The ABCs of BIM and Integrated Design

As an experiment this morning I opened the keyword index of the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice (AHPP) to see just how much the architecture profession – and the way we practice – changes due to the advent of BIM and the collaborative process of Integrated Design enabled by this technology. No matter where you find yourself on the BIM journey – training, transitioning or trial-and-error – the world of architecture we are told is about to be turned on its head and all of us will be expected to learn our ABCs all over again. Start now – from A – and don’t let this be an alphabet of regret and remorse but rather the beginnings of a BIM Dictionary, A Bim Ctionary, or if you prefer, a BIMtionary. For here we are not focused on BIM-related words – we have BIM glossaries for that – but instead, and more importantly, our BIM DNA.


Architects and Standard of Care

BIM causes the Standard of Care to evolve. Because BIM results in a model – and indirectly, documents – that are more accurate and exact – the expectation inevitably will be for architects and their work to rise to this new watermark. Architects will be expected to work in BIM.

Accreditation: School

To receive accreditation schools will need to prepare students for working in a BIM environment. Whether BIM is taught in the school program or whether students will be required to pick up the software themselves on their own time is being debated. One thing is certain – recent graduates will be expected to know how to communicate well, collaborate effectively and know how a building is put together.

Alternative Careers

With 50% of recent architecture school graduates going on to work at something other than traditional architectural practice, schools will need to determine if the time, cost and energy learning BIM software would be better allocated on more transferable skills – such as working simultaneously at multiple scales, orchestrating large teams and translating ideas from one media to another. Those that take the time to learn BIM either gain confidence with the accomplishment – or feel deficient – due to how overwhelming it can be.

Architect Selection

A non-starter. Already in Wisconsin and Texas BIM is required on state-supported projects. If you do not now use BIM you cannot compete for this work. And when you do decide to take it on – other will be able to say that they have been using it for years.

Acquiring Capital

Banks will require projects to be designed, modeled and built virtually in BIM in order to be assured that loans are based on accurate estimates of construction cost, that there are fewer delays and loan amounts are not exceeded.


Bidding and Negotiation

In the eight phases of Integrated Design (Conceptualization phase – or expanded Programming; Criteria design phase – or expanded Schematic Design; Detailed Design phase – or expanded Design Development; Implementation Documents phase – the former Construction Documents; Agency Review, Buyout, Construction phase and Closeout phases) Bidding and Negotiation will be replaced by Buyout. Because of the accuracy of the model the project will be a known entity: there will be nothing to bid or negotiate.

Banking and Bankers

See Acquiring Capital above.

Basic Services

As with the Standard of Care, you might be able for the short term to leverage BIM and its accoutrements as an additional service for which you are compensated. But soon, as BIM becomes the norm and more so – ubiquitous – it will be an expected service.

Building Codes

We will soon see building codes incorporated into BIM (IBC plug-in and ADA App anyone?) These programs will flag discrepancies and identify non-conforming work and perhaps more importantly for design will set limits – constraints – to work within, alerting us when we’ve exceeded set boundaries.


Computerizing the Firm

How quaint.

Change Orders

With BIM, these will go the way of Maylines, pin bars and 2D CAD. Relics of an earlier age and process – their presence and need will be greatly diminished. Unless of course they are due to someone changing their mind, human nature being what it is. Those in the industry will need to find another method for profit-making. Integrated Design has taken care of that – with the concept of shared risk and shared reward.

Client Management

Because owners are an integral part of the team meeting in the iRoom, managing and orchestrating clients around the BIM model becomes all the more critical. With less left to the imagination – and less opportunity to “wow” them – new strategies will need to be developed by the architect to manage client’s expectations, perceptions and understandings.

Communications Management

BIM disrupts and radically changes office and team workflows. The way you communicated before – both internally and externally with consultants, engineers and others – has become transformed in the BIM environment. Learning how to communicate effectively with those working in the model both in the office and utilizing collaborative communication tools will become a priority for all involved in the process if only due to the change in the way decisions are made – and when they are made.

Compensation and Promotions

Architects in Integrated Design share risk and reward and can market their BIM capabilities. Architect employees immersed in the BIM world for the time being can demand greater personal compensation. At least until the playing field levels off…

As for promotions, firm leadership will debate the role and importance of being technically savvy and adept at BIM to attaining a senior management position or other coveted role within the firm. While working exclusively in BIM is not a substitute for becoming and being a well-rounded architect with other highly developed attributes and aptitudes – more and more it will become a factor in who will lead firms and the profession.

Construction Cost Management

An indisputable win for BIM, driven by the reliability and accuracy of the information in the BIM model.

Phrases such as “BIM represents a sea change” and “BIM levels the playing field” that are thrown about imply that “BIM is a whole new ballgame” when in fact – at least for now, you are the same architect, working in the same firm in the same profession. In other words – more has stayed the same and less has changed than you give credit for. It’s the same profession – with BIM or without – and we’re the same professionals, using new, advanced tools to play our parts in the worlds of design and construction. And yet – we sense – not far on the horizon that these worlds are swiftly converging. It’s all right there in the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice – the old standby – reliably reminding us, when we bother to look, who we are and what we do. In the next post we’ll look at letters “DEF,” but until then realize this: that BIM doesn’t change things so much as shed light, rendering the alphabet of our chosen profession lucid, apparent, remarkable in a way that we have not seen it in our lifetime.



Filed under BIM, defining BIM, Integrated Design

3 responses to “The ABCs of BIM and Integrated Design

  1. Joe

    How do you think BIM will change the opportunities for entry level people in architecture? How much faster can you create documents with BIM software vs 2d CAD or even AutoCad architectural? I use ACA and am learned a little about REVIT. It’s alot of fun but I wonder how it will change the field because it reduces the amount of work required especially entry level stuff like updating sections and elevations to plan changes. or even drafting sections and elevations like many offices still do in 2d CAD.

  2. Provocative. BIM does indeed open up a whole new approach to documenting our buildings . It eliminates the drudgery of creating and updating “views”. Joe, above, mentions entry level stuff like updating sections.
    Aint no updating necessary. Now we can focus on creating the design and not the drawings. I look forward to fully simulated building designs, especially an energy model that can be created and “extracted” and into the energy software in 30 minutes vs 3 days. This means more time to think and try alternatives to more efficient designs.

  3. Dusti Hurdle

    Great information in your post, and the timing could not have been better! thanks for the ideas!, I have bookmarked, thanks Dusti Hurdle

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