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Bim can make architects master builders again, says Morrell

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Bim technology could herald the return of architects to the role of master builder, the government’s chief construction adviser has said

Speaking ahead of his first meeting with the new RIBA Construction Strategy Group, Paul Morrell told BD that practices could choose to become “integrators” of projects “striving to return to the role that many still romantically profess an ambition for”.

However, he warned they should “check the strength of their balance sheet first”.

The RIBA’s Construction Strategy Group, set up last week, will oversee the delivery of government recommendations made in three reports over the last year.

These outlined industry changes needed to achieve low-carbon, integrated construction - including that all new public-sector projects use bim within five years.

Another potential new source of work is the proposal to replace the role of RIBA client design adviser with that of RIBA client adviser. It is hoped that the new title will bring a broader range of work, with clients hiring advisers earlier in the development process.

RIBA Construction Strategy Group chairman Paul Fletcher said: “One of the key aspects of government strategy is for the public sector to work with advisers earlier. This is key for creating value in projects - further down the line it’s too late.”

The group will also work on “radically restructuring” the RIBA Plan of Work, which Fletcher said “will be a process map for integrated construction design”.

Morrell agreed that the Plan of Work needed modernising, but told BD it was up to individual practices to choose how to use bim: “They can decide to continue to operate as independent studios, or may become part of a vertically integrated supply chain that offers a full service.”

Meanwhile, Fletcher will also sit on a pan-industry panel - CIC Task Force 3.6 - led by the Construction Industry Council in collaboration with the RIBA, which will look at integrated working across the industry.

CIC chief executive Graham Watts said the organisation was not looking at the technology but at the implications for the professions. He added that it hoped individual professional bodies would run their own groups on how to “dim the impact of bim for them”.

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Readers' comments (23)

  • "The RIBA’s Construction Strategy Group, set up last week, will oversee the delivery of government recommendations made in three reports over the last year...including that all new public-sector projects use bim within five years."

    It sounds like the profession has no choice but to wake up and accept the future.

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  • Simon  Quinlank

    Government to ditch design, architects can decide whether to "become part of a vertically integrated supply chain that offers a full service.” or pack it in.

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  • It is interesting that Mr Morrell is a QS.

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  • Mr Morrell may well be a QS but architects should perhaps ask themselves why QS's have been more successful in the field of project management/client representative - they saw an opportunity & went for it whereas architects kept their heads in the sand.
    Come on us architect guys, BIM is a no brainer, embrace it or become further sidelined!

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  • Is BIM just going to prove another white elephant like Management Contracts were in the 80's?

    It's all well and good in very large projects but is it cost effective in small projects, housing and extensions?

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  • Mr Buchanan, I do not disagree.

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  • BIM won't turn anyone, especially architects into a 'master builder', simply because the current educational system does not teach cross over of subjects.

    Pretty much every graduate comes out of Uni with a basic knowledge of a small field in which they're tutors are interested, this is not just architecture courses.
    The industry talks a load of flannel all the time about 'partnering' and the 'team' etc, yet each discipline just focusses on its own niche due to mono-directional education.

    There may be value in making the 1st year of architecture like a typical HND Building course that a building college would have run, then architects would have a basic knowledge of how other disciplines work and can then talk to them on a more even footing.

    You can't become a master builder if you don't understand how to build.

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  • Good point SoupDragon.

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  • What is the absurd fixation this.... we are architects...bim is a production tool (used to minimise workforce - quote from Revit instructor) why another intellectual reduction in our profession... it’s a good programme but all offices that use it show it does not end all issues, so why is it hailed as the saviour of architecture???

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  • I don't doubt that BIM is sort of great, but given the difficulty we have with software packages interfacing with each other now, how much worse will it be in the future if BIM is demanded?

    To give an example, Autodesk's Revit product won't even interface properly with itself! The product will upgrade files from older to newer versions, but there is no save as option if you own an older version and are working with a consultant with a new one. The forced obsolecence "magic upgrade cycle" starts to become very lucrative indeed for the software company and their resellers but could leave a company stuffed if it doesn't have the cashflow to keep the upgrading process going.

    But how much worse will it be when the industry is fractured into competing BIM factions? Will multiple versions of Revit be able to interface with multiple versions of Archicad and others and vice versa, well enough for this push to achieve the benefits supposedly on offer?

    People were talking about the supposed benefits of virtual reality 10 years ago and we are yet to see it happen despite the massive advances of computing power, how much less likely is this push to work for what will be mission-critical applications?

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