BIM   CONSTRUCT
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BIM Ball - Evolve or Dissolve
Why Architects and The AIA are at Risk of Missing the Boat on Building Information Modeling (BIM)

At the risk of being ostracized by the AIA, this paper is gong to focus on why I believe the Architectural profession is at the risk of missing the boat and has their heads in the sand about the changing world around us.
  • Why we are no longer master builders and never will be with the current mindset
  • Why we must open up and change our process
  • Why we must not be as close minded as we are as an industry
  • How others in the industry are currently more qualified to replace us
  • How our background and training is the perfect platform to support BIM if we step up the plate

There is a revolution happening in the building industry and many architects are standing in the sidelines either as spectators or unaware of this. As an architect and a member of the AIA I have spent a lot of time in the last 10 years talking to architects about the changes that are happening. My initial hope was that architects are inherently open minded and progressive in all of their thinking. Unfortunately I have not found this to be the case.

We are by nature and training creative thinkers but for some reason we have not been able to make the leap into the changing landscape. We are stuck in processes that are 100 years old and are merely replicating those using the technologies available today. We are not leading the change but waiting passively to see what happens and nostalgically looking back to “Your Grandfather’s Working Drawings”.

http://info.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek05/tw0805/tw0805bp_risk.htm

We may as well dig our own grave and jump in it with our grandfathers….

A paper published in 2004 from The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
http://www.bfrl.nist.gov/oae/publications/gcrs/04867.pdf

“The cost of inadequate interoperability in the U.S. capital facilities industry to be $15.8 billion per year. The intended audiences are owners and operators of capital facilities; design, construction, operation and maintenance, and other providers of professional services in the capital facilities industry”

Much of the inadequate interoperability rests on the shoulders of the architectural community. We charge our clients 6% plus of construction costs to assemble information into documents. This takes many man hours per project, much of it going into the production of construction documents that only serve one purpose. Most of the knowledge and information that is assembled for a project goes into the lines of a CAD file that essentially has only one use. These efforts are not integrated with other disciplines, and the knowledge and time spent on assembling these lines cannot be extracted and used for other purposes. These lines must be interpreted by another person that can misread the intent leading to mistakes.

The value in architectural services rests in the knowledge and experience to assemble information and execute projects. If we can focus on maximizing the integration of this knowledge rather than trapping it in processes that have not changed in hundreds of years, we can become the leaders of the BIM revolution. We must not wait or listen passively to the software companies. Our destiny is in our own hands and we must drive it. The change is much larger than a shift in technology and tools, we must change our process and our understanding of what BIM is all about.

Some client/owners such as the General Services Administration, the Department of Defense and The US Coast Guard are all defining their requirements for deliverables in BIM. These are the new requirements for design and construction professionals and the new bar for information competency.

There is a romantic and nostalgic notion in the architectural community that we must be the master builders and that maybe BIM will allow us to do that. This will not happen with the current processes of architecture. BIM will not change that for us unless we embrace the change. The process of designing and building a project is much more complex than the traditional notion of a master builder can handle. Just the systems alone in a building are exponentially more complex than they were at the time of the master builder. The only possible solution is to solve this using the technologies available in Building Information Modeling, standards and interoperability.

The opportunity is clear for architects. Architects are positioned at the center of the design and construction process not as the “master builder” integrating and organizing all the disparate pieces of the building but now as the information and process builders and coordinators in this process.

At the urging of the AIA and the architectural community we have progressively, for the sake of limiting our liability, pulled away from being the master builder. Construction Management filled that roll for us since we were not able to manage it. We are now perfectly poised to reduce our relevance even further. The threat is clear yet most architects prefer to ignore the BIM revolution and do not understand what this is all about, while passively waiting for things to happen. This will result in architecture and design being marginalized and the 15.8 billion dollar gap being filled by other members of the industry team.

We romanticize about being the master builder once more. We must lead this change to make it happen. Why is it that today the ones requesting us to change are our clients? Why must the GSA, the US Coast Guard and others request of us to be more efficient? Should this change not have been initiated from the ranks of the architectural community and the AIA? Instead there was and still is complaining going on from the architectural community of this change and the misguided notion that the industry and technology is not ready for the change. There could be nothing further from or more urgent the reality that we may miss this.

Why also must we look to the software vendors to give us solutions for how to run our business? Why are we not leading that change? There are many specific examples in the software industry, specifically the larger players that are having a direct impact on the future of architecture. The software vendors should focus on getting their products to function properly and give us enough options of moving our data in and out of their systems with interoperability, BuidlingSMART, IFCs, APIs and the user interfaces. There are big steps in the right direction but it is not completely the case right now. There are intentional maneuvers to control this. The architectural industry in general is oblivious to this, or does not understand enough the implications, so we patiently wait. We must demand open standards, access to our data and the ability to be interoperable and move projects from one platform to the next without barriers.

Imagine if authors and screenwriters depended on Microsoft for their creativity. Would they wait for the next version of MS Word to be able to put out a new novel? Do they look to Bill Gates for creativity beyond that of creating the software that they use to write that screenplay? That is where most architects are, we are looking to the software vendors to give us the answers. These vendors would like nothing more than this level of control. Imagine also that if the only way to get to the text in the novel is for the writers to use MS Word. Microsoft almost has the monopoly on word processing, but it is still possible to get the data of the words out of MS Word and put it into something else.

The time is now to define our future. The BIM ball is already rolling and as Stuart Brand has said “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road. “

  • BIM is not happening in the future, it is being implemented now
  • BIM is not only 3D. The “I” of BIM is information and data integrated with 3D
  • BIM was not invented by one software company
  • BIM should not be driven by any one company or organization.

The opportunities are huge for all in the industry to focus on creating a framework for interoperability. The benefits that can be gained are not imaginary or in the future, they have already been happening for many years. We must be prepared to write our own novels and look to ways to maximize the knowledge and value embedded in interoperable systems and processes.

We must not get bogged down in non productive spinning of efforts, and focus on getting the base level standards and interoperability working. This paper is focused on architects, but you could just as easily replace others that are involved in these processes into it.

Kimon G. Onuma, AIA
Digital Architect
http://onuma.com
University of Southern California, School of Architecture 1983

Kimon Onuma is the principal of Onuma and Associates and the president of Webscape. He has each foot firmly planted in both worlds of architecture and technology and has been a firm proponent of Building Information Modeling for over 10 years. His recent projects include work with the United States Coast Guard in various projects, pilot projects and the SFCAM Road Map which is mapping the future of integrated decision making in the Coast Guard and Building Information Modeling. He has created the Inteltect Planning System tool that automates part of the inefficient processes of early planning and design.