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M. Fleming1, S. Gard2, A. Kumarasuriyar2, D. Nielsen2

1University of New England (AUSTRALIA)
2Queensland University of Technology (AUSTRALIA)
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is evolving in the Construction Industry as a successor to CAD. CAD is mostly a technical tool that conforms to existing industry practices, however BIM has the capacity to revolutionise industry practice. Rather than producing representations of design intent, BIM produces an exact Virtual Prototype of any building that in an ideal situation is centrally stored and freely exchanged between members of the project team, facilitating collaboration and allowing experimentation in design. Exposing design students to this technology through their formal studies allows them to engage with cutting edge industry practices and to help shape the industry upon their graduation. Since this technology is relatively new to the construction industry, there are no accepted models for how to “teach” BIM effectively at university level. Developing learning models to enable students to make the most out of their learning with BIM presents significant challenges to those teaching in the field of design. To date there are also no studies of students experiences of using this technology.

This research reports on the introduction of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software into a second year Bachelor of Design course. This software has the potential to change industry standards through its ability to revolutionise the work practices of those involved in large scale design projects. Students’ understandings and experiences of using the software in order to complete design projects as part of their assessment are reported here. In depth semi-structured interviews with 6 students revealed that students had views from novice to sophisticate about the software. They had variations in understanding of how the software could be used to complete course requirements, to assist with the design process and in the workplace. They had engaged in limited exploration of the collaborative potential of the software as a design tool. Their understanding of the significance of BIM for the workplace was also variable. The results indicate that students are beginning to develop an appreciation for how BIM could aid and constrain the work of designers, but that this appreciation is highly varied and likely to be dependent on the students’ previous experiences of working in a design studio environment. Their range of understandings of the significance of the technology is a reflection of their level of development as designers (they are “novice” designers). The results also indicate that there is a need for subjects in later years of the course that allow students to specialise in the area of digital design and to develop more sophisticated views of the role of technology in the design process. There is also a need to capitalise on the collaborative potential inherent in the software in order to realise its capability to streamline some aspects of the design process. As students become more sophisticated designers we should explore their understanding of the role of technology as a design tool in more depth in order to make recommendations for improvements to teaching and learning practice related to BIM and other digital design tools.