Penn State University: BIM Curriculum

Top-rated Pennsylvania State University Departments of Architecture and Architectural Engineering deliver cutting-edge architectural instruction—and prepare students for successful careers—by integrating Revit® Architecture software into the curriculum.

Project Summary

At Pennsylvania State University, the Architecture and Architectural Engineering departments are committed to preparing students for the rigors of a career in design, engineering, and construction. Accredited by the NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) for architecture and ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) for architectural engineering, both departments provide a solid foundation in the fundamentals of each field, as well as additional instruction in cutting-edge methodologies, such as design/build or digital fabrication.

Of particular importance is a relatively new technology known as building information modeling (BIM). Designed to mirror the real world of architecture, BIM involves the creation of a single digital model that contains all project information—everything from floor plans, sections, and elevations to accurate area takeoffs, quantities for cost estimating, and scheduling. That’s why both departments have begun integrating Revit Architecture software into the curriculum. Purpose-built for building information modeling—and in high demand by potential employers—Revit Architecture provides an exceptional way for both departments to meet their commitment to students.

The Challenge

“Implementing Revit Architecture—and therefore BIM—in a project or class is very useful,” says John Messner, an assistant professor in the Architectural Engineering department. “That’s why our core goal is to integrate Revit Architecture for building information modeling into the entire curriculum as consistently and as early as possible.”

“We’re having a similar discussion in the Architecture department,” says Ute Poerschke, associate professor of architecture. “Last semester we began integrating Revit Architecture into a Technical Systems Integration course for fifth year students. But, our plan is to introduce Revit Architecture in the third year—giving the students the double benefit of becoming proficient earlier.

Powerful Capabilities

“Revit Architecture is without question a rapid modeling tool,” adds Messner. “It’s a great way to put together floor plans, sections, and elevations very easily, and that’s quite valuable. But we also want students to be able to leverage all of the software’s BIM capabilities, such as using quantities for cost estimating, automated area takeoffs, and integration with engineering analysis and construction visualization applications.”

The Solution

For help exposing students to Revit Architecture, both departments turned to Autodesk. “As part of the Technical Systems Integration course I taught last semester, I included a voluntary Revit Architecture workshop taught by an Autodesk employee,” says Poerschke. “The students greatly appreciated how the workshop was taught. By the time it was over—after only two days—they had almost all used Revit Architecture to design their own projects.”

More Than a Modeling Tool

“The workshop taught them more than just modeling,” says Poerschke. “They also began to get a sense of how to use all the additional information in the building information model—and for what BIM can really be. For example, after completing their designs, they used Revit Architecture’s sun study module to perform a daylighting analysis that showed how the light would enter the designed buildings at their particular sites.”

A Competitive Edge

“This workshop was entirely voluntary,” says Poerschke. “My students took it because they wanted to learn. But they also knew that it would give them a definite advantage when they go out looking for a job. That, in particular, is a very positive argument in favor of the workshop.”

In 2004, the Architectural Engineering department had similar success with an optional, one-credit Revit Architecture course, taught by the same Autodesk representative. “It was quite successful,” says Messner. “We had room for 30 students in the lab, and we quickly filled it to capacity. We actually had to turn people away.”

Information at Your Fingertips

“One of our main goals is to tie all the information in the model together with some of the analysis tools we use,” says Messner. “Revit Architecture plays a key role in this process because it is the primary authoring tool for much of the core building information. That’s really valuable.”

“For example, our students will use Revit Architecture for rendering in their Architecture courses,” says Messner. “Equally important to their work is a variety of analysis tools that can easily interoperate with and analyze the data within the model. This feature is critical for the implementation of Revit Architecture into our curriculum. We’re very interested in the possibility of integrating Revit MEP and Revit Structure into our curriculum in the near future.”

The Result

“Architecture is changing,” says Poerschke. “More and more, the emphasis is on the environment and sustainable design—as part of good design ideas. To compete in the marketplace, our students’ skills and thinking must reflect those changes. That’s where Revit Architecture and BIM really interest us. Revit Architecture can help the students think holistically.”

Sharper, More Competitive Students

“The Autodesk Student Engineering and Design Community has been an invaluable resource in helping us make that transition,” says Messner. “We point all of our students to the community for additional help and to download student edition software that helps them to prepare for and adjust to changes in the marketplace.”

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