Blueprint For Change

Collaboration is coming to the building industry. It's a monumental shift that promises speed and efficiency.
Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo has teamed with Webcor Builders, a construction company that also uses Revit, to get accurate cost estimates on building materials more quickly. Typically, the process can take up to two weeks, during which architects forge ahead with only a fuzzy idea of costs. "The idea of being able to get a cost estimate within a matter of hours or a day or two is worth a lot," says Jim Bedrick, Webcor's director of systems integration.

Webcor is using Revit in lieu of paper overlays in planning building systems in one project--and it's avoiding mistakes in the process. Bedrick sees potential in using the added dimension of time, or "4-D modeling," to squeeze months from the construction process.

Bentley, the No. 2 vendor in architectural-software market share, according to Gartner Dataquest, last week disclosed it had acquired the assets of ESSI LLC, which makes data-warehouse software marketed to construction companies and building owners and operators as a way to centrally manage building information. Later this quarter, Bentley will make available upgrades to its more than 100 applications, including its software for architects, structural engineers, and facilities managers. Advances in parametrics--the way changes in building parameters get updated--and refinements in the way building components are indexed are among the improvements.

Larry Rocha

Business-information modeling improves the quality of project coordination, design company VP and CIO Rocha says.
Building-information-modeling apps are presenting companies with new growth paths. Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo made its reputation creating unique designs in the hospitality sector (such as Las Vegas' 3,000-room Venetian Hotel), but it's now eyeing jobs that involve chains of similar buildings because Revit makes it easier to reuse designs. "We're looking for new opportunities based on the efficiencies," Rocha says.

Given the benefits, why hasn't the entire industry rushed to building-information models? Cost, training issues, and entrenched habits all play a part. Rocha says his push of building-information modeling has met some resistance at Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo, but once the firm's professionals master the technology, they won't give it up.

The writing is on the wall: The building industry is on the cusp of change. And the wall, increasingly, can be found in a 3-D database.