Small-business building design image. Rendering of house with a city backdrop. 3DS Max was used to render this image.

When assessing the merits of BIM (building information modeling), the software’s collaborative, communicative, and analytic advantage are typically highlighted—and for good reason.

But what of BIM’s power to summon the wow factor, convey design intent, and generate faster owner buy-in? In short, what about the 3D visualization power of BIM?

We can all learn from Jill Neubauer, AIA, who had some well-informed thoughts on the subject.

The Harvard-trained architect owns and operates Jill Neubauer Architects, a 12-person, full-service residential architectural firm in Falmouth, Mass. Neubauer’s firm made the jump from 2D to a 3D BIM design process nine years ago.

Vital Transition
At the time, Neubauer recognized the competitive advantage in keeping pace with savvy peers and sophisticated home builders. “This is what we needed if our work was to become fully integrated with other solutions and systems,” Neubauer recalls.

The 2D-to-BIM transition wasn’t without challenges, including the upfront software investment. A trainer was also brought in and staff time dedicated to speed the conversion process. Revit from Autodesk was selected as the firm’s 3D design application.

Small business interior design campaign image. Rendering of an interior living space. 3DS Max was used to render this image.

Deeper Understanding
The investment and patience seemed to have paid off. “There are no surprises or unforeseen change orders with BIM design,” Neubauer says. “We live and die by a small margin. It doesn’t take much in the way of errors to challenge a small architecture firm … [or,] I guess, any architecture firm. Revit protects us by helping us know our buildings much more deeply.”

That understanding also includes 3D visualization. Anyone who has presented 2D drawings knows the inherent limitations of a 2D presentation, especially if they are up against one or more BIM-enabled competitors. Research shows more than nine out of 10 project owners say that BIM tools increase their ability to understand the architect’s designs. Nearly the same number (85 percent) of owners say BIM 3D design increased their ability to participate in the design process.

3D and Beyond
Today, many BIM-enabled architectural firms are enriching BIM’s visualization capabilities through immersive strategies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) software. Walk-through and fly-through VR animations, for example, not only reveal the structure of the interior but also the environment around it, which can include the landscape design.

Virtual reality and mixed reality at the Autodesk VR Center of Excellence in Munich, Germany. Mixed reality showing a man with VR goggles immersed in a virtual architectural 3d wireframe environment.
Shelby Thorner

One of Neubauer’s colleagues, designer and project manager Norman Courchesne, understood BIM’s visualization capability. “Being able to visualize the space help us and helps the client,” Norman says. “Revit doesn’t let you cheat. If something is incorrect in the design, it’s going to reveal itself.”

3D World/3D Tools
For Neubauer, who learned her craft in a 2D world, there’s no turning back. “Architecture is a three-dimensional profession.”

“Revit is the single most powerful tool you can purchase that supports every aspect of being an architect,” she says. “If you’re working in 2D and you make the change to BIM, your life is going to change in ways you can’t even imagine.” Download this PDF to learn more about Jill Neubauer Architects’ experience with BIM.