What do Legos have to do with BIM?

Have you ever taken a look at a large project and were enamored in awe? The wonder is different for every person. As a marketing person with a love of sustainability, I see all the stakeholders who joined efforts to bring new efficiency features. As an architect, engineer, or construction professional, your vision is likely different. Together, we all wonder the same thing: How did this project go so well, and how can we get involved in projects like that in the future?

You’ve read the first paragraph, have seen the photo of a Lego Train, and are probably wondering what this post has to do with Lego at all. So, before talking about my 2nd love: BIM, I want to take a moment to give you a break from work and share my backstory. I flew back to my hometown in Houston for the last time in early 2020. Like many other business travelers, I was grounded from that moment on but didn’t know it then.

Like many, I grew up like many playing with Lego. Long story short, during quarantine I decided to cross off a personal bucket list goal I’ve had since age 8 and buy the Lego train-set I had always wanted as a child.  I’ll put it this way. 2020 meant no friends to see, no restaurants to spend my weekend budget on, and nothing other to do than watch Netflix. A few weeks in, and I was hooked, and watching YouTube videos of amazing large builds such as this monorail designed and built by Masao Hidaka. 

By May, I had visited my parents’ house and dug all of my childhood legos out of the closets. At this point, my transformation seemed complete. I had lego all over my living room, had started sorting by part type to make my builds easier. What I will say next will make many in the software world cringe. I was keeping parts inventories on spreadsheets, planning my builds on spreadsheets, creating train track logic in mathematical diagrams, drawing by hand, or searching for and referencing pictures. In short, I spent a lot more time sorting through parts and photos in an effort to build, instead of actually building.

You’re thinking to yourself…. 5 paragraphs in. Where does CAD to Revit come into play? Is there Lego CAD software? The answer to this last question is no, there isn’t any Lego CAD software, and it’s embarrassing to admit how long it actually took me to realize my workflow was the problem. As I created more complex trains, and track layouts I realized I was spending much more time working than playing. The internal system I had created worked well but was limited when it came to executing large projects.

When it came to redefining how to work I took our internal suggestions into account by following a defined process:

  1. Research the tools that are available to builders, and understand the limitations of each. Sometimes, more than 1 system will be necessary to accomplish your desired functionality. In this case, I realized I had two objectives that were not completely aligned: laying out engaging track layouts, then building the locomotives that work with the corners, bends, and space limitations the floorplan of my living room imposed.
  2. Understand that some training will be necessary, and starting out may seem slow. I’ve used a lot of drawing tools in my career, so the basic ins and outs of using new modeling and drafting tools were not lost on me. In this case, most of the time I spent learning revolved around knowing new shortcuts and commands, and understanding where the buttons I need are placed.
  3. Collaborate where possible. Lego is such a popular toy, that there are many solutions available to plan your build. Likewise, you can learn from other builders who are using modeling tools by virtually taking apart their models to learn a new way to build. Tapping into the community for advice to get up and running was one of my biggest wins.
  4. HAVE FUN! New tools and platforms are a new way to stretch the limit. The Christmas and New Years’ holidays were a great time to try out new things and stretch the limits with new design and building techniques. Your new tools in the workplace are no different. If you have just moved to the latest version of Revit, were you aware that there is now a native generative design tool? This is your opportunity to grow the potential of what you are able to build, what’s stopping you?

If you are ready to make the jump in your business workflow and make the shift from 2D to 3D, check out our Knowledge Base Article on moving from AutoCAD to Revit. If you came here for more info on how to build Lego more efficiently, check out Bricklink and Lego’s own 3D design tool (much like a Lego CAD software): Studio.

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