What Can BIM Do for You? (Even if You Don’t Buy the Entire Suite of 3D Software)

BIM software is all the rage today, just as CAD software was all the rage a few years ago. And before there was CAD?  Well, contractors may have been similarly wowed with large-format printers, which could spit out multiple copies of blue prints in minutes.  (The next thing, you’re going to tell me is that they have pictures now that can develop themselves instantly.)


What’s Coming

What technology is likely to come after BIM?  The next natural step is for virtual environments, based on BIM data, where you can interact with, and alter, full-scale built environments long before they are even built.  (Go ahead, you’re not dreaming, check the view out of the virtual windows or check the clearance on the cabinets by virtually swinging open the doors. Change the wall paint color with a flick of your finger.)


Does all this power software have a drawback? It can be expensive for early adopters.  However, keep in mind pricing patterns: what is now affordable—and worth the investment— for most builders is the CAD software that was once prohibitively priced.  If the pattern follows, soon the price of BIM software will drop as well.


The Good News

But is there any way for the average builder to take advantage of BIM design software and high-end CAD systems without buying the entire suite?


Indeed, there is.  Some CAD and BIM software packages offer a “thin client” version of the software, so contractors can get fractional use of the powerful systems, by accessing BIM models that are just as complete as those created by the designers.


That’s especially true of MiTek’s SAPPHIRE™ Suite, which is a true 3D BIM software system, designed to optimize the wood frame.  SAPPHIRE™ Suite also enables component manufacturers to design the structural framing and also to automate the manufacturing of the trusses and wall panels.  SAPPHIRE even drives the component manufacturers’ saws in the shop for super precise truss and wall-panel construction.


However, since most contactors don’t need the full firepower of the SAPPHIRE™ Suite, MiTek offers SAPPHIRE Viewer, a free 3D software tool.  SAPPHIRE Viewer is designed for builders, architects, and engineers to collaborate on house plans using a shared 3D model if their component manufacturers are using SAPPHIRE.  (Component manufacturers, or CMs, manufacture the roof trusses, floor trusses, and wall panels for residential home builders, and they are typically affiliated with local lumberyards.)


SAPPHIRE Viewer users can quickly review SAPPHIRE models in “plan” and 3-D views, using zoom and pan. They can also view elevation drawings, check dimensions, and isolate items to view in the model, such as a particular level or layer.  SAPPHIRE Viewer users can also print layout sheets or print plans in 3-D, and elevation views. As a key part of successful collaboration, SAPPHIRE Viewer users can add and track mark-ups and comments, ensuring all parties are on the same page.


Do you use BIM yet? If not, don’t worry. You may not need the professional grade of BIM systems, when you can access SAPPHIRE functionality through Viewer.  With it, you get the benefits of the power of digital collaboration, and you might even add a few percentage points to your bottom line in the process, through the use of an optimized wood frame and precision building components.