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6 Ways Small Architecture Firms Can Use BIM

If you’re an architect at a small firm, you may think that BIM is only practical or beneficial for “the big guys:” the national and international firms designing skyscrapers and other mega projects. Truth is, BIM benefits firms and projects of any size.

Here are six of the top benefits of BIM for small businesses and how it can help at nearly every stage — from starting a project, better managing a project, to looking for the next one.

1. Gain the Client’s Trust. Gaining the trust of your clients is a critical step in building and maintaining any business. In addition to getting them to hire you initially, building up a strong relationship based on trust can lead to repeat business, confidence in your advice, patience when challenges arise, and new client referrals. BIM can help to build that trust, by showing in realistic 3D exactly how the project will turn out—set expectations and help you make sure everyone is on the same page.

“Gaining a client’s trust is incredibly important,” says Lionel Scharly of Scharly Designer Studio. “When I’m going into a project, I don’t want 100% trust — I want 200%. BIM is a tool for that. Also, the more the client has details of the project, the better they understand, the more you accumulate their trust. You have to bear in mind when you’re communicating with them that often they don’t have a background in architecture or in understanding 2D blueprints . With today’s tools, you can take them much further into the project to help them more fully understand.”


Copyright: Image courtesy of Scharly Designer Studio

2. Getting to Yes. Not only do visualizations and renderings help convey your ideas to the client, they can also do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to winning more business.

BIM is an excellent tool for tipping the scale toward yes with a client. Geoffrey Tears of Mohle Design notes: “Being able to walk into a meeting with 3D renderings and walk-throughs rather than 2D drawings and space plans changes the way we’re perceived — for the better.”

Often, the hard part is getting the client to clearly understand the desired outcome. Once that happens, getting to yes is much easier. Tears continues: “We can sell our ideas instantly to a client in three dimensions.”

3. Project Planning Accuracy. Ok, you’ve landed the job — now it’s time to get to work. The model will let you get a more nuanced understanding of the work ahead so that you can budget accordingly and make sure your project costs are as predicted.

“One of the major advantages of BIM in our firm is the ability to calculate and schedule key items within the design,” says Tears. “This really helps when accounting for cost/budgeting and design factors, such as area calculations and occupancy loads.”


Copyright: Image courtesy of Geoffrey Tears

4. Work More Efficiently. At a small firm, you already wear several hats and juggle multiple tasks at once. The last thing you need is rework eating up your precious time. Since BIM automatically updates your entire model whenever a design change occurs, rework is significantly reduced — increasing overall efficiency, which allows you to focus on bigger things.

As Davey McEathron of Davey McEathron Architecture puts it: “BIM helps out by automating a lot of the process. I spend less time on drafting, and I can put that extra time toward design and other higher value tasks.”


Copyright: Image courtesy of Davey McEathron Architecture

5. Go mobile. While hopping between the client site and your office, you don’t have to worry if you brought the construction drawings with you or not. A combination of BIM and cloud services means that you have access to the model and project details from anywhere, on any device.

“With a cloud-based platform like Autodesk A360, all my project details are accessible from my iPad, and I can make corrections and annotations from the job site if I want to,” says Scharly. “Most of the time, the client is also present, so everyone is on board with the new plan and the new changes. That goes back to building trust with the client.”

6. Market Yourself More Effectively. The ability to create powerful visualizations with BIM does more than just help your current project run more smoothly—it might just help you land your next project.

For example: Scharly posted samples of his work on Houzz.com, an online community for home remodeling and design that brings homeowners and home professionals together. A developer viewed his profile on Houzz and contacted him directly through the website, to ask him to be a part of a $2 million contract for a luxury home in Florida.

That’s the power of visualization.

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If you’re an architect at a small firm, you may think that BIM is only practical or beneficial for “the big guys”. Read the article "Learn 6 Ways Small Architecture Firms Can Use BIM to Win New and Repeat Business" to learn more.