BIM: It’s Alive!
An optimistic view of how Owners, Architects, Contractors, Manufacturers and Facility Management might all work together.
Steven C. Shell, Architect
The future of our industry is here, albeit in its infancy. We are constantly being bombarded with buzz words like Building Information Modeling (BIM), Autodesk® Revit®, 3D Parametric Modeling, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Level of Development, Clash Detection & Multi-Discipline Coordination, BIM Aggregation, Lifecycle Platform, Professional Responsibility, Project Deliverables and Contractual Expectations, 3D, 4D, 5D and now 6D, the list goes on… what’s next?
So, why is it that most of us are all still working the same way we did back when I was in College studying to be an Architect some 31 years ago?
Revit and other parametric 3D modeling software has been around for over 12 years; however, it was mostly the building geometry embedded with just enough information to produce our construction documents. Unfortunately, I always felt that it was a shame that nobody else was really getting the full potential benefit of my model.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved Revit from the beginning, and I still love it now. It was a game changer for me! I still remember spending countless late nights on Chris Zoog’s Revit forum while trying to model some roof, topography or stair. I vividly remember my first Autodesk University in Las Vegas where all of us early Revit users met for the first time, many of whom I have stayed close friends with over these past 10 years.
Now, 12 years later, Revit is no longer considered to be ‘cutting edge’ technology. It is now becoming the preferred tool of choice for an ever growing number of Architects and Builders. It will soon become expected, if not required, to design, document and deliver the project. Recently, Revit has been referred to as ‘disruptive’ or ‘invasive’ technology. So, what has changed?
Over these past 2 years, we have been seeing major companies starting to write software to supplement Revit as well as developing content to furnish us with more and more of the ‘Information’ and data for building construction, materials, environmental and performance analysis, operating equipment and furnishings. We are even seeing digital laser scanning technology becoming common place in renovation and restoration work. All of this new information can be leveraged by everyone associated with the project, from the original designer to the repair contractor servicing a piece of equipment years later. This is why I say that BIM has finally come to life.
The model should no longer just be the Architect’s. Once our “Architectural” model is complete and the Bid Documents are finalized, the model should be passed on to the Contractor and be allowed to outgrow us.
Our model, or child, should be allowed to be expanded upon with new data and be given new purpose. We should all just be temporary care givers, or custodians, letting go of it and handing if off to the next professional who will take care of it until it becomes the Owner’s building and her or his responsibility.
Architecture is still considered to be a profession. As a practicing Architect for over 27 years, I would like to ensure that it stays a viable, important, necessary and wonderfully rewarding profession.
Like Doctors, we are in charge of a life. Our projects, or buildings, are like our children. And as such, we are extremely protective and claim ownership when maybe we should not. Perhaps it is time to look at the way the medical profession evolved from the days of the country doctor who took care of you for most of your life to now, when a primary care provider refers you off to a specialist when needed because of technology, specialization, liability, insurance, economic and financial interests.
When I say BIM has come to life, I am referring to the building model itself. We, the Architects and Designers bring this model to life. We are its creator based on too many factors to mention here. We provide a critically important function. We are the equivalent to an Obstetrician, and as such, we are only responsible for bringing this new life into the world. We are not responsible for raising it, nor building it.
Our profession has always enjoyed a very clear separation and understanding of what Architects do vs that which Contractors do. This is similar to when the Obstetrician’s role ends and the Pediatric Care Physician’s starts. The Contractor should not have to begin from scratch when creating the “Constructability” model. We should provide the Contractor our fully developed Architectural Level 300 model so that the Owner and Contractor can benefit from our hard work while ensuring that the ‘design intent’ stays intact throughout the process.
This all ties in with the earlier point I made about ‘disruptive’ and ‘invasive’ technology (“The future is coming…are you up for it?” https://scshell.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/the-future-is-coming-are-you-up-for-it/) . In order to survive in the very near future, we will need to move forward with this new way of working, or ignore it and keep doing what we have been doing while arguing, “We are on the computer, stop pestering me with that BM and Rivitt or Reevet stuff. What more do we need?” Really?