Tips for Adopting 3D Modeling Technology for Foodservice

Some tips for getting started with building information modeling and REVIT in foodservice design. 

At the 2012 annual conference for FCSI The Americas April 19-21 in Kansas City, a panel presentation on building information modeling (BIM) (with brand names like Revit, SketchUp Pro and Autokitchen) brought up an interesting point: To BIM or not to BIM? That is the question. Certainly, a modern-day move from AutoCAD to the three-dimensional BIM technology offers many benefits, especially as young architects entering the workforce are trained more closely on these platforms. So perhaps the question doesn't deal as much with whether a design practice should adopt programs like Revit or Autokitchen but how best to do so.

Joe Corvaia, project manager at Crawford Architects in Kansas City, admitted learning the new program was a challenge, but he offered some valuable tips for implementing Revit in your business. We've combined those with some of FCSI's recommendations for a closer look at some way design professionals interested in pursuing BIM can get started.

  1. Scour the web for online tutorials. There are plenty, Corvaia says. You can also invest in an online Autodesk University class. Look for other designers who have experience using BIM and perhaps join an online user group. It's important to relax and think of the transition to BIM platforms like Revit similarly to the transition from paper designs to AutoCAD — there will be some extra time spent and some trial and error, but it's worth it in the future and will offer a competitive advantage, he adds.
  2. Keep data clear and simple. When preparing to work with an architect on a BIM project "generate a library of parts you would normally use on a project, and keep it simple – listing the height, weight and depth — and then you can use it as a plug and play for future projects," says Corvaia.
  3. When working in Revit, focus on the families. Understand that families are everything and if you can keep your model the right size, you can do well, Corvaia says. According to FCSI standards for Revit in particular, a family is a graphic representation of building objects and symbols. Families define the shape, form, physical and behavioral characteristics of individual elements used in a BIM project using Revit. There are three classes of families in Revit: 1) the component family, sometimes referred to as "standard families," "loadable families" or simply "family"; 2) the system family; and 3) the in-place family. For larger commercial or institutional projects, in which hundreds of elements may be created with a single family, design the family to be as small as possible to minimize project size and performance impact. For smaller projects, where elements created with a single family are not used ubiquitously and where the overall project size is smaller, you can design the family to include more detail.
  4. Check the FCSI standards before beginning. Companies may have their own parameters, meaning properties used in Revit or assigned to specific content, for BIM but FCSI standards provide a common foundation. In fact, the FCSI standards are extensive and thorough — guiding the user step-by-step through project creation from beginning to end. Some of the standards were developed using Autodesk Revit Model Content Style Guide and the Autodesk Metadata Style Guide and Product Workbook, both available for download.
  5. Make sure versions are compatible. If a project has been started by an architect and you're asked to contribute, make sure everyone is working in the same version (usually starting with the oldest version helps). This has been a frustration for Revit and other BIM programs since they can have multiple versions and compatibility can be an issue. So make sure everyone is on the same page.
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