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LinkLine: Summer 2006

CAD & BIM Survey

This Spring, we conducted an informal survey among SpecLink subscribers regarding their firms’ use of CAD software and Building Information Models. Some people expressed an interest in the results, so here they are. We received 143 responses. Since the survey was intended to elicit information that might influence BSD’s development efforts, we presume that those who responded were interested in promoting linking between SpecLink and CAD or BIM.

Question 1. In our organization we use:

  • Autodesk AutoCAD (plain) ............................................... 50 percent
  • Autodesk Architectural Desktop ........................................ 60 percent
  • Autodesk Revit Building ................................................... 20 percent
  • Bentley Microstation ....................................................... 17 percent
  • Bentley Architecture ........................................................ 7 percent
  • Graphisoft ArchiCAD ........................................................ 11 percent
  • Nemetschek Vectorworks ................................................ < 2 percent
  • Other ........................................................................... 20 percent

“Other” includes DataCAD, SketchUp, PowerCAD, Cadvance, structural and ME editions of AutoCAD and Microstation, Sigma Design, ACAD, and nothing (a spec consultant). The percentages add up to more than 100 percent because many respondents reported using two or more different CAD packages or 3D CAD/BIM with 2D CAD. A significant percentage appear to be uncertain as to which is the best package to use (i.e. trying them all).


Question 2. How important is it to you that SpecLink be able to retrieve and utilize information residing in CAD project files?

  • Very important — get on with it! ........................................ 48 percent
  • It would be nice but it’s not presently essential. .................... 45 percent
  • Not important at all. ........................................................... 4 percent
  • Other (mostly positive comments) ......................................... 3 percent

Question 3. These are some of the types of data in CAD files which might be useful to communicate to SpecLink. Which types do you think would be most useful?

  • Keynotes ........................................................................ 61 percent
  • Object/Element Names ...................................................... 49 percent
  • Object/Element Parameters ................................................ 38 percent
  • Schedules ....................................................................... 68 percent
  • Other ............................................................................... 3 percent

This was actually the least useful of our questions — the answer is really “duh, all of the above.”


Question 4. Select any of the following methods you currently use to coordinate drawings with the specifications:

  • Read the drawings, read the specs, and make them match. .................................. 77 percent
  • Extract a keynote list from the drawings to use when preparing the specs. .............. 12 percent
  • Prepare a keynote list from the specs. .............................................................. 12 percent
  • Use the SpecLink automated Table of Contents. ................................................. 33 percent
  • Other. .......................................................................................................... 3 percent

These were also pretty predictable results but stimulated a wide variety of comments along with the final question: “Do you have any other comments?”

  • “What’s taking so long?”
  • “It has to be SIMPLE to be useful.”
  • “‘The software did it’ is not something I ever want to say to a client, a contractor, or another design professional...”
  • “I would not trust a software only extraction of CAD notes, etc., to generate specs, only maybe to get the process started. We will continue to manually review and edit specs. It is the only way to ensure a truly coordinated project.”
  • “I am not expecting to have a complete spec, but it would be nice if it helped get things jump started.”
  • “It has always seemed like a good idea to be able to extract info from drawings for the specs, but the reality is that many times when the drawing is being created, decisions have not been made yet with regard to specific spec items.”
  • “I would be concerned that it would lead you to a false sense of security that everything is being taken from the drawings.”
  • “I can see some potential benefit, but am concerned that in practice, most of those who do the CAD work do not have the experience to make the proper choices of parameters that are crucial to producing a good spec.”
  • “SpecLink should generate the keynotes, not read from them. In a perfect world, the connection will be two-way, so the question of which file reads which would be meaningless. If I wish to, I could run through the specs and that would then limit the drafter’s choices as to materials. Alternatively, the spec would be populated as I choose materials and add them to the model.”
  • “It would be great to be able to link the specification items with the drawings in the form of ID’s and standard details.”
  • “A better idea is to link CostLink/AE and SpecLink so that specs can be developed from cost estimates or the other way around.”

We agree with the cautious optimism of many of these respondents. Coordination, rather than automatic generation of the spec, will be our guiding principle in future development. BSD’s Susan McClendon made a presentation at the recent CSI Convention that explains in detail our concept of coordination versus automatic generation.