Building information modeling, or BIM, is a bit of a game-changer; due to the fact that approach requires faster conceptual interaction by lead designers versus when they normally would begin to put detail to paper, the initial outset team of a building design project is fundamentally changing. Under a traditional process, the interns and junior designs would be hashing out a lot of the basic nuts and bolts material in the design process, only for one lead designer to weigh in as the project evolved and was ready for refinement. Under BIM, two or more lead designers could be working right away from day one on the project with those same interns of junior staff. That, in turn, results in a higher distribution of lead design knowledge with lower levels faster and earlier in the project.
BIM doesn’t work well, however, if the initial team doesn’t have good depth and experience in at least one player if not a few on how to set up a building project properly. It can be a bit of the blind leading the blind without a proper team setup planned right from the start. On the other hand, while the new players are very adept at the latest design technologies and computer tools, the older players have a practical understanding of what a building takes for a successful outcome. Thus, an intentional mentoring approach is key towards insuring this knowledge exchange between generations on a BIM project.
For the younger set, BIM allows interns and new designers to get a front-row seat on overall building design, something they would generally not see or experience for years, first need to develop and competency in producing detail to the criteria of lead designers training them. The software can create wonderful visuals, but it still takes a practiced understanding to put a working building together correctly (think structure, plumbing, electrical, load, pressure and traffic among other issues). BIM allows the younger set to get a first-hand view on the overall big picture much faster than would otherwise have occurred on a traditional track.
The benefit for the experienced, lead designers involves far more direct interaction with the latest training, thinking, and tools associated with building design. While they might have learned to cut their teeth on systems now 20 years old, lead designers can work first-hand with new entrants who are extremely versed in navigating technical software that may be cutting edge. That, in turn keeps lead designers far more fluent and versed in the latest technical tool changes versus falling behind in a management, oversight role.
Finally, a BIM approach to building design marries a tighter amount of technical analysis and detail to early concepts, making conceptual large ideas far more grounded in data-reality versus just practical wisdom and experience anecdotes. For the finance types who have to generate the investment and support early on to move forward with a building venture, that kind of data produce faster and with more accuracy makes their job far easier in pitching a design from a team versus having to use ambiguous language in proposals.
Overall, BIM is very much a building design culture paradigm shift. How well it gets adopted depends on a firm’s specific leadership support, and change can take a bit of time for folks to adjust. As a result, it’s often recommended to evolve BIM into an existing design process versus switching cold turkey. This reduces the anxiety of change and the unknown, while giving time for a different business method to become familiar and understood.