Friday, October 27, 2006

A/E BIM Adoption

In response to a recent post on the bim(X) blog, I am disappointed to hear the frustration of an industry colleague over the state of BIM adoption witnessed in the A/E sector. As we have begun to implement these new tools and methods, we find ourselves collaborating at a much higher level than ever before with contractors, fabricators, suppliers and subcontractors. Our junior team members are learning so much more about construction by modeling (both the 3D and the metadata) than through drafting alone. We are starting to perform analyses earlier in the design phase and in-house - an effort which was previously farmed-out to specialists and consultants. We're looking for those services which will set our firm apart from those simply offering it faster and cheaper. Architects in particular have the extraordinary opportunity to start manifesting the evolution by educating their clients on the enormous possibilities of BIM and how it can revolutionize both the construction and design processes.

Another part of me tends to see the short term argument: what's in it for the design professional who shells out big bucks for new software and training? Those who stand to reap maximum benefit from BIM are the owners. In today's market, the owners, operators and developers are just starting to grasp the concept; however, take a look at the upcoming BIM requirements from GSA and you might think again. Right now, even early adopters of BIM are not likely to be delivering a Revit or IFC model to the client. They still require 2D vector format - or even just paper - what's the point?

Architects and Engineers face a simple choice: evolve or become obsolete. If we remember a time when ink on mylar was the medium of choice, we'd see a similar paradigm shift. Our BIM work on Freedom Tower was recently part of the National Building Museum exhibit "Tools of the Imagination" in which tools I used only 10 years ago were on display under glass cases!! What happened to those practitioners who decided to maintain their traditional ways? Believe it or not, they're still around. I volunteer for my village's Architectural Review Board and you'd be amazed at the number of pen+paper, diazo blueprints we review every month. That said, from my day-job perspective we see a growing number of small to mid-size firms starting to compete for our work. They can only accomplish these types of projects and provide value-added services using BIM tools. Eventually, it will be commonplace for owners to require a Building Information Model which they will assimilate into their facilities management programs and report data back to the A/E's on the continuing performance of the occupied structure.

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