2011 AIA Convention - BIM for Residential Architecture

AIA convention log

BIM for Residential Architecture A Small Firm Primer (SA402)



Stuart M. Narofsky, AIA, LEED AP
James A. Walbridge, AIA


Session Blurb

This seminar, hosted by CRAN (Custom Residential Architects Network), is designed to address the evolving and complex question of BIM technology and its relevance for mainstream use in the small residential architecture firm. Some of the questions facing the small residential firm in adopting BIM surround performance in producing documents that address client benefits and satisfaction, costs involved with integrating BIM into a small office, staff education and training, legal ramifications of the information produced or shared in BIM and the effective use of BIM models by allied industries and craftsmen. This workshop, although not directly relating to this year's convention theme, is nevertheless a critical topic for enhancing delivery of services. Demand is high from small practices across the nation for topics addressing BIM delivery methods because the technology will continue to evolve and merge into our profession and industry. Questions remain as to how small practitioners can most effectively utilize this technology. The speakers, having adopted BIM into their own practices, will be able to share their unique insights with attendees, thus giving a real world insight into the opportunities and pitfalls in integrating BIM into their offices. They also represent differing computer platforms, PC and Mac, to provide a diversity of perspectives.



This was a very interesting session.  Both speakers own firms that are architect-led design-build.  This was another emphasis on integration as key to getting the most out of BIM.  The first speaker, James Walbridge has Tekton Architecture.  They use ArchiCAD as their BIM tool of choice.  The other speaker, Stuart Narofsky owns Narofsky Architecture and he uses Revit.  Although they highlighted the software used by each firm during the presentation, it was really not that important.  Both speakers had the same essential message to share.

First, they used the Wikipedia definition of BIM, which I had never seen before.  I thought it was interesting that they used that definition instead of the Nation BIM Standard definition or some other industry organization or standards setting entity.

Over the course of the next 50 minutes, they had a few good pearls:

  1. They both stated in there own way, only model what you must…just enough.  And always keep your focus on what the BIM will be used for.
  2. As design-builders, they brought the subs and consultants on early in the design process.  This was to discuss means and methods of construction and then set up the model in the best way.
  3. The tighter the design, the tighter the model needs to be.
  4. Both speakers gave examples of how they vary their tools based on the project.  They have a suite of tools available.  This gives them flexibility to use what is best for the project. 

Mr. Walbridge gave a great example of the Ebisu Sushi restaurant project in San Francisco.  It was a BIM project, but not all of it was done with BIM.  Everything in the restaurant was drawn in 2D except the main design feature - a folded wood panel system that was designed to represent a wave curling.  Check out the PDF link below on pages 49-58,  The folding panels were modeled and sent directly to the fabricator to be cut.  The tolerances were very tight otherwise the wave would not fit together.  This was very cool.  The main point of this example was that not all of your project needs to be BIM.  You can use BIM as a tool on even a single design feature.

Link to session PDF.

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