In an office in the Enabling Village near the NTUC Fairprice supermarket, trainee architecture draughtsmen are hard at work developing drawings of buildings and interiors.

The BIM Studio (BIM stands for Building Information Modelling) is a social enterprise initiated by Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA) alongside architect Yeo Chye Teck of Caide Architects. The startup empowers persons living with disabilities through the practice of architectural draughtsmanship and interior designing.

We caught up with BIM Studio’s manager Timothy Ang, 61, during a draughtsmanship class at SG Enable’s multimedia lab to talk about the studio’s aspirations.

How did the idea for BIM Studio come about?

Our mission is to provide a platform for individuals with disabilities to develop proficiency in handling architectural software, as well as equip them with employable skills. Students at BIM Studio make use of sophisticated software such as AutoCAD, SketchUp and Revit to hone their mastery of architectural drawings and designs.

Mr Timothy Ang, manager of BIM Studio, during a draghtsmanship lesson

Timothy Ang, manager of BIM Studio, sharing his thoughts with students during a review of an architectural design.

How did you get to work with BIM Studio?

I was a home-bound data entry operator when I received a circular from the HWA on an architectural draughtsmanship course. The course really drew my interest and I wanted to commit fully to it. I became part of the first batch of students.

A wheelchair user is helped onto a shuttle bus at the Enabling Village

Enabling Village offers complimentary shuttle bus services for visitors to and from Redhill MRT station.

Can you tell us what a typical day at BIM Studio entails?

Students here spend their time learning the ropes of architectural design.  They go through a combination of hands-on practice and classroom lessons. We conduct weekly lessons on various software to familiarise ourselves with the features.

Students also take on a range of real-life projects for organisations – I am proud that our clients include statutory boards, landed properties as well as architectural firms.

A BIM Studio trainee operates a computer using a modified keyboard and a joystick

Some students bring their own devices like custom keyboards and controllers to help them to use the computer software more effectively.

What are the profiles of BIM Studio’s students?

We come from different backgrounds and live with various disabilities. Our students range from having hearing-impairments and speech impediments to muscular dystrophy. All our students come into the programme with zero architectural background, but they also have the willingness and resilience to challenge themselves.

An architecture drawing of a one-storey house

A three-dimensional plan being displayed on screen during a review session. BIM Studio equips students with the skills to handle both 2D and 3D architectural design software.

How can the public support BIM Studio?

Members of the public who are willing to share their skills can come forward and share their specific knowledge and experience in the areas of architectural design and software. We are open to having them get in touch with us and see how best they can offer their skills to BIM Studio.

Students assemble at the common workdesk of the multimedia lab to study an architecture drawing projected on the screen

Students at BIM Studio work on a range of projects with an array of industry partners, from government bodies to private companies.

What do you hope for Singaporeans to understand about inclusivity?

Places like Enabling Village offer the hardware to set the stage for inclusivity. The ‘software’ needed to create a truly inclusive ecosystem comes from empowering and investing in the creative potential of individuals with disabilities.