Students showcase building information
modelling skills to construction executives


Design-build presentations made to industry pros in Houston from TAMU College of Architecture on Vimeo.

Students in a building information modeling class at Texas A&M began their fall 2010 semesters as novices, but by semester's end they presented BIM-based construction schedules for a campus project to a panel of industry professionals.

"It's not easy for anyone to learn multiple applications in a very short amount of time," said Julian Kang, associate professor of construction science, who led the BIM class, "but the students worked very hard during the semester."

Students created construction schedules for the university's Agriculture Headquarters Building, a 300,000 square-foot structure scheduled for completion in 2011 that will include a 4-H/Future Farmers of America museum, auditorium, food service court, classrooms, office space and the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture.

They presented videos of their BIM projects Dec. 9 at the Texas A&M University System to:

  • Ralph Davila, facilities manager for Texas AgriLife Extension Service;
  • Vergel L. Gay, Jr., associate vice chancellor of facilities planning and construction at Texas A&M, an outstanding alumnus of the College of Architecture;
  • Josh Willard, assistant project manager for Skanska USA; and
  • Emily Winters of Kirksey Architecture, who's working on her firm's 3-D BIM model for the project.

The group also served as evaluators of the projects.

Students spent part of the semester learning Autodesk's Revit Structure and Navisworks, Microsoft Movie Maker and Primavera Project Planner to create 3- and 4-D models of construction schedules as well as a video of their work for the presentations.

As part of their familiarization with the software, and how to apply it to their task, Kang said students read journals about subjects related to the project and reported what they'd learned in class.

"When you hear something from your peers, it has a different impact from when you hear it from your instructor," said Kang. "The knowledge comes in a totally different way."

Students also heard a presentation from an Autodesk representative as well as an introduction to the project from Kirksey architects Emily Winters, one of the project evaluators, and Darrell Whatley.

Many of the questions panelists asked students after their presentations concerned the present state and the future of BIM in the construction industry.

Student Elco Chavez said, despite the many advantages BIM has to offer, its adoption is being slowed by upfront costs.

"BIM shows how you can build a building without actually building it," said Chavez. "It decreases a construction manager's work because it forecasts a lot of problems. It helps because everyone's mental picture of a building is different, but the BIM models put everyone on the same page."

Kristen Jackson, another student from Kang's class, said BIM's adoption is also hindered because architects and general contractors might use different kinds of software, but there are great benefits to be had.

"Clash detection is a big benefit, because it saves time by catching problems before they occur," she said.

Clash detection would be noting, for example, when an architect’s model shows an empty space, but the subcontractor’s drawing shows a wall or columns for an HVAC system due to changes in the original architect's design; a general contractor using BIM can catch this conflict before additional problems arise.

When students get jobs in the industry, said Kang, they'll be able to use their knowledge to take the lead in applying BIM technology to their firms' projects, but it could be tough sledding.

In addition to the software incompatibilities, in some places there's institutional resistance to BIM.

"There are superintendents and project managers who have been working in the industry for decades," said Kang, "and when they hear about new procedures like BIM they might hear 'I'm about to retire so leave me alone … I've been running these jobs for years and I've never had a problem.'"

They might not believe they have a problem that BIM can help with, said Kang, but there is a productivity problem in the construction industry.

"Productivity in the auto and airplane assembly industries has increased almost 100% since the 1960s," he said, but productivity in the construction industry hasn't changed much since the 60s. In fact, he said, productivity has been going down.

"In the future," he said, "I think our students will be taking the lead with BIM."

The above video may also be viewed at


- Posted: Dec. 15, 2009-

- the end -


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