Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Direction of the Industry: Part 2

2) BIM - Building Information Modeling is possibly the most revolutionary technology in the history of design and real estate project finance. It is still a technological toddler, but the first developer, investment group or architect to properly use it will reap huge rewards. The principle is simple. Instead of creating a voluminous set of drawings and construction specifications, create a precise computer model of the building or renovation. The ideal software will generate the construction documents, error and omission free.

Because the model has every component that the physical construction will have, it should be easy for the software to count quantities and compare them to online directories of cost data. This gives owners, investors and architects the ability to price proposed changes in real time. It also has the potential to calculate schedule changes, zoning or code compliance and several other major hiccups common in the building process due to proposed changes.

AutoCAD Revit software is a popular choice, but several systems exist. Some examples of successful projects using the technology can be found on the AIA's website here.

Using BIM, will open developers and investors up to a much more flexible design environment. In my time working for Bovis Lend Lease on several of Extell Development's projects, I realized that one of the things Extell does very well, is work hard to please it's clients (the condo buyer) through customization. Extell was on the cutting edge in NYC of customizable new construction. While at BLL, I oversaw several major unit combinations, partition modifications and finish changes, and every single one of them was a construction coordination nightmare. The cost of modifications to a building as it is being built is astronomical primarily because the design is static. The construction documents have to be manually adjusted with each change, and when something is inevitably missed, it costs the builder and the owner money. Until BIM, there was no conceivable way a design team could effectively find every drawing and specification that each change affects and make the required notations in the middle of the project cycle. That is all starting to change.

The the potential value of predictable changes to investors, developers and buyers is enormous. Soon homes, apartments and offices will be as easy to customize as tennis shoes, and the developer most capable of doing it will reap serious financial rewards.

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