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BIM Modeling Best Practices: Balancing Details

Building Information Modeling Best Practices: Balancing Detail

Building Information Modeling (BIM) software solutions such as Revit and ARCHICAD are powerful tools utilized by architects, engineers, and designers to assist in the construction of fully functioning 3D models of building projects.
These programs allow users to flesh out their projects down to the smallest detail, in ways never before possible. And yet, with great power comes great responsibility, especially when working with clients (who tend to insist on budgets and schedules).

What level of detail is optimal for BIM Modeling?

Every designer wants to create results that take full advantage of their tools and skillset. But, like any sort of design project, there comes a time when a greater level of detail starts to work against the bottom line.
On the flip side, there is a minimum requirement of detail that must be included to achieve basic functionality while maintaining professional standards.
Here are a few basic considerations to keep in mind when planning a BIM modeling project:

Consideration 1: How Much Time Do You Have?

A project’s time constraint is often the greatest consideration to keep in mind when planning for a BIM modeling project. No matter how powerful the tools are, there will ALWAYS be a timeline that will keep you from engaging in some of the more intricate details of a design.
For example, millwork can be a notorious time suck, as its quality largely depends on the amount of time that you are able to invest into refining it. There have been projects that a designer could only spare a few sweeps for a schematic design, but on other projects one may have the luxury to flesh out a full model of counters (complete with cabinets, legs, supports, etc.). Each project is different, and it is important to set the correct expectation for how much time you can afford to spend on any given task.

Consideration 2: How coordinated is your team?

In foodservice design projects, no designer is an island. Despite the vast capabilities of BIM modeling software, there are still too many specialized aspects of a kitchen plan to consolidate the entire project to only one person.

The efficient communication among the different parts of a design team (such as an electrical or mechanical engineer) is crucial to the success of the project, and will greatly affect the project’s overall timeline.

Consideration 3: How detailed are your pre-built elements?

Revit Families (RFAs) and ARCHICAD Libraries (GDLs) are structured collections of pre-built elements (such as Furniture, Sprinklers, etc.). These collections are a significant part of foodservice design, and the amount of detail that can be added to a design is in large part determined by the quality of their elements.
Simply put, a collection that contains appropriately detailed elements will save you from having to add that detail yourself.
But beware that your collections don’t add more detail than the rest of your project, or it might distract from the overall design. Sufficiently balancing the amount of utilized detail versus the amount of visually represented detail can at times require a practiced eye.

Consideration 4: How large are your project files?

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your project’s file size. If you aren’t careful, central models can grow into internet-killing behemoths. Once the file is too big, it becomes a real hassle to send back and forth among the design firm, architects and engineers. This bloat can often be caused by too many design processing elements.

Case in point, calculating the stresses on a bolt in a door hinge will add a significant amount of data to the project file, as well as RAM requirements for task processing, and will almost certainly be an unnecessary detail.

By carefully optimizing your design to focus only on the elements that are crucial to success of the project, you can gain a better sense of the amount of detail that is the most appropriate.

As BIM software solutions continue to grow in popularity, and the last of the holdouts finally transition over, there’s no doubt that developers will continue to provide new opportunities for greater control and detail in design projects. In conjunction with greater data transmission and processing speeds, there may come a day when worrying about how much detail to include becomes laughable.
But for now, balancing the details in a BIM project is a constant priority.