How To Transition from CAD to BIM
It may be one of the biggest decisions an experienced small firm architect will make; to BIM or not to BIM?
I have shared on this topic before over at the podcast, but times have changed. Today, I think that question is no longer valid. The decision is no longer whether or not to transition, but how to transition.
I’ve been using AutoCAD since 1995, when I was hired as an intern to learn the software and integrate it into the workflow of an established small firm deeply rooted in hand drafting (as most were at the time). Now, more than 20 years later, I find myself in that same uncomfortable position as a business owner and employer.
I have known for years that the transition from CAD to BIM must be made… but how?
Architectural design technology is rapidly advancing and the firms that choose to remain with outdated software will experience a massive disadvantage. I feel that pain every day as we chug along, drafting line by line, with our latest version of AutoCAD LT. With every “offset” command, the voice in my head is screaming, “There is a better, more efficient way to prepare these documents!”
My residential architecture firm, Fivecat Studio was launched in 1999. It was a time when AutoCAD was king and alternatives were few and far between. BIM was in its infancy. The new software was slow, difficult to learn and not yet adopted as the industry standard.
We missed the “BIM train,” as our firm matured and our systems were developed around AutoCAD. We were growing quickly and switching software was not practical or financially appropriate.
Then the recession occurred. We shrank our staff and our workload, and continued on with AutoCAD. We were in “survival mode” and investing the time and money in adopting a new software was not possible. We were simply trying to keep the bills paid and the doors open.
We are recovered from the recession and now we’re growing again. Its time to make the change.
Its time to transition from CAD to BIM.
My brain aches at the thought, because making the decision to transition is not the hard part. Executing that transition while performing services for several active projects with looming deadlines, monthly expenses requiring payment, a growing staff and a growing family, is where this struggle begins.
Does that sounds familiar? I know that many of you are experiencing that same struggle.
I have made the commitment to transition. I am already deep in the process. I am continuing with the first step as I plan to move to step 2. As I move through this process, I will share my experience along with all my struggles and success.
So how will I successfully make this transition?
Here is how to transition from CAD to BIM in 4 Not So Simple Steps:
Step 1: Educate
The first step for making any big decision is to educate yourself. Research all your choices. Read the reviews. Ask your friends. Take courses. Attend webinars. Make a list of all the functions that you want and need for the work you perform. Which software is best suited for the market you serve? Which will be the most efficient? Which will be the most cost effective? Become an expert on understanding the many options from which you have to choose.
Step 2: Experience
Once you have educated yourself on your many options, narrow your list to the three best choices for your firm and experience each one for yourself. Most software companies offer free limited time trials of their full software package. Download each one and spend some time experiencing the user interface. Try each one with an actual small project. How intuitive is the process? How complicated is it to use and understand? Sometimes the package with the least overall capability is the best choice. Which software is best for you and your workflow?
Step 3: Elect
Its time to make your decision. If you have invested well in steps 1 and 2, your decision will be easy. Don’t make this an agonizing process. Decide on which package is best suited for your firm and just pick one.
Step 4: Execute
As difficult as it is to proceed through the above 3 steps, this step, “Execute” is the most challenging. It’s now time to actually transition from CAD to BIM. This will take courage, consistency and dedication. There is no turning back. In step 3 you made a commitment. You elected to proceed and integrate BIM into your systems and workflow.
No worries though. We’re not giving up on CAD “cold turkey”. Many of our active projects are using CAD and, if you are working on fulfilling your profit plan, many more will need to continue using your current processes.
We do need to commit to the transition though.
Invest in the required training to learn the new software. Then pick one project. Use your new BIM software from beginning to end. As difficult as it may be, don’t give up on it. You will be temped to switch back to the comfort of the platform that served you so well for all these years. Resist, and work through the process. With each new project, the transition will be made and eventually your reliance on an outdated tool will be weaned.
Commit to the transition as a goal.
Make a plan for a successful transition. Set deadlines and develop action plans. Break down the steps and add them to your calendar. Step by step, the transition will be made.
As I write this post, I have narrowed my firm’s choice between two.
Will it be ARCHICAD, which appears to be better suited for the residential additions and alterations projects we perform? Or will it be Autodesk Revit, the clear “industry standard,” which comes with a generation of young architects, fully trained and ready to get to work as we continue to grow the firm?
I have downloaded the free trials and plan to commit a small project to each one. I expect to quickly learn which package is right for my firm. I will then move on to step 4 and I will keep you posted on my progress. Stay tuned.
Question: Are you struggling with the transition from CAD to BIM? Have you made the transition with your firm?
Share your tips and strategies in the comments below or over at our Facebook Group.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock / 3DDock