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For Exactly the Tropical Paradise Home You Want: Find an architect who uses BIM (Building Information Modeling)

SARCO Architects principal Roderick Anderson, an architect who uses BIM for every project, was invited to speak at a worldwide conference held in Munich on Nov. 27-28, 2018. His topic –– “BIM There, Done That: High end luxury residences in tropical paradise.” Here, Roderick provides an inside peek at his process for designing award winning residences in Costa Rica and the Caribbean that succeed due in great measure to the use of BIM and Graphisoft BIMx views into these projects.

What is BIM and why would it matter to my project?

BIM (Building information modeling) is a technology that allows us to virtually build your high end luxury home before the builder ever breaks ground. BIM, and its virtual reality iteration BIMx, allows you to see every detail, to virtually walk through and explore your new home, while it is still in the design phase. On seeing her new home in this way, one of our clients responded, “This is nuts! I can see myself in the house, feel myself here; I love it and this is great!”

What’s most significant is that, in the design phase, it is very easy and economical to make changes if you see something you don’tlove. BIM enables you to make well-informed decisions during the process. BIM is a safety net because you know exactly what you are getting. The alternative, which would be the experience in most other architecture offices, is to wait and see what happens during construction, the phase when changes and surprises can be extremely costly.

Sometimes that more typical process even causes problems to proliferate because it is based on a 2D presentation of drawings to the builder, who is then left to work out the details on the job site. If the owner comes later and doesn’t like what was happening … “tear it out!” If the builder’s interpretation leads to design issues, the architect comes to the site and says, “This has to be re-done!” These “change orders,” as they are known, could cost tens of thousands of dollars and untold time.

Today, and on every project we have done for the past 15 years, we walk through the site with the builder and a tablet that shows exactly what this creation is to look like in 3D with every feature precisely located and detailed. Using BIM in this way makes our process highly efficient and brings the very best value to the owner, who does not need to then suffer the consequences of rampant change orders. Some other architecture firms, perhaps 25 to 30%, are just beginning to offer 3D, but without having delved into its potential on the job site.

What about CAD –– doesn’t this software help in designing a home, too?

Not really. The architecture world has gone through two technical transformations in the last 50 years. In early ‘90s, we went from hand-drafting, where architect offices were huge warehouses with everyone bent over a desk, to CAD, which enabled us to do these drawings on the computer. The computer became the new medium for drafting. To borrow from an old Spanish saying regarding paper, “the computer can take anything.” So the limitation was that the computer and the CAD software did not help us to identify and resolve problems.

Why should I invest in working with an architect who is an expert in BIM?

Owner satisfaction, financial savings, and staying on schedule. Allow me to explain:

Think about your high-end tropical residence. The cost to design it is 1x and the cost of building it is 20x; the cost to maintain it is probably 60x. Why skimp on the 1x? Especially when investing in that experience will reduce your 20x and 60x? In terms of quality, your delight in the experience of designing and building your home and your enjoyment of the tropical paradise that emerges from that process will be so much the greater.

One of our clients lives in Munich. With BIM and BIMx, we easily communicated throughout the design phase, giving him a highly realistic view of his Costa Rica residence before it got built. The immediate benefit to the client was insight at an early stage into exactly what the space will look like on the outside, the inside and from every perspective.

Another benefit was his role in bringing about the home he wanted. He would project the 3D images of his house onto a screen in his home theater and then examine the design from every angle. He would make a list of what he wanted to talk with me about; we would then look at the computer model together and go over his list. We use a similar process with all of our clients. We’ve seen an 80% drop in owner-initiated change orders since incorporating BIM into our process.

No less important, at the job site, the builder can see every detail, down to towel racks and door handles, and understood precisely what is intended. The client gets exactly what is promised and, because of this involved role in determining what it will be, delights in the results.

Finding an architect who uses BIM can save you tens of thousands of dollars and keep your project on schedule but, having seen what happens when this is not the case, I’d say it’s hard to put a price on that.


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