Design professionals and have been using Building Information Technology, or BIM, for several years now. During pre-construction, these 3-dimensional and data models inform design by allowing for virtual walk-throughs with clients, coordination of structural-mechanical-electrical-plumbing systems, and 3D testing of details. Solid physical models can even be built from these virtual models using 3D printing.
Additionally, these models create data regarding quantities of components (e.g. building material quantities, or numbers of repeated room modules). These models also support ecological design assessment, whether native to the software or via import into another program such as Ecotect. Factors addressed include sun orientation, fenestration, carbon footprint, water usage and more. Read more about current eco design software here...
example of how McCarthy Building Company uses SketchUp Pro. Click here for a brief discussion of pros and cons of using BIM for construction, and see BIMForum.org for Associated General Contractors of America's (AGC) take on the subject.
Building owners are also finding utility with BIM. According to Facilities.net, a facilities management trade publication, "because of savings realized in scheduling, project costs, change orders and errors in general, several major organizations, both public and private, have migrated to the BIM process. Examples include U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), NASA, General Motors, Crate & Barrel, Intel, LucasFilm and Walt Disney Imagineering."
Our studio uses ArchiCAD by Graphisoft.