Technologies such as building information modelling (BIM) and BIM collaboration software are playing an integral role in training the design and construction professionals of the future, a specialist in architecture education says.

During a recent interview, academic Blair Isbister told Sourceable that tools such as BIM along with collaboration software platforms such as Revizto are playing a critical role in helping students to develop the skills which are needed within the current architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) workforce.

Isbister is a senior lecturer at Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology

The School offers a core three-year Bachelor of Architecture course along with a further two-year Master of Architecture (Professional) course for those going on to become registered architects.

Upon completion of the undergraduate course, students are equipped with a sound understanding of applicable codes and standards as well as the ability to use important design and construction technologies. They also have critical skills in building design along with the ability to develop a contextual understanding of the site and to design buildings that are suitable within surrounding contexts.

Students develop their skills on smaller residential projects during the first year. They then expand to small and medium scale commercial work in year two before moving on to larger scale and/or more complex developments in the final year.

In addition to traditional design skills, Isbister says that students nowadays need to be confident in working with technology.

One important area is working with 3D models and BIM.

Increasingly, contracts for major project works require architectural drawings to be completed in 3D volumetric models using BIM.

However, there is a shortage of skills in this area. In particular, there is an insufficient number of professionals who are able to produce 3D drawings at the fabrication level for manufacturing.

Also important is the ability to collaborate with other project team members in design coordination.

In this regard, a critical tool used at Te Pūkenga is Revizto – a BIM collaboration platform and project coordination tool which is used by professionals across 150 countries.

Revizto is introduced during the second year of the undergraduate course as students are learning to create BIM models.

According to Isbister, an advantage of Revizto lies in its ability to break down siloes and enable collaboration in design and construction.

As they learn to use Revizto, students are able to access, view and consume data in a constructive and collaborative way.

This becomes especially valuable as they integrate building services within their BIM models. At this point, students begin to appreciate the importance of services in building design along with the need to allocate space for these in order to avoid clashes with structural items or walls.

“We introduce Revizto throughout the second year when we are creating BIM models,” Isbister said.

“When we introduce building services and ask our students to create building services within the BIM models, we are using Revizto as an opportunity to start introducing coordination.

“It is not until students have to actively draw services and integrate these into their own buildings that they begin to understand the impact that those services can have on building design. That trickles back through to the initial ideation of the building and ensures that when they do complete the design concept, students have considered the space requirement for services.

“That’s when Revizto becomes really useful. When they populate their building with services, the students start to see that when we run tools within Revizto such as clash detection, we can see all these issues such as clashes with structural items or walls that the students haven’t intended things to clash with. That’s where the tool is powerful because you can isolate these things, talk about them as issues and discuss solutions which may be needed to resolve them. You can then talk about how to track all of these issues throughout the project. Finally, we can discuss with the students how these issues will be managed within the project and the complexity which could be involved if you scale that issue up to a much larger development.

“We introduce collaboration software (Revizto) at a small scale to make it manageable for them. Then we ask students to look at that and say, ‘what if this building was 20 or 30 times bigger?’, and to think about how problems will be tracked and resolved.

“We see Revizto as a tool that is already being used in a lot of projects. Our students, if they have knowledge and experience in using this tool, it will benefit them in industry as well.”

When teaching software skills in design and construction, Isbister says that educational institutions face challenges amid a proliferation in the number and sophistication of applications available and the need to introduce these without compromising on core skill development.

When selecting packages, Te Pūkenga focuses on those which are most industry relevant. Toward this end, it uses REVIT as its BIM modelling tool and Revizto as its coordination tool.

In terms of Revizto, Isbister says this is an effective coordination tool which offers suitable pairing with REVIT and is growing in industry popularity.

In particular, the tool offers:

  • Effective linkages of core program elements such as clash detection and issue tracking along with a graphics engine that is able to ingest multiple formats from different software applications and display these at an efficient speed on average hardware in a manner which is widely accessible.
  • Cloud based operations which ensure that all project team members are working on the most up-to-date versions of the design at all times.
  • Effective integration with Sketchup, REVIT, ArchiCAD and several other platforms. This becomes important as project scale and complexity increases. It avoids the need to manage multiple exported elements such as spreadsheets which have been exported from different locations.

Isbister says the importance of digital skills should not be underestimated.

He says the transition toward 3D design and digital coordination is now in force.

“I feel that we are at a critical point in time where the dissemination of the 3D BIM technology tools are being wholly accepted by clients, contractors and designers as the right way to progress an industry,” he said.

“It has taken longer than I expected. But I think it is finally starting to become evident.”