Why are Landscape Architects being Pushed into Revit?
Every day we speak to landscape architects from firms of all size and scope, from sole proprietors to multi-national, multi-discipline practices. We listen to their challenges and goals and build technologies to help them with the task at hand. Regardless of their role, position, or seniority, most landscape architects have Revit on their mind for one reason or another.
In LA-only studios, most practitioners see Revit as something they need to be aware of or they may only use as a tertiary tool for data interchange or special projects. But, they have the freedom to use the digital tools that works best for (1) communicating their design intent to the contractor and (2) efficiently delivering an on-time, on-budget project to their clients. This solution is usually AutoCAD-centric.
In multi-disciplinary firms, LAs usually make up a smaller percentage of the total office staff primarily composed of Architects and/or Civil Engineers. This is the environment where we are hearing more cries for help from LAs being pushed into using Revit.
Sure, there have been some success stories of LAs being able to cobble together a Revit workflow. After all, LAs have been largely ignored by major software developers and have been cobbling together digital design solutions for as long as computers have been present in the studio. The largest of firms may even have the resources available to develop an in-house solution. But what about the rest of us?
Rarely are landscape architects choosing a Revit migration on their own. The push towards Revit seems to be coming mostly from the client or owner, upper management, or from someone charged with leading a BIM initiative in the firm. The reasons for justifying this push are usually:
- We want to have everyone on the same platform
- We have always been on the cutting edge of technology and we want to maintain that image
- We are afraid of falling behind our competitors
- We are interested in parametric modeling
- We want to be BIM compliant or meet a BIM mandate.
These reasons are great goals to aspire to. But, are these goals worth the cost of implementation (of a piece of software that Autodesk specifically built for architects, MEP engineers, structural engineers, and facilities management…NOT for landscape architects or civil engineers)? Are the benefits of cobbling together a Revit workflow for landscape worth the risks of potentially losing efficiency? Is there a threat of compromising a design to “fit” within the constraints of the software?
- Some have embraced the challenge and have developed a workflow. By shoe-horning Revit’s architectural families such as walls, floors, and ceilings and by creating custom families many have been able to make hardscape elements and plant material “work”. For example, check out the blog landarchBIM that is run by Lauren Schmidt. She has been able to find many work-arounds using a combination of Revit, InfraWorks, and Dynamo. This option may provide the most seamless collaboration between trades, but with the associated cost of lost productivity on the LA side, steep learning curve, and the possibility of a compromised design because of the short-falls of Revit’s site tools.
- Find a collaboration solution that supports cross-platform, open source formats. Formats such as LandXML and IFC (see http://blog.areo.io/what-is-ifc/) enable all trades to share their data and work with the software that is best suited for their trade. For site data, software such as Civil 3D, KeySCAPE LandCADD, Carlson Software, and the SiteWorks plugin to Revit all support LandXML. For the built environment, IFC is probably the format we should all be using, not the proprietary Revit format. KeySCAPE LandCADD even has a tool to get your plant material into Revit.
- Gain a deeper understanding of what BIM is and isn’t and share your knowledge with the decision makers in your firm, your consultants, and your clients. Rather than jumping headfirst into the uncertainty of Revit, do some homework and educate your staff that BIM or SIM (Site Information Modeling) is not a specific product, but a process. Check out this article by Mike Shilton or the book that he co-authored: BIM for Landscape. Do what is right for YOUR project and YOUR firm.
The Bottom Line
There is a misconception that Revit is BIM. While Revit can help achieve BIM compliance in some circumstances, you must wonder: if the software does not offer productivity savings and provide answers that either (1) advance the design or (2) guarantee a better product for your client, why are you using it in the first place? If you are going to develop a BIM implementation plan and adopt a new solution, make sure it helps win back time and enhances your projects. Educate your team, your consultants, and your clients that the advantages of BIM can be realized outside of Revit. Don’t just follow the herd.
Time is better design.
Time is more projects.
Don’t let technology limit your creativity.