The paradox of high detailing


The paradox of high detailing
– when high quality manufacturers produce low quality objects

As a manufacturer, you want to influence the architect and no doubt BIM is a very good solution to this issue. Architects are always in desperate need of high quality objects for their projects, so what better way to get them to use your products in their buildings?

So, you make a series of highly detailed and great looking objects. The resemblance to your real products is awesome, and you cannot imagine any reason why any architect would refrain from using them in their BIM-project.

But sadly you just made the biggest mistake a manufacturer can make when it comes to BIM! You assume that high detail equals high quality. In fact high detailing often results in incredibly poor usability and for this reason only, your objects will most likely end up in the architect’s trashcan!

This clashes with our common understanding of how important product appearance normally is for any designing architect. But when it comes to BIM-based project planning, there seems to be a basic need for a better understanding of what digital ‘usability’ really is. We at 3dbyggeri consider this to be a key factor for manufacturers to achieve the best sales results through BIM, So let’s take a closer look.

It’s all about (computer) power

Imagine yourself as a working architect. You are designing a huge corporate headquarters and you are doing it in BIM. Now you only need to adjust a minor detail on a single window in the façade, but every time you try to access that part of the model, your poor computer darkens. You can almost hear the pulse rising inside the hard drive, the ventilator runs like crazy and the screen freezes. Despite having sufficient power, your computer simply cannot manage to display all of the highly-detailed objects that your model is filled with.

This is the case in a nutshell and it results in very poor usability. High detailing equals more geometry, and more geometry equals the need for more computing power. So, imagine this happens about every 5 or 10 minutes during your entire workday. As a professional BIM user, what would you do?

The answer is straight forward: you would refrain completely from using excessively detailed objects and you would replace them with your own basic geometry (which you would have to create from scratch yourself). But making new objects takes time and as a result the architects often cut corners, so the end result includes neither product data nor material parameters (for example). This is all bad news for the manufacturer, who wants his product data in the project.

And this happens all the time in architects’ studios. Just ask any architect working with BIM on a daily basis and you’ll get the same answer: we refrain from using certain objects because the detailing is to high, and the high details stalls our computers.

So what to do?

Detailing-Compare_Windows_02 (440x855)

Just make high quality, not high detailing

At 3dbyggeri we conduct ongoing interviews and tests with both architects and engineers about their workflow, and the following advice is what we always end up with.

•    Make objects that have the right level of detailing and are fast to work with. A rule of thumb when it comes to modelling details is: If it is not immediately visible, or if it is not important that it is visible at all, it is redundant.
•    The object should be representative and it can of course include some manufacturer specific characteristics – just don’t overdo them!
•    The most important elements in the object should have precise measurements. Interfaces with contact to other building elements or products are essential.
•    Give us the data! The object and the contained parameters should match the digital standards of the context it is to be used in.
•    Show us where we can get more information. Don’t include long text and descriptions in the objects, but use links to specific product sites where we can get more information regarding the products.

Finally savvy manufacturers know that the detailing issue is handled differently in different kinds of software. In this great blog post David Light comments on the ‘Level of Detail (LOD)’ topic in Revit.

So remember that in the digital world of the architect the selling point is no longer the most impressive ‘look’. Saleability is all about finding a balance and the proper relationship between the usability of an object and a fair product representation. Our experiences from collaborations with both local and international manufacturers tell us that it is possible to achieve a result that is satisfactory to the manufacturer while it performs in a way that architects love. And that sells!

If you’d like to know more about how to develop high performing BIM objects targeted to architects, contact us at – We can help you win more building projects.

Om forfatteren

Photograph of author Karen

Karen Sarna Hansen, Arkitekt MAA.

Konsulent og projektleder i 3dbyggeri danmark med flere års erfaring i byggeriets digitalisering.

Har arbejdet med BIM i både undervisnings- og udførelsesmæssig sammenhæng, og tidligere ydet en større indsats som en del af bestyrelsen bag BIM Aarhus-netværkets arrangementer.

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Reader Comments

Nice article Karen.
You make a lot of very good points and demonstrate them clearly. Well done.
Manufacturers (and content creators) should also ensure they understand the best ways of utilising detail level settings when creating BIM content for their products E.g. in Revit, applying useful and logical coarse, medium, fine settings.
Here is an article I wrote on a related topic that may be of interest
Luke Johnston
The BRITEX Group (Australia)

Thanks so much Luke!
And thank you for contributing with further input to this topic. We really need to put more attention to the issues that over-detailing creates.