Teaching BIM using Lego & Minecraft

When being introduced to Building Information Modelling (BIM), diving in and learning the process can be intimidating, which leads to several questions about its impact on a business, its employees, and its budget.

Many questions will arise, such as where to start, how long it will take to learn, its implementation, etc. Some creative minds in the AEC industry have discovered highly effective ways to teach BIM, and they’re doing it through games.

With the influx of distractions in today’s society, toys and games are an effective way to teach children (and adults) complex methodologies and concepts. Nowadays, learning through gamification begins to make more and more sense.

Jay Moolman

Director – Infrastructure GM – Modena AEC
010 595 2535
jay@modena-aec.co.za
Do you need more info about BIM 360 Design? Please get in touch with me

Some of the benefits of gamification in learning include:

  • Better learning experience
  • It’s fun, keeping engagement, recall and retention levels high.
  • Better learning environment
  • Informal learning environments are sometimes more effective and assist learners to practice real-life situations in a safe environment
  • Instant feedback
  • Learners immediately understand what they should know, facilitating better learner engagement and, thereby, better recall and retention
  • Prompting behavioural change
  • Can drive strong behaviour change, especially when combined with scientific principles of repeated retrieval and spaced repetition
  • Can be applied to most learning needs
  • Includes induction and onboarding, product sales, customer support, soft skills, awareness creation, and compliance
  • Impact on bottom line
  • All aspects outlined (better learning experience, higher recall, and retention, etc) create significant performance gain for organizations and companies

At its essence, BIM (Building Information Modeling) is an intelligent process that uses 3D models to give AEC professionals the ability to plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure more efficiently.

There are creative ways to understand the process, along with the benefits it can have for a firm. Two ways to learn are through LEGO and Minecraft, and they are highly effective in teaching BIM to adults and children alike.

LEGO

Teaching BIM becomes much easier when you add an element that almost everyone can recognize.

Explaining Building Information Modelling to a layperson is a highly difficult task, without getting caught up in technical jargon and acronyms. Many clients only have a once-off involvement in the design and construction process, however some clients have more exposure to multiple projects. Clients working on multiple projects simultaneously are more likely see the benefit of the process, due to issues once experienced being eliminated with BIM implementation.

Lego can outline the entire BIM process, starting with the benefit of 3D models. BIM starts well before the model, but showing this first allows clients to immediately understand the benefit.

In the second stage clients can see multiple views of the building and traditional information, including plans, sections, and elevations on drawing sheets. This is intended to teach view creation using only the 3D model. The next section outlines visualisation and animation, and shows the model’s display through cardboard: in night-time view, full colour, and a sketch (to name a few). By showing various views, the LEGO set that was once a toy now becomes a more valuable, teachable model.

There is certainly a lot to learn in the BIM world, but using a popular toy that is almost universally understood appears to be an effective method in teaching clients and students about BIM.

Minecraft

When it comes to games and toys, Minecraft is another way students and adults are learning BIM but caught up in a virtual and open environment.

Minecraft is a video game that depicts a virtual land where users can create their own worlds and experiences using building blocks, resources, and creativity. There are few rules, and gamers are free to build anything and explore in their own way. And this flexibility has become popular among kids and adults alike, however the flexibility does not lend itself well to realistic building processes.

The game has the capability to import Revit and IFC models, meaning it would be a great way to engage college students and young kids early so that one day their talents would carry over into industry careers.

With the skill shortages  currently in the construction industry, it only makes sense to engage kids early, and using a game that they’re already playing.

A modified version of Minecraft, could set the goal of the game to reflect the interdisciplinary nature and requirement for collaboration with the built environment’s supply chain by challenging pupils to consider planning issues, health and safety risk, structural aspects, sustainability, and cost when creating their 3D world.” The game should require students to first place foundations when creating their building and should include height limitations before stability becomes a concern.

The game should align closely with the BIM and construction process by having collaborative requirements normally expected of the interdisciplinary design team. This would allow students to develop the best design for complex structures and several possibilities within the game itself. Teachers could present design briefs and budgets, allowing students to come together and work in teams to complete the project.

Some additional benefits of using Minecraft to learn BIM include:

  • Common Data Environments (CDEs) allowing collaboration
  • Comfortable with the idea of working and operating in 3D environments
  • Learning to appreciate how costs are assigned to an asset
  • Understanding of time management and deadlines
  • Understanding of site constraints
  • Increased awareness of construction sustainability

Minecraft isn’t just for kids, though. Many adults enjoy the game at its essence, and there is a lot to learn about 3D modelling just by exploring the virtual world. There are even adults-only servers which are dedicated solely to the adult minecrafter.

To put things into perspective, existing Minecraft items can be likened to real-world elements, such as:

  • Glowing red tubes = hanging power lines
  • A magic block that spits out dust = a crusher with rotating wheels
  • A laser that turns power into magic light could be provided = an excavator that digs ores out of the ground instead of

This realism would only add to the relevance of using games to learn BIM. Games are becoming the norm when it comes to learning something new. The next step is learning through VR and MR, whether in a game or a superimposed visualisation of an environment.

With Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) on the rise, it will become much easier and more accessible to learn through immersive gaming and virtual experiences. Companies are already making 3D visualization a reality by allowing users to engage and interact with design data more effectively.

By utilizing MR and holographic technology, the design-build-operate workflow is becoming more efficient. Stakeholders can presently walk around and physically explore a design in 3D — without anyone influencing their point of view. MR technology allows design data to be superimposed on a physical environment (like a job site), which can even reduce the need for translation for non-native English speakers.

With the inevitable advancement of technology in our industry, learning and implementing BIM will soon become a necessity. BIM is quickly becoming the standard (and even mandated) across the world, with the UK government requiring native models for BIM Level 2 projects. As other locations begin to adopt it, the demand for this type of building process will soon be the norm.