Has BIM Changed MEP Design Workflow?


BIM Influence on MEP Design Workflow

Critical to effective construction, MEP (M&E or mechanical, electrical, plumbing) design is both one of the key features of a structure and also the one design feature that most people don’t want to deal with, unless something goes terribly wrong with any particular aspect of it. This makes it all the more important to make MEP design as precise as possible. Over time, MEP design has improved and evolved in many ways, but with the arrival of BIM (Building Information Modelling) technology, MEP design has seen modifications in its workflow as well. The workflow of MEP design has been significantly influenced by BIM technology, specifically the roles of the MEP designer and the MEP contractor.

Has BIM Changed MEP Design Workflow

Currently, there are five different MEP design workflow scenarios that exist. They are as follows:

  1. Traditional 2D design and 3D BIM coordination
  2. 3D MEP design and 3D BIM coordination
  3. Designers 3D BIM design and coordination
  4. Contractor 3D BIM design and coordination
  5. General contractor 3D model coordination

It is the third workflow that Is becoming increasingly popular. Let’s look at why that is so.

Designers 3D BIM MEP Design and Coordination

This MEP design workflow method is a direct consequence of BIM and promotes the benefit of BIM more significantly, as it gets closer to the ‘virtual design and construction’ aims of the industry. In this workflow, the approach of the design engineer is to create a BIM model that is spatially coordinated, using the actual specified components for the project. Typically, the consultant during this phase will have more time to create the model, allowing him to absorb the changes from structural and architectural disciplines as they progress through the detailing stages. Since the model is then coordinated with the structure and architecture as well as other MEP services, the consultant can create a model according to installation standards and which is more usable by an installer or fabricator.

When the model in this workflow method is passed on to a contractor, the contractor may still wish to make final changes and adjustments in a round of value engineering. Typically, the contractor will use the same model in this workflow and make changes to the model provided by the MEP design consultant. Additionally, it is probable that the consultant engineer will not have provided invert (height) levels or dimensions from gridlines and walls for the MEP services on his drawings. In such cases the contractor will therefore have to create more detail in the drawings, but again, the contractor could use the consultant’s drawings and progress them in more detail for his/her use.

This design workflow will require competent BIM coordination and MEP modelling teams and resources. XS CAD, with its large MEP coordination team and MEP engineering design team, which consists of mechanical and electrical engineering professionals, is well placed to deal with such projects for companies based in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As all are regions where BIM is now the preferred solution, XS CAD, with more than 16 years’ experience and a presence in each market is an ideal option for such companies.


Architectural Design Drafting – Concept To Construction Documentation Stage

Architectural design drafting involves a process that is essential to construction, developed into a progression of stages, namely: Concept, Design, Design Development and Construction Drawing.

It was the architect Louis Kahn from Philadelphia who said that ‘architecture is the thoughtful making of space’. The thoughts, concepts and design that drives ‘the making of space’ constitute the framework of the architectural process. Architectural design drafting, or architectural drafting, involves a process of services that are essential to the creation of structures. This process has been developed into an established progression of stages, namely: Concept, Design, Design Development and Construction Drawing.

Blog - Architectural Design Drafting - Concepts to Construction Documentation Stage

Architecture has been both an art and science for thousands of years. It has evolved to embody certain standards of practice. Technology has contributed significantly to the development of these standards, while retaining basic principles. The prime objective is to design and construct a building that is well planned, which means that decisions will be taken, modified and changed throughout the course of the project, and CAD design services are used extensively to cater to these needs.

Examining the process and its stages helps understand its relevance to the current state of the industry.

Stage 1: Concept or Schematic

This first stage of the architectural design process is marked by information gathering and discussions. The architect and client discuss the project in detail and fully understand client requirements, such as budget, aesthetics, location and type of community. Information from the client, field surveys and other sources are assembled, discussed and contemplated in length. Architects research and analyse the site, paying attention to zoning and building codes. Programming begins and the client lists the spaces in the building. The architect then determines sizes, number of rooms, locations, construction material, sustainability and relationships between the listed spaces. All ideas are explored and considered. Generally, 3 or more design options are then provided for client consideration, based on the rooms and features required. These are presented as sketches.

A rough cost estimate may be provided for each option to help make more informed decisions. At this point, clients may ask for modified options and can even make major changes in design requirements. This stage is concluded by the selection of one of the design options. Typically, 15% of the architect’s fees and work is accounted for at this stage. The primary objective of this stage is to resolve the shape and size of the building, showing the basic plan. Also, the look and tone of the building is developed. Several sketches, plans and elevations are created and several meetings take place. Generally, the drawings are loose, hand-drawn at 1/8” = 1’-0” scale.

Stage 2: Design

In this second stage of the architectural design process, an initial design drawing is developed based on the discussions, site analysis, decisions and budget restrictions agreed on during the first stage. This design would show space provisions, planning relationships, proposed layouts based on site views, orientation and access. The design will show the intended concept and form of the building. Layouts will be developed into formal ‘sketch’ floor plans and 3D perspectives to represent the style of the building. As and when the client approves, reviews and comments on this design, further details will be added to the design, such as proposed materials, technical and functional features. For example, this could involve the representation of building sections, detailed dimensional plans showing door and window placement, proposed furniture layouts and building elevations.

Any significant services which could affect the design, such as solar panels, water tanks, etc. This process is likely to take some time, as communication will go back and forth till all parties arrive at a satisfactory outcome. Further review is made of the plans and budget and the scope of the project may be reduced. Conformity regarding rights of use and building restrictions, such as height restrictions, building lines, etc. of the site, will be reviewed. In case of larger projects, quantity surveyors can update earlier cost estimates and provide new cost estimates at this stage, depending on any changes to the initial design. These drawings can be in 2D and 3D, using computer-aided design software (such as AutoCAD).

Stage 3: Design Development

At this stage of the architectural design process, architects and clients work in collaboration to select a variety of materials, such as interior finishes, fittings, windows, doors, appliances, fixtures, etc. Drawings are revised with greater detail. Engineering plans will start, involving structure, plumbing, electrical, heating, ventilation systems, energy analysis and other project-related systems. Towards the end of this stage of the design process, a significant part of the product selection and services and systems design should be completed. At the end of Design Development, both the interior and exterior design of the building is decided on by the architect and the client. A general contractor is hired.

With a fixed design in place, a permit is required. Following a series of lengthy review processes at municipalities, all required drawings for a building permit incorporating the full interior design of the project are created. Then, permit drawings and room layout drawings are produced and submitted to the relevant authorities. At this juncture, a detailed 3D model is produced to help finalise design decisions. The 3D model also helps the extensive coordination process with structural engineers, and the engineering, construction systems design and detailing of the project is completed. Changes updated at this time could include any increase or decrease of thermal protection materials, inclusion or removal of solar panels, rainwater harvesting and interior and exterior finishing. During this phase, architects generally complete 20% of their work and charge 20% of their fees.

Stage 4: Construction Documents

Once the final design is set, drawings, notes and technical specifications required for bidding, construction and permit applications are prepared. Blueprints are created. Further detailing, interior elevations and further material selection occurs during this stage. All technical and engineering design is finalised, namely structural engineering, heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, plumbing, electrical, gas, energy calculations. Other items included in Construction Documents (CD) are detailed foundation plans, roofing, layouts, window and door sizes, openings, flooring, cabinets, bedroom and kitchen detailing. All fixtures and materials are selected and scheduled. Multiple drawing sets are created. Filing sets for approval and a set of construction documents are produced.

Construction Documents can be customised so that an electrician receives drawings showing only electrical work and the concrete contractor may receive drawings for foundations and concrete work, so as to reduce on-site confusion, correctly price jobs and understand work responsibilities clearly. Generally, building services, plumbing, piping, wiring and HVAC systems are finalised and represented in the design. Structural details, such as roofing, internal and external walls, ceiling, tiling, are also included in these documents. All items are attached with detailed dimensions. Façade options also feature in these documents.

On acquisition of the permit or building approvals, the remaining documents are finalised and grouped together into a set of documents to construct the building. Designs of the approved design development documents are refined with construction details. The construction documents shall are refined. Final selections of products and materials take place. This phase is typically the longest and most expensive stage of the process, since most of the detailing and coordination takes place at this point. The Construction Documents stage in a project may be long, but it is also worthwhile, because working through this stage will distinguish barely planned projects from fully customised and elegant homes. During this stage, typically 40% of the architect’s work is completed and 40% of the fees will be charged.

The methodical completion of the architectural design stages help expedite and improve the finished quality of building projects. It is critical for design team members to understand the evolution of the architectural drafting and design process. This way, when a project is ready to be constructed, most of the financial and technical issues have been taken care of and delays are reduced or eliminated.

MEP Design & MEP Coordination Benefit from One Source

MEP Design & MEP Coordination Benefit from One Source

MEP Design & MEP Coordination Benefit from One Source

MEP (M&E) design and MEP coordination from the same source can be delivered faster, either through the MEP designer, who also executes MEP coordination, or with the MEP contractor, who also executes MEP design. The MEP designer or contractor concerned, therefore, must have additional skills to perform both functions and complete the workflow in its entirety.

So, what are MEP design and MEP coordination outputs?

MEP Design

MEP design outputs generally include providing mechanical, electrical, public health and fire protection building services design information (also known as building engineering and architectural engineering) by building services designers and consultants for all design stages. The design is typically delivered in BIM format and includes spatially coordinated models of HVAC, electrical, water supply and sanitation and fire protection design that contractors and installation teams can use for installation.

MEP Coordination

The above individual designs are incorporated and spatially organised to be install ready in the process known as MEP coordination. With Revit MEP, MEP engineers can determine spaces and zones and can use intelligent data which provides greater detail. Parametric tools will update automatically, and calculations are fast and easily analysed when designs change. The results are reported and shared across the entire project team. MEP coordination enables the creation of spatially coordinated building services drawings for construction and engineering projects. All building services (HVAC, pipework, public health and electrical systems) are also coordinated with other disciplines (steel, concrete, false ceilings, etc.). MEP coordination ensures that there are no clashes (validated using clash-detection software tools), provides models, prevents site-based delays and disputes, facilitates ease of communication and enables faster approval/sign-off.

Benefits of One Source for MEP Design & MEP Coordination

When MEP design and MEP coordination are delivered by either one designer or one contractor, benefits include ease of installation, commission and fabrication, savings on time and cost, thereby allowing procurement and installation to become easier to manage. The end products include coordinated and ready-to-install models and drawings.

Advantages with this workflow process are:

  • The BIM model is started and completed by the same firm, saving time and minimizing confusion.
  • The layout strategy (plant and main distribution) is adopted first, resulting in minimum changes.
  • Detailing (secondary distribution) is added after the architectural/structural designs are fixed, again saving time and minimizing errors.
  • Procurement information can be incorporated early in the design stage.
  • The designer/contractor can then issue a coordinated model.
  • It is easier, faster and less stressful to have a one-stop shop.

Ultimately, this workflow results in saving time and cost. Whilst MEP design and coordination services being delivered by a single source is desirable, the additional design and BIM activities and responsibilities for the same may well point to the support of skilled external partners to support the process.


Architectural Design Drafting & Rendering – an Overview

Architectural Design Drafting & Rendering – an Overview

Architectural design is at the heart of an efficient, liveable, man-made structure, the brain behind the brawn of building construction. One of the more important segments of architecture is the architectural design drafting process, when architectural drawings and renderings are created, which can later be developed into architectural models also. With expanding populations worldwide and growing housing and commercial requirements, there is an increased need for architectural design drafting and architectural rendering services. We take a broad look at the stages, software, concerns and profitable options.

Architectural design primarily follows a progression of stages, namely the Concept Stage, Schematic Design Stage, Design Development and Permissions Stage and the Construction Documents Stage. Here’s how they proceed:

Concept Stage

1. Parts of the design are assembled
2. Zoning and building codes are reviewed
3. Full code summaries and research design parameters are produced
4. Site research is conducted to decide solar angles and other site conditions
5. Client needs are understood in detail and sketched with proposed dimensions
6. Architects create and submit surveys, sketches, site plans, floor plans and elevations to the client

Schematic Design Stage

1. Decisions are taken on ideas for the location and to fit within budget
2. Several design options are sketched and loose drawings are made, regularly by hand.
3. Once approved, a schematic pricing set, which includes plans, sections, elevations is produced
4. Process is discussed, functions of the building are considered and diagrams are produced
5. Doors and windows are added schematically
6. Materials are discussed

Design Development and Permissions Stage

1. Schematic drawings are developed into permit or planning documents
2. Zone requirements are reviewed
3. Drawings are developed into 3D models
4. Coordination occurs with structural engineers to complete engineering work
5. Floor plans and elevations are assigned dimensions
6. Choices of wood, flooring, windows, locations of cabinets and appliances, assembly details and relevant code information is finalised
7. Trade, supplier and manufacturer recommendations are added to the drawing set and submitted to authorities for permits

Construction Documents

1. Once permits are obtained, documents for construction are finalised
2. MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) plans and foundation plans submitted by structural engineers are added
3. Increased coordination occurs
4. Drawings include extensive detail

A single software platform or a combination of platforms can be utilised for the design stages, namely:

Autodesk’s Revit BIM:
– 3D BIM models can be created from pre-construction concept stages to detailed construction stages

DIALux and Camel within the BIM format can be used for MEP engineering design, namely MEP design, MEP coordination, MEP drafting and MEP modelling.
– Mechanical, electrical, public health and fire protection building services design can be created for concept, schematic, design development, tender and construction stages.

Revit MEP and Navisworks for 3D building services coordination can be used to create:

– Coordinated Revit 3D models, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire services with other disciplines (steel, concrete, false ceilings, etc.)
– Coordinated MEP drawings of plant rooms, building risers, prefabricated corridors and ceiling modules

AutoCAD and AutoCAD MEP can help create:

– MEP CAD drawings, installation drawings and shop drawings

Revit Architecture and ArchiCAD for architectural CAD drafting services help produce:

– CAD design services, including construction drawing sets, CAD drawings
– Architectural CAD drafting, architectural CAD models, architectural photomontage creations and architectural rendering

SketchUp, 3ds Max, VRay, Lumion, Rhino 3D, Maxwell are user-friendly architectural rendering software tools that have a cache of 3D models of furniture, plants, trees, grass, etc.

-Helps develop final photo-realistic image that reflects design concepts and dimensions
– Includes shadows, shading, light sources, white model effect
– Shows depth of field, environment panel, sky setup – (sun, weather, clouds, fog, rainbow, atmosphere)
– Produces special effects, such as background panels, blend images, texture-mapping, bump-mapping, fogging/participating medium, reflection, transparency, opacity, translucency

Along with the appropriate software, certain key requisites vital for efficient architectural design are:

Right Resources

– Sufficient quantity of skilled human resources with recognised expertise using the above software tools, with the right technical qualifications, knowledge and experience
– Dedicated personnel for one project at a time

Expensive Software

– Updated software for all relevant personnel


– Each contributing project member must be extensively trained on possibly different software

Overseas Options

For either part of or the entire design process, the above-mentioned requisites can be sourced overseas, or outsourced. Outsourcing generates technically efficient architectural design at competitive rates. This is due to:
1. A large number of experienced and technically well-qualified teams
2. Budget-friendly overseas firms with 5-10 years’ architectural design and drafting experience
3. Revit BIM platform popularity overseas, leading to sound experience
4. Impressive certification, generally a minimum of ISO9001:2015

Architectural design drives successful project execution, and though several different software platforms can help deliver comprehensive design, other factors also contribute to project success. These factors are significantly impacted by outsourcing. Outsourcing delivers cost-effective, technically sound architectural drawings, models, computer-generated images and construction documents.

Key to Success in Implementing VDC

Key to Success in Implementing VDCThe virtual building design industry is seeing an upward trend worldwide and one of the key components driving this trend is the successful implementation of VDC. Virtual design and construction (VDC) is a process that provides a single platform for all project stakeholders to collaborate and make changes in a project, while working to budgets and deadlines. One of the main features of VDC is that it uses models and data to encourage regular communication between all stakeholders right till completion. What optimises success with VDC is the contribution of qualified professionals who deliver services quickly and at lower cost.

One of the benefits clients enjoy from the VDC process is that they are provided with building information modelling (BIM) capabilities and information that help in design, project planning and construction. Collaboration between clients and contractors at earlier stages are enabled by the use of VDC. Thus, the need for rework is reduced, and project time and costs are saved.

Changes are managed, workflow is collaborated, and documents are monitored in VDC. By identifying key goals, technical concerns are addressed early on. A cloud-based working environment helps collaboration in VDC. BIM in the construction industry facilitates the creation of a single model from design specifications, RFIs and equipment data sheets, helping clients monitor the progression of the project.

Thus, VDC helps firms to:

• Envision, modify and improve a project without wasting time or materials

• Collaborate between contractors or subcontractors and clients

• Establish sustainable elements into design

• Track labour, materials and schedules for project completion

• Provide digital delivery of plans for fabrication

Consultants and MEP professionals must work effectively for the overall success of the VDC process. Consultants manage design, but coordination and installation are usually handled by separate trades – mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc. Smooth implementation of VDC benefits all stakeholders concerned. By using BIM 360 Glue or Revit BIM software tools during design phase coordination, the model can be sent from design to construction. Also, coordination in VDC facilitates prefabrication. BIM modelling tools in VDC streamlines MEP coordination, identifying and resolving conflicts.

The results of successful and effective VDC implementation include:

• Complete fabrication of MEP elements

• Reduction of rework for mechanical subcontractors

• Less conflicts at field installations

• Fewer RFIs occur in MEP coordination

• Significant savings in cost and time

Usually, coordination and installation are carried out by separate trades in the VDC process. Each may not have enough skills or resources to fully implement effective VDC, so
profitable and timely delivery of projects could benefit from the right design partner.

Advantage of Overseas VDC Experts

General contractors usually have their own teams, but they do not always have enough modelling resources or the required skillset. VDC implementation requires expertise in handling precise data with the right tools.

It is, therefore, preferable to employ a VDC expert from the relevant disciplines, who brings technical knowhow and experience in BIM virtual construction to the table. Western firms increasingly find that such experts are being located overseas, especially with experienced partners who have a large pool of qualified technical professionals and extensive experience working in the US, UK and other Western markets, leading to accurate design services, greater profits and on-time deliveries.

The Importance of Architectural Experience for Scan to BIM Modeling

The Importance of Architectural Experience for Scan to BIM Modeling

The benefits of Scan to BIM are widely acknowledged in the construction industry for improving transparency, communication and reliability while developing a BIM model for an existing building. Though the process of Scan to BIM, especially with Revit 3D modelling, makes project alterations easier and contributes to faster decision making and cuts cost, architectural experience and expertise are important to make it effective.

To better understand the value of architectural experience, it is equally vital to understand what Scan to BIM is and how it works. So, what is Scan to BIM? Essentially, Scan to BIM refers to the process of using data collected through 3D lasers scanning a physical space, building or site to develop that data into a point cloud with millions of data points. This information is subsequently converted into a Building Information Model (BIM) in Revit, a digital representation that can be used to design, assess progress or consider options in the project.

Generally, existing buildings rarely have a pre-existing BIM model. Creating a BIM model, therefore, involves using as-built drawings and documents of operation and maintenance. These also may not be available. In such cases, a BIM model can be created by scanning the geometries of building elements with advanced laser scanners. The elements are equipped with information regarding their properties, and this information is used to create a BIM family object. The Scan to BIM workflow accurately and reliably automates this process, saving time and cost in creating the BIM model.

How does this happen?

The spatial details of a structure or space are scanned and point clouds are formed. Cameras and radio frequency identifications (RFID) can record the structure’s data, such as material and price. Point clouds are registered in a coordinate system and a single point cloud is created. This cloud is divided into sections and information is added to surfaces/volumes. More details are added, element attributes and relationships are endowed with increased detail and a BIM model is formed.

The process can be related briefly as follows:

o Revit is used to include point cloud data

o Scanned data is converted into effective file formats

o Scanned data is converted into point cloud files with Autodesk ReCap, during the indexing process

o Scanned data is converted into .rcp (Reality Capture Project files) and .rcs (Reality Capture Scan files) file formats

o After selecting point cloud files, relevant files are chosen to be linked

A variety of techniques capture different types of data. With an image-based technique, colours of objects are captured spatially. The range-based technique collects spatial information based on reflection. Though expensive equipment is required and difficulties exist in accurately capturing transparent and reflective objects, the range-based technique is a current favourite. Using this technique, extra effort is required to acquire information, recognise them as BIM objects and convert them to the BIM family.

The popularity of laser scanning led software providers to create software that recognises surfaces within the point cloud and converts them to BIM objects. Survey data and images use a range of software tools to create precise architectural models that portray the building’s current state. Information for a range of building elements, from wall surfaces, windows, pipes to HVAC equipment is captured by laser scanning. The LOD of captured data is improved to elevate the quality of the BIM model. Point cloud to BIM services create models with a high degree of accuracy for as-built purposes and retrofit, renovation and refurbishment projects. Alternate technology, such as radars, radiography, magnetic particle inspection, sonars or electromagnetic waves are being integrated to add data regarding invisible objects, such as structural elements, beams, columns, ceilings, internal walls and external landscape elements, to the BIM model.

Once the data is captured, it is then processed. Data is processed to prepare it for further use based on requirements, such as segmenting of building elements, defining meshes or recognising an object to export it to the BIM family.

What happens with the data:

Registration – Captured data from different scanning stations are incorporated into a single coordinate system, using Trimble Realworks or Autodesk ReCap.

Create Point Cloud – After registration, data is included in a single file, the point cloud.

Integration of Data – Two captured, registered data are linked by choosing 3 common points from each station. This process is repeated to integrate files with stations and all stations into a single file. This process, though slow and labour intensive, is significantly accurate.

Clean Point Cloud – Irrelevant captured data, called ‘noise’, is removed from the point cloud. Noise could involve people, passing or parked cars, reflections, etc.

The Scan to BIM procedure builds accuracy and detail. It follows a basic 5-step process, which can be looked at in further detail:

• Survey
• Laser Scanning
• Process
• Model
• Information

Survey: A project manager collates information, manages access to the site, considers health and safety requirements and assigns a site team with appropriate equipment. Surveyors select where to place survey control, and while using a total station, control points are surveyed into a closed traverse. 3D survey control markers are coordinated on site. This sets scan tolerances, and accuracies are constantly tracked.

Laser Scanning: Laser scanners can be attached to standard tripods. Most scanners, such as Trimble TX8 scanners, are lightweight and have conveniently portable cases. The scanners are integrated with 3D survey control markers and supported by robotic total station control networks to collect spatial data on site. Lasers rotate at high speeds, and as the laser beam falls on different objects, an individual position with relation to the scanner and other site elements is recorded as digital data, known as a ‘point’. Several points collected together begin to create an accurate 3D representation of the space scanned. Large collections of points are ‘point clouds’. Greater number of points collected lead to greater accuracy in the scan – or ‘resolution’ of the scan. Laser scans can collect data on a million separate points in one second, which means a 5-minute scan can create 300 million points. Thus, high volumes of data can be collected in short intervals of time. More scans can be conducted, and survey information can be delivered rapidly to project teams. Laser scanners pose no risk to people, animals or existing building materials, an important consideration while working on heritage sites. High-resolution cameras on scanners can take images of the site simultaneously with the laser scan. The images then enable the ‘colourising’ of scanned data, which allows realistic rendering.

Process: Spatial data is downloaded at regular intervals, processed, cleaned and then collated and compared to survey control, thus ensuring precision and the highlighting of any clashes. Importing, adjusting and preparing raw scanned data for use by a project team requires special skills, and it is necessary to commission qualified personnel to execute this process.

Model: After the data has been checked and confirmed, it is sent to the modelling team, where the models are reviewed. Parameters are set by the point data, which provides an accurate representation of the structure for the high-accuracy model to be created. A single unified point cloud is then converted to a compatible format for a 3D modelling software package, such as ArchiCAD and Autodesk Revit. Generally, the point cloud to Revit model conversion is more popular.

Information: The model is supplied with data required by the client, from basic dimensional information to detailed data. Embedded information includes construction materials, conditions and cost. Changes in architectural drawings are depicted in the models. For example, false ceilings and other elements have attached data that enhance the available information.

The Scan to BIM process thus caters to a physical 3D representation and generates meshed surfaces. These points can be a guide to model BIM components to replicate walls, doors and windows. The requisite training, experience and additional software tools are required to execute this process accurately.

Why Use Scan to BIM?

Mainly, the Scan to BIM process, with cloud point scan or 3D laser survey, is a boon to renovate or refurbish existing buildings. It is relatively easy to import cloud scan files to Revit or other BIM software, creating detailed BIM models. The dimensions are then imported directly, making the process of BIM modelling easier. Scan to BIM services have been significantly relevant in the renovation of old structures and have shown proven results in refurbished schools, colleges, hospitals, heritage sites and museums, among others. The Scan to BIM workflow remodels existing elements and enables the modelling of fresh elements along with existing ones. Several factors are taken into consideration, such as quantities, material use, time duration and manpower cost.

As energy-efficient buildings are in greater demand, documentation must be gathered on existing construction sites. Designs for renovation of buildings that no longer meet energy requirements for improved energy performance or living comfort require this documentation. In most cases, such documentation is outdated or missing. Advanced scanning methods, such as BIM laser scanning, are needed to register and analyse the documentation that has been created. Making a precise 3D digital model of an existing structure in a short time empowers the project team to be well informed in order to develop new designs, monitor work and verify progress.

Scan to BIM services are used by retailers, contractors and architects to analyse the differences between point cloud and Revit model geometry. As-built BIM models created through the process is also relevant for large-scale architectural projects, such as tunnels and bridges.

Dealing with architectural projects means that architectural knowhow and experience is of paramount importance for Scan to BIM projects. Some of the skills required for Scan to BIM for architectural services are:

o Expertise in creating Revit models

o Experience with point cloud data or laser scanning

o Experience with topographical surveys in Revit

o Expertise in creating 2D CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings from survey data

o Experience in the overall development of BIM protocols and systems

o Qualifications in construction-related disciplines, primarily architecture

o Sound understanding of construction techniques, survey systems and methods

Architectural professionals are responsible for working drawings, schedules and specifications, as well as working on site surveys, understanding and adhering to building codes for different regions, fire safety certification, planning applications, specification writing and CAD management. Architectural graphics and model-making are also areas of expertise that professionals in the architectural field specialise in and which are essential for the process of Scan to BIM.

Architectural work experience equips practitioners with the architectural aptitude, ability to think in three dimensions and the ability to work to tight deadlines as part of a team so that projects are completed via appropriate software and collaboration.

Architects, engineers and contractors need to work with effective planning, coordination and sharing of project information. Stakeholders in the project must have experience with architectural processes to use intelligent building models to perform simulations and assure compliance with energy requirements and other regulations. Although the Scan to BIM procedure allows significant flexibility, a constructive understanding of client expectations is also important.

Revit survey models illustrate various levels of maturity that can best be understood by those with architectural experience. The levels represented are as follows:

Level 1:
o Structural walls
o Partition walls
o Structural floors
o Structural soffits (undersides of architectural structures – arches, balconies, overhanging eaves)

Level 2:
o All of the Level 1 elements
o Curtain walling
o Ceilings
o Windows
o Doors
o Stairs/ramps
o Roofs

Level 3:
o Level 1 and 2 elements
o Sanitary fittings
o Sinks
o Skylights

Level 4:
o Level 1, 2 and 3 elements
o Surface finishes
o Construction materials
o Fixed furniture
o External ground model

The Revit environment for BIM models contains extensive data defined by the client. This information allows the quantification of any element, such as room areas or costs of materials. Architects provide full designs and specifications for a project, as well as acquire planning permissions and obtain statutory consents. A well-coordinated team of architects and certified scan technicians can effectively execute high-quality as-built surveys using Scan to BIM services by capturing and interpreting the 3D scan data.

Ultimately, the value of architectural experience for Scan to BIM modelling is significant to delivering high quality service to clients. An architectural understanding of the importance of individual building elements and how they integrate on a wider scale ensures relevant alterations, more informed decision-making, lower costs and faster project execution.

How 3D Software Has Changed Architectural Design

3D software for architectural design

In the past, architectural design plans and drawings were seen as something so artistic that, on occasion, watercolours were used as part of the finishing touches of the 2D design. Drawings were produced with the help of compasses, T-squares, and irregular curves. Architectural design services and processes gradually evolved into a more systemised engineering drafting technique, which saw collaborations resulting in the first CAD/CAM systems designed for the military, automotive, and aerospace industries in the 1960s. The age of 2D CAD dawned in the 1980s. Close on its heels, software rendered realistic 3D models, and Autodesk’s AutoCAD debuted in 1982, offering 3D architectural modelling, digital representation and system development, opening up a whole new world of accuracy, cost effectiveness and realistic visualisation. Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD, Autodesk’s 3D Studio and Revit Technology Corporation’s Revit joined the trend soon after, before becoming an Autodesk product itself.

Creating 2D drawings is fast and easy, but the result is still a 2D drawing, which may not be sufficient in some cases. Any change in one drawing had to be modified in other drawings to maintain accuracy and consistency. Increasingly, 3D files, with all the necessary data to develop 3D products, were preferred to 2D drawings. Many companies realise a 3D design is useful in the design stage and can save time and money. Software for 3D models in architecture include AutoCAD, Revit Architecture and Revit in conjunction with BIM.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a process of construction that has a way of altering structures: their appearance, their way of functioning and the way they are built. BIM is a combination of digital, spatial and measurable collaboration. Elements in BIM are loaded with data detailing geometry, material, fire rating, cost, manufacturer, count and any other metadata imaginable. BIM ensures that all project disciplines share a single database: architecture, engineering and construction. Right at the design stage, energy analysis can be carried out and even construction expenses can be calculated.

Plans, sections, details, elevations and schedules are created as interactive 3D models with multiple views using BIM. One of the advantages of BIM models is that any change in one view will translate into all other views. Any element moved or removed from the plan will follow the action in elevation and section views, for example.

In architectural 3D modelling, Revit is widely recognized as one of the most technologically compatible BIM applications. BIM helps control calculations and element interactions in a faster, more accurate and easier way and provides a high volume of information about the building.

Clients benefit from 3D design, as it provides a variety of design options to the design team and client. They are able to view 3D models and change the colors of walls, the style of doors and other elements and also view the results.

Impact of 3D Software on Architectural Design

In architecture design, 3D software widens possibilities in a way 2D solutions are not able to do, such as:

1. Minimise costly mistakes

Software designed for 3D modelling enables the testing of building stress factors and tolerances before construction. This saves time, money and possibly disastrous consequences. Analysis tools can simulate the flow of fluids to measure vibrations in key structural components. Simulations help identify design flaws. Also, 3D printers can ‘print’ 3D CAD files as prototypes, saving the cost of creating prototypes conventionally. Each specific component of a structure can be isolated, tested, analysed or changed in 3D, and this can be done with the assurance that no other components are compromised.

2. Work faster and more efficiently

It takes time to make sure that the plans, sections and elevations concur in 2D CAD, whereas in 3D, a completed model can provide this information faster.

3. Increase accuracy and control

Design views of 3D models can be panned, zoomed and rotated. Detailed information for each project section helps improve calculations and communication, leading to more comprehensive decision-making processes.

4. Improve customer satisfaction and approvals

Clients and prospective clients can experience a virtual tour of buildings with 3D software. Clients can view a polished and interactive visual of the final construction. Firms with a 3D printer can proffer a physical representation of designs to clients rather than wait for factory moulding. Clients can enjoy customised building designs, as design elements can be altered easily in 3D rather than how costly it would have been with just 2D drawings.

5. Offer realistic design views

Rather than understanding horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines of 2D sketches, 3D software enables a combined image of architectural services. Viability of plans and design alterations can be viewed in one image.

6. Enable easy remodelling and corrections

As design changes are easy to view and material information is provided in detail, costs can be calculated to greater accuracy.

7. Positively affect project execution

3D technologies that significantly impact project execution:

  • Reduction of field interferences
  • Less rework
  • Increased productivity
  • Fewer requests for information
  • Fewer change orders
  • Better monitoring of cost growth
  • Decreased time from start of construction to facility turnover

8. View more of the interiors

Furniture, wall paints and designs, designer ceilings, etc. can be placed within interior views.

Other Widely Used 3D Software Tools:


Autocad is popular among students and professionals and produces representational drawings, which are often stepping stones to 3D modelling. The user interface can be adjusted to preferences and some experimentation with layers and line weights will produce a design with standard drawings and measurable construction details. AutoCAD Architecture is specifically created for architects. It allows architects to draft more efficiently and create a variety of designs and documents. AutoCAD has layers, such as stairs layer, windows layer, doors layer.


An architectural CAD software, this open BIM (Building Information Modelling) software is a complete tool for architects, enabling 3D modelling and visualisation, offering high quality and photorealistic rendering. ArchiCAD modelling allows the storage of large amounts of information in 3D models. It is useful for building design, interiors and urban area design.


When architects create the conceptual phase in 3D, SketchUp enables the quick creation of the design. It is popular for being user friendly, cost effective and having a varied component library. Each object, surface and material has a unique texture. Its rendering capabilities though are limited.


Revit helps create 3D models, renders and 2D construction documents. Building components such as actual walls, roofs, beams and columns and real-world elements such as windows and doors can be used instead of lines and circles. Compatible with AutoCAD, all alterations made are updated in all views, plans and elevations. Coordination and drawing time is reduced significantly. Revit 3D modelling produces tables that show the amount of materials required and exactly where they are needed. The material take-offs make for better planning and predictability.

Revit Architecture allows the automatic production of schedules of building components, thus improving cost and quantity calculations. As Revit is a 3D software for BIM (Building Information Modeling), it has a collaborative facet, which is a huge advantage. Any stakeholder can access centrally shared models on cloud-based locations, such as Collaboration for Revit and BIM 360, and can make changes and communicate these changes to others in the same project. This helps avoid rework and helps save time.

3D Studio Max

3D Studio Max tools have modelling capabilities and a flexible plugin architecture and can be used on the Microsoft Windows platform. It is used by architects for previsualisation.

AutoCAD Architecture

AutoCAD Architecture by Autodesk allows both 3D and 2D design. Apart from being a great tool for rendering, it can create realistic models with a combination of solid, surface and mesh modelling tools. It also enables easy communication with others on the same project.

Chief Architect

A CAD software for architects, it is useful for 3D rendering and is easy to use. With an intuitive interface, it offers smart tools. It can automatically generate building systems. Additionally, 360° panorama renderings can be exported.


Rhino 3D is a major player in 3D modelling. Used for industrial design and architecture, Rhino’s geometry creates accurate models. Grasshopper, a graphical algorithm editor designed for 3D geometry in conjunction with Rhino 3D, offers further architectural options.

One of the lasting effects that 3D software advances have had on architectural design is in altering the nature of business processes. As the architectural design services industry evolves and increasing options for 3D modelling software become available, there is greater demand for qualified technical personnel to provide efficient and accurate designs. This sought-after, technically adept human resource is now available overseas in large numbers and at an affordable cost. In an increasingly global business environment, more firms find the use of overseas 3D modelling services beneficial and this trend seems set to continue for some time.