CAD vs. BIM Smackdown: Part I


A lot of us have drank the BIM cool aid, it’s smarter, better, jumps higher, runs faster and there are a lot of good case studies out there on how much time/money it can save.  I believe this, truly but the bold fact of the matter is that most of the world works in 2D most of the time.  Now we can talk, scream and post how this technology is better but the IT world and Interweb are littered with carcasses that we supposed to be better.  Not that I think BIM will end up there but what about CAD.  I have read a lot about BIM but the fact is, I’m tuned into it and so are the rest of the cult members but what is the market demanding.  One is a way to do things better, hence faster, cheaper…check.  Another is the constant pressure to provide Software as a Service and do it for free, hello google everything.  If we look at the cloud, that is programs and data out in the ether, for example, I am writing this on wordpress which is being hosted who knows where, but every time I type the url: and enter my password, all my data is there, and it works.  How it works does much matter to me.  So if people want free stuff and want it now, in the AEC world, CAD or some flavor of it would seem to be the best choice to get up there.  Why?  It can be a much lighter weight application than any BIM platform, just look at any CAD/BIM file comparison, but also simply working in 2D vs 3D requires a lot less bandwidth and computing power.  So what, BIM rocks you might say or yell.  However, let’s look at some of the benefits of BIM.

File Sharing/Collobaration

While there is much to like about this, proprietary formats, info exchange, object transferability, etc. the fact it, the model generally resides locally on a LAN, and I have not heard great stories about sharing the model outside of an organization for technical and legal reasons.  Some people are working on this like BIMServer, and if you make the jump be warned the site looks almost exactly like this one, not a big compliment just a bit confusing.  But certainly a file in the cloud with collaboration tools built in would work much better.  Plus once this data is out there it can be better utilized and analyzed.

Product Extensions/ Add Ons

One of the great things about Saas,  opening up a platform is the amount of software that can be written for it, look at Salesforce.com, Facebook, Twitter, iphone so one would argue the more open the more better.  All though that puts a lot of business models at risk.   With the amount of software being written to aid the AEC community, the building wants to be open as it has jump through so many hoops to talk to each other.  There is ifcMCL, and the release of  agcXML, endorsed by Association for General Contractors for data interchange.  However, to write software for the AEC industry one still has to be either a developer for one of the bigs, and you would have to write to each platform.  Much more enticing to write for one.

You can’t say cloud without saying google.  Let’s look at google for a moment, there was an excellent post by Phil Read on his blog, about Google and CAD, and how google is rolling through industries, whereas Autodesk is focused on AEC, Google is focused on data, and wants you to create it, so they can sort it, index it, and serve it.  They have google earth, which by the way you can post Revit models to, they bought SketchUP, what are the focusing on, and can CAD be next.  Might someone open up and democratize the CAD platform so real collaboration tools can be written, and added value programs layered on top.  Maybe it’s case of one step back for 3 steps forward.

While I am a big proponent of BIM, I also like the idea of open platforms and maybe the opening of the ‘building’ is too big to ignore.

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