and libraries as what they get right out of the box is insufficient for their projects. Unfortunately we are not able to get any presentation materials from them and we can't find any in public domain. Amongst the large private firms, Aedas Pte Ltd-4 is known to be very active and successful in implementing BIM. Their website even lists the associates and staff specialising in BIM. Having a staff strength of 1,200 across 39 countries, Aedas creates its own BIM libraries, Templates and Training Videos. In fact, you can do a google search aedas BIM training materials and you'll get to a page on their intranet with a list of in-

house BIM resources (you will not be able to access them without proper login). Aedas uses BIM for extremely challenging design projects, so much so that they are showcased by AutoDesk under the topic With BIM Everything is possible-5: You can find out more about some of their projects done using BIM like Express Rail Link West Kowloon Terminus-6 or the Singapore Civic, Cultural and Retail Complex-7 both of which showcase the level of complexity that can be achieved using BIM.

In the process of doing research for this presentation, we were introduced to Aidea Philippines Inc-8, a 100% Filippino Architectural firm based in Manila. Having a staff strength of 150, they embarked on ArchiCAD in 2005, went through all the growing pains and today uses BIM 100% for all their projects. First BIM project done by Aidea in 2005, the HSBC Center at Fort Bonifacio, 19 storeys and 12,000 sqm. The implementation of this project was so successful that the developer, Ayala Land Inc.-9 also implemented ArchiCAD for their in-house team and has since encouraged the use of BIM to firms working on their projects. Considering that implementing BIM in the Philippines is expensive compared to the average pay bracket of a local architect and there are no external incentives (example Government funding as in Singapore) to do so, Aidea wanted to adapt the most advanced technology in order to be more competitive.

Glorietta Mixed Use Complex, Makati City. BIM was used even for M&E details and structure/re-bars. Aidea was extremely enthusiastic about their BIM implementation so much so that we received a presentation with 65 slides documenting their journey and snap shots of the latest projects all of which are done with only BIM. In one slide, they even projected that in 2D it takes 6 staff 3 months whereas in 3D(BIM), it 2 staff 2 months which is an increase of 450% productivity. Their challenge now is to take BIM to next level Quantity Take Off, Structural Modeling and Facilities Management.

Ironically, it was a Singapore-based Firm that got Aidea into the BIM path. VNIX Pte Ltd-10 is the Philippines reseller for ArchiCAD and other BIM solutions. In a country where software piracy is rampant, VNIX has managed to get some of the biggest architectural, developers and contractors into BIM. Perhaps one of the reasons is due to their strength in using BIM they provide BIM services (including providing manpower) for a wide variety of projects in the region. One such project is the Murdoch University Veterinary Science Building, Perth.

One of the features during the pre-construction phase of the project was the use of 3-D modeling, provided by a Singapore firm Vnix, to investigate any conflict of services... The level of detailing (in the 3-D rendering) was incredible, right down to the type of taps you are putting in. It was probably a key element .. to the smooth running, minimal variations and under-anticipated programming time of the project-11 Our research brought us to another unlikely place, Penang, where BIM is being evangelised by a non-architect. We met Timothy Sin during our exchanges with PAM Northern Chapter. He is a project manager with an MBA and embarked into BIM 2 years ago. He has been fighting an uphill battle to get Architects to embrace BIM. It is indeed difficult in Penang where a single seat of BIM is about the price of a small car, wages are low and there are no government incentives / subsidies to sweeten the investment. So instead of trying to sell BIM solution, Timothy now does BIM projects for developers and clients who want to get their projects implemented fast from conception to construction. He has done 50 such projects ranging from houses to a 45 storey mixed use tower block, all using AutoDesk Revit. Being self-taught, he continues to update himself by learning on-line and books. Recently, he has been working very closely with us to develop some BIM standards for the region. In fact, he is here from Penang today to do live demonstrations of some of his projects. Structural Framing in Revit

4-Storey shop-house

Conservation Building

Detailing of Toilet

Door Schedules


Getting Started

The first decision to make is which solution you want to adopt. Remember, BIM is drastically different from 2D CAD so you are basically starting from scratch and you will have to relearn everything. If you are mainly using Apple OSX systems, the answer is rather obvious only ArchiCAD works on OSX and Windows currently. If you have been a long time user of AutoCAD, your current vendor may be able to package an offer you probably don't want to miss out on. But you need not jump into the deep end. You can start without having to pay anything as you can download full-functioning 30-day evaluation versions.

Download AutoDesk Revit-12

Download Graphisoft ArchiCAD-13

BIM requires a powerful computer to work efficiently. Make sure you check the hardware requirements, the most important of which is the graphics card-14. The general rule of the thumb is to get the most powerful CPU with the most RAM that you can afford. These are relatively affordable now. You typically need to use Workstations but if you want to work on a notebook, check out something like the HP EliteBook 8540 Mobile Workstation-15 which lists for around S$3,599.00. You can get typical desktop specifications from :

So how can you really learn BIM? Most vendors provide the fundamental training which covers the basics. BCA Academy runs a part-time Diploma in BIM course-17 which spreads over 5 months, 3 times a week between between 6:30pm to 9:30pm. The next available course starts on 30 May 2011 and costs S$4,922.00 and from the course syllabus-18 This certified training will be more comprehensive especially if the company wants to have properly trained professionals to lead their BIM implementation. For those who don't have the time for formal training, it is possible to be self-taught as there are sufficient resources on-line from the very basics all the way to advanced programming. All these are available free of charge and are designed so that you can learn at your own pace. First, start downloading all the getting started resources pdf files or video tutorials:

AutoDesk Revit Architecture Tutorials-19

Graphisoft ArchiCAD Tutorials-20

With both software you can now freely download the entire manual in PDF format and install it into your notebook. You never have to lug around heavy manuals as in the past and can get information right at your finger tips. There are also lots of third-party reference books on Revit Architecture e.g. Introducing Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011-21 excellent for beginners. This book is available at the NLB and can be easily purchased from Amazon. On the other hand, books on Graphisoft ArchiCAD are rather lacking. Learning how to use BIM is only enough for you to get going on creating BIM projects. You will need to go further depending on your company size and setup. If you are a small company, chances are you can get along fine with a working knowledge of BIM. However, the true power of BIM is for collaboration. For this, you need to move to the next level. Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011-22 is one such book for system managers. If you are doing projects in Singapore, you will need to know how to do BIM eSubmission. For this, you should attend the Building Information Modeling (BIM) e-Submission Requirements-23 organised by BCA Academy. It's a half-day course with 3 CPD points. Trained by Ms. Soon Lay Kuan, who is an architect, you will understand better how to ensure that your BIM model is compliant with the e-submission requirements. Even more useful is that you will be given the BIM Template so that your BIM model has all the views and setup required by the Authorities for e-submission checking.

BIM Template for AutoDesk Revit

BIM Template for Graphisoft ArchiCAD


Getting Support

Good support is important in BIM as it is way more sophisticated than CAD. Let's start with component libraries. In CAD, you can easily create your own blocks or components. In BIM, you have to do more. In Revit, you have to use the family editor while in ArchiCAD, you need some understanding of GDL to get these components working effectively.

Autodesk Revit Family Editor

Graphisoft ArchiCAD GDL

The Family Editor in Revit is designed for casual users so that they can sketch their component. But it does require some skill to make use of the parameters so that the Family created will be parametric. To get started download the 35-page Tutorial - Creating Parametric Families in Revit Arch 2010.pdf-24 But after getting your feet wet with simple families, you will want to refer to the full 812-page ArchitectureFamiliesMetENU.pdf-25 to do much more. GDL, Geometric Display Language, used by Graphisoft ArchiCAD is a way more powerful method of creating library parts. But it is not for the casual user as it requires at least basic programming knowledge. Fortunately, it has been around since the earliest versions of ArchiCAD and there are many skilled GDL exponents around. Even so, a big user like Aidea Philippines Inc doesn't do any GDL customisation but get these done on-line by some experts in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, if you are interested in harnessing the full power of GDL, the complete documentation (777MB) is available for download from ArchiCAD Tutorials Building Objects Creation But do we really need to go through all these trouble to use components, say insert a door. It depends. Chay Loon who is doing mainly houses using Graphisoft ArchiCAD says that she never had to download or get components from anywhere else as everything is in her software. However, other firms, particularly those doing bigger and more complex projects do face serious problems in this area. In fact, it's so serious

that BCA is looking into Design Object Libraries to standardise such components like they have done with the BCA e-Submission Template. Libraries are indeed easily downloadable from either AutoDesk-27 or Graphisoft-28. You can also download libraries created by 3rd parties from centralised locations like:

Autodesk Seek-29


You can get literally thousands of object libraries, many of them free from these 2 websites alone. However, not all of them can be used directly as many are in imperial units or directly converted from objects done in feet and inches. Besides these sites, you should also join international discussion forums where you can search for answers or post questions. Most of these sites are very active, supported by users and you will get answers almost instantly.

Revit AUGI Forums-31


While Graphisoft ArchiCAD users tend to congregate around the official Graphisoft website, Autodesk Revit users have other independent sites like RevitCity-33 which also has a good collection of object libraries. Besides these on-line sources, you may also want to join our SIA BIM Interest Group (SIABIG). This was started by SIA to look into and address local issues and problems related to BIM. SIACAD is an active member of SIABIG and has been working with members to standardise and create object libraries and templates that are more suited to our local practises. There is indeed a local Singapore Revit User Group (SRUG)-34 but it is nowhere as active as AUGI or RevitCity. Formed in 2007, there are some forum postings, lots of views and hardly any replies. Although there are only 3 library objects in the Library section, these are rather useful in the local context as they are missing in the standard libraries.

Besides customisation using libraries and templates, in 2005 Autodesk has made public the Application Programming Interface so that power-users can develop add-ons and tools to further enhance Autodesk Revit. However, it was only 2009 that the full power of API and full documentation was realised. With Revit 2011, the API was enhanced even further and there is now a sizeable community of Revit API programmers. What is even more important is that all these development toolkits and documentation are made freely available to anyone who has interest in programming. SIACAD joined the AutoDesk Developer Network in end 2010 and is now developing some solutions for the local building industry. One of the first solutions to be rolled out will be the Buildable Score Computation add-on. Currently, this is a bottleneck in e-Submission as users still can't use their BIM model and have to resort to 2D CAD. Other solutions are also in the pipeline and we look forward to working with BIM users (especially SIABIG members) to address their needs. Besides AutoDesk Revit, we will also want to work with Graphisoft ArchiCAD and have been in contact with the relevant parties. There is, of course, much more to support than as can described in this section. What is really reassuring is that the Software Developers want to address our local needs as they are aware that Singapore is pushing BIM in a concerted manner and the Singapore Government is giving its full support.


Live Projects

If you have attended any product demonstration, you have probably seen some projects done using BIM. However, many of these are screen shots, images or videos. Also, the projects may not be the kind of projects we do in this part of the world. For this presentation, Timothy Sin from Penang will be showing the projects he has been doing in Penang. This covers a wide range from shophouses all the way to highrises. In fact, he's now working on the existing Penang Bridge, converting it to BIM so that the authorities will be able to maintain and upkeep the project using BIM technology.



We hope this presentation has covered the areas of BIM that will be useful to you if you are still undecided on whether to embark on this paradigm shift. You may have been hesitating because you were wary of embarking into new and developing technologies. There is no doubt that BIM is still a developing technology. But it has reached a stage where we can only expect exponential growth and improvement. Perhaps as recent as 2 years back, you may also be hesitant as the computer systems were not powerful enough or simply too expensive. But with the easy availability of affordable quad-core i7 systems maxed up with 8GB RAM, you now have a cost-effective system to run your resource intensive BIM application. Even more relevant is the intense competition between software developers to come up with the ultimate BIM solution. There will be better support and continual improvements. BCA is also pushing BIM in a big way and there will be incentives both monetary and otherwise. SIA through SIABIG and SIACAD will be even more pro-active in assisting our members, especially those smaller firms who don't have dedicated IT support, on this journey. The time is ripe and the decision is yours to make. Thank you.

References: 1. TWA's work on BCA e-newsletter

2. AutoDesk Customer Showcase LAUD Architects siteID=1157326&id=14647766&remoteContentID=14034730 3. CPG Corporation 4. Aedas 5. AutoDesk Showcase siteID=1170102&id=12949216 6. Express Rail Link West Kowloon Terminus 7. Singapore Civic, Cultural and Retail Complex siteID=1170102&id=12948912 8. Aidea Philippines Inc. 9. Ayala Land Inc 10. VNIX Pte Ltd 11. The Builder's Choice June 2010 Taking Veterinary Science To The Next Level page 26-27 12. AutoCAD Revit Architecture 2011 Download siteID=123112&id=14973244 13. Graphisoft ArchiCAD Download 14. AutoDesk Revit System Requirements siteID=123112&id=12431819 Graphisoft ArchiCAD System Requirements 15. HP EliteBook 8540w Mobile Workstation 16. Workstation Specialists 17. BCA Academy BIM Diploma Course_Exam_Code=CS001298 18. BCA BIM Diploma Details BIM.pdf 19. AutoDesk Revit Architecture Tutorials siteID=123112&id=16104692&linkID=9243097 20. Graphisoft ArchiCAD Tutorials 21. Introducing Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 by Patrick Davis, Charlie Busa, Beau Turner & Stephen Stanfford 22. Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 by Eddy Krygiel, Phil Read & James Vandezande 23. BCA Academy BIM e-Submission Requirements Course_Exam_Code=77004 24. Tutorial - Creating Parametric Families in Revit Arch 2010.pdf %20Arch%202010.pdf 25. ArchitectureFamiliesMetENU.pdf siteID=123112&id=11091739 26. ArchiCAD Tutorials Building Objects Creation 27. Revit Architecture Family Downloads siteID=123112&id=14973523 28. ArchiCAD Object Downloads 29. Autodesk Seek 30. ArchiCadWiki action=show&redirect=LinkCollection%2FGDL+Object+Downloads 31. Revit AUGI 32. ArchiCAD-Talk 33. RevitCity 34. Singapore Revit User Group 35. GreenhilLi Pte Ltd