Of BIM and Paper

One of BIM big promises is the end of paper.

The end of paper as in our project being a tri dimensional data base, where all the relevant information resides in the virtual model.

Actually, nowadays we have about the same situation we had a couple of years ago with text processing. Everybody thought digital text would make paper obsolete, when in fact it produced an enormous increase of paper consumption.

One of the main reasons for this happening is that most people where used to reading text on paper, having no training in reading it on screen. It was common on those days to print out a text just to make sense of it.

Hypertext changed this attitude, by being a much richer medium than analogical text, therefore, inadequate do be printed out without loosing information. Seldom nowadays are people unable to read text on a computer screen, or even having to print out their own text for error verification.

A good example is e-mail. Everyone has a vast e-mail archive, but rarely do we go to the trouble of printing a message.

What seemed unthinkable a few years ago – the existence of text in a exclusive digital format – is now reality.

As for projects, things are moving in the same direction. At the beginning, when CAD drawing where mere reproductions of their paper cousins, their ultimate goal was to be printed. Bits wanted to be atoms.

In the digital modelling advent euphoria, more than 25 years ago (the term BIM has 5 years, but many of us did it tens of years before it got coined that way), many thought paper was going to vanish from the architecture office.

A bit like with texts, paper drawings not only did not disappear, but increased exponentially. Nobody accepted drawings or models in digital format, demanding everything plotted out and, eventually, some CAD files to go into de CD archives.
But the virtual model, like hyper-text, is much richer than its printed part.
Frustration exists for those who use the virtual model as their work basis. Never, anybody, in any circumstance, asked me for the virtual model. I still have to produce all those meticulous drawings, plans, elevations, sections, constructive details, even when all that information is already in the model.

What will it feel like when, some day, a client asks me “only” for the tri dimensional model, not wanting any drawing? How much unnecessary work will be saved? How much easier will it be to interpret the project on site?

I know that this will not happen soon, but my hope is that, as with the written word, change will be gradual and imperceptible, and one day we will realize paper is gone.

1 comment:

Welie said...

Hello Miguel,

Lately I digged out and surf your blog, very interesting and informative. Especially the this one and SL thing. Shame I can't read Portuguese.

I was used to be a Revit user in my former employment. Now using Digital Project for more than 1 year as a general contractor, hope we could share ideas, how-to etc.

Please find my blog on BIM:


It would be kind if we can sharing links in both our blogs.

My email: ahhhchuen@gmail.com

Look forward your words.


BIM Manager, Architect (HKIA) AP(List 1)