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BIM & Integration—Introduction

Courses labelled as tbd are placeholders for future development. We encourage you to submit your comments, proposals for syllabi and details of your ideas about these courses.

What is BIM anyway?

Manage information better

Confusion creeps into the discussion of BIM for a variety of reasons. In the introduction to this course, we discussed the BIG BIM/little bim issue. The difference is where much of the confusion lies. The complexity of the subject, coupled with market driven self-interest leads to many of the misunderstandings. This is a new and evolving market and sometimes people are more interested in making a sale than in imparting the truth. The battle for dominance among vendors leads to messages designed to put products in the best light. Sometime reality gets lost in the hype. The confusion created is usually unintentional, but sometimes not. The best approach is to be wary and to question everything, no matter how plausible or enticing the message.

In the simplest terms, these five principles describe what BIM and integrated practice are all about. You focus on creating the most efficient and effective ways to support owners. You become more agile and more efficient. You become an asset and resource in the built environment value network.

BIM is managing information to improve understanding. BIM is not CAD. BIM is not 3D. BIM is not application oriented. BIM maximizes the creation of value. Up, down, and across the built environment value network.

In the traditional process, you lose information as you move from phase to phase. You make decisions when information becomes available, not necessarily at the optimal time.

BIM is much different.

Understand BIM

The easiest way to understand BIM is to understand what BIM is not.

BIM is not a single building model or a single database. Vendors may tell you that everything has to be in a single model to be BIM. It is not true. They would be more accurate describing BIM as a series of interconnected models and databases. These models can take many forms while maintaining relationships and allowing information to be extracted and shared. The single model or single database description is one of the major confusions about BIM.

BIM is not a replacement for people. BIM is still a lot of hard work. By reducing the mundane,

BIM lets you work smarter. It requires different training and a different mindset.

BIM will not automate you out of existence. You will always gather information. You will always process this information with your unique problem solving skills. You will always need to be a master of visual communications. However, you will do it with less effort.

BIM is not perfect. People input data into BIM. Because people are not perfect, sometimes they will incorrectly enter data. Since you enter information once, there is less chance for error. This allows you to capture knowledge easily and reduces repetitive input. Errors that creep in are easier to find, before they cause harm.

By minimizing mundane tasks, BIM reduces errors.

BIM is not Revit (or ArchiCad, or Bentley). Those who do not understand the technology think that BIM and Revit mean the same thing. They are the same people who tell you that they use “CAD,” when they really mean “AutoCAD.” They make “Xerox” copies even when using a Minolta photocopier. Software companies do a wonderful marketing job. However, these programs are all wonderful bim solutions, not “the” BIM solution. You can use any of them and not be doing BIM at all.

BIM is not 3D. 3D software lets you model geometry. It is one of the great visualization tools. 3D modelers have greatly improved our ability to communicate ideas. In concept, 3D models are little more than lengths, widths, heights, and surface material images. With a 3D model, you still have to interpret what things mean, how they connect to other things and where they reside in space.

Building information models know all these. BIM knows how it relates to others. It is defined by standards. It can be shared. BIM is not a piece of software. It is not a 3D model. It is not a project phase. However, it can be any or all of these.

Images and graphic output is not BIM. They are views of the BIM database.

BIM does not have to be 3D. A spreadsheet can be BIM. One example is a simple address spreadsheet. It includes the names, street addresses, city, state, zip code, and perhaps the Web site addresses. The data is in a standardized format. It is a useful tool, but not yet BIM. When you import this data into Google Earth, each line of the spreadsheet is analyzed and placed (georeferenced) in context. The data takes on new dimensions and power. You can share it, add to it, and use it for comparisons. The data from the spreadsheet interacts with the complexity, and interrelationships of today’s organizations and environment. It becomes BIM.

BIM is not complete. Some people argue that all standards and tools must be in place before BIM can be successful. Others assume that BIM is not possible unless everyone in the process is involved. They are wrong. Standards and defined processes are certainly necessary—in the long view. Involving everyone in the building industry is certainly the long-range goal. The fact is that today, BIM is being applied effectively. BIM is increasing efficiency and leveraging our ability to support owners. BIM is profitable.

Share don’t hoard

If you cannot share your data, it has limited value.

bim solutions have common characteristics: they create digital databases and allow use of data by collaboration; they coordinate the data to reflect changes to any item throughout the database; and they capture and preserve knowledge for reuse.

As you start to integrate your projects, remember that Communication—Integration—Interoperability—Knowledge—Certainty drive BIM.

Your first task is to consider how to use these five principles in your practice. By then understanding the inefficiencies in your practice, you can find BIM solutions to fix them. Take it a step at a time. You will make the changes in the way that works best for you and your clients.

You will likely see benefits in different areas than others will see. Your projects require any number of design processes. You can improve any of them with a bim solution. Once you start to improve your processes and begin to see success, you can then widen your reach. If you are like others that have taken this path, you will over time, find yourself integrating more processes. You will create greater value in the built environment.

Certainty is Your Mantra

How good is your crystal ball?

By creating and managing building models, you are using a process that defines how architectural projects ought to happen. Your process requires defined working practices, methodologies, and behaviors. Your process overlays multi-stage prototyping and parametric cost management on the traditional five-phase process immortalized in American Institute of Architect’s contract documents.

At Design Atlantic Ltd, we call our process Integrated practice. It takes advantage of data extracted from the virtual building model to better program and anticipate design solutions. The process places emphasis on early project decisions.

The Integrated practice process starts with a Validation Phase, which forms the foundation for all further efforts. By applying the process, we have achieved improvements in our productivity and profitability. In addition, we have significantly improved outcomes for our clients.

We have seen our ability to “predict” bid results improve using the process. Beginning in 2001, we have seen consistent project savings of about 10%.

By example, we used the process to public bid design/build at the Salisbury Fire Headquarters and Station 16 project (included in the Case Studies later in this course). This project received three responsive public bids. The Program Estimate from the Validation Phase was 0.6% above the low bid and contract award. Costs throughout the construction process have closely tracked the Program Estimate.

You might dismiss examples like this as flukes. Nevertheless, we have consistently seen this level of result for over six years.

The integrated 3D building prototypes created during the process enable an owner to make decisions about costs early in the process, thereby significantly improving their ability to accurately budget. The rich set of building data created during the design and documentation phase of the project remains relevant even after the building is constructed.

The benefits come from consistently applying and reinforcing the concepts that anchor the process. We use the best available tools for the job at hand. Yet the tools (applications) are secondary. The goal is an improved project with positive outcomes, every time.

Focus on providing sustained value for your clients. Eliminate or reduce inefficiencies in the process. Eliminate repetitive and mundane tasks.

By doing this you become the steward of your client’s resources. Your process creates an archive of information in interoperable databases. You use this data to help your clients maintain and operate the facility—allowing others to benefit from it for many years to come.

Basic Concepts

Architects have limited themselves to a small part of the built environment. They have boxed themselves in to a small piece of the action because of real and imaginary issues and perceptions of risks.

Architects typically focus on designing buildings. That is one of the things that they are trained to do. That is what they have insurance to cover. Yet, the narrow definition of this context limits their ability to embrace new possibilities. Because of it, their influence is limited to a very small segment of the construction world. Architects have boxed themselves into a small corner of the built environment.

Obviously, some architects work in a bigger context. However, attitudes and the general perception tend to place artificial limits on their ability to apply their skills in the wider venue. There are opportunities out there in many other areas.

Architects have unique skills. They can thrive in an information-centered world. This requires a focus on the “big picture” with a clear understanding of what creates value.

Step back and look at the “first principles” that drive your practice. The key is to find the important changes that can expand what you do and have the greatest impact. Analyze the thinking of those who came before. Evaluate successful management systems in parallel industries. Map your internal processes and procedures. All with the goal of understanding what architects really do (or could do) in today’s world.

This exploration and the desire to leverage the best available technologies led us to create Integrated practice. In early 1997, we formalized the process with the goal of overcoming the shortfalls of doing architecture the “old-fashioned way.” In broad terms, we conceived the system to revolve around eight basic concepts. The concepts affect how you look at projects and how you deliver services.


The concepts that drive Integrated practice include:

  • Early decisions. Take a predesign decision-making focus. Embrace dependable decision-making information. Use technology to get owners a high level of quality information at the right time in the process.
  • A long view. Use a systems approach to design. Understand that this is a process and you can define and manage any process.
  • Management of constraints. Understand that you can manage complex processes by constraints. Cost is the main constraint that we use to manage the process.
  • Cultural competency. Embrace free and open communications. Know that people work better and make better decisions when they are informed about what is happening. Embrace processes that bring all points of view and all skill sets to the table early, in significant ways.
  • Adapting and responding. No two projects are alike. Adapt the system to each individual project. This (or any other type of system) will always be in a constant state of flux.
  • Optimize processes. Do not completely rely on any one way of completing a project. Rather, bring the most appropriate tools and procedures to bear on each project. Understand the underlying concepts and ensure that you use the optimum processes to solve problems.
  • Manage risks. Liability management is critical. Understand that by resolving issues early and proactively managing the process, you minimize your risks. Openly discuss and equitably allocate risks throughout the team.
  • Share information. Intellectual property is important, but it is not the priority. Be willing to share information to get the project done. Know and understand that free-flowing information is a basic requirement of an interoperable process. Without shared information, BIM and integrated practice are severely limited.

Search for new ways

As your approach becomes more integrated, search for new ways to communicate the benefits that come from the process. Project teams and clients are beginning to understand the “big picture” issues that surround integrated processes. With a holistic understanding and proper information at the proper time, it is much easier for them to make correct decisions—no matter how difficult or complex.

Let’s take a look at some of the questions that you need to have answered as you become an integrated practice:

  • How do we set our fees? How do we justify new fee allocations? What changes?
  • How do I sell this? To clients? To staff? To consultants?
  • How is a BIM-based process different, in a day-to-day office environment? Who is affected?
  • What staff resources do I need to do this?
  • Why would a client want me to do this?
  • What savings come by implementing this process? For me? For my clients?
  • Do I have to throw everything else out and start over? Can we still use AutoCAD (or Microstation or….)?
  • How can we most effectively do this?
  • My CAD people tell me that we can already do this with our current technology. Why are owners saying something else?
  • Does anyone else even care?
  • What’s this got to do with architecture?
  • We can do 3D drawings, and they look good, so…what’s the big deal?

We will help you to find answers to these questions as we explore how Integrated practice works for us.

Using contingencies to control costs

Project cost management

Project cost management is one area where you can make major improvements to your projects.

This approach uses a cost model as a financial planning tool to help you to understand project cost constraints. In a process similar to the program estimating support used by agency construction managers, you create a cost model for the project.

When used collaboratively, cost models are highly effective tools for controlling project outcomes. The goal is to create a model, which includes cost placeholders for all anticipated costs in the project.

The cost model then becomes the objective measure of financial success for the project.

Starting your project the right way

At the outset of a project, it is unnecessarily expensive to negotiate costs that encompass every conceivable service that might be required as the project proceeds. The best solution is to carry contingency funds. This gives you more flexibility to make changes without renegotiating or amending contracts.

Changes such as revising the project scope, amending prior decisions, providing updated information, extended schedules, expanding services, or adding additional consultants become easier to handle when managed within a budgeted contingency. By streamlining the need to negotiate additional costs, you minimize the need for uncomfortable situations that can jeopardize the owner’s relationships with the team.


It is difficult to determine ahead of time the precise scope of every item in the project. In simplest terms, the goal for any cost management program is to eliminate (or at least minimize) uncertainty.

Completely removing uncertainty is not possible, so you establish contingencies. The contingency is not the only tool that you use to manage costs. Management of the costs in any project relies on many other factors to help prevent costly changes.


The project needs to start with a realistic schedule. When there is schedule uncertainty or an extended schedule, there are always added costs.

Programming to understand your project

The project should include a comprehensive programming effort. Understand the design before proceeding into the production phases. A clear design and clear communication of the design is the owners best tool for controlling embedded ‘fudge-factors’ in bids.

By their very nature, documents will contain some errors and omissions. Producing a perfect set of drawings and specifications has yet to occur. No human has yet achieved perfection, no matter how skilled or how high of a fee it is paid.

Current site surveys and soils reports should be in-hand. Financing terms should be locked-in or a separate allowance for added costs should be included.

In order to manage these and many other factors, contingencies are included in the cost model. The contingencies are established using professional judgment and historical precedent. They cover some changes, not every conceivable one.

Managing Change

Managing additional costs for legitimate changes must be as easy as possible. Confrontation costs money. With institutional owners, the contingency eliminates the need to obtain repetitive formal approvals―a huge barrier for many project managers―since you have already encumbered the funding. Including contingency funds in your project budget, is a far better way to manage costs than taking the adversarial approach. In the final analysis, a contingency fund will help you to receive a better product and avoid needless headaches and legal wrangling.

Using MindMaps to improve understanding

——- this is background from others!!!

NOTE TAKING A Beginner’s Guide to Mind Mapping Meetings

Do you have trouble keeping up with meetings because you can’t take notes as fast as the speaker talks? If you do jot down some thoughts and ideas, by the time you re-read your notes they make no sense? If this sounds like you, a meeting mind map may be just what you need. Here is a quick start guide that will give you some pointers and a printable template you can use to get off to a great start with mind mapping.

First, a few concepts—many of these will come clear as you read through the article: • Mind mapping is a free flowing tool. There are no rights or wrongs to the process. Many people recommend using many different colored pens and drawing pictures. This may or may not be for you—yet anyway. The important thing is just to start. You can refine your mind mapping method as you go.

Mind mapping is designed to use both sides of your brain—mind mapping involves your right and left brain thinking. The colors and picture drawing are the creative side, the note taking is the analytical side. By involving both sides of your brain you get better retention, more free-flowing ideas and maintain concentration.

Only a few simple graphics will get you started:

• An arrow from one item to another indicates that one idea flows from one item to another

• An arrow pointing both ways indicates the subjects are of equal value and relate to one another • A box or idea with no arrow is a floating topic. This is typically an important idea but off topic. It basically hovers outside your map but is there in case you need it.

To get started mind mapping a meeting, get the agenda ahead of time if possible. In the center of your mind map, write the main topic of the meeting; From this central idea all the sub-topics will flow. So outward from the center, you would write in the sub-agenda items. It doesn’t matter what order you choose to list these. Mind mapping considers each idea equal until you change it later.

You now have a basic mind map of your meeting. This is a clear overview of your meeting from start to finish. If someone brings up an unrelated topic, you would simply make that a floating sub-topic. It may be important, but it’s unrelated. These can be thoughts of yours or something someone else says.

Here’s an example:

Mind Mapping in Action

As people present ideas and concepts at the meeting, simply draw off a branch from the sub-agenda items and write a main idea. You can choose to circle the idea, draw a picture around it (like a star) to emphasize important points. If you feel like doodling next to an idea, by all means doodle. Remember mind mapping is designed to get you thinking from both your left and right brain. The doodles keep the creative mind active while the analytical handles the notes.

In the image above you see the star drawn around the joint venture idea. This might represent an idea I think is a great way to improve the budget. If I have sub ideas from there, I can simply draw branches off from that idea into sub ideas.

Personally, if someone says something that is important to a topic, subtopic or idea I like to draw a branch off from that item and write in their name and then branch off from their name. If you’ve ever had to explain who said what when this is an excellent way to track back and credit the right people.

In traditional note taking, many of these sub ideas and can be lost or forgotten (buried under larger concepts). Mind mapping makes the ideas stick out.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to link one sub item to a totally different agenda item. Simply draw a line with or without an arrow linking one thought to another.

How to use the Meeting Mind Mapping Template
Download a PDF mind mapping template that you can use for meetings, small projects or even projects around your house. You’ll need PDF reader software to view it; we recommend the free FoxIt Reader (Mac users, you have the built-in Preview.app). I suggest you print it in landscape mode so you have enough room to work.

To use it for a meeting:

  1. Write the main idea in the center box.
  2. Write each agenda item in the circles linked to the outside of the main idea.
  3. As the meeting progresses, draw lines pointing to sub-thoughts, ideas, facts and figures.
  4. Draw pictures and interlink items with or without arrows.

To use the Mind Mapping Template for a home improvement project:

  1. Write the main goal of the project in the center box.
  2. Write sub categories in the circles linked to the outside of the main idea. (Categories such as budget, supplies needed, when to do it, and hire contractor? are some common categories for a home improvement project.)
  3. Just like with meetings, expand each category with ideas, facts and figures by drawing a branch and writing the idea.

After you’ve made your first few mind maps, you’ll see how much more organized you’ll feel. Mind mapping helps unlock your creative mind so you aren’t forgetting details or losing those little tidbits of information that make or break a project. Mind mapping will make you more effective during meetings because you’ll be able to understand the concepts and interlink them in new ways. Where everyone else is sitting bored and clock watching, you can be an active part of the meeting. It might just get you a raise.

Give it a try and see just how effective mind mapping is for you. Any avid mind mappers out there? Tell us how your mind maps help you take effective notes and capture ideas.

Key thoughts ——- this is background from others!!!

  • We must examine issues from broader perspectives, using systems thinking or integrated models based on virtues, potential consequences, and principles. Mind mapping software can help you to view issues and challenges from a variety of perspectives, and to explore and understand varying points of view.
  • Systems thinking is all about relationships. Mind maps can help to visually express these relationships
  • Mind maps can employ a variety of decision-making tools and processes, which can help make better decisions.


They help you avoid thinking linearly They open you up to creativity and new ways of thinking They’re more realistic, because most things aren’t orderly to begin with They help you get the big picture They naturally hook into your right brain, where creativity and intuition can help you.

Not all ideas organize themselves tidily into an outline format, and linear thinking is limiting.

What is a mindmap —- wikipedia

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.

A mind map is similar to a semantic network or cognitive map but there are no formal restrictions on the kinds of links used.

The elements are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts and they are organized into groupings, branches, or areas. The uniform graphic formulation of the semantic structure of information on the method of gathering knowledge, may aid recall of existing memories.

Uses of mindmaps —- wikipedia

Mind maps have many applications in personal, family, educational, and business situations, including notetaking, brainstorming (wherein ideas are inserted into the map radially around the center node, without the implicit prioritization that comes from hierarchy or sequential arrangements, and wherein grouping and organizing is reserved for later stages), summarizing, revising and general clarifying of thoughts. For example, one could listen to a lecture and take down notes using mind maps for the most important points or keywords. One can also use mind maps as a mnemonic technique or to sort out a complicated idea.

Mindmaps in 8 steps ——from others

  • Step 1: Start at the center of the page

Our mind focuses on the center of the page. That´s why mindmapping® begins with a word or image that symbolizes what you want to think about placed in the middle of the page.

  • Step 2: Don´t be serious!

Write down or draw the first things that come up in your mind when you start to think about related issues, persons, object, goals… Put your thoughts around the central thought. These can be everything. Even if they look strange or unimportant.

  • Step 3: Free associate

As ideas emerge, print one or two word descriptions of the ideas on lines branching from the central focus. Allow the ideas to expand outward into branches and sub- branches. Put down all ideas without judgment or evaluation.

  • Step 4: Think as fast as you can

Come up with an explosion of ideas. Translate them in words, images, codes or symbols.

  • Step 5: There are no boundaries

Think “out-of the-box”. Everything is possible. Use wild colors, fat colored markers, crayons, or skinny felt tipped pens. You haven’t lived until you’ve mindmapped® a idea with hot pink and day-glo orange crayons.

  • Step 6: Don´t judge too fast

Again, everything is possible. Unrelated issues might me relevent later on. Think like you are brainstorming. Otherwise your mind will get stuck like a record in that “unrelated word” groove and you’ll never generate those great ideas.

  • Step 7: Go, go, go….

Keep your hand moving. If ideas slow down, draw empty lines, and watch your brain automatically find ideas to put on them. Or change colors to reenergize your mind. Stand up and mindmap on an easel pad to generate even more energy.

  • Step 8: Add relationships and connections

Sometimes you see relationships and connections immediately and you can add sub-branches to a main idea. Sometimes you don’t, so you just connect the ideas to the central focus. Organization can always come later; the first requirement is to get the ideas out of your head and onto the paper.

Build your BIM and integration toolbox

First, let’s look at project communications tools.

One truth of integrated practice is that there are always issues that fall outside of any system. You have to adapt and fill the holes. You have to work with more than one package to cover all the bases. The AIA’s electronic contract documents and financial management systems are two examples of holes that you must fill. Perhaps someday someone will integrate everything into a truly functional architectural practice system. To us, this remains the holy grail of integrated practice. Perhaps a time will come when everything will go together into one simple and easy-to-use database. Until then…

Beware of email

We use email for noncritical communications only. Without major effort and expensive server based solutions, email does not support the level of communications and collaboration that integrated practice requires. Email permits too much uncertainty. Too many things fall through the cracks with email. Communications are too critical, so we take a different approach.

Simple communications

Communication is essential to integrated practice. Without tools that simplify communication and allow owners to make decisions early, it is difficult to minimize errors and keep everyone in the loop. We have found that this requires two complementary systems. One is a second-generation Internet-hosted service—entirely Web based. The other is an internal database.

The real trick is to unify the best available resources to create an overall package that allows you to easily pull marketing materials, manage office correspondence, manage the design process, manage reference materials and research, manage libraries, manage model servers, administer construction (or manage construction), manage facilities after construction, and help owners manage their facility portfolio.

Project webs are necessary

Every project starts with a project Web site. All project communications flow through this site.

We use 37Signals’ suite of Web-based collaboration tools. We deploy these tools and make them available to the client and all team members from day one. 37Signals takes what we believe to be a unique approach. Their products are a study in simplicity.

They realize that most collaboration failures come from unclear communications. They make project communications as clear and as simple as possible.

We use Basecamp (www.basecamphq.com) for project communications, Highrise (www.highrisehq.com) for client resource management and Campfire (www.campfirenow.com) for real-time group chat. All of these products are databases that let us control our clients’ data. These products serve up Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds that allow everyone to stay in the information “loop.” They send reminders, and keep the entire team current with all project communications. This technology has gotten so inexpensive and so mature that there is no excuse to delay or charge for this level of support.

Paperless is possible

We also use Arch Street Software’s Portfolio Digital Practice Tools (www.arch-street.com) for architect-specific project management documentation. Portfolio Prime databases house ALL internal project documentation (letters/transmittals/forms), from initial client contact through punch lists. It is the closest thing to a functional “paperless” office product that we have found. Unfortunately, we still get paper from contractors and owners, so we have kept a few file cabinets.

Other products are on the market to handle this load. However, we have found that on a cost, productivity, and usability basis, Portfolio wins every time.

Using two database systems is a bit more complicated than switching to an all-in-one database. After testing many products, running cost analyses, working with customized solutions and falling victim to a lot of hype and false promises; 37Signals’ and Arch Street’s databases stand out. Today they are the best combination for our practice, so they are what we use.

Tomorrow, that may change.


Computers are everywhere. The Internet touches nearly everything we do. Both change so rapidly that even a focused effort cannot always keep you at the forefront. Integrated practice requires you to become an aggregator of technology. Our toolkit of software, Web sites, and processes includes the following:

Web-based project management—business—relationship—product—project—workflow management hub
Basecamp, Backpack, Campfire, Highrise

Digital Office
Portfolio Prime Practice Management Tools

Virtual Building Technology
Onuma System

Information and Idea Organization
MindManager Pro

Onuma System – ArchiCad – MSVisio—Google SketchUp

Google Earth—GeoTagger—GPSPhotoLinker—Quantum GiS

Adobe Illustrator—Adobe Photoshop—iMovie—iDVD—iPhoto—Yepp

Adobe InDesign – Quark XPress – Apple Pages – Adobe Acrobat Professional

Office Applications
MSWord—MSExcel—MSVisio—MSOneNote—MSPowerPoint—Keynote – SOHO Notes


MSProject – SharedPlan – Basecamp

Cost Estimating
RSMeans – D4Cost

Facilities Management
Onuma Systems – ArchiFM – Business Objects Crystal Reports

FileMaker Pro – MSSQL—MySQL—OpenBase—Oracle—MSAccess


Wiki and blog

Begin the change


Architects have the training and skills to be successful in this environment. In fact, architects are uniquely qualified to lead the process. They can help to build a world where the watchwords are thrift and sustainability. They can become leaders in anticipating and creating a better tomorrow.

Not everyone will agree with this assessment. Not everyone can look to the future and move-on from the past. Your strategy should consider this.

Begin with exploration and self-knowledge

Put this change into a context that you can understand. Without an understanding of the context and issues that affect you, it is difficult to plan for solutions. Explore the questions and concerns of those you affect in the design and construction process. Begin to see patterns. Handle the issues that affect your practice.

What others say about architects

Over a recent six-month period, we recorded comments from people who have experience with architects. We wanted to understand how they think about architects. We were looking for perceptions and impressions.

The comments that we received from this process are interesting and a little scary. Although this was not a scientific study, the comments offer an interesting perspective on the issues. Here are the responses we received, by category:


Architects’ estimates are at best suspect or “just plain wrong.”
Poorly coordinated documents are creating problems and costing me money.
Bids significantly over budget are the rule—not the exception.
Architects do not really care about costs.


Using an architect will make the project take too long.
The contractor will make sure that the architect performs.


Can architects really work in an integrated process?
Architects do not understand the “real world.”
The architect’s process is not open—“what the heck” are they doing for me?
Architects do not manage risks well. They push everything off on others.
Architects think that they can do everything—well, they really can’t.
Architects believe that the construction industry revolves around them, but it doesn’t, not by a long shot.


Architects sell high ethics and then don’t take responsibility.
There always seems to be a lot of conflict between the architect and others.


I don’t care how you do it.
Mechanical systems are where we have the long-term issues.
Every architect I talk to shows me computer images. Why should I care? You can all do it.

These comments are a small subset of people’s perception of architects. They do however offer an interesting perspective. Do you see a pattern? What can architects do to change these perceptions?

Issues and concerns

Certainly, these comments do not reflect on many of the good things that architects provide. However, they are examples of some of the issues and concerns that clients are willing to share. You can correct these issues for your clients and their projects. You can do a better job and deliver better value.

By effectively using the best available technology, processes, and tools, you will find solutions that work for you and your clients. It does not matter if you are a sole practitioner or part of a large firm—integrated practice makes it easier to solve the problems described above. Otherwise, what are you integrating?

You know that you are starting an organizational change process. You know how to begin to apply integrated practices to your firm.

First, look at overarching concepts that work.

Then look at systematic processes that you can apply on projects every day.

Next, we discuss how integrated practice works day-to-day.

Plan for tomorrow

At the bleeding edge, few players actually know what they are doing. Even they use a lot of trial and error. Many people in all segments of the construction industry are involved. Many of them are focusing on standards and the future. They are doing high cost “test cases.” They spend a lot of time in committees preparing standards that contain jargon that few can understand. They are debating the minutia of data exchanges.

The focus that others are taking on standards and interoperability is necessary and great for the future, but it does not help you to do real work today.

Without clean, affordable and dependable ways to manage and exchange the information that you are developing with bim models, you may not see long-term returns on your investment. Without standards, bim is a more effective delivery system day-to-day, but it does not produce ongoing income. With standards, BIM opens up a completely new world of residual income possibilities. The data in your models becomes valuable long after you design and construct the project.

Consider this in your long-term plans.

Sell value

About twelve years ago, we realized that we could not sell BIM. Not a single client had a clue about BIM. No one was willing to pay for it. We realized that we had to do something different.

Beyond that, BIM did not really describe what we were doing. Our goal was to create and use an information archive through the lifecycle of the built environment. We planned to use this archive to level the cyclical nature of the design business. We believed that it would generate opportunities for residual income streams.

To most people, BIM did not clearly describe much of anything. It certainly did not describe how architects should work in today’s world.

That is why we started to call the term—BEYOND INFORMATION MODELS. It seemed to describe what we were really doing. The information models were only a part of the equation.

What really got the results were all the things that revolve around the models. Clients were willing to pay us to get their projects done better. They were not willing to invest in a database that might (or might not) have value some day.

Beyond Information Models has become synonymous with using technology to improve processes to relieve clients’ stress. You help them get certainty about their projects.

You can actually explain this to clients. It is easy for them to understand that they benefit if you use technology to get them more and better decision-making information, earlier in the process.

Clients see value in certainty. They understand it and are willing to pay for it.

When you think about it, who can better manage the range of variables and complexity that affect your clients’ projects? You can!

This is where you can create better design and become more valuable to your clients.

Manage projects better

Some pundits are sending the message that architects are in no way even close to applying BIM technology. The truth is that on the academic—“spit out an answer without human intervention” level—they are right. On the level where you achieve major improvements to projects, get highly improved information, and improve outcomes for owners, the naysayers are not even close—because you can do it now.

The greatest benefits from integrated practice will come when we can share data with others—both in the design and construction process. Today, there are few engineers or contractors working in this environment. However, you can say the same of architects. Too few professionals in all disciplines have embraced the technology. As more owners demand integrated services and more professionals move to support them, this will change.

For now, create a strategy for integrated practice, knowing that many of your consultants and contractors are now learning of the issue. Within Integrated practice, we use a threefold strategy for handling this issue.

Help others transition

First, use engineers and contractors who understand where you are headed. If they “get it” they will likely change over time, to work in an integrated process. They have to be willing to learn and to start the change themselves. They have to be prepared to commit to adopting the process as interoperable engineering and virtual construction tools become readily available. Reaching this point with a consultant or a contractor requires a commitment to establishing a long-term relationship. It requires your willingness to commit to education and to clearly defining your requirements. Since you will be changing the “traditional” process, they will have to learn how best to provide input and support the process at the proper times.

Juggle formats

Second, reconcile yourself to accept and output 2D non-bim formats to support consultants and contractors. You do not have to like it. Today you probably have to do it.

These files, by their very nature create redundant work. Fortunately, bim design tools are very competent at translations to major flat formats. You lose much (if not all) of the intelligence. Nevertheless, the geometry remains correct and the engineers and contractors get what they need to do their jobs. The sheet layout features of bim tools are good at incorporating flat formats into documentation sets.

Flat formats give you information in the form of linework, geometry, and text only. They normally do not contain interchangeable or intelligent data to allow analysis or information sharing.


Third, many of the benefits for both architects and owners come from using integrated practice in a design/build mode. In this approach, the comprehensive vision represented in the prototype model defines the performance requirements to assure compliance by design/builders. The architectural concept is test fitted and evaluated using these early stage prototypes. Use this ability to reduce or eliminate the uncertainties that force bidders to embed contingencies. Use the prototype system to give the design/builder certainty from which to price and build your projects.

Bring others along

Today, few engineers are working in this manner. Because of this, design/builders must often rely on performance criteria that may or may not describe the ideal solution for a specific project. This is a compromise, required for this delivery method, at this time. As more engineers develop an integrated engineering design process, their systems will also be test fitted within the prototype.

If your design engineers are not working in an integrated manner, their performance criteria documents will continue to be the weak point in the process. You are pushing an open-ended responsibility for systems’ design onto the design/builder’s team, if engineering performance requirements are not integrated. Properly managed and contracted this scenario can allow the design/builder freedom within a defined framework. However, in most cases, this is counter to the goal of establishing certainty of outcomes that is an underlying principle of integrated practice.


Architects are at their best when taking complex information and synthesizing it to create innovative solutions. Architects are realizing that it is virtually impossible to catch up to the trends unless they develop new practice paradigms. It is no longer adequate to replace drafting by hand with drafting by computer.

Architects can no longer allow vendors to push them into an applications focus—in order to sell more software. Integrated practice and building information modeling are not about buying the right software. They are about adopting processes and finding the best tools to deliver the highest value to your clients.

Move toward methods that make information easily available, in formats that will talk to each other and, in a shared environment that mirrors the real world. Become more. Become an information architect.

Architects always managed data

Architects have always managed data. 2D CAD solutions were a first step toward automating the process. In hindsight, these solutions actually increased the level of error and lack of project control that plagues the construction industry.

Since these files are not interoperable and require complex management controls—they increase the potential for error. The crisp and “finished document” look gives a false sense of quality, rather than providing improved coordination and clarity, as has often been promised.

Eliminate confusion

Although it is impossible to predict how a building will be altered over time, it is certain that each renovation will start with understanding existing conditions. Because the data is already in place in a BIM system, the revision process is more efficient. You no longer worry about lost or unavailable documents, or data that someone has entered incorrectly.

The advantage of BIM is that all building data is embedded and can be accessed throughout the facility’s life cycle. From that data, architects can accurately simulate the building in its present or proposed future state—in context. Using this data, you start with better, more current data about a facility. With the initial data entry process all but eliminated, so are the mistakes that invariably accompany manual input.

Because of this, significantly fewer people are required to maintain a higher level of quality. Because you derive most of the necessary building information from this data—you can automatically handle a much larger portfolio. This data represents the state of the facility and its connections to the built environment value network. Since each tiny “bit” of data represents a discrete part of the whole, you minimize repetition. You are no longer required to sort out multiple versions of the same information. This eliminates much of the confusion and potential for error.

Do what is needed

We find new opportunities by assisting owners with this type of problem. Acting as design/build consultants, we work with owners to maximize the effectiveness of public bid design/build projects. We help them to minimize confusion and uncertainty in their requests for proposals.

We have had to rethink many of the services that we once sought from consulting engineers, in this mode. Ideally, the design/build consultant’s engineers develop performance requirements for systems and then integrate and test them within the model. In practice, we find this level of integration is still a goal. We use the best design engineers that we can find and then test fit critical items only, rather than testing entire systems.

In many markets today, the entire design/builder team is NOT functional in BIM. You therefore lose the long-term advantage that comes from a fully integrated process, when you hand off the project to the design/builder. If the design/builder’s team is not BIM proficient, the benefits effectively stop at this point.

In this scenario, the owner receives superior bid outcomes but gives up long-term benefits. The short-term benefits still make the process valuable. However, much of the value to owners comes during operations.

A partial solution is for the design/build consultant to maintain project models and project records in a parallel process. This parallel process lets the owner maintain the long-term benefits, although at additional cost. This is an expedient only. Even with design/build, your goal should be to contract with teams that can integrate with the process.

A lifecycle approach to architecture

A sustainable architecture

The process occurs within four continuous “phases” that represent the cycle of facilities—from cradle to cradle. The process fosters a holistic view of projects. Where architects have traditionally focused on the middle ground, represented by design and construction, Integrated practice pushes a longer and more sustainable view. By broadening the focus to include a focus on “pre-design” and “post-construction,” it forces greater consideration of the “big picture.” This works to minimize expedient decisions.

Architects know that their clients are concerned about more than designing and constructing buildings. Yet, the “normal” design process does little to support long-term business and operations. Many owner concerns related to poor documentation, cost overruns, and other problems occur because of this narrow view.

There are clear advantages for owners who work with architects who think long term. When presented with the option, owners quickly see why an integrated process gives them better and earlier decision-making support and saves them money in the end. Owners, at little or no additional cost, end up with a more efficient process and facilities that are more effective over the long run.

The process uses parametric models, cost control systems, and project and facilities management databases working together to produce a high level of project control and information resources. These tools permit realistic, virtual tours at the earliest stages of design.

The process invites “test fitting” of program functions, design features, facility operations, budgets, and even disaster recovery. Using bim tools, the process advances to facilitate quantity takeoffs, analyses, and multiple delivery systems. With Integrated practice, architects are doing a more diverse mix of projects, quickly and without sacrificing efficiency, even in “one-off” situations.


Writer Miguel de Cervantes’ succinct insight, Forewarned is forearmed, still rings true over one hundred and ninety years later.

Little is totally new.

As obvious as it may seem, simply providing your clients with better early information makes it easier for them to see what lies ahead.

Helping your clients in this search starts with five broad principles:

  • Communication—Use technology to give immediate access. Clear and open communication is the first priority. Without this, nothing else is possible.
  • Integration—Optimize working practices, methods, and behaviors to get maximum value. Create a culture where the team is able to work together efficiently and effectively.
  • Interoperability—Build structures that capture everything. Then share the information. Eliminate repetition. Do your work once and use the information for many purposes.
  • Knowledge—Capture everything in dependable archives. Use real-world rules about how things relate to each other to improve efficiency. Use knowledge to eliminate the mundane and speed critical decisions. Pay attention to the details.
  • Certainty—Use everything at your disposal to make things clear. Reuse data to get the right information, at the right time, to those who must decide.

Do more with less

How do you assess a client’s needs and then arrive at a design that solves his or her problem? If you are like most architects, you began to wrestle with this question early in your training and career. As you became more competent, the question took up less of your attention. You integrated your personal solution into your way of doing work. It became a part of your life.
Sometimes you have to step back and reconsider questions like this. Over time the things that we have come to take for granted can grow stale. A new look at old ideas can reinvigorate your process.

When you help clients by providing control that is more dependable you become of more value in the process. Working to create this kind of value is not a new thing. It has been talked about for generations. Most firms likely include similar words in their mission statements. Nevertheless, how many can really do it, consistently?

The ideas are not new

In graduate school, I was lucky enough to study with Buckminster Fuller and Alvin Toffler. It is easy to forget that they were talking about this very issue well before 1970. Perhaps it has taken this long for technology to “catch up” with their theories.

Their ideas still make sense today. The world has changed, yet much of what they theorized is now possible. Many of their ideas are now in the mainstream. Their ideas continue to offer clues to the best ways to use technology to make the world a better place.

Buckminster Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, written in 1969, is a precursor and roadmap for what BIM is letting us do—write the Operating Manual for the Built Environment. In his explorations of how humanity can survive on the planet Earth, he championed doing more with less and taking a comprehensive view of the world. His concept of “Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science” is now practical—using information-modeling technology. He predicted the overlapping of specialties that is standard to integrated practice. Today you really can use technology, filtered by your innate abilities, to look at our world in a more comprehensive way.

Fuller was responsible for many of today’s concepts in sustainability. He taught that you could use technology to anticipate and solve problems with fewer resources. By breaking down the built environment and social issues that impact upon it into bite-sized pieces, you can implement his ideas. Building on his work, you can integrate technology to “do more with less.” BIM is the process that allows you to implement his ideas. The Path to integration chapter later in this course details some of the tools that are making Fuller’s ideas a reality.

Four phases to integration

It is hard to find the best way to communicate integrated practice concepts. Everyone hears messages and receives information a little differently. There are many different learning styles. As you explore how to implement the process, you will find new and innovative ways to communicate your message. Take every opportunity to reinforce the concepts in your network of staff, consultants, and clients.

Initiate Phase

From our experiences, we knew that owners perceive that Agency Construction Managers (ACM) consistently solve their problems. The same is widely held to be true for Design/Builders. They thrive because they focus on the owners’ interests. These professionals seem to move into positions that allow them to control projects more easily than architects. Is this because owners trust them to work in their best interests?

During the Initiate Phase, it is critical that you properly envision the project. With the correct strategy and vision for the project, the phases that follow become easier to manage and more successful. You focus on minimizing the “first-day” mistakes.

This focus on early certainty did not spring from thin air.

To understand what makes agency construction managers so successful, we deconstructed how they work. We did the same evaluation of design/builders. Why do owners go directly to construction managers and design/builders? What do they offer that makes owners call them first?

The groundwork laid by George Heery, Caudill Rowlett Scott, and CM Associates takes on new importance when viewed in the context of integrating practice and early decision-making. Along with a small group of other design and construction professionals, they pretty much created the profession of construction management. They sought to correct the same issues that concern today’s building owners. By identifying problems early, in a client-centered way, they changed how architects and contractors delivered projects over the past thirty years. They improved results for many owners.

By controlling risks, costs, and time, they developed improved project outcomes for those who embraced the process. The procedures and philosophies that they created provide the most stable starting point for the future of integrated practice. Even if you did no more than integrate the processes that they developed, you would help your clients have more certainty of outcomes and smoother, more efficient projects.

Today, technology lets you do things that were possible only for the largest firms at the time that Heery, CRS, and CM Associates created their processes. Integrated practice and BIM give you the tools to take their ideas to a much higher level.

Understand needs

Analyze, organize and understand the process.

Pulling together a team to design a client’s project is second nature to most architects. Creating procurement processes that result in the correct contractors is not an unusual problem either. Neither is a new issue.

Focus on the owner

Obviously, not all architects or consultants will be conversant with BIM. This will create gaps in your integrated project teams. Until integrated practices become universal, these gaps in the process will be a fact of life. Design your processes to manage around them.

Integrated practice creates new and unexpected needs. These needs require new types of experts. A few of these experts will be familiar with the tools and processes. Most will not. Design your new processes to accommodate, coach and support experts from many specialty areas.

Much of the work done in the Initiate Phase is the same as for any project—traditional or integrated. You still have to initiate agreements, retain consultants, survey sites, review programs, and generally become familiar with the client and his or her project.

The difference comes when you change your overall focus from merely designing projects to getting the owner certainty about his or her project. The first is architect process focused and the second is owner process focused.

As you progress through this course, you will get a better idea of the importance of this difference. This subtle change in focus is critical to integrated practice.

A variety of tools

You use a variety of tools to accomplish the change.

We will discuss some of the tools and processes that make this possible, in later chapters. Rules-based systems, such as the Onuma Planning System (OPS), are the leaders in this area. Few will have used such systems at this time.

Other tools, such as bim modelers, schedulers, spreadsheets, and programs such as SketchUp! and Visio, are likely already in your toolbox today. Any and all of them are used in developing early decisions data. As we focus on rapid decision support, one methodology stands out—mind maps.

Mind mapping is a visual thinking methodology that closely mirrors the unstructured processes that take place early in projects. Mind maps allow you to represent connections between information. They streamline meetings, note taking and decision-making. They dramatically improve your ability to organize and present the complex interrelationships that we manage. They allow you to structure unstructured data, classify information, problem solve, and quickly make decisions, in a collaborative environment. A solid mind-mapping tool, such as Mindjet’s MindManager, makes project and process planning easier, improves communication, and accelerates the process.


Early information is important.

Some time ago, we were retained to convert a basement area in a law office. We had known the attorneys for a long time. In fact, we had done the interiors for their original offices—before BIM. At this scale most experienced architects would give the client a quick top-of-the-head assessment of the project, write up an agreement and start detailed design.

We start even tiny projects with a subtle difference.

Now we work differently. We first got authorization for a minimal validation process. We did a quick site survey and assembled a basic bim model designed to act as a data container. The model was nothing more than a zone object capable of holding areas, furniture, finishes and other project data.

The project was too small to warrant a more complete prototype model. From this information, we created a cost model using parametric, rules-based data maintained in our system. The cost model responded to the project’s scope, quantities, timelines and other client requirements.

The entire process took place in a morning.

We then sat down with the attorneys and went over the project logic. They understood the issues and cost risks. They could now decide how to proceed, with good facts. They could move forward with certainty. They had the data to look at other options.

They became an active participant in the design decision-making, before they had to invest schematic and design development dollars. We could have given them our informed opinion. Instead, we gave them facts to help them make decisions.

We can automate much

We can automate much. But not everything.

Integrated practice will always be about people. There will always be “personal intervention” in the process. Automation of the process reduces the mundane and lets you focus on critical issues. Automation of the process allows you to deliver “just-in-time” decision-making—even for the smallest project.

This is a small example of the types of activities that occur in the Initiate Phase of every project.

Quickly making clear and organized information available to clients early is how we use an integrated process. This happens before the normal design process even begins. This is where the biggest benefits exist. This is where we can make the biggest impact. This is where we can structure to be successful throughout the process.

This is what drives an integrated practice. Through a truly collaborative process that recognizes the value of team members and works to achieve the high performance and economic value of the process, we achieve owner strategic goals and create a safer, better-managed world for those who follow.

Design Phase

Prototype with just the right data

The Design Phase brings to bear the tools for managing the design process. In this phase, you refine project information controls to reduce repetition that might occur in later phases of the process. You use these controls to be more efficient and productive in planning and design processes. In this phase, you may also tailor the project’s bidding documents to the project’s goals based on current “best-practice” methodologies.

Building information models form the containers to hold project information. They serve as links to the built environment value network. They also provide the linkages to relationships and processes. These models archive all project data.

Someday, when integration is widespread in the building industry, these models will closely reflect real-time and real-world conditions. Today, we plant the seeds for that future.

Today, you will start most of your models from scratch. You are creating models that will become permanent archives of projects. Information in these archives should be accurate. Realizing this long-term goal, you should build accurate and complete models from day one. This is a place where quality should trump quantity.

Adding too much data, too early is not economical. In practice, you do not have the information, time, or budgets to recreate the real world in the virtual world. Certainly not at the start of projects. If you are doing BIM, your models will never be complete. Models grow over time. Design a system that creates prototypes with “just enough” data to support the current need.

Just in time

Add the data needed for the current use. Nothing more.

Doing BIM effectively means that you have to keep people in the process. Use your expertise to guide the process. Do not hand the responsibility for models off to untrained or inexperienced staff. Someone must be knowledgeable and capable of understanding the big picture and then making sure that any inconsistencies are managed correctly. As knowledge-based systems become widely available, you will be able to automate more of the process. Until then, it depends on your expertise—as it always has.

Because of this, models develop best in a step-by-step prototyping process that adds the correct data, at the proper time to support the decision-making process. With a mature bim modeling solution, each prototype stage becomes more complete and contains much more information than any traditional “flat” solution. Much of the information happens almost without effort. With a product that automates much of the tedious and repetitive work, creation of phased-in prototypes is both practical and profitable.

You create the first prototypes in the Initiate Phase. At that level, the prototype serves to define the scope of the project. It establishes a framework that contains all of the parameters for a successful project. It supports decision-making.

As the process moves forward, prototypes become more and more complete. Prototypes at the Design Phase define the design solution. They typically contain data that allows you to deliver documentation required for public bid of design/build projects. Compared to the “traditional” documents process, these prototypes represent 40-70% complete Construction Document data. Prototypes in later phases build up to include design/bid/build data, construction support data, and facilities management data.

Prototype models and intelligent objects allow any level of prototype to function up or down the system (i.e., you can use an Initiation Phase prototype for procurement of design/build services. You can extract construction documents from a Design Phase prototype, etc.). Since a well-planned prototyping process eliminates repetitive work, you smooth out your internal process and work more economically.

Construct Phase

The Construct Phase is about maintaining close and collaborative arrangements with the professionals who get projects built. The integrated process requires you to be very adaptable in the Construct Phase.

At a basic level, the goal is to improve communications and understanding to make traditional relationships work more effectively. You can accomplish this through improved decision-making, rapid processing of submittals, and a better understanding of cost and scheduling issues.
The tools focus on monitoring construction within a collaborative process, if you have a traditional contract administration role. The project budget, validated in earlier phases, is coordinated with the contractor’s schedule-of-values and becomes the framework for monitoring actual costs.

In a minimally integrated construction environment, you work to leverage the traditional requirements and maintain building operations and maintenance data within the prototype model for use in the Manage Phase.

In a more integrated situation, the goal is to provide constructors with higher-level support to improve their ability to manage the project. This involves prototypes to allow conflict checking, support for computer-assisted manufacturing of components, and 4D and 5D support.

Changing the process creates new opportunities.

Once owners and contractors understand the power and simplicity of the process, they cast architects into new and unexpected roles. You may find yourself in program management roles.

You may transition from working for the owner to working for the contractor as the process develops. Changing the process requires you to support new areas. Position yourself to take advantage of them.


The integrated process is not limited to a single construction delivery method. Use the process for all delivery methods.

The largest benefits come from delivery approaches that allow the most interaction between owner, contractor, and architect. Integrated practice has proven to offer the greatest benefits for projects completed using bridged design/build and agency construction management.
Bridged design/build allows you to test fit and validate the project. You then communicate the results to design/build bidders at a very high level. This works to eliminate many of the “unknowns” that drive much of the cost variation in design/build. A high level of information about owner requirements coupled with clear communications results in very successful design/build projects.

The underlying concepts in the process are very similar to those used by many of today’s most successful agency construction managers (ACM).

Because of this similarity, you will find that you can allocate responsibilities to focus on the firm best able to deliver each part of the project. The architect test fits the owner’s requirements, using the prototype to minimize the “unknowns.” The ACM then develops the cost model. They take on the responsibility for managing the cost constraint, by controlling the project’s contingency. The architect provides rapid processing of submittals, communications systems, and facilities management support.


Web-based project management becomes the focus of information flow among all Construct Phase team members. We use 37Signals’ Basecamp to manage the information flow. This level of access minimizes excuses and focuses everyone on taking responsibility and getting the job done. All communications flow through this site, giving several advantages:

  • All communications are date stamped.
  • All uploads are version controlled.
  • You minimize or eliminate information handling issues.
  • Task assignments and Milestones with reminders, to minimize the “oops factor.”
  • Team members’ contact information is available to everyone.
  • Real-time archived Chat allows for retaining and sharing conversations across the team.
  • Writeboards give the ability to create text documents collaboratively.

Overcome old mindsets

The only disadvantages that we have experienced from expanding the level of project communications, comes from those who do not understand the process. Or, from those who understand it and choose to continue working the way they always worked in the past. The problems that occur usually revolve around a team member’s refusal to allow subcontractor access to team communications tools. When this happens, we begin to see decisions made out-of-context and the traditional communications problems that have plagued projects over the years.

Manage Phase

There are advantages to working with people who think long-term and work to solve long-term problems.

They are constantly looking to owners for insight into their facilities. They learn more about owners’ business needs and become more valuable.

When they decide to incorporate Web-based facility management into their services, they begin to level the cyclical nature of the design business.

Teaming BIM with Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM) seems like a marriage made in heaven.

Traditionally, architecture and facility management are entirely separate tasks in the life cycle of a building. Recognizing that owners require more than planning and design services to create and care for their buildings on a continual basis, you can better serve your clients.

At this stage, you have created highly detailed digital models that are usable for operations, running simulations, and planning for the facility’s life. You store all of the building data in BIM model files directly linked to a series of Web-enabled database files accessible throughout the building’s life cycle. These models become archives for facility information from multiple sources. They build up over time. As facility use data accumulates, the models become more and more valuable as management and planning tools.

There have been problems getting owners and selection boards to see the advantages of an integrated approach. To some owners, the question is, “What’s the big deal?” As these owners see it, any architect can do the same things that you do with BIM, no matter what approach they use. Owners, therefore, see little or no advantage to themselves—no savings in cost and no reason to get in the middle of architects’ process disputes.

Change the equation

No matter how many fly-thrus you produce, how many 3D views you make available, or how quickly you turn documents around, some owners believe that all architects can do that.

Integrating facility management changes this equation in a big way. The owner can now see direct operational advantages that do not come from the traditional architect’s process. With something to gain personally, the owner can see that your approach saves him or her money. The owner ends up with an easier-to-manage facility, after you go on to the next engagement.

You can truly begin to sell managing the information that is inherent in the BIM model. Working with owners to create long-term solutions gives you insight into better operations and maintenance of their facilities. Long-term management of information to support the entire facility life cycle creates the opportunity for the owner to have a major impact on financial performance.

This approach saves money for the life of the asset. Owners can see why integrated practice firms give them better and earlier decision-making information and save them money in the end. Owners can now, at little or no additional cost, end up with a more efficient process and facilities that are more effective.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Why change?

The relationship between Toyota and Ford Motors is a metaphor for the changes that are now influencing the companies that affect the built environment. Ford, founded in 1903, created the standard for volume production using unskilled laborers. After WWII, Toyota was a cheap import, for the young with no money.

Move forward to 2007 and Toyota is number one in the automobile industry. Ford Motors is resizing, dropping unprofitable and inefficient models, shutting down facilities, and consolidating production lines.

Toyota first surpassed Ford’s revenues in 2004. They set the worldwide standard and license their hybrid technology to other auto manufacturers. Consumers perceive that Toyota delivers better value in terms of fuel economy, reliability, and quality.

What changed?

The Toyota Production System (TPS) has driven Toyota to become the world’s leading automaker. TPS is in the DNA of everything at Toyota. It embeds an organizational belief system that strives to get things done perfectly, the first time. Consumers drive TPS. It focuses on minimizing waste and continually improves processes. TPS builds long-term relationships. Most of all, it is flexible and quick to react. TPS integrates dealing fairly with everyone with well-informed use of technology. Toyota Motors used these concepts to create integrated processes that changed concepts of manufacturing.

Mass customization

Alvin Toffler was the first to popularize the concepts of “mass customization” and “just-in-time production.”

Today you can enter the model, color, and accessory choices for a new Toyota; close financing; start your new car into production and arrange for delivery—all from your wireless laptop in the comfort of your home lounge chair.

We do the same thing when we buy computers. Soon we will do it for many more products—perhaps even buildings.

You need to understand the theory and drivers behind today’s successful processes. Without this background information, you may find yourself “reinventing the wheel.” You could also invest a lot of time, only to find out too late that you are repeating unsuccessful processes.

Ask questions

Why is Toyota so successful? Why is Ford on the ropes? Step back and look at how Toyota’s process works:

  • It is best to begin by looking at what makes their process so special. Start with a solid understanding of the theories.
  • Understand why TPS works while architects’ processes seem to be lagging. Understand the underlying reasons why their process works. What makes it tick?
  • Explore the best ways to integrate their ideas into your process.
  • Understand how Toyota achieved integrated ordering, production, and delivery. The process includes many parallels that can improve your business.

The Toyota Production System should give you many ideas. Many of the concepts are directly applicable. The greatest lesson from TPS is not in the individual parts, but in the whole of the process. TPS works because it permeates everything at Toyota, from top to bottom.

Move toward your goal

This is the example to take away.

You can integrate architectural practice with a strategy driven by owners, your staff, and proven business theory.

The process should not be “process reengineering.” It should not be a radical redesign or require a “clean slate” that disregards the status quo.

You start with an honest clear view of where you are now and chart the changes that will move you toward your goal of an integrated practice.

Introduction to integrated practice

Solve problems

Integrated practice using building information models to manage data offers you a way to manage these issues in your firm. The change will likely require you to reassess some of your beliefs. You can look at integrated practice as a new skill that requires training to master. It requires that you reassess many of the things that you know. It requires that you reconsider some of your closely held beliefs.

Success in any endeavor often comes from how you apply your beliefs and values. By applying them consistently, you create your own way of doing things. The same is true in integrated practice.

Architects are known as creative problem solvers. Yet sometimes their closely held beliefs cause them to repeat errors and sub-optimize how they do business. An architect who applies the same level of creativity to business and delivery processes as he or she does to design, becomes a strong force in the economy.

Integrated practice offers significant benefits, to you and your clients. Changing how you look at projects and the building industry gives you many advantages. As you explore how the list above affects your beliefs, consider the advantages to a process that achieves more, faster while also improving relationships. You will find that it is well worth the effort.


People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed. —Dr. Samuel Johnson.

If you have not integrated your practice, you are living in a world where you could be one of the last holdouts. Every day you see and use products of others who have already gone down this path. Your grocery store is integrated. Your local car care shop is integrated. Your bank is integrated. Integrated processes affect everything you do.

You already have most of the tools to make the change to an integrated practice. Integrated practice requires good business sense. Most of all, it requires good common sense.

When will you make the change?

You may not have realized how tightly integrated processes are in your world. When you bought your last airplane ticket, did you buy it on the Internet? If so, you interacted with a highly integrated system. Airline ticketing is tightly integrated. You go to a site and type in a few parameters—when, where, and how long—and hit enter. The system searches all available flights to your selected location and gives you the chance to fine-tune your trip. The system quotes the cost, takes your money, and courses your flight. Quickly and efficiently.

Behind the scenes, many systems tie together (integrate) to make this happen. You do not see the complexities of systems to track the thousands of planes. You do not see the systems to maintain the engines to keep the aircraft safe. You do not see the personnel tracking system to get the right pilot to the right plane in the right airport at the right time. All you see are the items critical to your current requirement. Thousands of systems integrate to let you course your ticket from the comfort of your home.

Such systems have become so widespread that it makes you question how the built environment fits into this world. What stops architects from embracing the process? What stops them from doing a better job of managing time and costs for their projects?

Adapt or get passed by

This course is an introduction to successful integrated practice in architecture. It focuses on actions, systems, and tools that you can use now. BIM/bim is such a wide-reaching process that, of necessity, we have not attempted to cover every option and all the available or emerging tools and systems. Today, there are literally too many to consider. Tomorrow there will be many more.

Create your strategy to adapt the best of them as they emerge. Focus on those that you can use profitably today. By using the concepts in this course, you can do it right, adapting and growing as the technology continues to advance.

How much change can you handle?

With integrated practice, architects become better designers.

Making the transition to integrated practice requires good planning. The change affects all aspects of how an architect does business. Done correctly, integrated practice changes how everyone looks at our world.

This course tells you how to do it right. It will help you to plan for the change. It will show you the right steps to take. It will show you the best way to avoid trouble. Like any good guide, it will tell you the best places to use your resources and the areas to avoid. You have to decide how fast you will make the change.

People accept change at different rates. Some prepare better. Some have more money, more support, and can handle faster transitions. Some like to go fast. Some like it slow and steady.

You can tailor your process to your ability to handle change. We designed this course to give you direction, no matter how fast you proceed.

Be daring

Knowledge is an impermanent commodity. Technology has changed the world. Technology has even changed how we react to the world. We all have to become more adaptable and capable.

We must process information faster. The issue is to decide how we will adapt to the changes.
Most people know that we have to adapt faster. We have seen how change has accelerated everything in the industry. Five years once seemed like a long time. Now five years happens in a relative instant. To manage change at this pace, decision-making must be better.

Today, architects, builders and owners are making too many errors by being conservative.

Forecasts must have greater accuracy. We must become more flexible and must plan with longer horizons. Otherwise, improvement is not possible.

Clutching to the old ways is no longer the best solution. Technology gives us the opportunity to forecast with better data. It frees us to react quickly. It allows us to study change with detail. It provides the data to justify new design ideas.

We should all realize that it is better to “err on the side of daring”—because we are making too many cumulative mistakes and wasting resources using cautious approaches.

A clear path

Technology and communications continue to compress our world. Today we buy something from our “local” computer store and they deliver it to our door from the other side of the world.

In what seems like the blink of an eye.

Google.com, Expedia.com, and Amazon.com have revolutionized how we interact with the world. Yet, even in this new “flat” world, architects have not changed how they design and deliver their services. There are phenomenal savings and efficiencies to be had by those who embrace change and rethink their businesses to take advantage of this new world.
People have been trying forever to understand the impacts of technology on society. From the perspective of 2007, much of this discussion appears very distant and disconnected from integrated practice. In the 1970s, pioneers envisioned or invented many of the technologies that make BIM and integrated practice possible. Visionaries such as R. Buckminster Fuller and Alvin Toffler foretold much of the change. By 1975, management systems that integrated social and technical systems were well defined and in use in manufacturing. George Heery, William Caudill, and others redefined many of the construction delivery methods that we now consider “old-hat.”

For many, building information modeling seems like another software solution. In this context, it is difficult to embrace the change. The benefits seem minor. Without understanding the issues and the underlying power of BIM, it is hard to see how it will benefit you personally. It is hard to see a clear path to success. However, done right, BIM can change your life for the better. Our goal is to show you how to do BIM right. Right now.


The beliefs and values that drive successful integrated practice include:

  • Design is part of everything you do.
  • The process is managed by constraints.
  • Design and implementation can work in parallel.
  • Early decisions affect the quality of outcomes.
  • Tradition and legacy systems must not overshadow good business decisions.
  • Working together, you can define mutually beneficial objectives that create more value.
  • Good communication and knowledge sharing build strong project teams.
  • You are part of integrated supply networks that are critical to clients’ success.
  • It is not enough to have a good idea. Only when you act and implement can you make innovation happen day in and day out.

It’s a big and complicated world

The concepts included in this list are not revolutionary. In fact, they likely make sense to you.

They seem a bit obvious. However, have you really integrated these beliefs in how you work, every day?

The beliefs that guide you today are the culmination of many years of experience and training. These beliefs are based on what you have been taught and learned as you worked your way up in the business. Your beliefs guide your actions and can change the way you do business, for the better. Your beliefs can also make your business stall and never reach its full potential.

No one can learn everything. The world is just too big and too complicated. By necessity, you can only become expert in a limited range of issues. This makes collaboration with many other people a necessity, not a luxury. The sheer volume of data that affects you everyday can be a blessing or a curse. By developing strategies for managing this data, you maximize its value in your life. You can either use the data or let the information inundate you.


As we explored how to make the change to integrated practice, we found that a successful process has to revolve around systems that value all team members. Work with clients, consultants, and your staff to ensure that they understand the goals and philosophy that drive the process. Steadily expand the circle of those who understand and believe in the change. When they understand how you deliver value, their performance is enhanced.

Some of the actions that lead to better understanding and successful integrated practice include:

  • Increase the numbers of alliances with others focused on similar goals.
  • Explore new and evolving technology.
  • Design, test, and apply tools to manage information.
  • Use innovation as a management tool to develop new insights, explore new roles, and understand new viewpoints.
  • Build an environment fully engaged in positive change.
  • Educate others to increase the understanding of integrated processes.
  • Apply the right skills at the right time to the right elements.
  • Consult and involve your supply chain in decision-making.
  • Record information to confirm decisions or to create future value, not to track blame.

The methods detailed in this course are designed to help you use these actions to become an integrated practice, over time. As we move to the next phase in our exploration, we look at how you can provide value. We look within.

Introduction to BIM

Design is the honeymoon period. I manage facilities for a 400-bed medical center and we are always under construction. We hire architects and they create wonderful concepts—everybody loves the concepts.

If we have hired a construction manager to control the design process, we get solid information. If not, we look to the architect for details to assure ourselves that the design meets all of our needs. We get ‘pretty pictures’, but we rarely get dependable decision-making information from the architect at this stage. The images excite our staff. The architect asks us to take it on faith that everything is worked out. The decision to move forward becomes strongly weighted by emotion rather than by facts.

By the time we are able to understand the details, the architect has invested a lot of time developing the design. If everything is on track, life is good. If not, someone spends a lot of money to make corrections. Unfortunately, the costs often fall on us since we approved the ‘pretty pictures’. The tendency is to proceed after tweaking the concept, since no one wants to spend the money or take the time to start over.

When we receive bids in this environment, they are often drastically over budget. Then everyone panics and the architect gets defensive. The project gets “bought out” or “value engineered” and things get lost in the process…

Construction starts, and there are many changes that cost a lot of extra money. We juggle the changes within the contingency, so not everything can get done…

Finally we move in but the problems are still not resolved, so…

We struggle to operate in the facility—and problems continue to crop up. Then everybody realizes that we missed something important at the beginning…”

You can design your process to get away from this scenario. By handling these issues and getting clients more involved, more knowledgeable, and better able to make informed decisions, you can see major improvements in your business.

Paul Adams, AIA, an architect in Denver said it best: “All the big mistakes are made on the first day.” If you focus your process on reducing or eliminating the first-day mistakes, you will see significant benefits.

We have found that you can do a much better job of getting your clients dependable, decision-making information, when and where they need it. You do this by looking closely at how you deliver projects and appropriately applying technology. We found that the trick is to manage project constraints from day one. This is how you can control the first-day mistakes.

Simple BIM is about getting results, using BIM—right now.
Simple BIM lets you use the tools and processes that work well—right now.
Simple BIM lets you make sure that you position yourself to take advantage of other technologies as they become commercially available.

Conceive the future

Technology, coupled with owner demands for better, faster, less-costly projects and processes that are more effective, is driving change in the design and construction industry. Integrated practice is the term the American Institute of Architects is using to describe this new way of working.

At the core of an integrated architectural practice are teams composed of all project stakeholders, guided by principles of true collaboration, open information sharing, shared risks and rewards, just-in-time decision-making, and the use of the latest technology. With integrated practice, architects’ design process is improved and they expand their value throughout the entire facility life cycle.

Let’s face it, BIM needs to be put into context. The problem for most architects is that they make too many decisions at the wrong time, with too little information. Integrating technology does not require that architects throw away all of their proven tools and experiences. It does however require them to look at things differently. It requires them to separate the things that should be kept from those that should be replaced.

Integrate BIM

Describing a “strategy of social futurism,” Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, wrote that the capture of integrated knowledge in an organized way should drive planning. He wrote, “Attempts to bring this knowledge together would constitute one of the crowning intellectual efforts in history—and one of the most worthwhile.”

The acronym BIM (Building Information Modeling) was coined in early 2002 to describe virtual design, construction, and facilities management. BIM processes revolve around virtual models that make it possible to share information throughout the entire building industry. These virtual models are embedded with data which, when shared among design team members, greatly reduces errors and improves facilities. BIM offers owners the ability to become more efficient and effective by linking their business processes with their facilities. The federal government has predicted savings of over $15.8 billion annually from integrated processes. Projects today save 5-12% when BIM is properly used.

This book will show you how to use BIM properly.

Building Information Modeling, coupled with Geographic information Systems (GiS), relational databases, and the Internet all help us to achieve Toffler’s vision. Building on these concepts, you can now use rules-based planning systems to capture and integrate knowledge at all levels. If you can describe something, it can be captured. If it can be captured, you can define its relationship to other knowledge. By applying the rules that govern how these bits of knowledge interact, you can assess options more quickly and more accurately than ever before. Where planning once relied on broad generalities and “rules of thumb,” you can now simulate “real life” using BIM.

Conventions: bim (lower case) is used to represent applications-focused topics; i.e., ArchiCad, Bentley, and Revit are bim tools.
Conventions: BIM (upper case) is the management of information and the complex relationships between the social and technical resources that represent the complexity, collaboration, and interrelationships of today’s organizations and environment. The focus is on managing projects to get the right information to the right place at the right time.

BIM done right

The focus is on managing projects to get the right information to the right place at the right time.

Throughout this course, you will find references to the word “control.” Control is another term that can be very ambiguous. It can be good or it can be bad, i.e., control as in “cracking the whip” or “control freak’ is considered bad while control, as in “steering the boat” is considered good. In this course, “control” is about steering and guiding the process.

Throughout this course, you will see the term BIM used often. The term is confusing. BIM has no context for most people. Some see BIM as the modeling tools sold by vendors. Limiting yourself to a descriptive term for products sold by software companies diminishes the power and benefits you receive from BIM.

BIM is not a software application. BIM is an information-based system that builds long-term value and advances innovation. It improves how projects get designed and built. It builds economic value in many areas. It improves the environment and people’s lives. We will study the reasons for this in later sections.

BIM is an evolutionary change in how people relate to the built environment. The speed of this change creates many opportunities for ambiguity. In this course, we define BIM as Beyond Information Models to align with the universal nature of the concept.

Know where BIM leads

Dreams are good. We all need dreams. When we quit dreaming, we stagnate. We lock into doing things the same way, repeatedly. Even when we do not get the results that, we (and our clients) want and expect.

Have you ever dreamed about a time when you could call up the site details for a new project—in real time? Without hiring a surveyor? Without visiting the site? Have you ever dreamed about a time when you could open a file and have all the as-built and as-operated details for the remodeling project that you just won? Have you ever wished that you could really understand how your new client’s company works, without doing weeks of diagnostics and fact-finding?

Well, now you can.

Building Information Modeling is, as a concept, so universal and so wide reaching that it can (and probably does) include nearly anything that you can think of. If it touches on the built environment, BIM processes can make it better and more efficient. This complexity has led many of the pioneers to be bogged down in an endless loop of adding detail upon detail. They have a lofty goal—to develop fully functional and user-friendly systems that everyone in the building world can use to interact with each other. They work to capture all of the information that our world revolves around. You cannot wait for them to finish.

If you do, you will be left behind.

You can have the benefits from BIM today. The tools are available—and have been for twenty years.

You and your clients cannot wait for someone else to figure out all of the complex systems and standards for you. You have within your current resources and available tools, the ability to deliver many of the benefits of BIM, today. Moreover, using these resources and tools in new ways, you have the ability to produce better architecture and happier clients.

Why not get started?

Sometimes, you have to overcome many issues before you can change. There is a lot of inertia to overcome. However, if you look at BIM as a business decision to deliver better design and better client support, it becomes simple.

Tools for mapping processes


BIM for manufacturers and suppliers


BIM for Subcontractors


To Google Earth and back again


BIM tool consultation


GiS for the geospatially challenged


Systems to improve your site planning process


Focus on systems – BIM for mechanical and electrical engineers


Bring a BIMStorm to your community


Overview of Bentley Architecture


Overview of Generative Components


Overview of Archicad


Overview of the Onuma System


Overview of Google Earth and Sketchup


Overview of Second Life and Virtual Environments


Overview of Revit, Navisworks and AutoDesk