We’re often asked the question, “Is Land F/X BIM?” The simple answer is a resounding “Yes!”
First, a word about BIM itself:
BIM, short for “Building Information Modeling,” is a term coined by Autodesk after its purchase of the architectural software Revit in 2002. Autodesk began to use the term “BIM” synonymously with Revit, which has created some confusion due to the fact that Revit isn’t the only software package that delivers the marriage of collaboration and capability inherent in BIM.
A somewhat amorphous concept, BIM can be best defined through the intent behind it: the conceptual evolution of design into a melding of disciplines. It’s a term referring to the inclusion of accuracy, embedded data, 3D modeling, and general multi-discipline collaboration into CAD design.
The ultimate aim of BIM is the real-time collaboration between different fields (architecture, landscape architecture, irrigation design, civil engineering, etc.) in 3D. It’s an ambitious goal, to say the least.
"No single BIM tool can do it all. But as software companies try to get everything into a single package to facilitate clash detection, it becomes increasingly clear that no BIM software tool can do it all. The fact is that executing large-scope BIM projects requires a patchwork of software, and a robust set of best practices and standards to make them work together."
–Robert Green, from "BIM is Becoming More Difficult," in CADalyst
So where does Land F/X fit in?
The Land F/X family of plugins provides the fundamental criteria of BIM, including:
- Instant, accurate quantities
- Early cost estimates and schematic plans
- “Intelligent” objects (such as plant, site amenity, and irrigation component blocks) that can be assigned with data and calculated automatically
- Electronic delivery of your plans that allows for the extraction of embedded data along with coordinates.
- Collaboration between disciplines (because they’re CAD based, our plugins allow for existing collaborative paths using widely accessible DWG files).
Note: If IFC files are the team’s preferred method of inter-disciplinary interaction, Civil3D or SketchUp would be the preferred platform, where Land F/X is already fully integrated. Thus, Land F/X certifies any BIM requirement.
- 3D and color rendering (through our SketchUp Connection and Color Render tools)
The logical conclusion is that Land F/X is BIM!
More about BIM
The consensus definition of BIM is so far-reaching that we felt the need to distill it down to a few simpler concepts. To illustrate, we created the nifty grid/graph below. Note that the graph applies specifically to the design process.
Think of BIM as CAD 2.0 – a theoretical (and slightly utopian) evolution of CAD. The two axes in the graph represent the dual objectives of BIM – Capability and Collaboration. Each of the 9 squares represents a feature or characteristic of BIM that combines capability with collaboration. A square fulfills more of the capability goal the farther it sits to the right, and more of the collaboration goal the farther it sits down in the graph. The bottom right square, Collaborative, Interconnected 3D Model, represents the pinnacle of the combination of capability and collaboration in the design stage that is the idealistic intent behind BIM.
Key to the 9 Squares
Instant, Accurate Quantities: The ability to calculate objects in the model, such as plants or site amenities. With our plugins, quantities aren’t just accurate – they’re relevant (e.g., lineal feet of curb, triangular spacing of groundcover). What can easily take a day in CAD – such as assembling multiple block counts and layer area totals – is achievable immediately and decipherable to a human reader (as opposed to a list of Block – qty).
Drawing Objects Quickly: Examples include the ability to place a group of plants at once, or the ability to draw multiple lines to represent a wall and have those lines join each other and automatically offset as they intersect. Combined with instant, accurate quantities, this type of speed translates to greater efficiency in design.
Generating Plans in 3D: What’s better than generating instant, accurate quantities while also drawing objects more quickly? Doing all of the above in 3D! Typically, 3D is a desired feature after quantities, drawing efficiencies, and quality control. Because deliverables are generally 2D construction documents, many designers still see 3D capability as a luxury. Thus, on the Capability axis, after the more pressing needs of labeling and quantities are addressed, firms are then able to consider the additional time required to model in 3D. Of course, inherent in 3D is a designer’s ability to analyze and improve the product through the simple act of viewing it in 3D. As such, 3D is first and foremost a tool for the designer, with only the very far extreme being photorealistic renderings presented to the client.
Early Cost Estimate: Building on the presence of instant, accurate quantities, this square represents the ability to conceptualize a plan in the early stages and create a cost estimate based on that concept. Because the designer is able to generate instant, accurate quantities, this estimate is entirely possible and can help the design team – and the client – make preliminary informed decisions. This objective is especially important for sustainable features that may otherwise have been eliminated due to their costs, such as rooftop gardens, rainwater harvesting, and permeable pavers. An early cost estimate can actually help reduce the early elimination of these items based on cost.
Intelligent Objects: Even better than the capability of drawing objects quickly is the capability of having those objects be “intelligent” – that is, having data attached to them. A tree “knows” it’s a tree, a wall “knows” it’s a wall, etc. With this capability, the interface with the software itself becomes more intuitive. In addition, intelligent objects allow for a more effective cost estimate in the early stages of a project. (The Wall and Window buttons in Revit are examples.) Overall, the software is collaborating with the designer on a higher level while also responding to professionals in their own terminology, which, in addition to the inherent efficiencies, reduces training costs.
Collaborative Access to 3D: The next step beyond the capability of generating plans in 3D is the capability of merging the 3D models from all disciplines – for example, the architect, landscape architect, and civil all looking at the same combined 3D model of a site. Intelligent objects and early cost estimates are built into the 3D model.
Intelligent Objects Directly from Manufacturers: Intelligent generic objects are helpful, but intelligent objects from manufacturers are revolutionary. This capability (as in our irrigation and site amenity libraries) allows you to select an item directly from a manufacturer’s catalog and insert it directly into your model. All blocks, details, specs, parts, and subassemblies are available on the cloud, ready for designers to specific and place.
Beyond the Design Phase
As mentioned above, our BIM model covers the design phase because we’re primarily discussing design software. A couple of key phases also merit mention in terms of how they relate to BIM:
With the contractor able to access a 3D model on a tablet, complete with intelligent objects, he/she can communicate electronically with the designer and supplier in order to make necessary changes – let alone improve the efficiency of construction by being able to deconstruct assemblies in 3D as necessary. This interaction with the contractor, as well as suppliers such as nurseries, is fundamental in our mind, yet is glaringly missed in most discussions of BIM.
The oft-mentioned UK BIM Mandate is notable in its focus on the electronic handover of documents to building owners. In theory, the owner should be able to count, calculate, and inventory everything related to the maintenance of the building. In practice, the mandate is problematic in that:
- Facilities management software is more appropriate than BIM software in fulfilling a building owner’s actual needs in maintaining a building.
- Electronic data files are inherently useless for landscape maintenance, which is temporary (plants die and need to be replaced) and essentially ungovernable by electronic means.
Where does that leave Land F/X?
Our plugins allow for all capabilities described above, short of the collaborative, interconnected 3D model. (Note that such a model is certainly possible with software such as NavisWorks, Rhino, SketchUp, or even Revit – just not in real time, as it requires some manual assembly of files from the various consultants involved.) In our view, the intent behind BIM centers on intra- and interdisciplinary communication. Rather than requiring a one-size-fits-all platform, maximum efficiency in design means allowing each designer to use tools tailored to his or her discipline.
Achieving this goal, while also fulfilling the tenets of BIM, can only happen if the project lead accepts the use of different software platforms – as long as those platforms can communicate with each other and connect designers, manufacturers, contractors, and clients. In the end, capability is more important than platform. If a landscape architect can attain greater capability using a different platform from that of the architect while achieving the same level of collaboration, is that platform automatically disqualified from being defined as BIM? We think not!
That’s why we’re confident in stating unequivocally that Land F/X is BIM.