To start being successful at BIM you need just three tools: a BIM application, a computer, and a powerful template. These three things provide the foundations necessary to efficiently create Building Information Models and deliver the Information and documentation in your BIM process. Three things. Not many compared to say, a builder, who needs a whole range of tools, but each as equally important as the next.
First you decide on a BIM application. Hopefully that’s ARCHICAD because, but if you’re thinking of following the pack be sure to do your homework, talk with your software vendor, read forums, try before you buy - make an informed decision. And definitely consider how much you'll enjoy using your chosen application. For hours on end. Every. Single. Working. Day. The destination may be the same but the journey is completely different!
Then you set about finding the most powerful computer that your budget allows, and that your BIM application requires. Be it Mac or PC, laptop or desktop, single monitor or multiple monitors, this decision is typically dependent on your choice of BIM application. So again, do your homework. Especially if you want design freedom, to share data openly with other software packages easily, or work as part of a team in-house or over the net, without purchasing any extra hardware or software.
Last but not least comes the template. This is the tool that makes the other two perform at their very best. It's the part you can customize the most and it is very personal to your business.
So once you've got your super BIM application and your shiny new computer, how do you go about having your own powerful template? And what is a powerful template anyway? Is it like a Word template that has a few pre-defined styles and margin settings? Or will it just have a ‘Read My Mind’ and a ‘Print’ button? Where do you get one? Does it come with the program, do you buy one online, or do you create one? Before answering those questions, here is a little history about us. And please keep an open mind - it shouldn't matter what tools you've chosen or are about to choose, this is about BIM templates and should apply to any BIM application working on almost any type of new computer configuration.
Our company is called BIM6x, we use Mac and PC, and our chosen BIM application is ARCHICAD. In fact we are licensed to sell ARCHICAD in the eight gorgeous US States of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North & South Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Why ARCHICAD? Simply because it is the best tool and it is a joy to use. Our team has been selling, implementing, and supporting ARCHICAD very successfully in this area for over 18 years. I have created customized templates for users not just in this area, but all over the world, including my home countries of Australia and New Zealand. So we kinda know what users are looking for in a template. Nevertheless we have travelled to every last corner of this beautiful region of ours, and abroad, and online, asking our clients and other BIM users about what they want and need in a powerful template.
No matter where we go or who we talk with, there's always typical requests for what a good template should do:
· It should save me lots of time
· It should contain commonly used presets
· It should contain my own title blocks and personal information
· It should let me think about architecture and design
· It should streamline modeling and annotation
· It should automate my documentation
· It should automate my presentations
· It should automate my data output
· It should be easy for my staff to learn and use
· It should be flexible
· It should be consistent
· It should be comprehensive
· It should be scalable
· It should work with my BIM application and not against it
· It should use every feature and push the limits of my BIM application
· It should be up-to-date
· It should be uncluttered and clean
· It should utilize best practice workflows
· It should contain things I don't know how to use yet, and enable me to master them
· It should be backed by support and supporting documents
· It should take advantage of my hardware
· It should be affordable
· It should not replicate hand drafting or old CAD processes
So in early 2014, we said goodbye to our families, entered a state of BIM hibernation, and focused on developing a plan to address all of these requests. A solution that would raise the bar for our users. It was in our best interests after all. There's no use having customers hesitating because they didn't know where to start. Or watching clients struggle with the simplified out-of-the-box templates. Or attempt to use their own often incorrectly constructed templates. Or download poorly or over-developed canned templates on the internet. It was of paramount importance that our users had the very best chance of success. That indeed all users around the world had the best chance to use the technology to its fullest potential from the first day they launched it. Why not share the love around?
So over the following 12 months we used our feedback, knowledge and experience to develop a comprehensive template solution that pushes almost every aspect of ARCHICAD and automates as much as possible without the requirement of specialized objects or add-ons. A template that could be used in any market, either as-is or as a solid basis for customization. Something a new user could start with or a power user could adapt. No matter the level of the user, a template that would serve as an incredible teaching tool. A true 'Power Template'. But what is a power template?
Firstly a power template should include a Work Environment that demonstrates how to arrange the interface to use the application and the template most productively. How to use keyboard shortcuts, menus, toolbars, and everything you need to streamline your interaction and minimize mouse travel.
It should include sample Favorites that show you how to streamline the use of all your BIM tools. Activate a wall favorite and it will set all the wall properties correctly from the height, to the building materials to metadata including IFC information. Activate a dimension favorite and your dimensions look consistent according to your office standards. Favorites that can be used for all tools.
It should be a completely Pre-linked System where all documentation sets exist in the project, where every type of typical plan, section, elevation, detail, interior elevation, etc. already exist and are linked onto layouts using consistent and typical view sets. Where publisher sets are predefined for a variety of outputs; PDF, IFC, DWG, Excel, BIMx, Print, Renders, etc. So as soon as you creating your building information model, all the documentation and publishing sets populate themselves automatically, reducing the back-end process of creating deliverables by almost 100%
It should include Data. Lots of data. Automatically assigned to elements and automatically pulled out in schedules and 3D details and IFC models and COBie spreadsheets. It should also include built-in audits that can be used to check the integrity not only of the building information model but of the project structure as a whole.
It should include Project Settings and Attributes that are based on the vendor supplied settings, so that all your line types, fills/hatches, surfaces, building materials, etc are not only pre-approved but will work with standard libraries seamlessly. And it should also contain a usable amount of customized attributes to exhibit best practice workflow principles. Nothing too specific or too specialized so that it won't work for almost any situation, but everything set the way the vendor intended.
And it should contain a little More Structure than will be generally required by any one person all the time - because it is much easier to delete unwanted items than it is to create them. A subtractive methodology. Just not too many items that the template becomes crowded or clunky. It should represent a balance of consistency, flexibility, and complexity. And it should push the boundaries of the software, taking advantage of all the latest features, so it can be scaled up or down as you need.
It should be accompanied by a fully comprehensive Example Project created in the exact same template. A complete working example that shows how a decent-sized mixed-use building is modeled, how data is attached and extracted, how the whole system flows from the model into documentation sets and is then published automatically. A highly detailed example that can be reverse engineered to aid in understanding and learning.
It should also be accompanied by a BIM Manual that not only explains every aspect of the template, but can also be used as an ongoing working manual tailored to your business. And used to train new employees.
It should be accompanied by Supplementary Files that support the overall template workflow, such as detail catalogs and module making templates. It should be Updated and available the same day as a new version of the BIM application is released. And of course it should be Supported by caring and accessible people with hands-on industry experience.
Regardless of your BIM application, not all templates are created equal. Some are good. Some serve unique and very specific purposes or markets, some are very generic (such as the ones supplied out-of-the-box), some are exhibition templates, and some serve nothing more than being examples of what not to do!
So how do you get your own Power Template? You could create your own from scratch, factoring in the time and cost involved to develop it. And are you sure it will maximize the features of your BIM application? We know that the cost of developing a solution as comprehensive as the BIM6x Power Kit is easily tens of thousands of dollars. You could have an expert come in and custom build you a template. A great option if you can find an expert template builder but again this may exceed your budget. Plus there's typically still a lot of customization to be done once the consultant has left. You could download a BIM6x ARCHICAD Template Kit. A kit that include all of the above. And customizing a Template Kit is easy and quick with the help of the BIM Manual. To see these templates in action, please visit the BIM6x YouTube Channel.
Do you have a power template? Does your template maximize your BIM application's feature set? Does it make the most of your expensive hardware? No matter what BIM application you use, whether you're just starting out on your BIM journey or have years under your belt, don't underestimate the important role of your power template!
If you want to read more about Pre-linked ARCHICAD Templates, head over to AECbytes and read our series of posts there!