What makes Drew C. Bjorklund tick is “knowing the building.” He defines that as pulling all of the pieces of a building together — the site, enclosure, spaces, finishes, furnishings, systems and equipment — and making them work together. Bjorklund has spent 38 years as an architectural professional and has been involved with building information modeling (BIM) for the last 12. As a principal with 3-D Building Technologies LLC, an architectural technology company based in St. Paul, Minn., he specializes in building design.

Because he, as an architect, is responsible for orchestrating the work of various disciplines, Bjorklund says his adoption of BIM occurred quite naturally. He says CAD was never his strong suit, but that he finds the use of 3D laser scanning for facilities exciting. In 2011, 3-D Building technologies acquired its first laser scanner and it has proved a very worthwhile investment.

“It is through our laser technology and BIM model creation that we are able to accurately delineate spatial configurations and the components that are housed within,” Bjorklund says. “This serves as a basis for building information modeling either prior to design, in the case of an existing facility or as a record document at the close of construction.”

He sees enormous potential for BIM with respect to building design and facilities management. He says it can bring increased efficiency to data availability, communication and construction workflow as a whole. As an architect, he considers himself a promoter and driver of BIM production. Drawings are developed in 3D CAD models and he says soon specifications will be linked to them.

In the initial step, he consults with the building owner to determine how complex they want the BIM to be. “By ‘level of complexity,’ we mean beyond the drawing model and specifications, how much of the building component information — product and manufacturer names, performance characteristics of the components, maintenance requirements, warranty information — do they want to have available to them as they take the keys to the building.”

The data can be coded in at the end of the project, or a template can be provided for the client to code the information in themselves. “One item that we caution our clients on is to identify who will be in responsible charge of the BIM model after occupancy. Does the owner have the staffing capability to manage the BIM data on a day-to-day basis, and do they have a secure setting/repository for the BIM model?” Bjorklund explains.

During the design phase, the model and data can be shared by all parties to the project. At the end of a project, the owner and their facilities management personnel who will handle the day-to-day BIM model are trained in the BIM program.

“We see that as manufacturing data is made more accessible and easily integrated into a BIM model —through scanners, barcode readers, etc. — the sophistication of BIM data will increase, allowing more facilities managers to run their facilities efficiently, and building owners to be able to forecast capital expenditures more readily,” he says.
 

Q. What do you do for a living?

A. Design buildings and environments in which people live, play and work.
 

Q. What is your favorite tool to work with?

A. Truthfully, a pencil. It is fluid, flexible, not reliant upon electronics and is always at hand.
 

Q. What is the toughest challenge you face?

A. Being a very small firm, managing sustainable growth in staff and project size.
 

Q. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

A. No one person has all the answers. Inasmuch as architects are the orchestrators, conductors of a design project, we need to set aside our egos and listen to the advice of building users, and that of the people in the field who construct the facilities we design. They too are team members and oftentimes are much closer to issues of serviceability and constructability than we are.
 

Q. What advancements would you like to see made?

A. Bar coded building components that can be scanned in-situ and their geophysical placement within a facility, and be an integral part of the BIM model, much like warehouses bar code and program the placement of their products within their facilities.
 

Q. What are the keys to your success?

A. We listen to our clients and discuss with them options, and the pros and cons of several approaches. We are honest with our clients and consider our integrity to be paramount to our working relationship with clients, consultants and contractors.