BIM People – Aoife Kelly, Graduate Architect at McElroy Associates


Aoife graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 2011 with a Masters of Architecture Degree (MArch). Before this, she studied for an Honours Degree in Interior Architecture at Institute of Technology, Sligo.

Aoife won awards as a student: The President’s Medal for the highest grade of her graduating year from IT Sligo and the Garfield Weston Scholarship from the University of Ulster. In 2013, she completed a four-week introductory Revit course, and after an internship, this led to employment as a Graduate Architect at McElroy Associates. Aoife is currently undertaking her Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) professional practice exams. spoke to Aoife about her work with BIM as a Graduate Architect at McElroy Associates and asked her what advice she would give clients, and architecture professionals and graduates.

Please tell us why and when you became interested in BIM?

During my internship, I was introduced to BIM and was told this was the new “CAD”. But I soon discovered BIM is quite different to CAD and would revolutionise the way we create buildings. BIM through whichever platform, in my case Revit, was so much more than “another drawing package”. It can assist in the development of quantities and budget, programme, design team coordination, clash detection, on-site progress and maintenance of the building post-completion. The most important use for me is the ability to show the client every aspect of their project in 3D giving them a much better grasp of what the completed project will look like.

Can you tell us about your work with BIM as a Graduate Architect at McElroy Associates?

Mc Elroy Associates is a multi-disciplinary practice comprising of Civil, Structural, Mechanical & Electrical Engineers and Architects. The practice is very supportive of the staff using Revit on all new projects. I use Revit as part of my role, for designing, creating design and drawing / modelling packages for site and creating 3D presentations for our clients. As I dip in and out of it I feel I still have a lot to learn. I sit beside the office’s BIM Coordinator which is of huge benefit. All new projects in the office for the past four years have been developed unofficially through Revit to BIM Level 2 Protocol.

Please tell us about your BIM education and training?

In 2014, I took a Revit professional course with Paradigm Education, Dundrum for four weeks. It was very informative and a very thorough introduction to Revit. I feel it was crucial to sit in a classroom environment to learn the basics, after this, I worked on a project at home, but really the learning starts when you develop a project through your office.

What are the main advantages of using BIM in architectural design?

Once a project is set up, and this can take time, generating information from the model is quick.
Specific to my role, the ability to create 3D presentations for clients within a few hours rather than weeks with previous packages proved invaluable.

If a client wants to see a different view of a space or you need to check if there is a clash within a space, a view can be generated immediately.

Can you tell us about the main projects in which McElroy Associates utilised BIM?

We work primarily in the pharmaceutical sector. All of our new projects since 2012 are delivered using BIM. The nature of pharmaceutical work is fast paced, any improvement in efficiency on site is a huge benefit – Revit allows us to “design out” clashes before they reach site.

As products change so does the process and the building that houses it. These changes can occur several times in the lifetime of a pharmaceutical building. By having a BIM model it can make it easier to visualise and instigate a change to an area of a building. It has also opened up opportunities for clients to consider how they may use the model post construction in the maintenance of their buildings.

Currently, I am working on a pharmaceutical campus-style development with six buildings, the entire project has been generated through Revit and all disciplines of the design team along with the contractor/sub-contractors work through Revit.

Please tell us what the company has done to adopt BIM?

All BIM users have been given new computers that are capable of hosting Revit. The software and associated plugins are upgraded annually. The practice directors understand it can be slower to set up things like schedules but time is given to do this at the start as it clearly pays off later in the project. The office BIM Coordinator has been involved with delivering the templates and office standards that are implemented. He sets up all new projects and assists in the running of all projects. There are also six other technologists who work in BIM.

What have been your experiences of working on multidisciplinary BIM projects?

It has been very positive. I feel it is a great way to get different members of the design team to interact on a regular basis. It also, I feel gives you a better understanding of the overall coordination of all components of a building. It has also shown me the importance of setting up a clear EIR and BIM Protocol so everyone understands what is expected when and from whom. The use of regular model review meetings with the use of Navisworks to carry out clash detection is crucial to the success of the project.

What advice would you give to a client considering using BIM on a project?

I feel a client should be informed about the potential uses and benefits of BIM specific to their project as early as possible in a project. This conversation can have an impact on the contract, design and construction development, fees, preparation of tender documents, choice of contractor and design team. That is all before you go to site.

EIR (Employers Information Requirements): this needs to be established as early as possible. It will inform the scope of work for the project and form part of the tender documents. Does the client want the model at the completion stage, if so do they want an “as built” model? Or do they want a model that they can use for facilities management? These answers will have an impact on your fee, so they should be established early on.

BIM Protocol: This is essential to set out the scope of what they expect from their professional team. The accuracy of this document at identifying roles, responsibilities and timelines can have an impact on the success of the project.

What advice would you give to an architect, architectural technologist or technician wanting to upskill in BIM?

Do a course. YouTube, online forums, and assistance from a colleague are great but being taught in a classroom environment, I feel it is crucial. Once you do a course practice, practice and practice some more. I found learning BIM like learning to draw again with my good hand tied behind my back but with time this became easier and easier.

From your experience, what would you tell architectural students with regards attaining BIM knowledge and skills?

It is a vital tool to create, maintain and cost the built environment. I do feel CAD will always have a role but BIM is something any student architect should understand, learn and use so it is part of their skillset early on. After using CAD for fifteen years it was hard to learn a new package, learning it early in your education will make this easier.

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