Sir John Soane maintained that the professional responsibility of an architect 200 years ago was to “make designs” rather than act as the constructor.  Soane’s demarcation – “with what propriety can [the architect’s] situation and that of the builder or the contractor be united?” – challenged the entire industry, placing a wedge between designer and builder. However, the Industrial Revolution sought to keep designers and producers together, a movement that opposed Soane’s viewpoint. Evidence mounted since demonstrates that Soane’s approach resulted in waste, inefficiency, and divisiveness – conditions in which innovation cannot thrive.  

Recognizing practical technology

Amidst our own time of technological progress, we recognize the ascendancy and adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) enabled software as a catalyst for change and not as a line-drawn-in-the-sand solution.  In fact, the entire building, design and construction industry is poised at the start of an exciting period. Shedding traditional archaic procurement methodologies, which have led too frequently to bloated and expensive undertakings, the industry can now as a whole take steps to reinvent itself to achieve better management and integration, ultimately leveraging new tools to improve the design, procurement, assembly and operation of buildings.  BIM-enabled technologies will facilitate this new approach in the following ways:  

End of Paper: We will likely see “peak paper” in the next decade as the value of document-centric deliverables such as drawings is reached. BIM decreases risk with the increase of complete, consistent and accurate data-centric deliverables where the information can be used directly from file-to-field (F2) and file-to-fabrication-to-field (F3).  Furthermore, owners and their facility managers see little value in the graphic content at the end of construction; data is what they need to operate a building efficiently, and this vital data can exist at the outset of a project. 

First Is Last and Last Is First: The Soanian model requires an estimation of detailed design followed by its construction. BIM allows designers, constructors and operators to reverse and improve Soane’s problematic process by first designing to a detailed estimate, one that includes the whole life cost (rather than just the capital cost). For example, teams are now able to explore the virtual design and construction of buildings multiple times through simulation, thus eradicating waste by examining off-site prefabrication and assembly. The outcome is a more effortless and efficient building process resulting in less cost and time with better quality and certainty for building owners. 

“We recognize the ascendancy and adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) enabled software as a catalyst for change and not as a line-drawn-in-the-sand solution.”

Silos versus Cylinders of Excellence: Until the early part of the nineteenth century, the success of a building was dependent on a master builder, often a singular, gifted individual.  Since then design and construction have not always been mutually inclusive. BIM, however, allows for the creation of high-performance teams that trust and respect each other as they design and construct projects together.

Architects are only involved in 10 percent of all buildings – they are simply not a good value proposition and are often seen as elitist and capricious, ultimately forcing the architect and builder to a litigious chasm based on budget tensions. 

Buildings are not art objects – they are armatures for human use invested with layers of meaning, as stated by Catherine Slessor.  Now is the time to reboot the building, design and construction industry using BIM-emergent tools and novel contractual frameworks along with some ‘lean thinking.’ Now is the time, put simply, to be better.