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by Robert Howe, Jr.
I’ve been seeing more and more references to 3D/BIM (Building Information Modeling) lately in all the major design and construction magazines. I wasn’t really familiar with the term, so I thought I would do a little research and also throw out the question to our Professional Practice Network. Is anyone out there using this 3D/ BIM technology, or any portion of it, in their daily practice of Design–Build landscape architecture?

In the July issue of Architectural Record, in the Architectural Technology section, there was an interesting review of a joint survey conducted by the American Institute of Architects and the Associated General Contractors of America. Almost three quarters of U.S. architecture firms are using 3D or building information modeling (BIM) for at least one phase of their work. Autodesk’s Building Solutions Division hopes that a more widespread adoption of BIM will result in “creating a closer relationship between activities of design, engineering, construction and building operation.” This sounds like the definition of Design–Build to me. We are using 3D/BIM primarily as a visualization tool in our office, and somewhat as an estimating tool and to produce construction details.

The integration of intelligent 3D models, instead of an “un-intelligent” 2D perspective sketch, allows us to produce a realistic presentation for the client, while at the same time producing CAD drawings from which installation budgets can be completed. The possibility of streamlining the whole design presentation/project budgeting process, and eliminating a lot of wasted time and additional meetings benefits both the client and the design–build firm.

In an article entitled “BIM Adoption: Finding Patterns for a New Paradigm” (Design Intelligence Journal, March 2006), Phillip G. Bernstein lists a number of advanced/coordinated uses of BIM technology. These techniques allow information and specifications to be easily coordinated with collaborating firms on the same drawings. I guess we are actually doing this on some commercials design–build projects. I really think that the possibilities of 3D/BIM technologies are limitless for the landscape architectural design–build firm, and I’m very curious as to how other PPN group members feel.

Robert Howe, Jr. is a senior Landscape Architect at Pillari, LLC and can be reached at
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