What is BIM Automation? The Importance of BIM Automation Tools
Introduction to BIM and automation
BIM models are the centerpiece of this methodology, and every other BIM process revolves around it. At the same time, there is more to BIM than the model itself: the model can also act as a centralized source of up-to-date project information. That way, the number of conflicts and disputes is greatly diminished, and collaboration is easier than ever before.
Automation is a simple concept. Most people associate the word with hundreds of robots performing everything a person can do;this concept can also be applied to digital tasks.
The introduction of artificial intelligence has significantly boosted the concept, making it possible for a number of different BIM tasks to be performed automatically. It is not an easy process and requires a lengthy setup sequence, but the result is worth the effort. AI is capable of performing menial tasks faster than a human can, and AI is also more efficient in finding repetetiveand time-consuming tasks.
Generally speaking, automation of tasks in BIM leads to higher overall efficiency for companies. Automation also creates additional spare time for BIM specialists. This time can then be spent performing more meaningful tasks, improving project efficiency. Generally, automated tasks are conducted much faster when compared to human processes.
BIM automation in Revit
There are several examples of BIM automation features available in the industry. The best-known example is the combination of Revit and its built-in Dynamo programming interface.
What is Revit?
Revit is 3D BIM software, and it is one of the most popular BIM solutions on the market. It can be used to perform 3D modeling tasks and also cover the needs of other professions, such as engineers or architects. Revit was created by Autodesk, the creator of AutoCAD, which is one of the most popular solutions in the CAD sphere.
Unlike CAD software, Revit can automate some of its processes because it does not deal only with 3D design. One good example of a feature that Revit can automate is its documentation generation. It is possible to create a specific setup that allows documentation for facades, plants, sections, and other project elements to be generated and collected automatically, with little to no involvement from employees.
What is Dynamo?
Dynamo is a “graphical programming interface” also created by Autodesk and built for interacting with the construction information workflow. It can facilitate mathematical and geometric design when used with BIM solutions, but its best-known companion is still Revit.
Dynamo is an open-source solution that helps with the visualization of Revit’s capabilities in terms of BIM task management, offering the ability to streamline workflows or set repetitive tasks to be performed automatically.
Why is Python knowledge borderline necessary for BIM automation in Revit?
It is true that Revit and Dynamo are a combination of solutions that should be enough for basic BIM automation capabilities. However, proper knowledge of Python, one of the most popular programming languages in the world, is also a recommendation here.
Plenty of different applications have been created with Python, including Dynamo, which operates entirely on Python scripts. An adequate level of knowledge of Python can help expand the capabilities of Dynamo, since this is the only way to work with the Revit API directly. This level of involvement also improves the ability to automate Revit tasks. It is still possible with limited Python knowledge, but the capabilities are much more limited.
Disadvantages of automating Revit tasks with Dynamo
Automation is only one side of the coin.. The most common issues with BIM automation in the context of Revit include:
- Revit lacks backward compatibility, which makes it very difficult to apply existing automation methods to files created in older versions of Revit.
- Miscommunication and human factors can cause unintentional changes to the entire Revit model, especially if the user makes use of custom Python scripts. Restoring a Revit model to its previous state (including annotating drawings and cleaning up the model itself) is long and arduous.
- BIM automation scripts may result in increased file sizes for Revit models. Copying a model-in-place family for the purpose of reusing it generates a new family alongside the previous ones within the same project. This action increases the total file size of the Revit model, and BIM models are large enough as it is.
- Potential issues with collaboration are also possible when solutions besides Revit are used. Since even the most basic Dynamo automation scripts are treated as custom Python coding, the chances of that same logic working in a different BIM solution are slim.
Functions that can be automated in Revit
Despite everything we have gone over, there are numerous Revit tasks that can technically be automated if the user has the skills to do so. For the sake of simplicity, these examples are split into categories.
Automation of BIM documentation creation
- Custom naming rules for the purpose of exporting specific elements.
- Complete XREF maintenance for all sheets at once.
- Automatic 2D data cleanup for custom DWG export.
- XREF maintenance for separate categories, including geometry or annotations.
Spatial BIM task automation
- BIM models processed in batches.
- Various calculations of spatial data.
- Handling revisions.
- Creating custom Area parameters, including Rentable, Net, and Gross.
- Spatial validation of Area parameters.
Automation of project collaboration tasks
- Category-based clash detection.
- Custom grouping rules.
- Custom clash grouping based on a specific member.
- Automatic numbering of clash groups.
Quantity takeoff automation
- Automatic connection to external data sources.
- Custom schedule generation.
- Custom rules for data fetching.
- Formatting and visual representation of schedules.
BIM automation and its future
It is difficult to predict how soon this branch of BIM will evolve. The introduction of ChatGPT 3.0 happened overnight and changed multiple industries in a matter of months. There is always a possibility that a new approach to BIM automation will be invented, superseding previous attempts in speed and simplicity.
Building information modeling is still actively developing, and BIM automation is much newer than that. Automation in this industry can be a massive advantage if implemented properly. The capabilities of BIM automation will continue to expand as time goes on, with technological advancements opening new and easier ways to automate some of the most complex tasks in the industry.