CASE STORY

New York Institute of Technology

NYIT School of Architecture & Design Utilizing Sigma Estimates as an Educational Tool

Education in construction engineering and architecture is not only about building the structures and buildings of today, but also about inspiring the future of the industry. Jason Van Nest understands the importance of showing his students the development of architectural methods and practices through the 21st century.

NYIT School of Architecture & Design Utilizing Sigma Estimates as an Educational Tool

Sigma estimating tool integrates BIM and 3D Modeling into estimating to holistically tie together construction engineering and architecture with estimating. The advanced estimating capabilities of Sigma make it a great tool for educating architects in training on construction engineering and design.

Education in construction engineering and architecture is not only about building the structures and buildings of today, but also about inspiring the future of the industry. 

Jason Van Nest, an Associate Professor from the School of Architecture and Design at the New York Institute of Technology, understands the importance of showing his students the development of architectural methods and practices through the 21st century and onward into the future of architectural design as it adopts new methods of applying technology.

Jason integrated Sigma estimating tool into his curriculum this past spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced most universities in the United States to turn to virtual education. We asked Jason to speak about the learning value of the program and the opportunity it provides for the students at NYIT.

Sigma Shows the Cost Dimension in Design and BIM Modeling Efforts

What value do you think your students get out of using Sigma estimating software in the assignment you gave them?

The Faculty at NYIT’s School of Architecture & Design know that software tools change every year. Our goal is not to teach students about the uses, tricks, and tips associated with current software. Instead, we are constantly trying new ways to illustrate how architects’ products are evolving – from a 20th Century practice of drawings-and-specifications to a 21st Century practice.

It’s where architects author multi-functional databases of building model elements, associated contract documents (and presentation documents), and timeline information.

The value our students receive springs from this futuristic model of practice. Specifically, they study how cost estimating is another dimension of inquiry to inform their design efforts. It is important to us that Sigma estimating tool ports with their modeling efforts in BIM software, and students can leverage previous design efforts to quickly generate quantity surveys for their examination, or other professionals’ use.

“We enjoy that Sigma has an Autodesk Revit plugin to quickly start using interoperability features”, says Jason Van Nest.

Architecture Students Utilize Sigma’s Key Integrations and Features

Was there a reason that you decided to use Sigma’s estimating software over other programs available on the market?

Yes! There were two reasons. First, we enjoy that Sigma has an Autodesk Revit plugin to quickly start using interoperability features, and second, that even Sigma’s trial version ships with two sample price libraries.

The Revit plug-in helps keep our students’ attention on the value of examining content, and not getting mired down in individual export settings. It is quick to install, and quick to understand, but the advanced settings sustain deep exploration.

The sample libraries are a deep introduction to professional Cost Estimators’ logical and methodical procedures. It was a pleasure to watch students click deeper into predefined wall assemblies, digging further in material definitions, then ultimately scan beak-downs of labor and equipment costs.

Ultimately, any architect’s drawings predestine all the decisions summarized in Sigma’s sample libraries. The sooner students gain an appreciation for these complexities, the sooner they mature as designers.

Sigma’s Integration Worked Well for Motivated and Eager Students

You started using Sigma this past semester, how do you think it went, and what are your expectations for the two courses that you are featuring it in this fall?

This semester’s experiment was largely a success. Because we rolled out the trial curriculum as extra credit projects, the student cohort that engaged the curricula was self-selected, motivated, and eager to push boundaries. We could introduce the workflow to these teams on our own schedule, and I was able to give this smaller group a lot of one-on-one support when they hit issues with exporting, data typing, and price lists.

The rollout confirmed our basic assumptions, that this kind of digital collaboration lends itself well to teamwork, and little effort was needed to on-board Revit users to Sigma estimating tool plugins. It was interesting to watch students peruse sample cost libraries the same way I may have slowly walked candy store aisles. We were most pleased to see these teams use the assignment as a positive environment where value engineering choices can be considered with real quantitative data, informing immediate design feedback.

Sigma Estimating Tool Helping in the Transition to Virtual Learning

The students finished the final portion of their semester virtually. Can you comment overall on how you think the learning process changed for your students? Did the inclusion of the extra credit assignment utilizing Sigma estimating tool aide their virtual learning?

The inclusion of our Sigma estimating tool extra credit assignment was unquestionably enriching, but only for a portion of our student cohort.

Even when leading a small class of 12 or 16 students, one quickly discovers the variety of learning styles that define a student experience. This extra credit format catered to the kind of student who will boldly open new software, then click all the buttons to see what happens, and only look for an online manual as a last resort. This spirit of exploration leads them to choose between wildly different design solutions; they ultimately face a more disorganized approach to value engineering.

Other students prefer to wait for organized, step-by-step instruction. They tend to be more conservative about their design process. They watch carefully to see the effect of tools on their compositions. This learning style leads students to choose between subtly different design options, but a more technically-considered overall design solution.

This second learning style was not as well accommodated when the pandemic forced universities to use distance learning methods. It is our responsibility to not only show the value of this workflow to all students, but to provide all student learning styles with the resources they need to be a little fearless in their design experimentation.

An Architecture Professional’s Experience with Sigma

As a professional what is your overall opinion of Sigma estimating tool?

I had confidence introducing Sigma workflows in my classroom because I experiment with it during my VDC consulting work. I have the pleasure of helping BIM-enriched Design Teams hand off LOD 300 or 350 models to Delivery Teams who are still learning how to use these new digital tools.

As someone who’s written code every now-and-again over the last 20 years of my career, Sigma estimating tool  feels like an honest, clean interface when it comes to looking at different queries of one’s design database. I like that one can get started right away making libraries and then estimates. It’s also intuitive that one works their way through the tabbed interface as they work their way through the costing project.

As an architect, I can see how the graphic user interface is a little daunting to architecture students. Over the last 10 years, architectural software has elaborated core functions from single icons with parameter-input steps into multi-tab windows, where users can be explicit about arrays of input parameters, and order of operations. That interface is most like Sigma’s Insight Designer, and it was where my students were the most comfortable. They felt less sure without those window interfaces: when publishing reports or exporting data.

About NYIT School of Architecture & Design

New York Institute of Technology is a dynamic, highly ranked, and accredited not-for-profit university committed to educating the next generation of leaders, and to inspiring innovation and advancing entrepreneurship. The mission of the School of Architecture and Design is to provide a design and technology-based 21st-century professional education that enables leadership in the profession and within the community.

More information:

New York Institute of Technology
Jason Van Nest, Associate Professor
School of Architecture and Design, New York Institute of Technology

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