BIM Like You Give a Damn: Why good design gets better with BIM.

In the AEC industry (especially in the past several years) I have read many articles, and taken part in twice as many discussions with clients, colleagues and industry partners challenging the value and the importance of design. In almost the same breath, come the complaints that BIM has disrupted the process of design.

There is no question, good design has value. And yes, BIM is incredibly disruptive, but isn’t that exactly what we need? To be shaken awake again, to take the opportunity to examine where our process can improve? The use of BIM has effectively placed the design process under a microscope, revealing imperfections that previously went unseen and were thought to be embedded deep in the magic of the “Design”. Demystifying design does not devalue it, but it does demand improvements. In and of itself, this is nothing short of disruptive.

Personally, I welcome the disruption. Without movement or shifting, things tend to get stale. Things that are stale will eventually disintegrate and disappear. When I talk to people in the industry especially designers, I encourage the use of BIM to amplify our value, to help us minimize the imperfections, and to make design better. We can and should always seek to improve on good design.

Good design does not come easily, not even with the help of a microscope. It is rigorous and demanding, but above all, when realized, it is infinitely rewarding. The earmark of good design is elegance. At its core, elegance is beauty that is defined by unusual effectiveness and simplicity. Good design is honest, can be validated, and is based on exploration.

If you in fact, BIM like you give a damn, you can use the tools to iterate, evaluate, and synthesize the most elegant of solutions. As designers, we train our entire careers, and in some cases our entire lives to be able to optimize form, function, economy and time (the four primary tenets of design). This skill is not to be underestimated, but when paired with intentional data collection and analysis, we can exponentially increase our ability to do what we do better.

The top four things to remember in using BIM to our advantage:

Prioritization
The first step is to prioritize the information. Too much results in a management nightmare, too little and you've left a gaping hole exposed by the microscope; an optimized solution is unlikely if not impossible. Understand what information is important when and use that to feed the BIM. Nothing more, nothing less.

GIGO
Once the information has been prioritized, it’s all about garbage in garbage out (GIGO). When building the BIM, information must be populated by the person or persons who know the most about that aspect. They must be able to take responsibility for its existence and integrity.

Value Iteration
Now that we have prioritized the key aspects, and we are building the model on good input, we can iterate. The more possibilities we consider, the better our chances of coming up with a thoughtful, defendable and elegant solution.

Demand Truth in BIM
The bottom line with BIM is this: if you cannot rely on the information in the model, then you would be better off getting out from under the microscope and sticking to the BIM-less process of the past. If we cannot rely on the information that we are going to evaluate against, then we may as well have nothing.

I challenge each and every one of you who take a moment to read this to share what you think BIM offers design. Even if you think BIM does nothing for design, share that too, I’d be happy to try and convince you otherwise.

Until next time, if you want your design to improve, I advise you to BIM Like you Give a Damn.

4 Comments

  1. Stumbled on this older post. I'm very impressed. Love the article!

    Johnny Fortune

  2. Marc Howell

    Is BIM disruptive? This is an interesting question. Yes. The initial implementation or adoption of BIM is disruptive. That is the nature of change.

    I guess that same question could be posed regarding the evolution of most any tool or process. And that is what I consider the current stage of BIM…the evolution of the design and construction industry.

    Having been involved in a number of design/build and design/bid/build projects over my career, both as a designer and a contractor, there were always disruptions. I would say that these disruptions were primarily a result of the learning curve. And yes, once the learning curve leveled out, the internal and external processes changed because of the implementation/disruption. The same was said when CAD was first being adopted. Then it was the various types of full-size printer/plotters used to generate and copy documents versus blueprinting.

    The good news is that I have been very fortunate to work with some designers that have successfully evolved. And I doubt that they would consider it a disruption any more.

  3. John,
    I couldn't agree more.

  4. One of the best designers in the industry ladies and gents.

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