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Monday28 July 2014

Architects must win bim race, warns Reed

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Architects are in a race with contractors to harness the enormous potential of building information modelling (bim).

Leading figures have warned as a new survey revealed that nearly half of those in the industry still know nothing about the technology.

The study by the National Building Specification arm of RIBA Enterprises showed that 43% of architects and others in the industry had still not heard of bim, let alone started using it. It also found that of the 13% of respondents who were using bim only a third thought they would be using it for most of their projects in a year’s time.

RIBA president Ruth Reed said architects had to move fast on bim – which enables the creation and sharing of electronic data models of buildings – in order to secure their position in the industry: “This has the power to put architects in the driving seat,” she added.

She was joined by Rob Firth, director of practice building at HOK, one of the few firms now using bim on every project. He said architects should start using bim to make sure they weren’t being left behind.

“We can’t remain just designers,” he said. “We need to regain some of the ground architects have lost to others in the construction industry.”

He said major contractors were already gearing up to use bim, and predicted that building firms would only work with bim-compatible practices.

“If we don’t do it now, major contractors will pick up on the technology and start to squeeze architects considerably,” he said. “They are becoming our rivals. Bim brings architects back to being master builders. We hold everything together and everyone else feeds in through us. It’s very exciting.”

Bim can be used to create fully costed versions of alternative scenarios to projects. Every time an occupier wants to make changes – whether relocating a shop or wholescale redevelopment – they might potentially pay an architect to run different options through the software.

“By doing scenarios they can model revenue and try it without building it,” said Firth. “For example, there are BBC buildings everywhere. Put the whole estate into bim. It saves the BBC a lot of money but we still get fees.”

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Readers' comments (13)

  • Your readers may be interested in downloading the full NBS Whitepaper and research report on BIM which can be freely accessed on the following link. http://www.thenbs.com/topics/BIM/articles/puttingTheIintoBIM.asp

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  • There will be a huge learning curve for all and an opportunity for those who have taken time learn BIM to progress - note to students and those on training. The learning curve will involve working how to put actual materials and products together not just a series of lines, and working with manufacturers and contractors to use the right parts in the right way. Architects coordinating other diciplines such as Fire, Acoustics, DDA, BREEAM etc into one model will become absolutely critical to succeed.

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  • "Bim brings architects back to being master builders. We hold everything together and everyone else feeds in through us. It’s very exciting.”

    No it doesnt - it turns the majority of us into computer nerds sat staring at a computer all day as CAD did. There is no race. The whole BIM concept is an expensive toy and useless for most architects except the very large firms. Most will get by fine with CAD and Sketchup, until we get a system that is actually pleasant and easy to use for computer illiterate users, and actually does what it is meant to - unlike Archicad and Revit.

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  • What planet is Ruth Reed on with this sort of old world language. '...back in the driving seat'? It's about collaboration. The sooner that the RIBA realise that Architects can be welcome equal partners at the table with contractors and other consultants the better.

    Its statements like this that really make me wonder how short Archtecture's remaining day is. I suppose all we can hope for is that she continues to concentrate her efforts on infighting at the RIBA until her term ends.

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  • For a long time now architects have been complacent about their use of ICT. They invest in AutoCAD because 'it is the industry standard' (sic), yet they don't invest in training on how to use it efficiently. Likewise for presentations, why buy a desktop publishing program when you've got MS Word!

    This lack of discernment when choosing tools to aid what we do has meant that most AutoCAD users don't know how to get the most from it, most project tasks are over-laborious, needlessly repetitive and sometimes abortive. All of this trial and error eats into an office's profitability.

    Streamlining the design process using a tool like BIM seems like a sensible approach, after all, if you know the current approach is wasteful and can lead to uncoordinated information on site why are you continuing to use the same processes with the same abysmal delivery results?

    BIM is popular in the US and the rest of Europe so why is the UK lagging behind? Paul Morrell, the Government's construction Tsar, mentioned the use of BIM and the possible advantages it would give to design teams selected for future public sector work. While public sector work has presently evaporated Contractors are gearing up to take the lead on this, like they did on BSF. Many architects complained about being sidelined during BSF procurement, others complained about the unwieldy size of design teams, but this will continue to be the norm if architects fail to engage with the alternatives that others are willing to adopt.

    The RIBA is right place BIM on the agenda so that it becomes a talking point. Hopefully some architects will research, consider and possibly adopt BIM for themselves.

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  • goosewing

    'Architecture's remaining day'

    Architecture will never end, the way people do business changes at a reasonable pace but the majority of things change much more slowly, I advise you to go back and read Architects Journals form the late 80's and early 90's when there was a huge deal of panic ensuing about the end of architecture...

    Everything changes, but it's all the same...

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  • Having learnt a few BIM systems and worked with Revit in practice, I would say that it's not the readiness of Architects to embrace BIM that's the problem. I am yet to work on a project where I haven't received the same old AutoCAD 2D drawings from the other members of the design team (mainly structural engineers and M&E). BIM has a tremendous power to change the way we work, but only if all the design team embraces it!

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  • Without trying to sound like a fanboy, I would never go back to Autocad or similar 2D drafting. I've used both ArchiCAD and Revit in different jobs for nearly seven years and I really depend upon their technologies in almost every aspect of daily practice.

    One problem with the interpretation of BIM is that many think that BIM is architectural modelling; it's not. For those who are confused, imagine a bicycle wheel - the rim would be the project, the hub would be the 3D model and the spokes are the consultants (I'm including architects in this instance). Therefore the whole wheel is BIM - an interrelated and collaborative method of producing Building Information within the context of a project. The 3D model is passed back and forth between the consultants where each can make their additions as necessary without information conflict. A far more streamlined and intelligent process than straight 2D documentation.

    But, Caroline Turner is right; the uptake of BIM with engineers is woefully behind those of architects. In my experience only larger engineering consultants tend to have the software - which is fine for large commissions, but for the small residential project or school project say, the engineers that you would approach would not have the necessary software, (I can't count the number of times a smaller engineering firm has asked me to save out my drawings in AutoCad LT 2000)...
    My advice in this instance is to encourage the software manufacturers to buy up the existing 2D software licenses as discounts to the 3D package and reduce the gross price of the software in the first place. The world will be a better place to practice in...

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  • I think BIM is a good opportunity for architects to get back in control. One of the things stopping the development of BIM is the contractual issue of sharing information. To be really efficient there may have to be integrated companies to go with integrated information.

    I don’t think CAD is that more efficient than the drawing board because old drawing techniques are much more developed and understood than CAD communication methods, all CAD gains are lost by drawing unimportant information, this is were older architects have a better understanding that younger architects.

    I think making BIM easy to uses is more important than training because every one needs to be able to use it for effective communication. IT companies don’t tend to be interested in that side of development because they make there money out of training or adding the next best button.

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  • James Austin

    So many things about this article make me want to shout out in frustration!
    "Win" the BIM "race"??? Put architects in the driving seat - master builders???
    The RIBA finally breaks its silence on BIM with a statement like this, showing how far behind the times they are. Thank god I'm no longer a member...

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