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The Top 10 Tips for Transitioning From CAD to BIM


The Top 10 Tips for Transitioning From CAD to BIM

Building Information Modelling is changing the industry. Yet many people still haven’t adopted it. Here’s what you need to know when you convert CAD to BIM.


The architectural and engineering industries are changing. New technology and enhanced data collection mean your models have the potential to be more accurate than ever before.

But there’s a problem. The old methodologies aren’t cutting it anymore. Most of them can’t deal with the larger influx of data. Inefficiencies become more apparent and projects get delayed.

That’s where Building Information Modelling (BIM) comes in. BIM is a fairly new method that encourages sharing of resources and greater efficiency. It uses cloud computing and new digital design software to help you create better structures.

Take the Revit BIM software as an example. Usable across multiple devices, this software brings key project stakeholders together. It centralises your models and allows you to use data from several sources to improve accuracy.

So, that leads to a key question – is BIM like CAD?

Computer-aided design (CAD) relates to the software that architects and engineers use to create their models. Maya and 3DS Max are both CAD software packages.

That’s the difference between CAD and BIM. CAD packages are tools that you can use as you see fit. Building Information Modelling is a methodology that seeps into all aspects of your firm. It has software to support it, but that’s only part of the package. Everybody involved in a BIM project has to work to the methodology’s standards.

As a result, many firms struggle to make the transition from just using CAD to implementing it into BIM. Here are 10 tips to help you make the switch.


Tip #1 – Start Small

You can’t just decide that you’re going to convert a CAD-based firm into one that uses BIM overnight. Doing so creates all sorts of problems. Jumping onto a major project with a new methodology leads to delays and higher costs. You don’t know how to work within the BIM framework yet, so you make mistakes.

Instead, choose a pilot project. Perhaps you have a regular client that wants to experiment with Building Information Modelling. Or, you have a small project with a long deadline that gives you the chance to experiment. Either provides a better option for making the transition than a major project.

Anything that doesn’t require huge creative flourishes works well. Start small and simple so you can develop an understanding of how BIM encourages teamwork. This allows you to tidy up the process and learn where the firm’s knowledge gaps are. Over time, you’ll develop the expertise needed to transition your skills to a larger project.


Tip #2 – Be Careful with Modelling

Switching from CAD to BIM usually requires new digital design software. For example, you may switch from AutoCAD to the Revit BIM software.

This leads to an exciting time as you’re learning something completely new.

Think back to when you first started experimenting with CAD. You probably over-modelled everything to make it look as impressive as possible. Over time, you learned that over-modelling leads to delays. Why make something complex when a simple model does the trick?

The same rule applies when you move over to the Revit BIM software. You’ll want to learn about all of the new features it offers, but don’t forget what you already know. BIM is about making the design process more efficient. It can’t help with that if you insist on making every model a spectacle of design.

Of course, under-modelling isn’t good either. It leads to unimpressive models that don’t sell your vision to clients. It’s all about understanding the software and learning how to strike a balance.


Tip #3 – Know What You’re Getting Into

Transitioning to Building Information Modelling is not an easy task. You’re not just changing the software that you use. You’re changing everything about how the firm does business. Staff need retraining and you have to get your clients on board with the process. You also change the way you work with contractors and other stakeholders.

Here’s the point. It can take months of work to make your firm BIM-ready. It will likely take several months just to learn how to use your new software. You’ll hit conflicts all of the time. On one hand, you’ll see how the software saves you time in important areas. On the other, you’ll deal with slowdown while you figure out the technology.

It’s a slow process at first but it pays off later on. Switching from a CAD focus to BIM requires patience. Everybody has to know what they’re getting into and commit to making the change.


Tip #4 – Check Your Schedule


Timing is everything when making a major organisational shift in your firm. If you do it when all hands are already on deck with projects, you create resentment. You’ll overwork your staff because you’re asking them to complete their work while learning something brand new.

Switching to Building Information Modelling takes time. Ensuring you have that time smoothens the transition.

Check the firm’s schedule and look for a gap that gives you the opportunity to try new things. Perhaps there’s a certain date where you’re coming to the end of some major projects and don’t have anything new lined up. That’s an ideal time to make the switch. Dedicate that free time to training and learning what BIM is about. You’ll prepare your employees properly, without the added pressure of looming deadlines.


Tip #5 – Plan before Your Model

You’ll notice one thing when you start using the Revit BIM software – it’s more detailed than most CAD packages. You can’t just jump in and start building a model.

Well, you can. But that’s not Building Information Modelling.

Remember that BIM is all about collaboration and data. The software allows you to use both to their fullest, which is why it’s more complex.

This means you need a plan before you can start working on your model. There are some key questions to ask, including:

  • What models do I need to create?
  • Do I want to share the models with my client?
  • How many people will use the software on the project?
  • What role does each person play?
  • How are we going to organise our different models, views, and sheets?

Using a BIM software means managing a full-blown project. You can’t just work independently of everybody else. You’re all working from the same central database, so any changes you make reflect on other people’s work. Answer these questions and get everybody involved on the same page. That’s the true nature of BIM.


Tip #6 – Don’t Go Back to CAD

Adopting a new methodology can be frustrating. You feel like you could do the work faster if you just did it how you used to do it. Some firms take this too far and switch back to their old CAD software.

Yes, this may mean that you get that particular project done faster. But it also damages the BIM learning process. Plus, you’re missing out on all of the extras that BIM has to offer.

Take your CAD model as an example. Can you import it into an energy analysis software? Do you know how sustainable the model will be in the long term? Have you used data from other stakeholders to create the most accurate model possible?

Those are all things you can do with BIM. Halting the transition means you miss out on those benefits. You deliver less detailed models, which can lead to time losses later on in the construction process.

Understand that there will be some frustrating moments. These aren’t reasons to abandon your Revit BIM software. Instead, they highlight areas where you need more training.


Tip #7 – Figure Out How it All Links Together


With BIM, every model has an effect on every other model in the shared database. A change to the floor plan will change any model that uses that floor plan, for example.

That’s hard to wrap your head around when first using BIM. You’re probably used to creating drawings separately, then switching between them when you need to make changes. In our example, you’d change the floor plan, then figure out how it affects your other models. Then, you make the changes manually. That’s a lot of manual work that the Revit BIM software does away with.

The problems come when you forget about that link. You may want to experiment with a new idea on one of your drawings. You make the changes, forgetting that they also affect the linked models. You can mess up the entire project that way.

Learn how everything links together and how your software accounts for this. Most BIM software packages allow you to toggle visibility for grids and levels. Use that to experiment without making drastic changes to your other models.


Tip #8 – Listen to Employees

As mentioned, BIM requires a full organisational shift. This will cause some conflicts in your firm. Designers, interns, and architects will all want to know the reasons behind the change.

Your management style in this situation affects the success of the transition. You create resentment if you just tell employees to get used to it. They’ll have unanswered questions and will rebel every time moving to BIM appears to slow the project down.

Give employees a forum for expressing their opinions. Talk to them about why you’re making the change and what you believe it can achieve. Most importantly, listen to their concerns. Your employees often see issues that you missed. Their feedback gives you the opportunity to learn more about BIM so you can answer their questions. That alone makes the transition easier. But you’ll also make your employees feel valued, again encouraging collaboration.


Tip #9 – Talk to Your Clients


Your employees aren’t the only people you have to sell the BIM concept too. Your clients also need to understand your new methodology. After all, it can involve them to a greater degree than ever before.

Talk to your clients before starting the transition to BIM. Be transparent about what you hope to achieve and what you need from them to make it work. Get them to buy into the idea to make the process smoother.

Here’s why talking to clients helps. Your clients understand the way you’ve always done things, so unexpected changes scare them. They’ll constantly question your new methods, which leads to delays as their confidence in you drops.

If you talk them through the changes beforehand, you keep those confidence levels up. They’re more willing to work with you, allowing for the collaboration that BIM encourages.


Tip #10 – Enlist the Experts

Remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Your firm needs new training, so why not have a Building Information Modelling consultant come in to help.

The experts have more experience and probably transitioned their own firms at some point. They offer a fast track to learning about potential issues and how you can overcome them. Furthermore, they can help with the early planning stages. This allows you to focus on learning about the methodology rather than figuring out the complexities of implementing it.

BIM means reinventing your firm, but it’s not a methodology that you’re creating from scratch. There are several templates out there for you to follow. Find somebody who already has the knowledge to help you learn faster.



Don’t expect an easy ride when you’re transitioning from CAD to BIM. You’ll face obstacles along the way, from learning new methods to getting people on board with the change.

These tips give you a basic guide for how to plan the transition. Learn about what your BIM software can do and communicate with important stakeholders. Give yourself time to adjust and commit to the transition. You’re changing the way you work, rather than just adopting a new software.

Having said that, your new software package is key to making the transition. You need to know what it can do if you want to implement BIM to its fullest. That’s where ArchiStar Academy can help. Furthermore, ArchiStar Academy’s Revit BIM courses equip you with the knowledge you need to make the best use of your software.

Contact ArchiStar today if you’re making the transition from CAD to BIM software.

ArchiStar Academy offers several courses across the spectrum of digital design software. You’ll develop your skills, allowing you to create more accurate and functional models.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Archistar Academy today if you have any questions.


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Posted on 20 Jan 2020

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