08 July 2012

Evolve? Dissolve? or Resurrect? a Profession

The Definition of BIM has been muddled since the term was coined. Basically the confusion stems from trying to define something that is both still evolving we don't really know what it will become. To BIM simply means architecture. It's not a specialty, its not a method it is simply architecture.

Many have been memorized by the 3D visualization, or the potential to actually quantify and manage the complexity of what a building actually is. Technology is enabling us to efficiently and efficiently manage what we have while also enabling us to go bigger if you will.

in order to but into this idea that Architecture and BIM will have to adjust your thinking a little as I have. In the fewest of words I subscribe to the idea of Architect as master builder. I know if anything this is very classical and not that modern if you look at how professionally architects are now defined. With a profession of thousands of years of history in relativity short order the professional significance of the Architect has eroded to be what I would consider nothing more that a glorified building designer. Yes, the Architect still maintains ethical and social responsibilities but I question if those are maintained by choice. If it were not for the a system of law that is very much based on precedence would architects have simply walked away from such responsibilities. Form a business perspective I would say yes. From a moral perspective i'm less sure, but troubled to the extent the  precedence leaving us less bound to the maintaining these obligations.

I for see in a  not to distant future a reshaping of the professional landscape where the concept of master builder re emerges. Driving this is the current desire of the Architect to pass on liability and risk to others rather than maintain and manage them. As the Architect has walked away from risk and liability, others have picked it up, mostly the contractor. While it has not happened yet, I think that without intervention the Contractor will assume the roll of master builder. I believe this to be as more and more of the knowledge of how buildings go together shift from the realm of the Architect to that of the contractor. This enables the contractor to take on more risk and liability, which in successful ventures results more profit. So you have a situation where to protect what is sacred the the architect (presumably design) has given away most everything else.

If anything BIM present the means for the architect to start taking back the rolls that have been doled out in the past. BIM offers the opportunity to more effective manage risk, liability as well as potentially offer new services. As the broad definition of Architect has been striped down BIM offers the opportunity to expand it once more. If Architects don't harness this (and I suspect they won't) contractors will. Either of these two roads leads to the same thing a merger that restores the role of master builder.The question remains will the Architect leverage BIM to take back the liabilities and risks now associated with the contractors role. Or, will the contractor continue to to acquire all the aspects of the architectural profession until it exist no more?

02 May 2011


For some Change can’t come too quickly, then there are others for whom change is a low priority. When you peal back all the rhetoric and glossy wrappers that many package their sales pitches in you find a hollowness when it comes to the topic of BIM. Yes, there are those who are doing great things, but they do not represent the industry as a whole. The hot air spewed about BIM it’s a good thing but it can’t keep the momentum moving forward forever with out some real substance.

The thing is exaggerated truths, are necessary ingredient in moving concepts through to reality, however at some point you have to commit to realizing what you are pitching. Today our practices shuffle forward rather than commit to making the necessary strides. We fear the potential instability a revolution of change would bring and instead settle for evolution. We have successfully incorporated the power of 3D tools to improve our development of 2D documentation. Yes, the paper or the more modern PDF delivery still rules, emulating what we have always done. Why we feel it necessary to flatten models only to re-translate them into real three dimensional things perplexes me. Why must we fuss with line weights and cosmetic foolery is necessary only because we won’t let go. I have had the pleasure of working with teams that flipped this reality. Developing projects with models and providing 2D documentation to supplement the models. It can be done, but it takes persistence and a people willing to push against the norm.

I run into few who outright reject the ideals of BIM, and those who are more hesitant come across as being jaded by the status quo. I have seen in practice a way of working that proves contrary, and has shown it to be possible. Now only if we truly bought into what we pitch to clients and colleges change would come faster. Whether you shuffle timidly, or glide confidently the course has been set.

In many ways it’s happened, and we just won’t allow ourselves to admit it. How many projects have you seen where paper documents are submitted with electronic files presented under the banner “for reference only”? Not to alarm anyone but I don’t care what you label it once you release those electronic files become the primary reference no mater how your agreement reads. Think about the convince you provide with a electronic document, and along with the pressure of time and efficiency. By providing those files it becomes practice to circumvent the recreation process of reinterpreting paper documents. The result is that today more and more of the work in the building design and construction process is being done from sources other that the construction documents (technically speaking). The risk appears to be much less than many forecasted. The truth is whatever we share is covered by our redundant systems in our contractual agreements and best practices between one another. Admitting it or not we are doing things previously not possible with better coordination, higher accuracy, and lower cost.

This is what I mean when I say no matter how you manage change in practice change will happen. Further more I think we can be more aggressive about embracing a new vision of new practices, owning it and define it for ourselves. As we have already begun to see if we don’t embrace it, it will embrace us. In the fast paced world of business the window of wait and see is small. I encourage those who are apart of the building design ecosystem to walk the talk

19 March 2011

appropriate tools

In the adoption of new tools and processes it is hard to keep from falling back into the ruts of our old ways. Some times this causes us to become stubbornly engaged in pushing a tool beyond it's usefulness. There is a thin line between pushing the limits of something and all out forcing it to be something its not.
I recently thought back a quote from Louis Kahn that has stuck with me since I first heard it. At the time I was slipping into a counter productive mode madly struggling to get Revit in this case to do something that was beyond it intended use.

“To express is to drive.
And when you want to give something presence,
you have to consult nature.
And there is where Design comes in.
And if you think of Brick, for instance,
and you say to Brick,
"What do you want Brick?"
And Brick says to you
"I like an Arch."
And if you say to Brick
"Look, arches are expensive,
and I can use a concrete lentil over you.
What do you think of that?"
Brick says:
"... I like an Arch"”
-Louis Kahn-

As I recalled these words I smiled and thought how appropriate, and twisting a few of Kahn's words.... (my apoligies) came to this.

To express is to drive.
And when you want to give something presence,
you have to consult the computer.
And there is where Autodesk comes in.

And if you think of Revit, for instance,
and you say to Revit,
"What do you want Revit?"
And Revit says to you
"I like an Model."
And if you say to Revit
"Look, models are different,
and I can use AutoCAD over you.
What do you think of that?"
Revit says:
"... I like an Model"

It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the moment and find yourself forcing old ingrained processes into a new framework that is not intended to support such things. Our evolving practice is informed by the past, but is about clearing new more efficient and relevant paths to accomplishing the means. Build models to be models, not build models to be drawings.