quarta-feira, 11 de abril de 2012

Evolution, Methodologies & Concepts of CAD & BIM Software Tools in the AEC Industry

This article was born from a series of comments gleaned from various discussions I was involved in on social network forums like Facebook and LinkedIn in mid-July of 2011.

As is often the case when discussing software technology like CAD and BIM, particularly as they apply to the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) market and software manufacturers, a passionate discussion took place which was sometimes shrouded in misunderstanding. Comments were submitted haphazardly and often lost in the timeline of the social network platform. In addition, the information cited was many times inaccurate and unsubstantiated.

Social network discussions are similar to those that take place between a group of friends at a cafe or restaurant. As with discussions about sports, the participants end up taking sides. Arguments people make in defence of their favourite club are rarely based on facts. This is inevitable.

Nevertheless, I decided to compile some of the comments from these online conversations in this short article. I have tried to keep it simple and easy to understand, adding documented historic references. The article is not intended to be academic or scientific.

The idea was to put the comments into a bit of order − a brief outline of BIM history, without delving too much into it. I will leave that for the historians.

My motto is “keep-it-simple”: to talk from user to user, just as we would talk among friends. Something like “BIM history for dummies” from dummies.

I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone on the social networks who contributed to this article.

The Beginning

It all began more than half a century ago in 1957 when Dr. Patrick J. Hanratty developed the first commercial software CAM (computer-aided manufacturing). Later, in 1963 the first CAD software with graphical user interface “Sketchpad” was developed by Ivan Sutherland at MIT Lincoln Labs. [8]

“Back in 1984 a Hungarian physicist smuggled two Macs into his country. At the time, ownership of personal computers was illegal under Communist rule. Using Pascal, he and his teenage associate worked to write a 3D CAD program for the Mac.” [1]

The Hungarian company Graphisoft, founded in 1982, launched ArchiCAD in 1984 [4], the first BIM software in the world, recognized later in 1987 under the Virtual Building concept. [3]

One year after the launch of the electronic drawing board, in December 1982, the 2D CAD of Autodesk AutoCAD was released. [2] Graphisoft founder Mr Gabor Bojar [5] and his team built 3D software for a project involving a network of pipes in a nuclear power plant. The original idea was not to create 3D modelling software for the existing pipes, but rather to carry out the project with little memory – a 64K RAM HP calculator, in fact. For the already existing “objects”, Bojar and Graphisoft created a GDL technology (Geometric Description Language) that has remained the basis of ArchiCAD models to this day.

Metaphorically, we can say that in 1982 in Hungary, they took the architect’s model and put it on a computer, thus creating CAD/BIM ArchiCAD; whereas in the US, they took a drawing board and put it on a computer, thus creating 2D/CAD AutoCAD.

The Change

The transition from drawing board, rotring ink pens, tracing paper, two-dimensional hand drawing and sketching was a natural process that proved more logical and simple at the time for draft and design professionals. I still remember the greatest issue for designers at that time was the scale of the drawings. Part of the transitional process that went on for many years was the use of a graphics tablet interface, also known as a pen pad or digitizer, in order to simulate the drawing board on the computer. It was what the designers were looking for: doing things on the computer that they normally did on the drawing board.

No one except the visionaries wanted to learn to think and work differently, even though it would have meant better projects in less time with fewer errors.

The Virtual Building (VB) concept of ArchiCAD was a turning point, but no one wanted to use it. For most, it was easier to project 2D lines and arcs than make a virtual model of the building. As odd as that mentality may seem today, it once existed and still does among some. 

Although they were undoubtedly pioneers, many users of same-generation software such as ArchiCAD and MiniCAD only used these tools in CAD, in 2D. 

Graphisoft’s advertising message from the late 1980s, “Simulate the buildings not the drawing board”, showed how far they were ahead of their time. Yet professionals still choose to only change the tool and maintain the same concepts and processes associated with the drawing board.

The New Paradigm

Although it has taken 30 years, BIM (Building information modelling) has revolutionized the concepts and methods used in project design. Be that as it may, even now many are just hearing the buzzword for the first time.

The earliest documented example of the concept was published in September 1974 in the AIA Journal by Charles “Chuck” Eastman and others. It described a working prototype BDS (Building Description System) [9] which had many characteristics of contemporary BIM tools.

Unfortunately, after all these years, the construction industry, in terms of methods, design concepts and BIM software use, has just 2.5 % “innovators” and 13.5 % “early adopters” on the bell curve of the “technology adoption lifecycle” [6] of the industry.

At this stage of the transitional process, professionals are no longer concerned if the software is A, B, C, or ABC − the real issue is the paradigm shift from CAD to BIM.

The Dimensions

The concept of BIM moves well beyond 2D CAD, ultimately entailing a 7-dimensional process. To think that BIM is merely 3D is to severely underutilize the tools that BIM has to offer.

A brief description of the current 7 dimensions BIM is considered to have is listed below:

• The 2nd dimension is documentation
• The 3rd dimension is space
• The 4th dimension is time, i.e. scheduling and sequencing
• The 5th dimension is cost estimation
• The 6th dimension is facility management applications like CAFM (computer-aided facility management)
• The 7th dimension is procurement solutions e.g. contracts, purchasing, suppliers, and environmental standards.

The Teaching

Unfortunately, universities teaching architecture and engineering have not prepared their future graduates sufficiently for this inevitable change.

I believe it will be up to the new generation of young architects, engineers and builders who are already active in the market to introduce these pedagogical changes.

It is easy to change software − having the best, most sophisticated tool in the world costs only money and the time to learn how to use it properly.

The most difficult task is to change people and the methods and attitudes they possess as they relate to their work. Prying AEC professionals from their comfort zone may take generations.

There is an urgent need to initiate this change at its origin, e.g. in schools
and universities.

The Future

All I want to say about the future is that BIM is not the future, it is the present!

Finally, some motivational messages for all of us to ponder:

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are."

Max Dupree

“The biggest obstacle to change is us!"                                
Elizabeth Stilwell [9]

[1] “Graphisoft’s Key Client Conference”, by Ralph Grabowski, upFront.eZine –
[2] “Autodesk AutoCAD”, Wikipedia –
[3] “Graphisoft ArchiCAD”, Wikipedia –
[4] “ArchiCAD versions“, Wikipedia –
[5] “Gábor Bojár”, Wikipedia –
[6] “Technology adoption lifecycle”, Wikipedia –
[7] “Destak”, Elizabeth Stilwell’s full article in Portuguese –
[8] “Sketchpad”, Wikipedia –
[9] “An Outline of the Building Description System”, Charles Eastman and Others –

Victor Silva

Este artigo foi escrito pelo Victor Silva para a revista ArchiMAG.
E o Victor autorizou a reproduzir aqui no blog. Obrigado Victor espero mais artigos.

1 comentário:

  1. “BIM is not just software but a methodology of practice,” said Huw Roberts, Bentley Systems’ global marketing director, suggesting that “an architect or engineer would decide to practice BIM and use a bunch of tools to do that.”CAD Software Development The Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry group is ... tools; the Infrastructure industry, including AutoCAD Civil 3D, AutoCAD.