University of Minnesota

"Using Revit Architecture… we could cut sections, move in, move out, and really understand what the students were doing. I found that to be absolutely delightful— especially since we were only eight weeks into a Studio with a program many of them had never seen before the class. It was amazing."
—Bill Blanski, AIA Architect Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc.

The School

The School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota prepares young architects and designers for successful careers by helping them to build a foundation in the fundamentals of the profession and by providing instruction in cutting-edge, innovative technologies and trends, including sustainable design and building information modeling (BIM). That’s why the university began integrating Revit® Architecture BIM software into its curriculum more than four years ago—well in advance of most other architectural programs. “We decided to teach Revit Architecture in several distinct ways,” says Renée Cheng, Head of the School of Architecture. “For example, I co-teach a required construction systems lecture that includes a one-credit, complementary BIM course taught by an architect from a local design firm, Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc.” HGA architects also teach BIM in upper-level graduate courses. In response to strong interest from students in the Bachelor of Science program, the department offers an undergraduate lecture that carefully introduces Revit in the broader context of the digital environment of contemporary design.

The Challenge

"We were interested in introducing Revit Architecture across the curriculum in just one or two years in a way that leverages our approach to design,” says Cheng. “That’s why we started with a two-pronged approach—a crash course for upperlevel graduate students who had never worked with the software, and introductory courses for undergraduates and first-year graduate students."

Gradual Introduction of BIM

"For example, using a series of tutorials I created, I taught a one-credit Revit Architecture class that went hand-in-hand with a graduate-level construction methods and materials class,” says Scott Davidson, AIA, at HGA. “Throughout the curriculum, the goal is to teach a little bit at a time, so that the students can really get into the theory behind BIM later at the end of their second year of graduate study."

The Inquiry

This year, the students designed an annex for a Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) project site. “Using Revit Architecture, they were able to create buildings that not only looked good, but were also buildable if taken to the next level,” says Davidson.

Work Faster

In the studio, Davidson had the students create a Revit Architecture model of the MPR site and the 15 surrounding city blocks. "It was a very complicated site," says Davidson. "Yet, using Revit Architecture, we could sit down with the students and simultaneously look at their preliminary designs, plans, sections, elevations, and perspectives all at the same time."

"We could cut sections, move in, move out, and really understand what they were doing," says Blanski. "I found that to be absolutely delightful— especially since we were only eight weeks into a Studio with a program many of them had never seen before the class. It was amazing."

Understand Better

Better still, with the increase in speed also came greater understanding. "In the Revit Architecture model, every line means something," says Cheng. "More than pure geometry, it actually shows us a lot of information during the design process. We are hopeful that this will help create better architecture and more versatile, skilled architects."

Design for the Real World

"The students also talked about an increased level of specificity,” says Cheng. “For example, Revit Architecture enabled them to see what was not realistic in their designs."

A Digitally Fluent Generation

"Our students grew up using computers," says Cheng. "They are incredibly fluid about moving between software applications. On one project, they can go from Revit Architecture to Photoshop to Illustrator and back to Revit Architecture." Unfortunately, this approach can sometimes be inefficient but, as Cheng says, "we believe it is possible that the BIM environment can provide opportunities for better interaction between Autodesk products and other analysis tools."

Prepare for Sustainable Practice

"We’re also very committed to sustainable design," says Cheng. "In fact, our M.S. in architecture— sustainable design track has been cited as a model program by AIA COTE. With Revit Architecture and its parametric, data-based milieu, we see a huge opportunity to use performance-based analysis as a design tool with Revit and IES or other applications we are currently using."

The Result

"We first introduced Revit Architecture into the curriculum four years ago," says Cheng. "We understand better now its strengths and weaknesses, and, after seeing the results in the first studio, we have a great deal of confidence that by introducing it early in the curriculum, we will produce highly skilled, critical-thinking architects."

Better-Prepared Students

"Many of the firms in town are using Revit Architecture software," says Cheng. "That’s partly why our undergrads really want to learn Revit Architecture. They can see the demand. With Revit Architecture, we not only meet the demands of the market but create the next generation of architects that will use these tools in innovative ways and bring the profession into the future."

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University of Minnesota (pdf - 147Kb)