T-Squares, Rulers, and Pencils (oh my!)

(by: heather the intern)
So here’s something we already know: sometimes it’s not just what you do, but how you do it. Now take that to the architecture world and we understand that it’s not always about the end product, but what the client gets in the process, and what tools you use to make that happen (see my emphasis on “tools,” nice right?)
BIM, 3D view of the Countway Library Renovation at Harvard Medical School

BIM, 3D view of the Countway Library Renovation at Harvard Medical School

Paul Durand and Dana Weeder, another principal architect, showed me something that keeps Winter Street ahead of the rest in this tool department; Building Information Modeling (BIM). When I first heard BIM, I was confused… there was no “BIM” in my cliché vision of what I thought an architecture firm would look like; architects running around with t-squares, rulers, and pencils. Apparently t-squares are architecture of the past; BIM is the architecture of the future.

Like SecondLife™ or the Sims™ on steroids, “Building Information Modeling” is a tool that constructs 3D models in a virtual world. The design is embedded with valuable information, which can be manipulated and tested. Dana opened up the BIM software called Revit they use here at WSA, and at the risk of sounding completely unprofessional, this program is wicked crazy, and crazy is a good thing.  Not only can you do everything you could do with the t-squares, rulers, and pencils, but you can also review the building in 3D, do a “walkthrough” of the building, spin it, peel the skin back, and test the systems all before the plans are finalized. Oh and did I mention, that there are new tools out there that can translate your BIM model into SecondLife™?  Yea – here’s an example:

 Sun's "Performance Optimized Datacenter" (POD) BIM Model by WSA

Sun's "Performance Optimized Datacenter" (POD) example - BIM Model by Winter Street Architects

Taking the model, Sun altered and exported it into Second Life for use in their virtual datacenter!
Taking the model, Sun rendered and exported it into Second Life for use in their virtual datacenter!

Naturally I wasn’t deterred from giving the program a go until… I opened the program for myself and realized that it was quite a bit over my head. To me, Revit was intimidating, but ridiculously cool. From a technically inclined, non-architect here are two observations about BIM and how WSA uses it.  And in the meantime, Happy BIM-ing!

1. Improve Design Coordination. When the information is embedded in the design, the design becomes smart (I’m thinking Blade Runner, but that’s probably a bad analogy). When a design is “smart,” you give it a chance to minimize opportunities for mistakes, which saves time and money. Duh. This is a good thing.

2. Enhance Design Communication. Face it, not everyone can read a plan (umm, me). Seeing what a design will look and feel like before its built gives confidence and credibility. Not only that, but in BIM the 3D views can be done instantaneously…time saver.

6 Responses to “T-Squares, Rulers, and Pencils (oh my!)”
  1. Mike Ryan says:

    Very cool. : )

  2. I couldn’t resist reading your article with that tantalizing subject line. Great description and comparison. Things have come a long way since I used to use Leroy Lettering for my dad’s architecture firm!

  3. Harold-Sprague Solie says:

    Heather I couldn’t resist reading your article either , anything with “BIM” in it immediately jumps off the page, or screen I should say. I recently went to the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York and after seeing all the wonderfully hand-crafted drawings and plans I couldn’t help but wonder if these new technologies are really helping the architecture industry. By using new high tech somewhere are we loosing the ability to work through problems as meticulously as FLW did? BIM software is great as long as the focus is still on the process and not on making pretty pictures.

  4. For Harold Sprague says:

    Recently at a yard sale I found two framed 1935 (obviously for copyright) ink layouts, by a Harold W Sprague, with the name of attorney James R Hodder.

    One was for a “Machine for turning lasts and the like irregular forms”, and the other a “cutter head”

    Are you this Harold Sprague or a relative?

    LaVere Backhouse

  5. For Harold Sprague says:

    If you are or know Harold W Sprague, please mail me at lavere_1@yahoo.com

    I also have a framed photo of a workshop with men, names are on the back,
    F S Sprague
    M H Lyons
    (?) Burns
    Fred Bridgewood
    About Jan 1910

    There is a red seal that says, “Bernard Saxton, Brockton, Mass, Pictures and Stationary”

    You may email me at lavere_1@yahoo.com

    I just felt this must have sentimental value to someone

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Modeler – modeling is the 3-dimensional approach to design we use today. We no longer draw plans, rather, we build models. The plans are now simply a […]

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