As a profession, we have been quietly avoiding BIM. I know that CAD is nice, simple, and comfortable in its familiarity, but hand-drafting used to be that way too. Not convinced? Well, here are some reasons why you should be using BIM:

1. Do it once, not three, four, five, or more times.

Why would you draw plans in AutoCAD, create a 3D model in SketchUp, draw sections and elevations in AutoCAD… and then when the plans change (as they always do) change it several times across multiple programs and files? Working in BIM allows you to do it all simultaneously.

2. Everyone else has it!

Collaboration is 100x easier when you work in the same program. All other design disciplines use BIM: architects, structural engineers, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers. Where I work, all of these professions are in Revit. By working in the same program, I can see when doors, walls, and downspouts move. They can see my grade change along the building to coordinate foundations and brick ledges.

3. The information.

There is so much information to be had in scheduling. Anything that is tediously (and often incorrectly) counted by hand is instead scheduled: plant schedules, parking counts, area takeoffs, sheet indexes. When they change, the schedules update.

Once you become accustomed to working in a BIM program, you start to rely on that information and you’ll start to wonder, “Why do we settle for less?”.

4. BIM is here; it is inevitable.

Refusing to accept BIM is like holding desperately onto your flip phone- not wanting a new smart phone. Yes, it’s more complicated and more expensive, but it can give you so much more. How we work in the profession is changing, and the sooner you accept that, the easier the transition will be.

Yet, if BIM is so great why do most landscape architects still use CAD? Well, there are all the typical reasons: people resist change, BIM has a steeper learning curve, the software is expensive, etc. But here are the top 3 reasons why landscape architecture (specifically) doesn't use BIM:

No. 3: The landscape is difficult to model.

This is a software developer issue that is quickly going away… have you seen Lumion? It makes some gorgeous looking landscapes.

No. 2: Landscape architecture is a relatively small profession.

There are less of us than architects, engineers, etc… aka: we’re a small market.

No. 1: We are not engaging it!

If we want better BIM software, we need to do something about it. We cannot sit back and wait for it to magically improve without engaging it.

Please don't tell me that "BIM software isn't ready for landscape, yet." Because if you have actively used BIM you know its benefits. You would be saying "BIM in the landscape has so much potential, and we can make it better."  BIM software for architects didn't pop-up overnight with all of the features that it has today. We need to engage the software, so we can start a larger discussion: what does BIM in the landscape need?

So, get out there, use BIM. Engage your firm. Discuss your experience using BIM. Talk to software developers. Did you know that Landscape Institute (UK) already has BIM Protocol? BIM is here. Do something about it.

Lauren Schmidt is a Graduate Landscape Architect at Schmidt Associates. Interested in learning more about BIM in landscape architecture? Check out her blog at landarchBIM, Twitter and Facebook.

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Comment by Jeremiah Farmer on March 22, 2014 at 10:28am
Their English language product is PlantAre ( They were at the ASLA Expo in I believe 2005 and 2006.
Comment by Keith Jackson on March 22, 2014 at 7:15am

Andreas - thanks for the info re WS Landcad. When they have info in english I will check it out

Comment by Andreas Luka | 陆安杰 on March 22, 2014 at 2:40am

Hi Keith,

of course you can handle vertical elements in civil 3d, I am using corridors for retaining walls (similar to a court of a road corridor model), but yes in gradings and triangular networks you can not handle vertical elements, actually no software can handle this as this is a limitation of triangular networks. 
There is a very nice german program WS landcad from widemann systems, including 3d dgm, plant database, storm water management  as well as bills of quantity and interface to software for tendering. As the german market is even smaller than US market, I think there is a good chance for success a SIM and tools for landscape architects.

Comment by Keith Jackson on March 21, 2014 at 2:59am

Jason - I totally agree with your last post; chasing after the holy grail of BIM which really does imply that search for a single program is going to lead to disappointment.
Find the best availible software that provides your needs and keep it as minimal and integrated as possible. This is not a single faceted issue:
The ability to produce planting plans is probably primary, ground modelling, solids and some surface modelling, rendering. The resources/size of the developer and its past performance (cf Autodesk the headless chicken of CAD, when will they abandon Revit as the have done with previous offerings?). The ability to exchange data and cooperate with other major software and disciplines
For Ground modelling Geopak Site (and I presume Civil3D) are simply magic, and for rendering Lumion or LumenRT. Its early days but though I prefer Lumions method of integration their plant library is based on an old version of Speedtree and there is no mention of future plans. LumenRT tho has its library based on Eons new Plant Factory software - probably the best of its class. Both provide free versions for 'home use'/ learning

Comment by Jason Packenham on March 20, 2014 at 7:05pm

Jeremiah - I agree that it's not so much about finding a single program to tick every box, especially when you consider the variety of work landscape architects can be involved in.

Keith - any chance you would be able to discuss the program(s) that work for you? If neither Revit, Vectorworks and Civil 3D do the job, I'd be interested in hearing what does. 

Comment by Keith Jackson on March 20, 2014 at 10:46am

I think the comments already made on Revit here speak for themselves. This software was created by refugees from the parametric modeler Pro/Engineer - a byword for inflexibility in that field and era: their offspring shares its character. Vectorworks? in another 100 years maybe it will catch up with the current best of breed 3D and terrain modelers. A recent review of Bentleys new AECsim complained of its steep learning curve, when Geopak Site first appeared civil engineers were baffled by the new paradigm. Are there any 'Apps' anywhere that are design tools? For Landscape Architects BIM is a cul de sac in this era

Comment by Jeremiah Farmer on March 20, 2014 at 8:37am

If you have an objection to using more than one software package, you do have the options of Revit or Vectorworks.

I just find that when you add up all the disciplines, including Interior, Irrigation, specialty design such as Roller Coaster / Pool / Skate Park, and so on, it becomes clear that BIM is not so much the search for a single piece of software, but a communication system between whichever software each discipline feels works best for them.

I remember when I got my first iPhone, and thought it was perfect the way it was.  Now, I can't imagine operating it without my bevy of Apps.  Which to me is indicative of the direction of software.  Why, just imagine if there was a Revit App that could draw Curbs!

Comment by Keith Jackson on March 20, 2014 at 4:33am

So you have Civil3D (or the original software that Autodesk copied: Geopak Site) which is a 2 and half D software which works with triangular and quad faces and is incapable of dealing with true vertical elements like walls. Because it can't create solids its not really BIM capable. So you need another package, then theres the planting plan software you are already using. Add on the Rendering package. By then you are retired or your office has to do division of labour and the designer can't really benefit from the potential of the tools

Comment by Jason Packenham on March 19, 2014 at 6:57pm

That too! ;)

Comment by Jeremiah Farmer on March 19, 2014 at 5:07pm

Or Land F/X?  ;)

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