Career Spotlight

Sid Griffin – BIM Manager

Photo credit: Sarah Cramer-Shields

Worldwide, the awareness and usage of Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been on an upward trend. It has allowed for unprecedented insights in the project delivery process by allowing for a high level of manipulation of increasingly complex building designs in 3D space. Cloud collaboration through BIM has allowed for project teams across the industry to come together. Members are all able to interact with the information, give feedback, and improve the information’s accuracy throughout the project delivery process. Sid Griffin is a subject matter expert for 3D modeling, visualization, and design documentation. “We are all playing in the same sandbox. Improving the communication and collaboration around a common design and data environment will certainly benefit every project.” His career path has revolved around the “use of computers to accelerate the design and documentation process.”

“We are all playing in the same sandbox.”

– Sid Griffin

About Sid Griffin

Sid made the decision to pursue architecture when time came to decide on a college path. His childhood aspirations of product design, astronautical engineering, and biomedical engineering were not able to satisfy his ambitions for creativity, and he decided to give architecture a try. Architecture allowed him to combine his affinity for art, math, and science in college. Sid had a pre-existing love for the University of Virginia’s campus. Said school then offered him a full undergraduate scholarship and sealed his college selection. As a student, Sid preferred courses that prioritized concrete results over theoretical ones. His favorite courses include Kirk Martini’s Structures, and Earl Mark’s 3D Modeling courses.

Architecture is expensive, a statement many in the field can agree upon. Sid had pursued many work-study jobs, largely as a teaching or research assistant. He was also involved with UVA Catering, and that job allowed him to view some of the campus’s most prestigious spaces in their best light. Outside of concurrent work-study jobs, Sid also summer interned with firms in Richmond throughout his undergraduate years. The summer before his last graduate year, also at UVA, Sid was an intern with VMDO Architects. “That internship led to a 21-year career with the firm.”

The transition from formal schooling to first professional industry job position can be difficult. College environments can be highly structured learning spaces, even if students are given great freedom in their course-free time. It personally took Sid time to transition from the architecture studio culture and into a professional work culture. Work time management and priorities are different from school time management and priorities. “Architecture students in particular seem to take pride in working late into the night and prioritizing design exploration over production. In the office, work should fit into a pocket of time allocated between family life, self-care, and sleep.” Once Sid obtained that balance of time management, he had success in being efficient with his time and staying focused on solving problems. His search for more efficiency only aided him on his path to BIM as the future of design documentation.

“… work should fit into a pocket of time allocated between family life, self-care, and sleep.”

– Sid Griffin

In his early years at VMDO, Sid worked as a jack-of-all-trades. He was a designer and draftsperson on the first design for UVA’s Baseball Stadium, working with Ken Thacker; a presentation creator for Washington and Lee’s New University Commons Building, working with Joe Atkins; an IT/CAD Management Assistant; and a MicroStation Modeler. From 2001 forwards, Sid continually progressed in his work responsibilities and billing rates. In 2009, he piloted a project in Revit. It was through this venture that Sid recognized the need for management in the new direction VMDO was headed. He reached out and asked for the position of BIM Manager within the firm and was granted the position in 2011. VMDO promoted Sid to Associate level in 2016.

After becoming the BIM Manager at VMDO, Sid joined Bethany Pritchard to be a part of the Charlottesville Revit User Group. Said group was originally an offshoot of the Richmond User Group but has since become an independent entity that serves the Charlottesville BIM community. Sid continues to serve the group as a board member. “I try to position myself to best serve the design and construction industry holistically in improving efficiency through new technology and processes. I like to take a broad perspective of business of designing, construction, and operating buildings, and identify where effort is wasted and where technology can provide better insight.”

Sid has presented often to User Groups at local architecture conferences. He has also volunteered at youth camps and exposed them to the architecture profession. While working with VMDO, Sid has taught courses at both the University of Virginia and James Madison University. Evelyn Tickle was the Academic Director at JMU, and was the connection Sid had to begin teaching at the university up until 2019. Bill Sherman, as Department Chair at UVA, approached Sid to teach a primer short course for Seth McDowell’s BIM course. Schools are recognizing the need for 3D modeling skills from graduating students and are looking for people with the talent and interest in teaching those skills to their students.

About BIM Managers

Sid is now the new BIM Project Manager at the University of Virginia, and his position is within the Geospatial Engineering Services department. The department facilitates data access of the University’s built environment. The BIM Project Manager maintains a database of the University’s BIM models. These models are intended to be a resource for future work and can provide information for the facilities management team in their work on asset management, space management, and GIS. Sid hopes to learn basic computer programming, Python and JavaScript, and data management in the near future to build his skillset as a BIM Manager.

When working in a design firm, a BIM Manager maintains standards, provides training, and produces content for the BIM software platform. Regarding producing models for project documentation, the BIM Manager is a critical player in maintaining efficiency and consistency across a firm. As a BIM Manager for an Owner entity such as UVA, Sid has the responsibility of identifying and communicating BIM delivery requirements that will align with downstream processes that will then require reliable data extracted from BIM and incorporated into data-driven operations management tools. The Owner’s BIM Manager maintains the library of models so that their assets are up-to-date and available for distribution to design teams for future work. The BIM Manager can also use the information from BIM to help inform business solutions. UVA is an entity with building assets that require continuous maintenance and potential expansion planning. For those reasons, a BIM Manager like Sid is a necessary position.

A BIM Manager is hired to maintain consistency in model production and reception. As BIM continues to be used as a production tool, BIM Manager positions will emerge. There’s not yet a standard education for BIM Management; the familiarity of computer technology and construction is a consistent requirement. Sid hopes that higher education programs will continue to expand their course offerings in order to train students on the usage of design tools for the office environment. To professionals emerging in BIM, “be clear about your professional goals and avoid being coerced into a BIM management position because you know the software better than others.”

For the future, Sid would like a common data language and interoperability across the various 3D software platforms. He believes that BIM consumption and interaction will become easier and more accessible to non-industry users. The current trend of digital twins is an ideal testing environment. The data extraction capabilities would allow for users to assess building health at any time. Sid would also like to see BIM standards for the entire AECO industry. He sees BIM as a “basis of evolution for the AECO industry. Data currently and will always continue to drive how we design, build, and use buildings.”

The work Sid is doing now is only the beginning. He hopes this beginning of a perpetual virtual building information will be in use long after he is gone. “In the process of learning and assessing, I like to share my knowledge to both benefit from crowdsourcing for solutions and to get others inspired to take a wide perspective. I hope that my work inspired others to do the same, especially underrepresented minorities. In the technical evolution, I hope that the sparks of creativity and innovation aren’t lost. It is easy to start relying on the technology to drive design without realizing that the algorithms replace what were thousands of moments where a personal touch would be greatly appreciated.”

Connect with Sid over email and LinkedIn below:

Email: seg8d@virginia.edu

LinkedIn: Sid Griffin

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