What Does the Future of Building Information Modeling hold?

When I first learned about all of the technologies and processes surrounding Building Information Modeling (BIM), I was immediately drawn to the possibilities of breaking free from the traditional methods in which we design and construct buildings. Just the thought of using data rather than line drawings was disruptive enough in my mind. Considering what future of Building Information Modeling has always been equally as astonishing. 

Today, we are still finding new ways of managing and utilizing the data within Building Information Modeling. Rather than striving for a good-looking set of drawings, we should be focused on creating a well-structured data set.  After all, data is the core of Building Information Modeling and it is what sets us apart from our predecessors.

In regards to the future of Building Information modeling we need to consider, “who actually benefits from a good set of data in BIM?” Most would argue that owners should be the ones driving the requirements of this data, however design and construction teams are finding ways to leverage data throughout the project life cycle, even starting from the earliest conceptual stages of a project.

The future of BIM is putting an emphasis on logic.

The future of BIM is putting an emphasis on logic.

Let’s think about two of our workflows which have drastically changed in recent years:

  1. We are modeling more data-rich objects and drawing less lines and shapes.

  2. We are validating data sets and writing less plain text notes.

There is a third process in our workflows that is ripe for a technological overhaul: iterative design. This process is needed when a building owner would like to see multiple design options or when facility programming is updated because the operational requirements have changed. There are even “value engineering” exercises to help reduce cost. Most project teams will understand changes have a snowball effect because not only does the architecture need to react to the new requirements, but the engineering disciplines which respond to architecture must be revised as well. Sure, we have new technology to help support this age-old process, but what does the future of Building Information Modeling hold?

Introducing Computational Design

“[Computational design] provides us with access to vast amounts of data and allows us to manage large data sets, which enables us to create highly customized design responses ranging from daylighting and energy conservation systems to optimized building programs.” – ZGF Architects

The term “computational design” is a relatively new process when applied to architecture, engineering, and construction and it is important to understand that it is a process which is meant to complement Building Information Modeling, not replace it.

Data + Logic = Computational Design

Computational design creates and manipulates data with an emphasis on automation. Geometry can be considered a result of data, in other words, in a building model a set of coordinates can define geometric size and shape. Now couple that geometry with logic, or a series of if-then statements, and you have yourself a computational design tool. With this shiny new tool you can potentially “automagically” create several hundred iterations of complex, intelligent objects with the push of a button.

Generating several high-rise design options on Hypar’s open source web app.
Generating several high-rise design options on Hypar’s open source web app.

One example of how computational design can automate a particularly time-consuming task is by generating design iterations based on facility requirements. The building owner knows that their building needs to have a certain set of rooms and it’s up to the design team to deliver a solution which satisfies those needs.

With the birth of computational design, you control an algorithm which can solve these problems for you, or at least do a lot of the grunt work.

Not only will automation in the future of Building Information Modeling give you more time to get back to what you enjoy (actual design work) it will also require a more accurate and properly structured set of data. Again, data is at the core of Building Information Modeling and automation relies heavily on the ability to consume and manipulate that data.

“Your ability to automate is directly related to your applied standards and quality control.” – @Lukeyjohnson, https://twitter.com/lukeyjohnson/status/1011790758611783680

Rapid Iteration in Engineering

HVAC design options generated by Hypar Duct (https://explore.hypar.io/functions/hyparduct-options)

Engineering disciplines typically react to architectural requirements. That begs the question, “if architecture is leveraging computational design in the future of Building Information Modeling to automate the iterative design process, can an HVAC design also respond to those same iterations using similar automation tools?” The short answer is yes. 

By using computational design in the future of Building Information Modeling, an engineer could potentially use a script to generate a data set which not only automates calculations, duct sizing and routing, but could also predict cost impacts of several design options while spending very little time and money to do so. Further information on how computational design is used in MEP systems will be covered in future blog posts.

We aren’t there yet, but we are close to the future of BIM.

“…It is like assembling an equation, you aren’t just solving for one answer to a problem, you are solving for every different possibility that could be created simultaneously, it forces you to think ahead, and imagine all of the different ways someone can use your code, it is really challenging and rewarding.” – Dane Stokes, Design Technology Specialist, ZGF Architects

A full spectrum of firms have already seen that computational design is the future of Building Information Modeling and have invested in pioneering this new branch of computer science and architecture. From award-winning architectural firms such as ZGF, to tech startups such as Hypar, and everything in between, only the most innovative minds have begun to dive into this new territory.

To continue to innovate in our sector and push Building Information Modeling to evolve, learn to use existing tools such as Dynamo, find ways to support the open source efforts of startups such as Hypar, or even start your own grassroots efforts at your firm to find ways of pushing for more automated processes. 

Needless to say, the future of Building Information Modeling is bright!

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