A BIM Class: The First Mile Stone



Students are in their second of a four-semester degree program. They are to learn the tool, but also gain a critical understanding of its applicability in today's market. Skill-building and critical-understanding weigh more than the academic mastery of BIM--that said, a good understanding is required. The BIM tool of choice is Autodesk's REVIT.


Students have access to online-learning tools and resources, with plenty of step-by-step video-tutorials.

What To Teach:

My vision for the class was to explain BIM as project delivery method that relies on three aspects: Technology, Culture, and Process. I have identified four mile stones for the class.

  1. Understand BIM In Reference CAD. Students learn how to deliver a BIM project with a generic Solid Modeling tool. I chose AutoDesSys's formZ for its consistency and uncompromising approach for Solid Modeling.
  2. Learn What You Need For the Job. Students learn how to navigate, find, and deploy solutions. They don't learn buttons, menus, and mouse-clicks. The tool identified by the school is Autodesk's REVIT.
  3. Describe Your Project. Students learn how to describe their project to: other students in the form of a BIM manual.
  4. Horses For Courses: Students identify components for a production pipe-line, and choose ways to interface between them. Pipe-lines represent scopes or phases within a project--each component serving a purpose. For example: formZ (conceptual)--> REVIT (detailed)--> Autodesk's Dynamo (automation). Dynamo was chosen for the clarity of its interface, and the simplicity of it's components.

For each mile stone, I intend to reiterate the three aspects of BIM: Technology, Culture, and Process.

Being Real:

First, I made it a point to stress to students that my presentation of BIM comes from my experiences combining academic research, consulting professionally, and rubbing shoulders with software developers. I stressed that other presenters may have a different take on the topic. 

Learning How to Drive:

I discussed the technology aspect of BIM through a comparative-CAD lens using the metaphor of driving--a driver learns how to drive different types of cars for use on different terrains. The delivery of topics is such that one CAD system serves as an entry point for the other. I find that this metaphor lends itself well to conditions of a typical design project: tools for conceptual design, tools for design development, tools for design documentation, etc.

Getting To The First Mile Stone:

I explained:

  • BIM as a layer of AEC-Domain specific requirements and behaviors that wraps around Parametric Modeling.
  • Parametric Modeling as a layer of control that permits regenerating results via access to the history, relationships, rules, and parameters responsible for creating an object on the screen.
  • Geometric Modeling as the layer encompassing all techniques for creating Solids, Surfaces, and Wires--whether polygonal or smooth, stationary or animated.
  • The elements of a CAD system as: four objects types and three boundary types, finite operations to construct objects, transformation, modeling aids, and means to send and receive data in and out of the CAD system.

Then, I use the example of a Wall and a Door assembly to discuss geometry, relationships, behavior, rules, and information; going vertically from BIM to Geometric Modeling and vice versa.

The first task I gave to students was to explain to layman what BIM is, and identify a number of tools for a number of domains, then provide a comparison-sheet. My target is to demonstrate how fragmented the paradigm is, yet how energetic the adopters and software developers are. I wanted to show the current status quo.

I then took students through a series of tasks using formZ, where they learn about: structuring content into layers and groups (which I explained as alternative "Views" to the same data), embedding custom attributes into objects, and constructing a small project by relying on construction planes and levels. Wrapping this stage up, I asked them to write a short document that describes how their 3D model is built. Students had to ensure that their work is submitted as per a file-naming convention. They also had to work in groups and learn to breakdown tasks and assign roles.

As you may have guessed, I tried to introduce students to a number of BIM-modeling ingredients: Use of Datum Elements (Levels and Grids), Parameters, Schedules, and following BIM Standards and Manuals. I also wanted to give them a glimpse of the Culture and Process aspects of BIM. Having covered these topics early on, I anticipate that relearning them on a different platform, REVIT, will be relatively easy.

I plan to post again on the following mile-stones as I get to them. Until then, comments and suggestions are encouraged.




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