3D Design in a 2D World: Accelerating Innovation with 2D BIM

I’ve written a few articles recently on Building Information Modeling (BIM) and how it’s crucial to our design process at Henderson Engineers. BIM uses data to generate digital representations of a facility’s physical and functional characteristics, including the building systems we engineer. But BIM isn’t a singular idea or just 3D modeling software; it’s an engineering tool that aids our designers by increasing efficiency and optimization. Let’s explore 2D BIM and how it’s key to systems design.

Computer-aided drafting tools replaced hand drafting with the intent to produce faster and more accurate 2D drawings. BIM, on the other hand, starts with the 3D modeled design in a database, and the 2D drawings are a byproduct. We generally follow the architect’s lead with software selection for the project to simplify coordination efforts and efficiencies, but there are exceptions to that rule.

Software efficiencies in architecture and structural engineering are different than software efficiencies for building systems design and digitization. In what we call 2D BIM, Revit is used for systems design (even if the linked backgrounds are in 2D AutoCAD). There is no efficiency loss in our standard coordination process, as deliverables stay the same exporting to AIA standard DWG format. BIM platforms have built-in efficiencies that automate much of the coordination required for 2D documents – for example, consistent grids across all views, schedules tied to tags and plan data, and databases we can query for quick quality control analysis. The 3D model allows for faster interdisciplinary coordination, including spatial planning and live data references. Tools built in BIM for design automation can be utilized as an alternative to simply using tools designed for automating the drafting documentation of the engineering product.

While 2D BIM offers immediate benefits, we’re looking forward to its future capabilities, too. By having our design in the Revit database, we can use the BIM data and tools to enhance our processes and future designs. We can also jump-start digital twin initiatives for clients with that same data. By standardizing on one platform we can optimize internal tool development, maintenance, documentation, support, and training. Our project partners can continue to make decisions on the most efficient software for them – and if and when they are ready to make the leap to Revit, we’re here to help.


Through the process of implementing our firm’s initiatives for Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) and digital twins, several clients expressed they wanted the benefits of these efforts – but the programs were still in 2D AutoCAD. At Henderson, we don’t let software limitations stand in the way of accomplishing our goals. In response to client needs, we took the first step to digitize our design data by starting a 2D BIM initiative; we simply linked in the architectural AutoCAD background and recreated our design in Revit.

The result is a well-coordinated and quickly adaptable design. With that digital transformation complete, we can pivot our focus to digital twins for building systems and run simulations for impacts of implementing DfMA.

I’ll be expanding on our digital twin work soon, so stay turned for more insights.


Written By
Adam Roth

BIM/VDC Director | Principal


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