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Expert Interview with Ian Nichols on CAD

February 1, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

CADAutodesk Revit is a powerful design suite specifically created to take advantage of Building Information Modeling (BIM), a new way of documenting projects with revolutionary implications in several industries.

Ian Nichols, the author of the Revit Zone, is passionate about this new software and its abilities. The Revit Zone is where he shares that passion and years of knowledge and experience. He also shares extensive knowledge of BIM at the website BIM Scape.

He took a moment to tell us about Revit, Building Information Modeling, and their potential with CAD Workstations.

Can you introduce us to Revit Zone? Where are you based? When did you get started? What differentiates you from other CAD sites out there?

I started the Revit Zone website way back in 2007. The idea was to share my enthusiasm and knowledge of Autodesk Revit with fellow professionals and students alike. At that time, there were very few websites and blogs dedicated to Revit. It just seemed a good idea to me to share my experience of learning and using the software.

Who are your main clientele, and what do they stand to learn at Revit Zone?

Many different design professionals visit Revit Zone. These include architects, tecnhologists, MEP engineers, surveyors, contractors and some clients too! Over the last few years, I’ve started to see a lot of students visiting the site as Revit becomes the standard software tool to learn within universities and colleges.

The description of Revit Zone states simply, “passionate about Autodesk Revit.” What is about that software that you are so passionate about?

When I discovered Revit way back in 2004, it totally revolutionied the way I worked as an architect. It liberated me from the process of “drawing” and allowed me to start “modelling” my designs. This meant I could spend much more of my time thinking about the scheme itself rather than worrying about how I was going to put it down on paper. For me, this way of working just ‘clicked’ and seemed very natural and intuitive. Obviously, the software has come a long way in those 10 years, but the fundamental principles of what makes it so good were there right from the start. This passion eventually led me to start my own BIM conpany, BIMscape Ltd.

In the introduction to your website, you said that it quickly became apparent for you that BIM was the way forward for CAD software. For people that don’t know, can you briefly explain what BIM is and why you feel like it’s so useful?

BIM is an acronym for “Building Information Modelling”. In essence, it’s all about building a virtual model of the design, authored by various members of the design team. The virtual model can then be analyzed, integrated and tested in a vast variety of ways (coordination, aesthetics, cost, buildability, etc) before it ever gets to site. Consequently, the entire Project Team can be a lot more confident about what is required, how it will perform, what it will look like, and how much it will cost to build, run and maintain; all before the first brick is laid. This is a quantum leap forward from the days of drawing lines on tracing paper by hand!

Do you use CAD Workstations in the office, and if so, which ones?

I personally use a Dell M3800 Mobile Workstation. It’s a fantastic mixture of power and portability.

What are the advantages for an engineer using a CAD workstation?

CAD workstations are configured for the job at hand. CAD and BIM software are evolving all the time. These packages can be very demanding on hardware, particularly when they are handling a large design proposal. It makes sense to have the right tool for the job.

A recent study by David S. Cohn Consulting showed that a software and hardware upgrade resulted in productivity nearly doubling. Why is an efficient workflow and setup so essential for maximum productivity, and what are some things that people can do, to optimize their own setup?

Software and training for CAD and BIM platforms can be very expensive. So it is short-sighted to cut corners on the hardware. Repeated crashes and data loss for an inadequately-spec’ed workstation can result in many hours lost or even deadlines missed. It is always wise to refer to the software vendor’s recommendation with regard to the specification of hardware required to practically run the platform.

If people are thinking of getting a CAD workstation for the first time, what are some specs that you recommend? How much RAM should they be looking for? What kind of processor? What are some things people should consider when looking to upgrade their setup?

For Autodesk Revit, an i7 Quad Core processor is ideal. I would suggest 16GB of RAM for the production and manipulation of average size models. A workstation-grade graphics card is also highly recommended.

You talk a lot about architectural design at Revit Zone, but CAD software can be used for a lot of different engineering situations. Have you worked in industries outside of architecture, and if so, which ones? What are some specific challenges that face engineers working in other fields? What are some ways that Autodesk Revit is good for those challenges?

Autodesk Revit is focused on building design. Its tools facilitate the production of architectural components. In addition, it can also produce components related to mechanical, electrical and plumbing disciplines. These disciplines all share the same common set of issues; i.e., coordination, cost, maintenance and (in some cases) aesthetics.

Why is it important for an engineer or a firm to be as efficient as possible in this day and age? How much time and money stand to be saved by running at maximum efficiency?

The world of work is a very competitive place now. Software tools like Autodesk Revit allow designs to be conceived, developed, analyzed and built very quickly. This in turn raises client expectations and quickly sets the standard. Anyone not adapting, evolving and utilizing these state-of-the-art tools is (in my opinion) will very likely fall by the wayside.

For more updates from the Revit Zone, follow them on Twitter.

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  1. March 9, 2015 at 2:23 pm

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