The Design Büro – Our Second Chapter

Neil Marshall, Director at The Design Büro, an SME and independent firm of architects based in Rugby, Warwickshire updates us on how the practice is progressing with the second phase of BIM implementation.


Our last post for BIMCrunch was on 14th June 2013, where we shared news about the promotion of Oliver Thomas to BIM manager within the practice and details of how we started out on our BIM journey (–-our-road-to-bim).


Since this point in time, so many unique, exciting and rewarding things have happened along our road to BIM. With all of the ups, there have been downs and this graph often shown at BIM events describing the journey is very accurate – and I can assure you it’s not a curve.



Our plan from June was to develop our business management systems to align with BIM and its protocols. We initially adopted the BS1192 numbering system and described in our business management systems that the sharing and collaboration of files should follow this system. Moving forward we have updated this to align with the PAS1192 and also developed several other sub systems for the implementation of BIM on projects. Also required were the work instructions within the business management system which describe workflows for the creation of models, components and content.


Alongside developing these systems, we appreciated that there was a need to train staff to author in 3D. As we previously mentioned, we continued with the training steps, which have become more and more sophisticated as the elements of 3D have been grasped. We also appreciated that we needed practice content and therefore set up a library and workflow to deliver content to the practice.


This system is arranged to allow us to crowd-source the required content and whilst this is being generated, placeholders are encouraged for later after the content is validated. This reduces the risk of filling the models with lots of different, useless objects and data that doesn’t actually work.


During this period we encountered the human side to BIM and the various reactions to the changes. It is fair to say BIM is a mind shift for some people and it can take time to engage and be able to recognise the benefits. We use the phrase “get it” when someone is converted – it’s like a light bulb turns on, you can physically see the change happen during the education phase.


Within this phase we have identified that each individual may not need to know everything about BIM. The message is, if you don’t know ask and we are trying to embed a culture of sharing. It becomes quite clear when people are bluffing through BIM and we have tried to explain this throughout the process so our training is directed at the position they will sit within the project.


In terms of the uptake of BIM by our clients so far, it has been quite minimal. Despite working in a sector that is entirely funded by central government, there is very few clients asking us about BIM and we therefore see it as part of our role to educate the clients, demonstrate what can be done with BIM and show them the light – in the hope they too will “get it”. Our biggest fear is that in 2016, BIM will just be another hurdle they feel they need to jump over and avoid engagement by passing the buck down the supply chain.


Our goal of implementing our standards by January 2014 has been met. We are actively encouraging the adoption of BIM wherever a scheme can benefit from using the protocols, standards and 3D environment. This way we will harness the efficiencies within our practice of modelling the building rather than drafting them. Hopefully we will see more consultants engage with us, and more of our clients will benefit from the information within the model now and during the buildings lifecycle. This will also give all of our employees the opportunity to explore the process and learn from their mistakes, of which we are confident there will be.


We have been extremely well-supported by the software vendor Nemetcheck Vectorworks. We are long-standing users of Vectorworks and have chosen to continue using this software as it delivers everything we need of it. Yes, there are still hurdles to cross as there is with most BIM authoring platforms; however we are supported by our vendor and are confident that we can deliver. We are now in a position where all workstations are BIM capable and can deliver fully rendered images if needed.


Solibri is our preferred validation tool and we have been using this in house to validate our content before it is shared centrally on our server, and of course for model checking prior to issue. We have benefited a great deal from having Solibri as this has allowed us to explore our IFC output; to understand this element of the process and make sure what we are producing delivers the requirements of the project. Up to this point our BIM experience within the wider design team has been with major contractors whom have assumed the role of BIM Manager and used their own products for federated models and validation.


In November our approach had to be adjusted. This was due to our extremely capable BIM Manager moving to pastures new. However Olly left us in a ready position to move forward and we have now engaged our associates and handed the baton over whilst I remain with a hand on the rudder.


So we move forward in 2014 – our second year of BIM implementation – with the tools and skills to deliver. We are actively using all of the processes and software available to deliver better buildings and better outcomes in a smoother and more collaborative fashion. 2016 is approaching fast and we are looking forward to delivering buildings and embracing the efficiencies that are offered by BIM.


Neil Marshall, Director at Design Büro (Coventry) Ltd (


A Chartered Architectural Technologist, Neil joined the Design Büro in 1994, becoming a Director in 2005. His role within the practice is varied and covers everything from securing future work to delivering multimillion pound schemes within the healthcare sector. One of his biggest roles over the past few years has been overseeing the integration of BIM into the daily activities of the practice.