Revit will Take Some Time to be Absorbed in India
Which Autodesk products do you use in your organisation?
Stephen Blowers (SB): In the past we used Autodesk AutoCAD solutions to do most of our 2D and production work. Thereafter we moved to Autodesk Revit, a building information modelling (BIM) software. Revit makes us far more productive by allowing us to increase the speed at which we design and deliver projects.
Ravi Sarangan (RS): AutoCAD is used extensively by Edifice. As a practice, we cannot do without it. We were one of the first in India to use AutoCAD. Initially we started with AutoCAD 12 but now we use a variety of Autodesk products including Revit. 3ds Max is used extensively across all our projects.
What were the challenges you faced while implementing these products?
SB: Before you can introduce Revit within your organisation you need to do a lot of background work to get all the components together. Since every company works in a slightly different way, you have to alter your workflow with the product. Additionally, there is a quite a steep learning curve for the users. What we need to do is to effectively place a couple of people who extremely computer literate and interested in using the product.
In the U.K. the cost of manpower is higher as compared to the cost of both PC and software. So we had to focus more on how to get more productivity out of our current workforce.
RS: Way back in 1995, when we started using AutoCAD, the PC prices at that time were exorbitantly high and not all companies could afford them. However, back then a young company such as ours realised the potential of using software like AutoCAD and invested in an assembled PC which cost us Rs. 1,50,000. At that time all the software we used were pirated — back then the trend of buying authentic software was unheard of in India. A few years later when the software prices dropped, we invested in authentic software. Although we started of by using pirated software, we are now dead against the idea of software piracy.
As for Revit, it will take some time for it to be absorbed in India. Again, we are the first few firms who are training our people on Revit. It requires a lot of competence and knowledge to work on Revit. This is because suddenly from a two dimension, you are now working on the third dimension.
What were and are the benefits of using Autodesk products?
SB: Rivet enables us to work on 3D environment and brings in an attitude of professionalism and makes junior architects think during the design process. Currently we find that most junior architects treat CAD software as just lines on the screen and not as designing an actual building. However, when it comes to Revit, it is very difficult to work on a model without thinking. If you break a building within minutes with Revit, you can get fired from the company.
RS: Using Autodesk products not only increased the speed of designing but most importantly gave us the accuracy. Earlier most firms delivered an 85 percent accurate document to their clients as opposed to a 100 percent one. However we realised that the Autodesk products increased our design accuracy first time around. Editing the design with the software was simpler because it saved time that would normally be spent in drawing and redrawing designs.
How has the adoption of Revit been amongst your construction partners such as structural, electrical, mechanical engineers and plumbing contractors?
SB: In the U.K. the trend is that all our construction partners use Revit. However, there are only a few who actually understand how to use the product. Structural engineers say they are all using it and I think it is fairly simple for them to implement. The problem in the U.K. is to get all the consultants to work with Revit — especially with the mechanical and electrical engineers.
One reason is that they already use specialised 3D design products and the other is procurement. Procurement is a process in which the client employs architects and structural engineers to create a certain level of detail in the model before it goes to a contractor for pricing. Unfortunately the contractor gets his own M&E (mechanical and electrical) specialists who make their own changes. These M&E’s are not paid to do a 3D design. Hence once the changes come back to us, we need work on it again.
On the D&B (design-and-build) route when you go out to tender, you are not in a position to have done a three dimensionally coordinated design in Revit. This is because the procurement route does not allow it. That may well change because there will be pressure on clients to get more done in the M&E stage because the design then gets done at an earlier date. This brings the risk as well as the cost down. As a result, you are not getting a contractor to tender on the risk, which is where the cost comes from. There is pressure to go that way. But first the consultants need to catch up with the technology. The procurement route and the tendering process should also catch up next. The client must also change the way they think.
RS: In our company, twenty people are trained in Revit. However the challenge we face is that our partners such as the structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers — who we need to build the structure — are not ready to adopt Revit.
For better coordination between us and our partners all of us need to use Revit. In India, during the design stage itself the architects coordinate with the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) consultants and incorporate their drawings before releasing it to the contractor.
What happens here (in India) is post-tendering, vendors submit their shop drawings. These are then ratified by the consultants. I agree with Stephen that the level of details generated by the MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) as well as the structural engineer is not as great as the architectural drawing. We need to coax them to get those details out because they always rely on the vendor to produce shop drawings and then just sign off on that. That is where the problems come in because the vendors do not alter the specs (they are not allowed to alter the specs). They choose the easy way out, the more economical path out, which again might be less than what they have quoted for.
Has the use of modelling software helped your employees to achieve faster turn around times?
SB: The current global recession has hit the U.K. very hard, making it more difficult to win a project — a lot of time and effort goes into it. We also require a lot of time to do research and development. Products such as Revit enable us to do more in less time.
It does help with change as well — in terms of preventing change. Revit allows you to work on a 3D model — as part of the design and development phase. It actually helps with client feedback because you can show them the space in 3D, spin around the building, and can even render it. The client understands what you are proposing much quicker and lessens the chances of a misunderstanding.
RS: I will give you a classic case. A lot of our projects underwent change because of the recession. One specific project involved the design of residential apartments which were three and four BHKs. These were meant to be lavish apartments. ‘Good-for-construction’ drawings had been issued, vendors were going to start work when the client said he would not be able to sell a single apartment because of the slowdown. We were asked to alter the master plan and design 1.5/2/2.5/3 BHK modules.
Ground breaking was scheduled to take place, the launch also had to follow, and hoardings were all over the countryside. We took it on as a challenge, burned the midnight oil and actually redesigned the apartments in approximately 47 days. What took us four months to evolve the initial set of drawings, took us about 47 days to redesign.
We earned practically double of what we earned in those four months. It was made possible with AutoCAD. You can employ a hundred draftsmen but if you had to do this manually, you would not have been able to do this.
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