LEGO and Minecraft Can Teach You About BIM

December 21, 2017 Sarah Lorek

If you’re new to Building Information Modeling (BIM), diving in and learning the process can be a bit intimidating. This leads to several questions about how it will impact your business, your employees, and your budget.

Where do you start? How long will it take you to learn? How do you implement it? Luckily, a couple of creative minds in the AEC industry have discovered highly effective ways to teach BIM, and they’re doing it through games.

With the influx of distractions in today’s society, toys and games are an effective way to teach kids (and adults) complex methodologies and concepts. Nowadays, learning through gamification begins to make more and more sense.

According to the eLearning Industry, some of the benefits of gamification in learning include:

  • Better learning experience
    • It’s fun, which keeps engagement levels high. Recall and retention is also increased
  • Better learning environment
    • Informal learning environments are sometimes more effective and helps learners practice real-life situations in a safe environment
  • Instant feedback
    • Learners immediately understand what they should know. This facilitates better learner engagement and, thereby, better recall and retention
  • Prompting behavioral change
    • Can drive strong behavior change, especially when combined with scientific principles of repeated retrieval and spaced repetition
  • Can be applied to most learning needs
    • Includes induction and onboarding, product sales, customer support, soft skills, awareness creation, and compliance
  • Impact on bottom line
    • All of the aspects outlined (better learning experience, higher recall, and retention, etc) create significant performance gain for organizations and companies

 

At its essence, BIM (Building Information Modeling) is an intelligent process that uses 3D models to give AEC professionals the ability to plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure more efficiently.

If this is completely new to you, there are creative ways to understand the process, along with the benefits it can have for your firm. Two ways to learn are through LEGO and Minecraft, and they’re highly effective in teaching BIM to adults and children alike.

 

LEGO

Bond Bryan Digital is a UK-based design studio of architects, digital information experts, designers, technologists, and advisors, offering services anywhere from property advice to BIM implementation. Over the years, the agency has found that teaching BIM becomes much easier when you add an element that most everyone can recognize.

 

Rob Jackson, Associate Director of Bond Bryan Digital, found that explaining Building Information Modelling to a layperson was a highly difficult task, without getting caught up in loads of technical jargon and an entire mess of acronyms. In his blog, he claims that many of his clients are only involved in the design and construction process once, although some clients have more exposure to multiple projects. The clients who work on multiple projects simultaneously are more likely see the benefit of the process because issues they once experienced were eliminated with BIM implementation.

 

He goes on to say that, for the one-time clients, his firm gets a single opportunity to show the benefits of BIM, but they nonetheless “want the very best outcomes, whether a client builds once or multiple times.” Because of this, it became highly important that Jackson’s clients understood the benefits of BIM— before the project commenced. For those who may only build once, the firm decided to explain BIM in a way that most everyone can understand— using LEGO.

 

Jackson has put together an (over 30-part) series outlining the entire BIM process, minus the technical fluff. He starts with the benefit of 3D models by using an example he created from the LEGO set of Villa Savoye, a replica of the modernist villa outside of Paris.

Started by constructing an Architecture Series LEGO set; Source: LEGO shop, Villa Savoye

 

Created a 3D model out of the constructed LEGO set; Source: BIM Blog, Bond Bryan Digital

 

Jackson used an authoring tool to create this model, although a similar result can be achieved with Autodesk Revit or Tekla Structures.

BIM starts well before the model, but showing this first allows clients to immediately understand the benefit. In Part 02 of the series, you’re able to see multiple views of the building and “traditional” information, including plans, sections, and elevations on drawing sheets. This section is intended to teach how views can be created using only the 3D model. The next section outlines visualization and animation, and shows how the model can be displayed as cardboard, in nighttime view, full color, and a sketch (to name a few). By showing various views, the LEGO set that was once a toy now becomes a more valuable, teachable model.

Jackson goes on to show how he first constructed the model by using all of the objects within the set. The objects, in this case, are the plastic building blocks.

Example of LEGO block in Library; Source: BIM Blog, Bond Bryan Digital

 

From here, Jackson goes on to describe Level of Detail (LOD) and Model Progress Specification using the 3D LEGO model, along with a part outlining the importance of an open BIM data structure. You can read every part of the series by visiting the Bond Bryan Digital blog.

There is certainly a lot to learn if the BIM world is completely new to you, but using a popular toy that is almost universally understood appears to be an effective method in teaching clients and students about BIM.

 

Minecraft

When it comes to games and toys, Minecraft is another way students and adults are learning BIM but caught up in a virtual and open environment.

If you’ve never heard of it, Minecraft is a video game that depicts a virtual land where users can create their own worlds and experiences using building blocks, resources, and creativity. There aren’t many rules, and gamers are free to build anything and explore in their own way. Because of this flexibility, it has become popular among kids and adults alike.

Although the flexibility doesn’t lend itself well to realistic building processes, one group is changing it all with a modification called BeIMCraft.

BeIMCraft combines BIM with Minecraft for AEC education, and it’s changing the way kids (and adults) are approaching the once-scary world of architecture and engineering. Timothy Hegarty pioneered the idea because he knew the game had the capability to import Revit and IFC models. He thought it would be a great way to engage college students and young kids early so that one day their talents would carry over into industry careers.

With the skill shortages we’re currently seeing in the construction industry, it only makes sense to engage kids early, and using a game that they’re already playing.

Example of a city skyscraper building in Minecraft

 

BeIMCraft is essentially a modified version of Minecraft, and it stands for Built Environment Information Modelling Craft. According to the BeIMCraft site, the goal of the game is to “reflect the interdisciplinary nature and requirement for collaboration with the built environment’s supply chain by challenging pupils to consider planning issues, health and safety risk, structural aspects, sustainability, and cost when creating their 3D world.” As an example, the game requires students to first place foundations when creating their building, and there are even height limitations before stability becomes a concern.

Source: BeIMCraft gallery, St. Patrick’s School posters

 

The game aims to closely align with the BIM and construction process by having collaborative requirements normally expected of the interdisciplinary design team. This allows the students to develop the best design for complex structures and a number of possibilities within the game itself. The BeIMCraft explanation also goes on to say that the teachers can present design briefs and budgets, allowing the students to come together and work in teams to complete the project.

Some additional benefits of using Minecraft to learn BIM include:

  • Common Data Environments (CDEs) allowing collaboration
  • Comfortable with the idea of working and operating in 3D environments
  • Learning to appreciate how costs are assigned to an asset
  • Understanding of time management and deadlines
  • Understanding of site constraints
  • Increased awareness of construction sustainability

 

The BeIMCraft group has a partnership with Morgan Sindall in Scotland, with plans to roll out the game across Northern Ireland, Europe, and beyond in the coming year.

Minecraft isn’t just for kids, though. Many adults enjoy the game at its essence, and there is a lot to learn about 3D modeling just by exploring the virtual world. If you’re serious about getting into the game, there are even adults-only servers which are dedicated solely to the adult minecrafter. The game isn’t much different than the original, other than the fact that you’re surrounded by like-minded builders closer to your age. So, there’s no harm in jumping in and taking a look around— if only to further your BIM knowledge.

For a more realistic experience, some tech mods have been created based on ideas generated by the players. For instance, a mod called “Immersive Engineering” provides hanging power lines instead of glowing red tubes, a crusher with rotating wheels instead of a magic block that spits out dust, and an excavator that digs ores out of the ground instead of a laser that turns power into magic light. This realism only adds to the relevance of using games to learn BIM.

Games are becoming the norm when it comes to learning something new. The next step is learning through VR and MR, whether in a game or a visualization that is superimposed on an environment. With Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) on the rise, it will become much easier and more accessible to learn through immersive gaming and virtual experiences. Companies are already making 3D visualization a reality by allowing users to engage and interact with design data more effectively.

By utilizing MR and holographic technology, the design-build-operate workflow is becoming more efficient. Stakeholders now have the opportunity to walk around and physically explore a design in 3D — without anyone influencing their point of view. MR technology allows design data to be superimposed on a physical environment (like a job site), which can even reduce the need for translation for non-native English speakers.

Example of a holographic 3D BIM model from Trimble Connect visualized onsite using Microsoft HoloLens.

 

With the inevitable advancement of technology in our industry, learning and implementing BIM will soon become a necessity. In fact, BIM is quickly becoming the standard (and even mandated) across the world, with the UK government requiring native models for BIM Level 2 projects. As other locations begin to adopt it, the demand for this type of building process will soon be the norm. If your designers are still working with 2D models, now is the time to learn 3D— and beyond.


If you’re interested in discovering how the latest tech can position your firm above the competition, download our free guide, Adapt or Die: Why Adopt Tech Trends in a Competitive Construction Market?

About the Author

Sarah Lorek

Sarah is the Content Manager/Editor for Constructible and Trimble MEP. She has worked on many large scale marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, helping them define their story and shape a compelling narrative. Now, she focuses on creating and sourcing valuable thought leader content for our readers.

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