Intelligent Design

In a short period of time, Building Information Modeling (BIM) has revolutionized the collaborative relationship between all levels of the building process. BIM covers geometry, spatial relationships, code information, product quantities and details. It offers a new way of working collaboratively using a model created from reliable design information to facilitate faster decision making, optimize material combinations and streamline product specification.

“The greatest development in design software in the past 5 to 10 years is Building Information Modeling technology,” says Jay Moore, business developer for Ameri-CAD. “No longer are designs created using lines, arcs, circles to represent real-world objects, BIM technology now allows us to design using ‘intelligent’ objects that have both 2-D and 3-D properties as well as property sets that can specifically define the product, manufacturer, supplier and more.”

“BIM programs allow a designer to draw in the familiar 2-D environment while the program simultaneously creates a 3-D model,” says Moore. “The 3-D models are much more valuable in the design process by providing more accurate designs, construction documents and renderings that can be used for pre- and post-build validation and sales purposes.”

Ameri-CAD’s VisionREZ creates intelligent 3-D models that can be exported to manufacturers’ programs for walls, panels and trusses. Upon completing the panel or truss drawings, the newly created data can be returned to the original VisionREZ drawing to coordinate all building data for delivery out to the field for construction. This link increases the value of the VisionREZ residential BIM information by reducing product development cycle times, managing resources properly and creating more value for the builder and strengthening the relationship with the designer.

“Today, more and more clients are able to use design software since the learning curve has become much easier with the increased use of object-oriented design tools,” says Brad Finck, vice president of business development for Cadsoft Corporation. “The trend toward BIM has also become more of a common practice instead of previously where only the upper 5 percent of users could manage this approach to design. Because of this, designers and clients are more aware of the design intent before the project actually gets underway.

“The creation of BIM models allows for the automated extraction of working drawing components such as elevations, sections, details, schedules and bill of materials,” says Finck. “This saves the designer time during the contract document phase of the project.”

Cadsoft‘s Envisioneer 4.5 was designed in response to actual requests from Envisioneer’s client base. Clients can boost productivity for faster and more accurate designs and working drawings. Envisioneer’s new feature set includes customizable Quick-Key keyboard shortcuts for all menu and toolbar command sequences, Materials Eyedropper tool and History tab, and a new Boundary Hatch tool that recognizes polygon boundaries in real time. The product’s new features also include a time-saving block attribute mechanism, the ability to use user-defined profiles for wall and opening trim, and improved retention of content when importing or exporting to DWG files.

“Also, it is now much easier to gain client approval, and expectations are more easily met,” says Finck. “An actual virtual building is created digitally that carries with it information about the project which then can be used by the various construction disciplines. For the client, they gain trust in their designer since the design intent is more easily communicated. They are also able to see and make choices about their project and have it reflected instantly in 3-D.”

“The big software trend that we foresee is the shift to BIM where one uses the drawing as a database for the entire life cycle of the building project,” says John Jones, vice president, SoftPlan Systems. “BIM will greatly reduce the loss of information that can occur when a project shifts hands from say the designer to the contractor. This will in turn produce greater cost savings for all members of the project and reduction in time to complete the construction project.

“We have been watching this trend closely for several years and work every day to address this among other trends and incorporate it into our software to produce a more sophisticated product,” says Jones.

SoftPlan Version 14 contains top drawing features including selection set capabilities that allow users to pick multiple items prior to executing a single command and pasting from applications such as Word and Excel to be added directly to the SoftPlan drawing. SoftPlan’s 3-D capabilities have increased to include the addition of the artistic rendering modes, sketched and illustrated, and textured real-time renderings. The estimating portion of SoftPlan includes a new visual estimating tool where items on the materials list are connected visually to their corresponding items on the drawing. QuickBooks estimates and purchase orders can be created directly within SoftPlan, as well as real-time price maintenance.

Mining the Channels

“Home building is not a one-size-fits-all market,” says Tim Debelius, marketing manager for software tools and e-business for iLevel by Weyerhaeuser. “Builders are looking for manufacturers and dealers who offer not only quality products, but also software solutions and services that meet a wide range of performance and value expectations. Builders are seeking software solutions for constructing entry-level homes, mid-level homes, and high-end custom homes, as well as better ways to improve existing homes.

“iLevel is building support with contractors by offering software that makes the framing design and construction process simpler, faster and more cost-effective,” says Debelius. “For example, our Javelin design software provides the flexibility to make changes to the structural frame on the fly. Designers can show builders the frame from any angle. It can also help builders gain green building credits by using stud alignment and advanced framing methods.”

iLevel Javelin design software version 3.19 includes user-requested features such as flexibility to make changes on the fly and better load tracking through the entire frame. Building material dealers improve their work flow and gain a competitive advantage by helping each home builder put the right material in the right place. In a virtual walkthrough, builders can save time and money by anticipating problems before framing begins.

“Clients are qualified more quickly with a software that shows them what rooms will look like,” says Christian Dubuc, vice president of product management for 20-20 Technologies. “It allows them to choose their options virtually, but more importantly, allows them to see what their completed project will look like before work has even begun.”

Product manufacturers Miele and Kohler both have extensive product catalogs available on 20-20’s software. Electronic catalogs included in 20-20 Design provide manufacturer information and options associated with cabinets, appliances, plumbing, flooring, lighting and accessories. 20-20 also offers a unique proprietary end-to-end solution, integrating the entire breadth of functions in interior design through one platform. It provides a bridge between data communication from a point-of-sale to manufacturing and world-leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, including computer-aided engineering and plant floor automation software.

“Our software helps professionals — from designers and architects to home builders and remodelers — deliver photo quality 3-D images to their clients of what rooms inside their homes will look like with true representation of products, like appliances, thanks to thousands of industry manufacturer catalogs,” says Dubuc.

“Design software is a powerful productivity tool that combines several key benefits into one, says Scott Harris, vice president of sales and marketing for Chief Architect. “First, it can help designers communicate ideas to their clients. The software allows designers to create 3-D renderings and virtual tours that really let the client understand how the final product will look and feel. It can be hard to visualize the final product from looking at a 2-D plan set, which is what makes these 3-D tools such a great benefit to both designer and client. The software plays multiple roles; it handles all of the technical aspects of design and plan sets while still providing 3-D visuals for client presentation, marketing and sales.

“Second, Chief Architect also includes a materials list,” continues Harris. “As the designer works, the components of the design are automatically added to a spreadsheet which can be used to estimate the costs of any remodeling or building project.”

Chief Architect offers numerous 3-D views such as render view, glass house, dollhouse, cross-section/elevation, framing and more. Designers can also draw a line and record a Virtual Tour that can be played for the client. The product’s “Color Chooser” gives the designer a nearly unlimited choice of custom colors. The “Blend Color” tool allows colors to be added to textures. This gives a realistic effect of adding stain to cabinets, moldings and floors by allowing the texture of the wood to show with the color. Future releases of Chief Architect will continue to meet this rising need with the development of new design tools and continued improvement of existing tools.

“Ease of use is the key,” explains Brad Finck. “Professionals today have more and more demand on their time and no longer have the time to spend months learning design software. Having the ability to get up and running fast and start producing projects in a limited time frame is key to success.”

Visualizing the Future

“BIM software was quick to use and implementation with commercial organizations,” says Jay Moore. “However, the residential and light commercial construction industry has been slower to move to this technology. However, demand by builders for BIM data is rapidly increasing and it is the designers that are now beginning to feel the pressure to accommodate the demands of the builder.

“BIM is the evolution of Computer Aided Design (CAD),” says Moore. “It is no longer a question of when or even if you want to utilize BIM technology; it is a requirement that designers will have to meet sooner than later. The receding residential economy is requiring builders to generate more sustainable designs, build green and provide better management of resources to reduce waste.”

“With the addition of software to clearly communicate a vision, expectations are clarified prior to starting the work and less time is wasted at the end of a job having to redo work or make unnecessary changes,” says Steve Cork, SVP RenoWorks Software. “Showing homeowners visually what products will look like on their home speeds up the decision-making cycle and provides an interactive experience for the homeowner.”

To overcome initial apprehension to new technology, RenoWorks offers their base Revision Pro visualization application free. The visualizer easily attaches to any contractor Web site, providing a professional business image and encouraging visitor interaction. The company recommends using the RenoWorks Pro laptop software to close the sale in the home. Also, RenoWorks has partnered with major names in the building products industry to provide images of a wide range of actual manufacturers’ products in our software and web solutions. Users can zoom in to get an up close look at the specific manufacturer’s product and see product details.

“The cost of technology continues to come down and forward-thinking businesses find ways to leverage technology to their advantage,” says Cork. “Almost every company has a Web site, or at least they should if they want a chance of staying alive in this market. There is wide gaining acceptance that some type of software is necessary; its deciding which one fits the needs of the company and level of skill of each user that comes into question.” RenoWorks has designed photo rendering software for users of all levels of ability.

“Getting manufactures’ products into our catalogs is a key strategy,” says Brad Finck. “Professionals and homeowners alike want to see their most trusted manufactures’ products available to them to see exactly how their home is going to look. Having different options available at a click is vital to making decisions and this helps sell product in the long run.”

BIM is expected to be the way of the future. “I think it’s important to note that the trend to BIM is alive and well,” says Finck. “Previously, it was a “nice to have” feature and now it’s an absolute must.”

Use the reader service card for more information on the following suppliers:

  • 20-20 Technologies For more info please indicate #89 on e-Inquiry.
  • Ameri-CAD For more info please indicate #90 on e-Inquiry.
  • Cadsoft Corporation For more info please indicate #91 on e-Inquiry.
  • Chief Architect For more info please indicate #92 on e-Inquiry.
  • iLevel by Weyerhaeuser For more info please indicate #93 on e-Inquiry.
  • RenoWorks Software For more info please indicate #94 on e-Inquiry.
  • SoftPlan Systems For more info please indicate #95 on e-Inquiry.