How to Adopt BIM: 3 Ways to Approach Your Firm’s Pilot Project

How to Adopt BIM: 3 Ways to Approach Your Firm’s Pilot Project

These days, BIM is becoming standard practice. Most people involved in the construction sector—from the architects and engineers who use BIM to the governments that are implementing mandates for BIM in certain project types—are well and truly sold on the benefits it brings, including efficiency, collaboration, cost-savings, and improved communication. As a result, many practices these days that haven’t yet switched to BIM give the same reason: the dreaded transitional period.

Of course, these fears of transition are not entirely unfounded, as new software, staff training and teething problems are an inevitable part of upending your existing workflow. These initial costs create a barrier for many busy practices who simply can’t afford the time or money right now that would enable them to unlock BIM’s benefits down the line. The key to solving this conundrum of course is to minimize the initial costs—and one way of doing this that many experts recommend is to start your firm’s transition to BIM with a single pilot project, in which you will be able to establish a workflow and define standards that suit your practice, and transfer these lessons onto later projects.

But what is the best way to select this pilot project? Should you work on a large or small building? A complex work or a simple one? Here, three early adopters of BIM share what they learned from their own pilot projects, each with very different characteristics.

Black Diamond Library, one of the buildings in the Miller Hull partnership's pilot project. Image Courtesy of Autodesk

Option 1: The Cautious Approach

When they made the transition to BIM in 2008, London-based David Miller Architects were a rare case: at the time most other BIM adopters were large firms, but DMA comprised just four staff. The firm’s pilot project was a small scheme containing nine apartments, plus retail space on the ground floor—“the sort of project we do frequently,” explains David Miller. Because of this familiarity, DMA’s pilot was a low-risk strategy. “We knew that if we had any problems, we could always shift back to a 2D environment,” adds Miller.

In addition to this low risk strategy, Miller recommends that practices can increase their chances of success by collaborating with businesses that are already working with BIM. “Collaborating with BIM enhances projects,” says Miller, “and experiencing that can help build enthusiasm for BIM from the beginning.”

The practice also nominated a BIM champion, who helped to encourage others to use BIM effectively. Because of the practice’s small staff base, they were all trained at the same time over about six days, “divided into 40-minute sessions, so that we could learn without disrupting other projects.”


  • Running a pilot with the type of project you know best enables you to implement standards that will help you most frequently.
  • If anything goes wrong, it’s easy to revert to your usual workflow to complete the project.


  • A low-complexity project may mean that you don’t explore the full capabilities of BIM processes—requiring further projects to fully establish your firm’s approach.

Courtesy of Autodesk

Option 2: The Head-First Dive

Crate & Barrel is a furniture company whose internal architecture studio started using BIM in 2006. John Moebes, the company’s director of construction, explains that they first used BIM on “a very complex two-story building that was part of a mixed-use development,” featuring “an ambitious exterior façade with sunscreens, canopies, and a curtain wall.”

The company chose this project “because it was our next project, and we were eager to get rolling with our implementation of BIM. But in retrospect it might have made more sense to start with a smaller project,” explains Moebes. But he also adds: “That said, an ‘ideal’ pilot candidate can be hard to find, and I don’t think it makes sense to wait too long.”

However, despite the project’s complexity making for a tough transition, BIM also offered an immediate benefit for Crate & Barrel by enabled them to focus on design quality in a way that traditional drawings might not have allowed. “As designed, the sunscreens were going to be extremely expensive,” adds Moebes. “BIM made it easier to value-engineer them and analyze and visualize the implications of the changes. Stakeholders could see how modifications, like changing the dimensions of a piece of steel, would impact the feel and cost of the building.”


  • A high-complexity pilot project allows firms to test the limits of BIM and reveal advantages for the firm immediately.


  • Increased complexity makes for a steep learning curve and opportunities for things to go wrong in the project.

Snoqualmie Library, one of the buildings in the Miller Hull partnership's pilot project. Image Courtesy of Autodesk

Option 3: The Strategic Test-Run

Ruth Baleiko of the Miller Hull Partnership in Seattle describes their first BIM project as an “ideal pilot”: five libraries for one client, all with very a similar design intended to save on construction costs. As a result the work was “almost like we were doing the same project five times,” giving Miller Hull plenty of opportunities to explore the new software, particularly BIM’s ability to quickly make changes to design documentation.

This opportunity to really understand BIM on the pilot project also translated to a smoother continued transition. Jay Martin, a staff architect and project manager at Miller Hull, explains how the three architects who worked on the pilot helped to spread understanding of BIM through the firm:

“When they moved to their next project, they took their BIM knowledge with them. One experienced BIM team grew into three. Then, the people on those three projects took their BIM skills to their next projects. Our BIM know-how grew quickly and organically.”

Martin adds that for a successful pilot project, it helps to “pick a pilot project type that you and your firm have mastered... Just because BIM is great for complex projects doesn’t mean you have to start with one.” Indeed, in Miller Hull’s case, it was even possible to find a pilot project that was uncomplicated and still offered plenty of opportunity to get to know BIM software and processes.


  • If the right project can be found, low complexity can be balanced with ample opportunities to test the capabilities of BIM.
  • Running a pilot with the type of project you know best enables you to implement standards that will help you most frequently.


  • Such “ideal pilot projects” are few and far between, and waiting for one to come along could delay your transition to BIM.

Access more information about transitioning to BIM, including a getting-started guide and a deployment workbook at the Autodesk architect resource center.

This article was sponsored by Autodesk.

About this author
Cite: AD Editorial Team. "How to Adopt BIM: 3 Ways to Approach Your Firm’s Pilot Project" 25 Jun 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Courtesy of Autodesk

如何使用 BIM: 3 种开始尝试的方式

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.