This is an expansion of some comments that Willard Williams made on a LinkedIn thread. I really liked what he had to say and asked him to expand it into a guest post for Shoegnome. Enjoy!
In the end it is the final product that is of greatest importance.
The reality is that both ArchiCAD and Revit (as well as the rest of the BIM software family) have done something to and for the industry that has never been seen in the history of this ancient profession. We are able to understand the multiple facets of our designs before they are built. We can assess vast amounts of information to see which results are most applicable to the conditions upon which we are going to build these structures. Twenty years ago we were at the Etch-a-Sketch level and now we are seeing the value of having data rich 5-dimensional models that are integrated with our entire team in real time. We are able to calculate massive amounts of data, on site-specific locations in an effort to bring forth more resolution to our forward thinking efforts. But how many people are really exploiting “BIM,” or even using it. Most of us are stuck in the 3d modeling or 2d work, rarely using the “I” in BIM. How many people understand that ArchiCAD and Revit aren’t BIM software; they are apart of the BIM, they integrate with the BIM, and translate the parts of the BIM for other uses. The BIM can be the inclusion of various different platforms like OPS (Onuma Planning Software), Sketch Up, C4D (Cinema 4D), Grasshopper, Navisworks, Solibri, Ecotech, Tekla, and many others. You can use the BIM to analyze many things, like the stress within the structure, the environmental conditions, emergency exiting scenarios, smoke spread, code compliance, project costs, construction duration, etc. You can also take this BIM and make it into an asset and facilities management tool that will be used for the life of the building, like ArchiFM or OPS. And any one of those platforms operating at it’s highest potential isn’t BIM by itself, it’s apart of the whole BIM pie. Just as we aren’t just architects and designers operating in a vacuum on a site that has not relationship to the world around us, BIM is integrated into multiple aspects of the process.
BIM is only as rich as you make it. Most of the teams I have encountered aren’t using these very sophisticated platforms for much more than a documentation and 3d analysis software….that’s just the tip of the BIMberg. BIM for most is just a method for producing a parametric model that produces a few schedules and construction documentation. Yet that is such a small percentage of the capabilities for which BIM was conceived. Some practitioners say that going deep into the richness that is BIM is beyond their tiny projects needs. It is not. You can BIM at any level on any size project, if that is your intent. The longer that we focus on what our individual tools can or can’t do, the more time we are distracted from improving the health, welfare, and safety of the public for which we serve. We have a duty to protect the public from a lot of things, and weak design solutions that are harmful to the public even after they are built should be one of them.
It doesn’t matter how it is made or what software is used.
All that really matters is if the product is going to help the social and economic environment. The work itself lives on long after the BIM. We get so focused on our personal preferences that we forget we are all in this together, and on this rock as neighbors, partners, and co-creators. Most of the projects produced by BIM software today still fail to answer many social, environmental, or any number of various issues that are required for a sustainable socioeconomic environment. Who cares what software provides the best design and documentation solutions. Are we saving our clients money and providing a better product to the building user then we did yesterday? Not just a product that considers the various constructability issues, but one that saves the client money now and in the future through our wielding of BIM. Are we helping the community where our product is being placed? Is our product assessing various potential outcomes based on quality, cost, and function? Is it a sustainably driven effort? Does it reduce stress, improve air quality, improve social interaction, improve productivity, and focus?
We as a society are more connected than at anytime in the history of our species. Yet we forget that with all this new connectivity we have a greater responsibility to fix the previously acceptable solutions of yesterday and update them. We expect more from technology and the same archaic solutions for our buildings. We have put such a high value in our built structures that most people don’t have the resources to correct fatal flaws within the design. We are living in communities that are in some cases overtly destroying the forward progression of our society. We put band-aids on buildings and neighborhoods with our highly sophisticated technologies but are having little or no effect on the greater design problem, which requires synergistic solutions. We eagerly await the release of a new phone, or a new software version, but we are content with the fact that our buildings are killing us. We are satisfied with driving a super efficient vehicle and feel we are contributing to the betterment of society yet we are going home to a highly toxic environment.
In the end our main and lasting contribution to our society is the buildings that we design. We need to work together one way or another, regardless of our software allegiances. We are at a critical point in the evolution of our society and all we are doing is perpetuating infighting. This is only distracting us from the greater problem, toxic and wasteful buildings. We have millions of square feet of existing wasteful buildings in deteriorating communities that need serious all encompassing renovations, right now.
BIM is the biggest thing to happen to architecture since the introduction of steel into building structures.
We are able to understand more about the buildings operation, and capabilities then we have at any other point in the history of the profession. As professionals we should go out of our way to make friends with other platforms. We should open up positions within our organizations to anyone who understands what BIM is, or can be. If they bring their own software seat with them, I think they should be able to work along side of us regardless of our software preferences or theirs. That sort of integration will go along way into breaking down the walls between us. We need to better understand that at this point most platforms and workflows can handle interoperability or at least some level of data exchange. We need to get past the software divisions caused by loyalty and preferences all of us have perpetuated throughout the years. Most of us have spent a lot of time, resources, blood sweat, and tears to get to this BIMberg, now we need to dive deep together and make the world work better through architecture.
About the author:
Willard Williams has been working on various types of BIM/IPD projects for close to 10 years, ranging from mission critical facilities, like data centers, and hospitals, to high-end residential. Willard started his career working as a freelance designer, working with John Stebbins then Gary McGavin, who is the current California Seismic Safety Commissioner. He then worked in Phoenix where he worked for the Orcutt | Winslow Partnership, a highly ranked firm and one of the largest ArchiCAD offices in the United States. There he witnessed the benefits of “Teamwork” both in the BIM and amoungst his peers. At O|W he also explored the benefits that BIM offers in the early design and construction administration. Sadly he was laid off with a large percentage of the firm, as a downsizing effort during the Great Recession. Willard then started Williams International Consulting, developed websites like www.archicadjobs.com and www.parametricjobs.com and continued on the BIM path. During this period he traveled to San Antonio where he worked on some interesting projects and competitions with Tim White and Jason Hetrick, long time friends and mentors, and for Structure Real Estate Development (SRED) run by Tim Cone. Now in San Francisco Willard works with Rossington Architecture, working on various high-end residential projects around the Bay Area.