DIY : Does Your Architect Use BIM?

Does your architect use BIM? Why should this be one of the first questions that you ask a prospective architect interviewing to design your project?

For centuries architects have either hand drafted or computer drafted two dimensional representations of your project in the form of plans, sections and elevations. (Think of a hand drawing on a sheet of paper.) Surprisingly many small and even large architectural companies still use this method to design and document projects.

With the technology available today, designing and documenting buildings can be performed in a far more sophisticated and precise method known as BIM. BIM is an acronym for Building Information Modeling.

With BIM the architect builds your project in a 3D computer “smart model.” When the architect finishes with the model project team will be able to orbit around the model to see all components of the building. This allows the owner to see three-dimensional digital model of what the building will look like when it is built. The structural, mechanical, electrical, lighting, and landscaping systems can all be modeled using BIM as well.

Modeling all of the different systems in a building is incredibly helpful for the contractor building the project. Often time we have meetings with the contractors and sub contractors building our projects where we pull up the model on a large screen in our office and orbit around the various building systems. By using this method we can vet out conflicts, discuss construction sequencing and methods for the actual build of the project.

Using BIM also allows for the contractor to do incredibly accurate cost analysis on the many different components of the building very quickly using the model. These types of meetings and conversations are not possible when working with an architectural firm who documents projects using two dimensional drafting methods.

What does all of this mean for the owner of the project? For the owner using BIM often results in reduced construction time, reduced lead time for ordering building materials, more accurate cost analysis, and less surprises on site when the building is being built.

Using BIM can also reduce the time needed to get through the permitting process at the city or county where the project is located. Changes required by the agencies that are reviewing a project can be done far more efficiently in BIM compared to hand or computer drafting. If you are interested in understanding the technical reasoning behind this, check out our other articles which dive into more depth on the efficiencies of BIM.

Does using BIM on a project mean a design and building process with no headaches? Simply “using BIM” will not solve all of your issues during the process of designing, permitting and constructing a building. You need a competent architectural team who has a deep understanding of both the BIM software and in field construction techniques. When a team possesses these two knowledge bases, they can forecast many of the potential issues that may arise during the construction process.

Also, for many owners it is a challenge to understand the often higher architectural fee that firms using BIM charge. If you think of the increase in upfront costs to use an architectural firm with BIM capabilities, typically 1–3% more in cost, vs the cost of solving issues on site that could have been solved in the architects office, it becomes clear to the owner of the value of investing in a firm skilled in the use of BIM.

The big take away is to be sure that when you are hiring an architect, they are using a Building Information Modeling software to design and document your project.

If you are interested in learning more about building and designing your custom home, check out the rest of our articles at

Design for a home in Newport Beach CA by Rost Architects


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