If you’re in the design industry, I’m sure you’ve heard of BIM.  Building Information Modeling is the newest way engineers, architects, and other designers convey the art we produce.  At HOK, we take BIM very seriously, setting aside time to make a day of it.  November 5 is BIM Day!


HOK is on a journey to buildingSMART.  As such we have a large bank of BIM resources (HOK’ers, click here for your support).  For those of you outside of HOK (and even those within), here is what Miles Walker (an HOK firm wide BIM leader) had to say about BIM.

We have officially retired “CAD” and now speak of “BIM”. The way we talk about what we do is important; “CAD” used to have a broad meaning, “Computer-Aided Design”, unfortunately, “CAD” has come to mean only 2D AutoCAD. “BIM” used to have a narrow meaning, “Building Information Model”, however, today we see BIM as a broad topic. It starts with Revit, but it includes databases, and many other digital design tools. It can be part of a highly integrated work process, but it can also be a quick “fit-out” study.

To get a better understanding of how this effects HOK, I took time to ask Andrew Gayer, a leader at HOK (fellow engineer who volunteers on a BIM committee at a national level as well) , some questions about BIM.

What is BIM, and how does the industry use it?

To me, BIM is nothing more than a graphical interface into a database of the building elements.  It’s a way to harness all of the information we designers generate in order to provide real value to others at any point throughout the building design, construction, and operation process.

Where is the future of BIM taking us?

We are now able to build true virtual prototypes of buildings.  No longer is the building that is physically constructed version 1.0, it’s at least version 2.0 or higher.  The virtual prototyping of BIM allows us to fully flush out problems that would traditionally only be discovered during construction.  As the power of the hardware and software grows, along with designers acceptance of new workflow processes, we will be able to reach a par with product designers in that we fully prototype and test a design prior to going into production.  In general, BIM will provide more certainty to owner’s during design and enhanced opportunities during facility management.

What are your roles with BIM? (within and outside of HOK)

At HOK I am both a user of BIM and a developer of BIM strategy.  As a practicing structural engineer, I use BIM to develop and document my designs.  As a leader within HOK, I am constantly trying to find ways to push the BIM envelope and advertise the advantages of buildingSMART and BIM for our work and to our clients.  As a member of the interoperability subcommittee of SEI’s BIM committee, I help to disseminate information important to structural engineers regarding the ability of BIM and structural analysis software to interact with one another in order to remove inefficiencies and potential for error in the structural design process.

You recently wrote an article about BIM, what was that about?

My latest article was about the potential ways in which BIM and structural engineering analysis software can interact.  The article opened by expressing a real world design problem in which the need for many different interactions between BIM and other software applications were need and continued to explain three current methods (progressing from simplest to most robust) of programmatic interoperability.  In conclusion, it was a call-to-arms if you will to the software vendors, both BIM and structural analysis, to strive to embrace industry open standards such as the IFCs (Industry Foundation Classes) in order to provide the most value for interoperability from start to finish.

What is BIM day all about?

BIM day is about embracing BIM as a new way to develop and deliver building design versus just another way to draw building plans.  Our previous nomenclature of Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) tended to focus on the activity of document designs.  Building Information Modeling (BIM) focuses on less on the documenting and more on the capture and use of information to inform our designs.  It’s the I, the information, that makes the difference.  This shift, while it may be perceived by some to be purely semantics, is actually a fundamental shift in the way we think about our work and about what we are delivering to our clients.  Only when we stop thinking in terms of colors in AutoCAD and start thinking in terms of BIM and buildingSMART and can we truly embrace the advantage and ultimately the promise of modeling building information.

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