BIM tools are here to stay. Architects and engineers have seen how technology has been moving forward very fast compared to what we have been able to implement in our own offices, usually due to... "the lack of time", "the rush of the day by day" or the "urgency of the deadlines". With the exception of the US, UK and other tech-lover countries, most of the small-middle practices are struggling to adopt BIM systems in their internal production processes.
One of the main reasons might be the fact that BIM softwares think different, and so the user needs to. This means a strong effort that requires us to change our way of organizing and managing the information from the very early stages of the project in order to achieve a successful result. To understand it better, some important things to take into account could be:
1. Think in 3D. Every single element you draw in Revit, for example, is an object (it has some useful 2D tools too) and it has three dimensions. It means that you are not only drawing it in plan view, but also giving a height and a position in the space.
2. You are creating entities that have as many information attached as you want. So you can give them size, position within your reference planes, apply materials, add layers, define phases, apply thermal properties, price or even info about the manufacturer.
3. Work with families. It is not about your mother, brother or sister :) it is about creating families and subfamilies of objects with variations. For example, a column is always a column, but it can be made of concrete or steel and have different sizes, materials or any other property, so they are subfamilies of the family 'column' in this case.
4. Improve communication. Architects, designers and engineers communicate with images. So being able to do it in 3D is extremely useful to ourselves, to our clients and to our suppliers, so we avoid misunderstandings.
5. Reduce unexpected, not only for design conflicts thanks to 3D visualizations, but also when scheduling areas or any number of objet units within the project.
It is true that the quality of the final result should not depend on the tools we use to design it, but it is also true that getting more and better information in real time and being able to translate it into and architectural expression faster, offers an added value for clients and final users, not only in terms of combinations and alternatives but also from the financial and the management point of view. We could also debate how it changes the concept of creativity as we understand it nowadays.