The Role of BIM in Public Projects: Using Technology to Achieve Efficiency and Comfort
BIM and 3D modeling are essential in today’s architecture field. What they aren’t, however, is static or prescriptive. The way BIM is integrated varies not just by firm, but even by individual project. The size of the building, structure of the project team, or even government mandates can dictate how a firm utilizes their BIM capabilities. Belgian firm Osar Architects found that Vectorworks is the best match for the way they run their office. Specifically, Vectorworks Architect is well-matched for the type and extent of modeling they do because it’s flexible to fit the needs of each project.
Osar has offices in Antwerp and Ghent, employing 40 people and working primarily in the healthcare sector. Their experience and expertise in the field has taken the shape of hospitals, psychiatric facilities, educational buildings, and collective senior housing, but their focus has always been the same: well-being for the buildings’ inhabitants. Due to the nature of the work, many of their projects come via public contracts; increasingly, this means Big BIM is literally a mandate. Currently in their office, Osar is testing the best way to integrate BIM cohesively into their workflow, reports Enrique Aucha Gómez, who has been with the firm for nearly eight years. He describes the Big BIM government mandate as increasingly common on public projects and predicts it will be the way of the future. Competition requirements for these types of projects now commonly require advanced BIM expertise as a must-have, where in the past it was simply an added bonus.
After some trial and error with various programs, Osar Architects chose Vectorworks to be their primary BIM software. The ability to design in 2D, 3D, and produce final renderings from the same program was a selling point for Osar. Presenting a variety of iterations graphically early-on in the design phase is important for public work, to bring the various partners on board and onto the same page at the beginning of a project. With Vectorworks, Osar can accomplish this while simultaneously progressing their 2D drawings and 3D BIM model, without switching software or repeating any work.
The sensitivity that health spaces require necessitates careful thought and planning by the design team. Osar needed a BIM software that would work with, rather than against, them through that process, yet still the exact workflow varies project to project. For example, with a 5,000 square-meter psychiatric hospital project, Osar modeled and rendered the entire building in 3D in Vectorworks, but then passed it along to a consultant, a “BIM translator,” to turn it into a model that would meet the contractor’s needs and standards.
This type of workflow is common in Belgium. The way an architect models a building is often completely different from the information a contractor needs to get it built. The intermediary BIM consultant smoothes the gap. There can still be a disconnect in the process, however, especially if clear expectations and communication are not established from the beginning. Offices’ varying graphic styles, model structures, naming conventions, and more can cause a loss of efficiency if there’s not a plan in place beforehand to resolve differences and align responsibilities.
On other projects, Osar has completely handed the modeling off to consultants, while others they do all the modeling in-house. For the psychiatric hospital project, the 3D model was used as a sort of living as-built document, with a consultant incorporating any changes as construction progressed without the need for Osar to rework their drawing set. As Enrique Aucha Gómez describes, “Depending on the needs of each project, and the capacity we would have at the moment in our office, we always consider if we will work with someone externally, or we develop the BIM model ourselves.” He doesn’t feel it’s the architect’s place to create a fabrication-ready 3D model for the contractor; the designers’ time and effort is better spent elsewhere, in creating vital, thoughtful spaces for the public – especially in the healthcare sector where Osar spends most of their time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, by necessity, acted as a test of Osar’s design philosophy for their elderly-care homes. Intended for small groups of residents, rather than the larger populations of a more typical hospital setting, the homes were always designed with quality and comfort in mind. Thankfully, the health crisis has proved the effectiveness of Osar’s approach due to the fact that common spaces are designed to be shared between 8-12 residents only, for a more intimate, home-like environment. This has the added benefit now of not concentrating large groups of vulnerable populations under these extreme circumstances. Osar Architects strongly believes this less-institutional approach to elderly housing is the future of healthcare, and are committed to learning everything they can about its strengths and weaknesses through the pandemic.
To read about other BIM success stories, visit Vectorworks’ website.