Workflow 2010: Designing Industry

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Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Scott Marble, instructor, with Julie Jira

Theme 3: BIM and the Organization of Information

Will BIM systematically prioritize the integration and organization of information over design flexibility? Is a single integrated model approach appropriate for the AEC industry and if so, what are the new disciplinary boundaries that drive the organization of project information?

Information Modelling as a Paradigm Shift by Sheldon, Dennis

Tectonics, Economics and the Reconfiguration of Practice by Sheldon, Dennis

A Trade to Retool Architectural Practice and Digital Modeling by Tombesi, Paolo, et al

Image Credit: Tectonics, Economics and the Reconfiguration of Practice by Dennis Sheldon

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Filed under: BIM, Industry, Software, Themes/Readings/Discussions

22 Responses

  1. Adam Hanau says:

    1) In “Programming Cultures”, the claim is made that the technology allows for great potential is expanding the set of forms available to architecture. This expanded potential allows for architects to reach higher levels of sophistication and creativity like never before. This is in direct contradistinction to Mark Burry ‘s opinion that the new technology will create a “new generation of architects that are not pioneers but comfortable assuming their role in a post-digital construct”. This explains why Burry later says that the technology can allow for clients to bypass architects. So which of these effects will result from the technology: expanded horizons , or a more menial role for architects?

    2) John Frazer claims that older architects wouldn’t be as much of a setback to updating protocol, as young architects, who are fervent about one type of architecture, would be. To him, the age gap isn’t the main issue, but factors such as enthusiasm, vision and confidence are the main determining factors. I understand his concerns, however, no matter how much enthusiasm, vision and confidence, I don’t think it is easy or even possible for the vast majority of senior architects to easily start using the newest technologies. As all articles point out, the software is extremely multifaceted with many diverse features, making the adjustment that much harder for those not computer savvy. In the article “Closing the Gap”, age is identified as the primary deterrent to these technologies catching on quickly, and I believe it is justifiably so.

    3) In “A Trade to Retool”, there is discussion about the next five to ten years transforming the industry, and determining who takes control of the field. Both extremes, of the direction that the industry can take are covered: the architect becoming the modern-day master builder, or the architect being easily replaceable.
    The key to success offered is to properly train architects in the new technology, at a large scale, so that the building industry become undeniably theirs. Practically speaking, how can such training, especially at such a large scale, be put into practice so quickly (the five to ten year window)? Additionally, how can firms be convinced of the urgency of such a shift in technology (how can they be convinced of its necessity)?

    • adamhanau says:

      The main focus of our discussion was aimed at discovering whether BIM is benificial or detrimental to the architecture industry. At first glance BIM seems to be great for the architectural industry as it provides benefits to both the client and the architect. The benefits to the clients include: a model that helps save time and money in construction, a model that could demonstrate the building process and give the client a clear and accurate representation of the finished product, a model the client can keep for reference. There are also many benefits for the architect himself , including catching clashes, and understanding all of the implications of each design decision. The problem with these benefits, however, is that the client doesn’t truly understand the architectural industry, and there cannot fully appreciate the value these benefits (Such as the fact that clients are usually surprised to hear that clashes happen at all).

      This being said, it is hard to convince the clients to pay for such benefits; consequently others, such as contractors, can clearly show direct use to the software and take the lead in its use. Some solutions were offered, such as, not charging for the use of the software, and earning profit on the savings. It was also clear that different tiers of BIM will be needed, to make it more affordable and conducive to the needs of each client. This is also a tremendous first step towards educating the clients of BIM’s benefits, as any sort of use of BIM (even of the lowest tier) will get product recognition and help the market for it grow. Even if the software becomes widely used, it can still hurt the industry, as imposters can learn to use the software without any actual architectural skills. The counterargument, found in “Programming Culture”, was that the software will facilitate creativity will innovation throughout the industry.

      This also led to the discussion as to how BIM should be used: to increase efficiency (and stick to simple models) or facilitate creativity (leading to more complex models, demanding more for the architects). The question also arose as how to evaluate beauty in structures. Should structures be evaluated like other quantitatively evaluated criteria or become removed from the evaluation process and become defined as a category of its own. One danger of quantifying beauty with other criteria, is that the aesthetics aspect will be treated as an equal to the other criteria (when it reality it is a lot more significant). Additionally, evaluated aesthetics could stifle innovation and creativity.

      The class concluded the use of BIM discussed differed from the standard use of BIM., as BIM is usually used after the design is in place, and not as a tool to design the structure itself.

  2. Muchan Park says:

    BIM has enormous potential where architects could ‘travel with the time machine (BIM)’. They could go to the last moment of process, fabrication today in order to make sure if they are in right direction to make what they want to do for the project. And on the next day, they could find crucial rule through which evaluation process is defined, which should be precedent before getting in the fabrication process. So future concerns define today problem, which might change future.

    This is non linear process that is deeply different from present architectural process. We are waiting for projects that we don’t know now but developers or real estate experts have established and proposed in somewhere. Even before that, government has defined spaces with zoning resolution that could dictate the development. (of course, this process could be reversed but not affect the timing of architects responsibility.)

    My interest about expanding architectural boundary is not only to ‘downstream’ to be ‘master builder’ but also to ‘upstream’ to redesign, define, reorganize constraints. Through this new level of role, we can be earlier in shaping society and be more responsible to make our environment as ‘rule writer’ instead of being left behind all decisions.

    • Muchan Park says:

      Using BIM should provide efficiency of collaboration according to successful usage in aircraft industry, but does not guarantee the design creativity. For architects, issue is not only how to get the same level of efficiency and economy to the other industry by just learning this system, but also how to innovate the profession and design building more creatively through using BIM in different perspective.

      So what is more interesting now is not about the given functions of BIM, but about how to utilize the system through which architects can grow their creativity. I’m focusing on 3 main functions, Adoptibility, Optimization and Simulation. Evaluation system that is embedded in BIM can be used for expanding our profession into ‘upstream’. For instance, research on complex social and economical relationships was not comfortable for architects to evaluate due to its highly complicate considerations. Now, however, architects using BIM as a calculator or translator (still there should be strategical methodology to translate the data into geometry) can research and evaluate social system rigorously and address their own stance. Optimization is also very strong tool for designers who can see all possibilities and should understand relatively proper solution. Even though they need to set up rule through which the optimization process is controlled, they can be relatively unbiased by their pure intuitive decisions. Lastly, Simulation is enormously beneficial for designers to look at real construction process even in their design process. Collapsing time between design process and construction can help designers establish nonlinear design process in which concept and construction, rule and aesthetic are all considered at the same time.

  3. lucbwilson says:

    Dennis R Shelden points out that “BIM often affects the conventional sequencing of project development, often moving downstream considerations forward and streamlining the revisiting of early phase decisions later in the project.” Understanding this re-sequencing of consideration is essential for architects to balance the integration and organization of information with design flexibility. Since almost all of the considerations of a built project have the potential to be moved upstream, which ever profession is defining the rules of the BIM model will prioritize what is most important for them, and that prioritization will drive the design. Because the upstreaming of other considerations is inevitable, io remain relevant and retain design flexibility architects must design the rules and relationships of these considerations so that they are driven by the design rather than drive the design.

    The only way to prioritize the design flexibility of the rules and relationships of the BIM model is to understand that the “opportunity of parametric modeling is that we can express design, engineering and fabrication intentions independent of geometry, so that these intentions persist over geometric variation.” (Shelden) By understanding architectural design both as the design of geometry and the design non-geometric relationships, architects will continue to (or once again) drive the design process and create relationships that will not only persist from iteration to iteration but can persist from project to project.

    In our last discussion we started to suss out methods for architects to successfully design the relationships in the BIM model. First, the goals of the architect can be classified as either a Concept or a Rule. Concepts are qualified, interpretable goals. They will drive the development of the rules. Rules are quantified, absolute goals. While rules are absolute, they are not fixed and will vary according concept. Rules can be broken when it is in the interest of the concept. Designing a system of parametric relationships in a BIM model based on Concepts and Rules will allow architects to design the process while still allowing other professions the flexibility to prioritize other considerations.

    • Luc Wilson says:

      Based on our class discussion I believe there are two driving factors for architects to prioritize the design flexibility in BIM. First, architects have to be able to identify the appropriate information and uses of a BIM model through out a project. As we discussed, this suggested a tiered model: visualization of entire building -> coordination of geometry, minimizing clashes -> life cycle modeling, etc. As important to evaluating the information to put in the model is understanding the various ways in which a parametric model operates: automation of tasks (additive), building up of intelligent geometry, definition of relationships independent of geometry, and outputs for evaluation. This will allow architects to use a BIM model efficiently and define relationships to drive design,

      The second factor is convincing a client that using BIM is a good idea. Since quantifying the value of BIM in a project is not guaranteed to convince a client, architects need to find a way to raise the general awareness of their role in a project and through that, the potential of BIM. Much like sustainability has become a clear, identifiable concept for most everyone, BIM needs to also. We keep coming back to the idea of an independent organization for architectural branding but we don’t have any clear ideas on what that means. Perhaps, a shared pooling of resources between a local collaborative network? Or maybe a crowd sourced web initiative?

  4. padams20 says:

    The question is economic. Sheldon and Burry seem to see that the link between parametric design and material information (in BIM) is one of the key short circuits in the traditional hierarchy of the practice. (Of course it needn’t only be material information, e.g. environmental control). When designers are able to construct virtual 5D space where the simple rules, like physics, that govern engineering and construction can be played out in tangent with design concerns, the pipeline between designer and designed gets much shorter indeed, and this makes it possible to build what was not possible before.

    I believe this pruning could mean a real expansion for the practice. I can imagine more and smaller firms with fewer barriers and fewer people between them and the construction team. I’m reminded of the photography and graphic design industry. Technological knowledge and price thresholds were surpassed, so that the market was saturated with designers. Competition is high, as is the sharing of technical knowledge. The design ability is what is then exposed.

    A very fluid, mobile, small scale, influx to the system could begin to erode current practice and carry it to new markets, where there may be demand. Simple things will get even cheaper to build, and, for your money, increasing complexity could be achieved.

    Key quotes:
    The limits of our capacities to express or control the descriptions of form are no longer the main barriers to exploration: digital media have taken care of that. Rather, the limits are economic, and are resolved by bringing the efficiencies of fabrication processes into the sphere of formal design considerations.

    The process of realizing digital form at the building scale has been based on a deliberately reduced pipeline between the digital and the physical, with a heightened authority bestowed upon the craftsman as the interpreter.

    [Gehry Technologies has] found ourselves in the position of tool-makers, in order to fill tactical gaps necessary for new models of practice. (new boundaries for buildable form)
    -Sheldon Dennis reading

    If one adopts the position famously taken by Sigried Gideon in Space, Time and Architecture (1941) , the technology is bound to redefine the position of the architect by altering the knowledge boundaries of the actors involved in the building process as well as the balance of collaboration between them.

    The example I frequently use in lectures is that of a very small boat designer I know, based in southern Ireland, who runs a very small practice from a little farmhouse with a very sophisticated computer system. He is able to control the complete construction of his boats to very find tolerances, even if they are being built in a German shipyard a thousand miles away. This might be the model for small architectural practices, places of electronic craftsmanship capable to control the manufacture of the various building parts.
    -Take 5 reading

    • padams20 says:

      Reading back over this topic reminds me of the brilliant naive processes I invented when I first began 3-D modelling. I modeled everything to a ridiculous level of detail. I kept everything in the same file. I made drawings from the models and not the other way around. I did all the things that someone used to making 2D CD drawings would NOT do. I would be interested to see what could come out of a learning environment where no pre-conceived notions of how a model should be set-up were created, (other than, of course, the restrictions of the software). Just letting the naive intuition of the unadulterated play in a BIM environment. What kind of paradigm could the innocent CREATE?

  5. Kassandra Scheve says:

    Will BIM limit creativity? BIM increases efficiency and organization, but by doing so will it limit the time that one would normally use for the creative aspect of a building. Partly this is design flexibility, but it is also before that. I think of design flexibility as the ability to alter the design as difficulties develop, however will architects not even get the chance to ponder over a space to add a creative aspect to it?

    According to Frazer the generational gap is not prominent in Australia and it is in fact the younger generation that is the most close-minded. Is this likely to be the case worldwide? Also, what would cause this lack of flexibility in those who are newest to the industry? I would think that they would be the most eager to move the field forward, however it could be that they have not yet established their place and don’t want things to change until they can.

    Would the model used in Asia work here? What would the pros and cons be to allowing the client to own the design? This seems to go along with the collaboration model we discussed last week, I just wondered if this model would be possible here or would architects feel that they are losing control of their property?

    • Kassandra Scheve says:

      Our discussion yesterday focused on whether or not BIM would be beneficial to architects as well as the entire building industry. It surprised me to learn that clients that are presented with the idea are not willing to try it, because as far as I can see they are the ones who benefit most from BIM. While it’s main focus is collaboration, design wise it helps the client because they no longer need to rely on twenty different cryptic drawings, each done by a different person. Instead they can see a 3D model right away, which helps them visualize it, as well as later help with maintenance and upkeep years down the road. For the building process it does help collaboration, which as we discussed last week, can really help ideas develop. However this doesn’t seem to either be known, or clients simply don’t yet trust that BIM would be beneficial to them, despite all of the perks.

      Another point I thought was interesting was whether or not BIM would make architects obsolete, because it now seems like BIM can do everything without them. It is true that BIM can do the simple things much faster and more accurately, however computers are unable to think creatively. Design flexibility is something computers are not good at, which is what I think architects need to use to remain needed. Like our discussion about beauty, I don’t think a computer will ever be able to fully take over something like creativity. Beauty is something that each person sees differently, therefore that is where architects are the most valuable. Contractors are able to make a standard building, as is BIM, however an architect can listen to what a client wants and design plans to their specifications. This is something that a computer might be able to replicate, however it will never be able to think up something new that has never been programmed in before.

  6. Anh Minh Ngo says:

    The conclusion of the last seminar was that we are the generation of architects who find ourselves at the uncertain crossroad of our own practice and other AEC industries. Consequently, we have to not only create and shape our own professional paths that are, fortunately or unfortunately, not readily set for us, but also to define the new milestone for the architectural profession.

    The predicament is intrinsically related to the introduction of BIM into the industry. The ongoing debates are based on the fact that the BIM technology can potentially either allow us, architects, to regain the master builder status or totally marginalize our positions (to the extreme point, where architects are no longer needed). My take on this is that any new technology (BIM and what will come after BIM) should not render either of the above and it’s the responsibility and potential advantage of us as architects to always add value to our existing skills as well as foster the ability to adapt to constantly changing world (aren’t we supposed to embrace our generalist skills?)

    As such, three points are interesting to consider:

    1) The training of the architect. Take 5 text touched upon the question of how digital modeling should be introduced within schools’ curricula. I would ask further: can we define the holistic value added “skills package” that we want schools to provide us with? What is it comprised of? Creative and advance technical skills only? Or should we produce creative, technically savvy, business-oriented, collaboration-driven “spatial” controllers who can add value to the project at any given stage and scale?

    2) The scattered nature of the building industry (from architecture, to manufacturing, to construction) in terms of design/build protocols. 2D design platforms are currently practiced alongside and challenged by 3D modeling, which is still finding its way to be “legalized” (Take 5 on Ghery’s seminar). At the same time we have a niche that is already looking into 4D design platforms by adding the time function to simulate the potential life cycle of the building. Can architects apply their value-added skills to level these differences?

    3) Integrating BIM means integrating a strong system control and spatial control. While we are excellent at doing the latter through our generalist skills (hopefully that comes with our training), we have to build very specific skills to do the former in order to respond to demands of the industry.

    • Anh Minh Ngo says:

      There were some very interesting issues addressed at yesterday’s class, that I would like to highlight:

      First, the concepts of upstream and downstream work in design – decisions either brought to the front of the work flow for addressing, or made further in the line. As I understand, BIM technology makes designers more conscious of these two processes since right decisions at the start will eventually determine the success and viability of the project. This definitely challenges us with a new type of thinking – we find ourselves more involved in designing logic than designing results. I am personally very excited about thinking about my future work that way – instead of thinking spatially in a traditional way, we can thinking spatially of the implications of our early inputs / logic.

      This leads to the second question that was raised in the class: why aren’t architecture students being taught how to design their design processes? It’s not to say that how to design architecture is not at the core of our education, but if we were formally taught how to design our rhino models, how much to model, what type of inputs should be designed before modeling – these way of thinking, I believe, would really help us (me, at least) to logically structure my design thinking for each studio. I believe, even if we pride being in the creative field, such as design, the way we design and its result can be greatly influenced and improved by the way we think about our design work flow and processes.

  7. Julie Jira says:

    “A Trade to Retool…” refers to BIM as good for standard design production, but with technology changing, material qualities and environmental standards increasing, whatever the “standard” is, is actually in a constant state of flux. As a result, there is always room for architectural innovation, if architects not only maintain an understanding/knowledge of BIM products, but also other products contributing to the building industry. Therefore, the flexibility that is offered in Design will always have a range which can be maintained because the standard will never/shouldn’t stop evolving as the world continues to evolve towards a higher standard of technology.

    I think there will always be a design range related to a specific context that will allow for a mixed model to be implemented. With proper collaboration with relevant fields, a model could be formulated with “given/constants” with ranges for the architect to use. The architect could then use the range as a constraint to work with. Problems could arise from this, such has giving priority to structure and mechanical over architectural intent, but if close collaboration occurs in the schematic stage, working well within the boundaries of the architect’s ideas and the building technical requirements, the design development stage can be much more productive in terms of designing the details, instead of trying to make the details fit with the other systems of the building. One might ask in this case, what kind of effort would it take on the part of the team members to execute such a design plan…contractually, physically and intellectually?

    I think because of the qualitative attributes that are involved in architecture, the “standard” can be evaluated at the beginning of a project and then analyzed to see whether there are parts in the “standard” of something can be reused, and what parts can be innovated to suit the contextual properties of a project. In this case again, environmental, structural, mechanical and other engineers as well as contractors and manufacturers need to be employed for collaborative analysis. Legal standards can also be questioned and potentially innovated if a projected required it. I think such cooperation from other members in the industry will begin to shape the standard of industry itself. The workflow just needs to be broken down into pieces which every type of team member can understand, consume, and contribute to.

    • Julie Jira says:

      I think the notion of “branding” was an interesting topic brought up the other day. BIM in itself has become a brand that is associated with architecture along with “sustainability” and “green” design. Unfortunately, those terms only relate to aspects of what we do or use to design a building. The actual brand term is missing from people’s understanding of what architects do, and a way to defend our reputation is to use the skill we use best to sell our ideas, and that is communication. Communication can also mean education.

      If convincing the client to increase fees in favor of BIM is a challenge, then we need to look at the other half of what facilitates making a building, and that is the construction industry. The construction industry makes up 80-90% of the cost of a project. If this is the case, they need to become fluent in the use and importance of BIM. Until they are fully on board, it will be an uphill battle to convince the client to fork up money to pay for such systems of building design. Thus, close collaboration with the construction industry can be helpful both the architect and the construction industry. The architect will learn more about the practical nature of building while the contractor will engage the technological aspect of the industry.

      Our society must also become educated about the value of spatial design, which will demand clients to hire architects with innovative practices, instead of developers to work on projects. It is all about a mental shift from what the architect was to what the architect will be because of technology/higher standards for the built environment. Thus, the idea of branding comes up again. The concept of branding can be powerful to architects if they can maintain a sense of integrity towards the field, and communicate/educate people about what architects are about. If BIM can become mainstream, and even an educational tool/way of thought in schools (as in high schools), we will never look back at the old ways of making architecture. Architecture just needs to be something people regard as a necessity, and not just an afterthought. They also need to relate to the making of it. Society already values well designed technological gadgets, why not emphasize the value of well designed spaces. If we teach people about how space is made, and the technology space is made with, architects will be regarded as the experts required to create buildings. If the masses know about the processes of architecture, and the blackbox of what architects do is revealed, we may even be able to benefit in respect to being able to speak the same language as clients and other outsiders to the field. Thus, being able to design better spaces, as well as using the best tools to create spaces for the fee we deserve.

      It is thus a cultural shift in either the construction industry or in society that needs to occur in order for the uphill battle of BIM integration to stop. Until this happens, we will have to continue to take it project by project to raise the standards of what it takes to make a building.

  8. kmd2148 says:

    With BIM technology there is a an affluence of information automatically and manually embedded in the project, and I think this information has the ability to take priority over design flexibility especially in terms of the economics of a project. This prioritization of information over design can be a downfall to BIM and hinder design. However the proper symbiosis of the building information and the design with BIM is needed to produce a great project. As stated in A Trade to Retool, one can never create good buildings out of a pile of data. What is and how do you find the balance between the information and the design of a project?

    I think that a single integrated design model approach is an efficient and appropriate approach for the industry. Having all design professionals collaborating and designing together in one model can expedite the project and eliminate conflicts in the design. However the use of this approach by all design professionals is the struggle. How can we as architects advocate and facilitate the use of BIM and a single integrated design model approach to other disciplines, such as the construction industry? This also relates to the disciplinary boundaries of information. The single integrated model approach can stop the making of duplicate information by multiple disciples. It could put and end to the need for the production of shop drawings for example, however who takes final ownership of this information in the model? Which discipline creates the one final door schedule, the architect or the contractor? The organization and ownership of information between the disciplines in BIM must be delineated and is crucial to its effectiveness and efficiency.

    In addition, the idea that BIM has other upstream and downstream implications is important to take into consideration when designing BIM workflows. BIM does not create the “concept” or do any other pre-design analysis that might be needed for a project. Also the factors of the workplace staff, cost, time, liability, and quality/stylistic impacts that BIM can have should be considered. Finally, the downstream implications such as the use of the BIM model by the client to maintain the building can create situations where the design could be “cloned”. How can the implications of BIM through its use before, during, and after a project be addressed?

    • kmd2148 says:

      Responses to my questions and overall conclusions from today’s class discussion:
      A balance is certainly needed between the information/quantitative aspects of BIM and the design/aesthetics aspects. Using BIM technology these two drivers of a project have the ability to feed off each other in a more dynamic and faster way than before, and I think that both should be given appropriate value and neither one given priority over the other. Using BIM, the abilities of both information and aesthetics are heightened, and the role of the architect is to define the balance between them. An example is the idea of specialization within the broader term of architecture, such as a technical draftsman architect and a design architect, who both using BIM technology collaborate on a project and each give a little on a certain part of the project to accommodate the best of both their goals to neither sacrifice the design vision or information properties, all under the larger umbrella of the architect as a whole. I think the dilemma of quantitative vs aesthetic qualities of a BIM project is one that the architect needs to mediate.

      A single integrated design model approach leads to questions of the boundaries between disciplines, but also eliminates the redundancy of work. I think that when the disciplines collaborate efficiently and thereby have the presence of more specialized expertise, the boundaries between the disciplines while utilizing BIM technologies will become clear, as well as ideally create less duplication of work. In addition, the idea of tiers of BIM will greatly impact the roles of the different disciplines while using BIM technologies. Creating tiers of BIM where stepped uses of the capabilities of BIM are delineated and chosen by project by the client will help control the role of each discipline working in BIM on the project as well as help better sell the client on the use of BIM.
      In conclusion, in this information age the use of BIM has the ability to expand and possibly redefine the role of the architect, and thereby also impact the other design disciplines and the public, to bring about change in our industry. The idea of branding the profession and advertising the architect’s role falls into this and I think is an inevitable part of the future of our industry.

  9. Questions for this week:

    1. Paolo Tombesi’s interview with Mark Burry and John Frazer brings up a point that has had me concerned about the industry’s move toward BIM for a while now: With these technologies coming into more mainstream practice, are younger designers – those of us who are more likely to be familiar with these systems than our older counterparts – be pigeon-holing ourselves into a position equivalent to that of a CAD draftsman without the hope for future advancement? It already happens when it comes to 3D visualizations; those of us that know the programs and have had the experiences in school get assigned to these tasks because we can do them more efficiently than others. However, in the end, we are forced to give up our duties elsewhere. How do we prevent this from happening to young designers when we are talking about introducing a system that is far more complicated than a simple 3D modeling program? Conversely, how do we prevent firms outside of the architectural profession from becoming so OVERLY proficient with the software that they become more valuable to contractors and clients than us?

    2. Speaking of value, Tombesi’s interview also brings up the notion of value and the BIM transition. Setting up a BIM model is more costly (in the short term at least) though firms are often times not receiving additional fees to accommodate. How do we show the value of this technology to the clients? Is it something that needs to be more visible to non-architects?

    3. Here’s a doozy: Does the introduction of BIM really make the profession more efficient? Think about it: In school, we have such a greater technological edge than the generations before us, but we still need to stay up all-night to complete the tasks at hand. In the end, technology just makes it easier for our clients (our professors) to expect more and more in a shorter amount of time. Is this really efficiency at work?

    • I was not surprised that our conversation yesterday strayed away from the topic of BIM as a form of collaboration within the architect-contractor-consultant dynamic. Our generation is much more comfortable with a software and with a workflow that enables this sort of interface. I think the larger and more important question is: How do we sell BIM to the client? When does the concept of BIM reach its tipping point, and how can we accelerate this important moment?

      The client is the gatekeeper. Being constantly immersed in our own world, we often lose sight of the fact that the rest of the world has probably never even heard of the term “parametric,” especially within the fields of architecture and design. How do we sell something that is so obviously beneficial to us (and, in the end, to our clients) but may not be as evident to the general public at the outset?

      I strongly believe that architects need to embrace the role of educators to the public (much like the AIA should be, but isn’t). I appreciated seeing a bit of the comprehensive introduction Marble Fairbanks includes in their presentations to potential clients. It really does help. And people then begin to ask questions. BIM becomes a buzzword, and people get interested. If we can demonstrate the quantifiable value that this software and this workflow can provide, it will give us the opportunity to elevate the design of the every day, making architects a much more valued and integrated part of every day design, not just an exclusive luxury for the top two percent. I think we undervalue the notion of “marketing ideas” in our profession when we should really be embracing it.

  10. Solar says:

    The variable affecting most of these discussions is economic. But underlying that is the concept of trust. BIM demands collaboration with the outcome being “the greatest common denominator of shared intentions.” The limitations of the model narrow the gap between fields, resulting in closer values and closer visions. More trust between architects, engineers, fabricators, etc means more flexibility in project development. Understood and implemented in this way, BIM’s limitations could actually be creating more flexibility. As for the client-architect relationship, it is solely based on trust. Unless you are working with an eccentric billionaire, the initial stage of any client-driven project is communicating vision/intention in such a way so that the client not only understands the architect but also so that the client feels that he/she is creating the vision as well. The best advertising is not about the product. It is about awakening a shared vision. The dimensionality of architecture is much more difficult for people to conceptualize. BIM allows the client to share this vision, early in the process.

    I agree entirely with Anh when she said, “My take on this is that any new technology (BIM and what will come after BIM) should not render either of the above and it’s the responsibility and potential advantage of us as architects to always add value to our existing skills as well as foster the ability to adapt to constantly changing world (aren’t we supposed to embrace our generalist skills?)”

    BIM may be a revolutionary tool, but it is still a tool. Instead of being at the mercy of the limitations of any one tool, no mater how complex or flexible, in fully understanding it, we can integrate it into our own effectiveness. New technology may demand a shift in our roles or a redistribution of our focus. Blurry writes, “Design flexible modeling…is a difficult technique to acquire; and if you look at the profile of the typical architecture student, you realise that very few of them are interested in becoming involved at that level and in that type of work. So it might mean that another kind of designer, interested in these generative techniques, might come through from an allied field and take control of the role.”

    In response to the age question, Frazer responded, “More than an age gap, it is a vision gap, an enthusiasm gap, and a kind of confidence gap.” This does not only apply to age. We are being asked to adapt our roles due to the emergence of new technologies. What kind of education will narrow these gaps? How can we utilize BIM to foster the kind of relationships that will create openings for more design freedom? This question has been asked before and I think it’s a crucial one: How are we branding ourselves?

    • Solar says:

      In answering my own question, we need to be careful when we speak about branding. We are not looking to create sound-bites and catch-phrases. Not yet, anyway. Before we can sell (or translate) our identity/value, we need to understand it so we can inhabit it. If we know that something like beauty is part of what defines us but is also a value that is hard to quantify, we need to create quantifiable parameters around beauty that become the necessary framework through which beauty will emerge. Vision, beauty, spatial understanding, information synthesis, relationship synthesis, etc are profound contributions, yet can be amorphous in translation. Once we have a language for it, we can educate others.

  11. samolsen says:

    Replies –
    Maybe the most curious aspects of this discussion was that nobody seemed to be griping about the amount of data entry that most BIM requires. And what we might get out of all of the fruitless labors.
    How do we position ourselves to best take control of “changing times” to get what we want, rather than what we are being handed.

    How do we further integrate the advertising and marketing materials into the project? I really enjoyed “flexibility has an inverse relationship with power” suggesting that this is in fact removing authorship. Unless, of course, we are advocating for our own labors to be immutable, and therefore powerful and valid.

    How do we get a marketing / branding / brand awareness course into the program?

  12. awgerber says:

    Sorry for missing out on the discussion guys, I thought I would post my thoughts on the readings anyway. I really liked these readings because they did not dwell on BIM’s purely financial/economic selling points and quandrys. I believe that the driver for the adoption of BIM is as much architectural and design ambition as it is getting more for less. Having just read Rem’s essay on “Bigness,” I have a vague sense that he could write an accompanying essay entitled “complexity.” BIM allows people to tackle projects that are larger, more complex, dynamically controlled, and executed within tight tolerances. These are big design problems that we can now tackle, and not necessarily the result of market pressure. The use of 3D representation and CATIA in architecture was driven by a formal problem, Ghery’s Fish, not the need for more efficient condos. I think that its important to note this “edge of the sword” along with the other business oriented economic benefits that BIM affords. The tools that will be most successful in driving the adoption of BIM will address both “edges” well.
    The tectonic/material thoughtfulness that results from bringing material decisions upstream seems like a good example of how this tool benefits both the design intentions of a project and the financial goals. Furthermore, by explicitly making these informed decisions in the modeling stage of the process, architects can grab scope from a value engineer by doing their job “upstream.”
    As I celebrate the positive design ramifications of BIM, I am also receptive to its design limitations. In particular I liked the quotation from Closing the Gap: digital models must be built on constructs that are explicit, specific and consistent. This is not required of physical design media or operators on them…
    To me, this means re-thinking what it means to design using these tools, and to remember that the information in a BIM model is still only a fraction of the “total building information” (a term I am copyrighting RIGHT NOW!)

    Another note: Until doing the Take 5 reading, I had not considered that BIM might be a seen as a threat to a general contractor. If all the fabrication data for a building is imbeded in the model, why not let the “project overlord” (awesome term) part out the subcontracting. I.E. going directly from architectural design model to sub-contractor. This seems eminently doable and a big reason that GCs have a lot of skin in the scope-grabbing game. I suspect that right now, GCs are slower to incorporate this technology into their businesses (in america)… so, yeah, architects need to start making BIM THEIR business in a productive way, swinging both ends of the sword.

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