When discussing about the use BIM technology in projects it is very common to hear things like: “yes, the BIM team is doing it”, “I am a designer, I don’t work in BIM” or “does the project require BIM or not?”.
The problem here, and this affects all our construction industry, is that we have been lead to believe that BIM is a deliverable that can be added to a project; and therefore, a technology that can be use in certain steps of the process, or not used at all.
Due to my work I meet often with companies that are using BIM and they think they might need assistance to improve their efficiency, or they are not using BIM at all and they want to learn more about it. And I can see this problem constantly: we are not understanding the technology if we keep double handling. We should use technology to do things right once.
I believe that the main reason for this is the fact that some of the most popular BIM solutions for authors are simply “not easy to use”, and this is why designers are not able to implement BIM in their design process. When I talk about designers I might better use the word “authors”, or any professional of the AEC/O industry that creates or propose a “design” for a building, infrastructure or part of it. Basically any author that propose a project, it can be an Architect, engineer, interior designer, landscape architect, etc…
What happens is that even after more than 30 years that this technology is around (actually almost 40); we still need to duplicate tasks, teams, consultants and budgets to implement it. What this means is that we are constraint to design something first, with tools that do not give us precise information of our proposal, and then add a second team that will rebuild what we design initially.
This makes designers (authors) have to duplicate teams, add additional coordination processes and duplicate tasks because we seem unable to “do things right from the beginning”. So it seems that it is better to design something first with 3D and 2D tools. Once this is done, a second team that often does not share the same interest on design as the author, rebuilds with their BIM solutions what the designer already built.
For those who would be thinking that “we have always done projects before BIM”, yes you are right, also without computers. So for those thinking that technological improvements are not necessary, specially in our industry, please feel free to produce all your deliverables by hand.
The problem as I was saying, is double handling. It is the fact that in our industry we have created this culture of BIM person Vs Design person. As if you cannot be creative if you chose to use BIM. But also the other way around. Our industry is requiring BIM modellers, BIM consultants, professionals that often don’t have background in architecture, engineering or construction. So we leave the “re-built” process of our design to users that often haven’t studied the logic of construction, and have only learned a piece of software.
This fact is contributing to make AEC/O industry one of the less efficient and less sustainable industries. We prefer to do something wrong first and the fix it, rather than design with right tools from the beginning.
Luckily some BIM solutions do aim to empower the designer and author of the different project’s disciplines. This is the feeling that I always had when using Archicad, Graphisoft’s BIM authoring tool. BIM solutions that are intuitive, easy to learn, flexible with good connectivity with all sort of digital tools in the market, is exactly what the industry needs. I am sure that other BIM solutions for authors on the market are also intuitive and flexible: Vectorworks, Acca Software, etc…
Why is this so important for our industry?
When talking about the cost of a project, its energetic performance, efficiency on the site use, or any other aspect; all decisions done during the early design stage are critical. Any decision at the design stage will impact all these considerations much more than through out any further step of the project lifecycle.
As an example, if we have a project that is composed by volumes which orientation and geometry makes them get too much solar gain, adding more expensive materials, insulation or additions to the facade, etc… will not be as efficient solution as designing volumes that respond to the climate conditions, orientation, etc…; of the location.
Another example could be the cost of a structure or facade due to the complex geometry. We can try to reduce cost but certain geometries require simply a larger investment of budget and resources. Even if in this particular example, lucky technology is improving fast enough with many fabrication breakthroughs. But not on average projects.
As authors we have the responsibility to understand our proposal and have it under control. And for this, we need to use technology and understand it as we design. I personally always start designing using pencil and paper. Sketching is something I simply cannot work without. After my sketches starts to ask too many questions, I need to jump into BIM (Archicad, my design and BIM solution of choice).
I always encourage all our customers, students and colleagues to make an effort to understand and learn technology for the sake of their design.
If we don’t do something to change this loop of duplication, we will end up being slaves of our BIM Consultants or BIM people, to rebuild everything we design. We will be constraint to invest too many resources on the design stage (before construction), making the process more complex. We won’t have the capacity to evaluate our design during the design process in a pragmatic way, and we will leave our proposal on hands of teams that might not be as interested in our design and proposals as we are.
How much work does your organisation duplicate to re-build the design of the average project? Do you have BIM people and Design people in your organisation?
Do you use BIM to work smarter and not harder? Or instead BIM is an addition to the process to re-do tasks?
Let’s stop duplication!