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What if architects had adopted BIM first?

In the last two architecture firms where I was employed, I watched both offices get dragged kicking and screaming into adopting Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. Who was responsible for pushing for this change? It wasn’t initiated by an internal architectural or strategic decision. No, it was because it was demanded by the Owners and Contractors we were working with.

But primarily it was the Contractors who wanted BIM, and when you saw how they used it, it made complete sense. Even though architects would deliver a BIM model as part of their contractual obligation (for which the architects didn’t get any additional fees), the contractors would go through the laborious process of rebuilding the BIM model from scratch (for which they got an add service).

They would then use this BIM model to take accurate accounting of material quantities upon which they based their construction cost estimates. With this information, the contractors would argue for design changes/decisions. The architects would sit at the table and stare incredulously at the numbers.

Any retort from the design side would come in the form of hastily done renderings, which were always done by the youngest, most junior, most tech-savvy member of the firm (sometimes on software pirated by the junior designer themselves and run on their personal laptops, because the architecture firm hadn’t the expertise, and the software certainly doesn’t run on the pricey Apples that look good in the studio but can’t run any AEC software).

It’s an uphill battle to use hasty renderings to argue against cold, hard dollars.

The contractors were using BIM technology to control the information and thus, the decisions.

When I give lectures and keynotes about innovation in architecture, I always get this question at the end: “What can architects do to be more innovative?”

My response comes in the form of the story above and this question: “What if architects had adopted the technology first?


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