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American Society of Landscape Architects


March 2007 Issue

Share and Share Alike
Building Information Modeling technology is the future for landscape architects.

By James L. Sipes, ASLA

Share and Share Alike Paul Anderson/

The term Building Information Modeling (BIM) was introduced a couple of years ago by software company Autodesk, creators of AutoCAD, but the technology has been around for more than a decade. Fundamentally, BIM focuses on information sharing, collaboration, and communication. Many design firms are only now looking seriously at BIM because clients want quicker turnaround on projects, concerns about energy and environmental demands are increasing, and designers are looking for ways to improve both quality and productivity. Landscape architects need to determine what role we are going to play in BIM and how best to leverage it to expand our role in design and planning projects.

BIM is more of an approach than a technology. It is based on the idea of sharing and managing continuous information spanning the inception of initial project design through construction and ongoing maintenance. It combines graphic and non-graphic information about a facility.

One of the real keys of BIM is that analytical and physical representations are created simultaneously as part of a common 3-D model. The building process life cycle is a cyclical process; we make a design decision, analyze that decision, modify our design, and continue the process until we are satisfied with the results.

For a BIM to be successful, opportunities for collaboration have to be available to different stakeholders at different phases of the life cycle of a facility. At the heart of this concept is a database of consistent, accurate, and timely information obtained from all professions involved in the design and construction process. As concepts are developed and different aspects of a project are analyzed, all of that data is fed into this common database. The cut sheets developed by a manufacturer for a specific product can be linked to a graphic representation of that product, and that is also linked to the project.

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