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Business Processes—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 do the GSA (and VA/Wisconsin/et al) BIM requirements mean to me?

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.

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.

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 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.

Sustainability and green

It seems like everyone is talking about sustainability and green – green cars, green architecture and green appliances. Everyone wants to be sure that we leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren.

Talk about green is cheap. What we really need is action. Building industry is inefficient and wastes too many resources. Only 10 cents of every dollar spent on construction adds value. 33 cents is spent on support. And, a whopping 57 cents is wasted.

Other industries have fixed this problem. For example, today we get 62 cents of value out of every dollar we spend on manufacturing. We have to plan better and be more accurate.

The way that we have been designing, constructing and operating buildings is in crisis. The reason is that over budget, inefficient and error-ridden projects have become the norm. Problems in the construction industry hurt the economy. Just look at the impact that the lending crisis is having.

The building industry is working to cut $200 billion of waste by 2020. Without these cuts, prices will continue to increase and our energy problem will get much worse in the next few years.

BIM stands for building information modeling. BIM is the approach that is making these changes happen. BIM touches every part of our world – from the first idea and right into day-to-day life.

  • BIM lets us understand costs, time and money from the beginning of projects.
  • BIM eliminates wasted resources, wasted effort and wasted money.
  • With BIM we improve in big ways that save big money.
  • BIM makes big savings possible.
  • Without BIM we make small adjustments, like changing to energy efficient light bulbs.
  • With BIM we improve in big ways that save big money.

Over budget, inefficient and error-ridden projects have become the norm. I couldn’t stop wondering how we could be getting so little for so much. As I looked into it, I started to see the same things happening over and over – good projects were over budget, finishing late and all had big problems.

We need to find solutions.

As an architect, I am a little obsessed about these subjects. In fact, I got a little obsessed about finding solutions these problems. I wrote BIG BIM little bim to show how to use today’s technology to plan better, so that we can know ahead of time where we are going.

We need new school of thinking that’s based on sustainability and zero-waste.

I spent 10 years researching and tracking how owners, architects and builders work and how they can change to do a better job.

We really need to chuck the old-school ‘throw-away’ mindset. Some say that it is unrealistic and idealistic – ‘It can’t happen, you are dreaming’. But I say that the ones who are unrealistic are those that want to continue with the old path – that’s dreaming. The old way just doesn’t work anymore.

The old way didn’t just happen. It was the work of generations of smart people. These people solved the problems that they faced. Today, the problems are different. Resources are much more limited. So we need to solve new problems. That’s what BIG BIM little bim is all about.

Overview of the National BIM Standard

Simple, concise standards
Today, much of the energy associated with BIM goes toward developing standards for the future. Some ask—“Who really follows complex standards?”

Anecdotally, projects that attempt to follow standards are large, complex, high gross fee, high-gross-project-cost, government-funded ones. Yet, these projects make up a small part of the total U.S. construction market, even though they are often high-visibility projects.

There is a strong case for simple and concise standards. Without such standards, BIM might always be marginal technology and might never achieve its potential.

There are groups working to create a National Building Information Model Standard (NBIMS) that will act for BIM as the National CADD Standard (NCS) has acted for flat CADD. Depending on your clientele, you may never need to focus on NBIMS. NBIMS will be embedded in some bim solutions. Over time NBIMS will likely be one of the many things that just happen with any bim solution.

Standards are often not enforced. When a standard is not enforced, it becomes more of an impediment than it enables productive and focused work. This course is about doing BIM every day. It is about simple BIM. For BIM to be used successfully your standards must be simple.
If you want people to follow your standards, they must be simple.

Many of the highly developed standards intending to control the flat CAD production environment focus entirely on specific applications. Using them, in most cases, adds little to a BIM workflow. When you move to a bim solution, you can usually abandon them without penalizing your work product.

Offices wrote CAD standards with worthy goals in mind. However they tend toward complexity. They tend toward hundreds of layers, pen tables and proscriptive requirements. They make navigation and understanding difficult. You cannot impose systems that worked for one specific instance on all instances. They are inflexible. They are by their nature impediments to change.

An integrated process using BIM must be flexible and allow for easy transitions between projects, tasks and people. It needs everyone to understand, without a data table or rule course. It needs common and understandable names. When you start, define only a small handful of attributes. After completing several projects, look at them and throw away everything that was not essential. From what is left, you might have a BIM standard for your office.

What could go wrong?


Understanding the past can keep you from making the same mistakes or doing the same work twice. With today’s technology, you can create a more sustainable, interconnected environment, and profit in the process. Using tools and processes that eliminate repetition while maximizing the efficiency of your clients’ facilities and operations, you become more valuable.

As you have read this course, you have explored the threads from the past that inform integrated practice. Alvin Toffler helped us to understand that “you cannot run society on data and computers alone.” Buckminster Fuller’s ideas still ring true. We really can “do more with less.”

Many of the concepts that have driven change in our world came from their vision.

Our understanding of their concepts has matured. However, successfully achieving their vision requires more than buying a new piece of software. Finding the right tools and adapting your way of doing business is critical to prosperity in this environment.

The way you design your practice will depend on how your business looks now and where you want it to go. You have looked at changing perceptions and explored how to design your practice to integrate with building information modeling and an information-rich process.

Every drafting room of the 1970s seemed to have a curmudgeon.

It was his (they were all male) job to keep everyone on task. His desk was usually at the back of the open studio (the studio had to be open, because that was the latest innovation).

From this lofty perch he could spot the malingerer and that worst of all offenders—the Pouche’r.

This villain was responsible for lost profits, delayed drawings and the firm’s general inability to deliver and make money.

Although always exaggerated, this characterization has been common. It is very likely that over-drawing and excessive detailing have been a problem since the days of the medieval master builder.

Step forward to today. The drafting room of 2007 is different. There are no drafting tables. The standard tools of the 1970s are museum pieces. Now, if you have a fast laptop or a flat screen monitor, a fast computer, a mouse and an iPhone, everyone should get out of your way.

You have the world at your fingertips. You can do it all.

Because of this power, we offer several cautions before you proceed with your exploration:

Sell the benefits

Architects face many dilemmas. They dream of designing the ultimate project. They strive for perfection. They work to stay ahead of the curve, because everyone else passes them if they do not grow.

They react by holding their cards close. They become afraid to take risks. Then they run risks by openly sharing their concepts and innovations.

Architects fear for their intellectual property, with good reason, since society puts everything that architects value on the line. When something goes wrong, their approach makes them an easy target. Architects have a lot to lose. Fortunately, integrated practice offers the solution.

It also offers confusion.

The complexity of the whole information modeling issue makes it easy for people to blow smoke—making it hard for good people to understand what is really happening. Bad information makes it hard for an owner to request what he or she wants and needs. It makes it even harder for an architect to figure out the best approach. This confusion results in people continuing to work the traditional way—even though it is not as successful as it should be.

You can step in and do the right thing. You can make the benefits happen for your firm. You do not have to tell the world about it, you just have to do it. If you sell the benefits, forget the technology and give your clients a great product, they will buy into it. They usually do not want to know why or how. That is why we created Integrated practice.

You will find that selling the technology is not a winning strategy. When you sell the benefits of what you can do that others cannot, your win rate goes up.

Risk selling an integrated process without telling people how the technology works. When you prove to them that they can see their project earlier, can make better decisions earlier, and can be more certain about the outcomes, they will buy into the concept. They want the benefits; they do not care how you achieve them.

When you try to explain what BIM is, people’s eyes glaze over, because it is not important to them yet. It is too complicated. Why waste energy explaining what it is? Just do it!

Beware nouveau BIM experts

Recently I attended a presentation by a firm that is supposedly a “BIM Leader” with 300 employees. A principal and the firm’s CIO gave the presentation. Between them, they made at least five glaring theoretical errors. Obviously, vendors had planted the messages to further their position. They use the software, but that is all.

Today I read letters to the editor resulting from a recent BIM article in a major architectural journal. Almost all were application centric. Universally they reinforced the notion “Since application x is not able to do it now it is not possible. So why are we raising everyone’s expectations?”

Owners have changed before

Owners of facilities have spent a lot of money to implement new technologies over the past thirty years. Typically, they threw away old systems and started over every time a new system or approach became the standard. Each time this happened, they had to bear the costs to resurvey, re-input and replace their entire system. The monetary costs were significant. They lost inertia, resources, and information. Alternatively, they ended up with halfway implementations and ongoing usability problems.

For owners, the information-driven approach represented by BIM and process integration may be the ultimate step in moving away from the “throw it away and start over” approach. It is a practical way for them to reuse their information over the life of their facilities. With interoperable processes, they can reuse their information rather than recreating it every time a new system comes along.

The goal is to find a long-term solution that moves away from the cycle of starting anew each time a new technology develops. With BIM, you maintain data in standardized and shareable formats that can be software neutral. Whatever new technology is developed can read and manipulate the data. That is why standards such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) are so important. Rather than starting over, you move to a cycle of reading a data file archived in an interoperable format.

Data interoperability does not solve the problem by itself. If tomorrow we woke up and every software product on the market could magically “talk to and understand” every other product, the problem would not go away. This is because in most people’s experience, the problem revolves around archiving and recovery of information.

How often have you tried to open a file from version—X of your current software, only to find that you cannot open it with the latest version—Y? How many times have you found the floppy disk with the specification for a job you completed 5 years ago, to find that none of your machines have floppy drives? How many times have you tried to access a CD-ROM burned six years ago and found that it was unreadable? These are the day-to-day issues that often overshadow concerns of interoperability.

I hope that model servers with redundant backup will resolve some of these problems. In the meantime, your system should include strategies for keeping your archived data in usable condition. Otherwise, what good is it?

A tale of 8 steps

The changes that occurred in the production and archiving of construction documentation is one example:

Owners historically archived ink on vellum and pencil on paper. When they needed data someone searched through the files and field verified their “paper” records—the time-tested approach;

They then moved to plastic lead on Mylar media. This change had minimal costs, since nothing much changed for the owners. In fact, this medium improved owners’ archival abilities;

Then pin-bar compositing systems were developed, ushering in what would later become complex CADD layer conventions and creating major archival difficulties;

Then large owners invested in CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) on mainframes. Each station cost a lot of money and the technology that fostered this change was so new that few gave thought to the realities of archival data. Much data was lost due to format incompatibility and tape drives that quickly became obsolete;

Then the standard moved to CADD (Computer Aided Drafting and Design) on minicomputers. Archived data continued to be lost to software revisions and format incompatibility, floppy disks and Winchester drives;

More recently, the standard became personal-computer-based 2D CADD. Archived data continued to be lost due to lack of interoperability, complexity of standards and lack of long-term storage media. File systems became so complex and hardware dependent that it became difficult to access archives quickly;

Then a few owners moved to 3D CADD on laptops. Data is not database driven, not intelligent, usually not interoperable and does not comply with a single standard;
And now to BIM and integrated processes

Owners demand change

The traditional project delivery process is fraught with lack of cooperation and poor information sharing.

Studies suggest that owners experience project schedule and cost overruns on 85% of all projects. Owners can no longer rely on the traditional checks and balances in the construction industry to assure outcomes, because the industry is too disruptive and undependable.

You can lay part of the problem on retiring baby boomers causing a brain drain. Everyone is losing seasoned staff at a rapid pace. Throughout the construction industry, knowledge resources are lost as experienced people retire. Every year it becomes more difficult to hire experienced, senior staff. Some surveys predict that 50% of all senior managers will retire in the next ten years.

The loss of knowledgeable workers, inefficiency and lack of coordinated workflows plague the entire construction industry.

As architects lose experienced people, the tendency has been to rely on task-based automation to correct the problems. The errors caused by the lack of senior staff and other problems worsen as architects do not find effective ways to capture knowledge and make it available to the next generation. Even today, other professionals are starting to do many of the tasks taken for granted as traditional parts of architectural services.

The loss of knowledgeable staff and competition from other professionals goes so far as to make some architects fear for the survival of the architectural profession.

Much as NIST identified losses due to lack of interoperability in the construction industry, there is much the same problem with implementation, as many organizations work to understand integration and BIM. The complexity and fragmentation of the U.S. construction industry makes interoperability, even at this level, a major challenge.

Even with these challenges and the new processes represented by integrated practice, BIM and rules-based systems, some architects seem only to be paying lip service to clients’ broader concerns.

If architects do not do something, is someone going to come up with a way to integrate them out of existence?

By facing these questions head-on, you can find answers. You can design your practice to provide value and overcome the issues raised by CURT. Let others work on the big picture issues. For the rest of us, the problem has to be solved one architect at a time.

Inefficient processes

In 2004, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) issued a report titled Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry. The report documented the fact that the current approach is not sustainable.

By correcting disjointed processes, NIST predicted savings of over $15.8 billion annually (1-2% of total industry revenue). Obviously, owners would receive the greatest part of these savings.

NIST estimated that the owners’ share of the savings is $10.6 billion. Constructors’ share of the savings is an estimated $1.8 billion, with fabricators and suppliers saving an additional $2.2 billion. Architects and engineers’ share of the savings is an estimated $1.2 billion.

Architects as form givers—-only?

Could future architects find themselves relegated to generating only project aesthetics only?
Rules-based systems and modeling tools enable other professionals to deliver high performance outcomes in many areas that many traditionally consider the realm of architects. One can argue that these services miss the subtleties and standard of care that architects provide. However, in some cases, owners are willing to live with these losses to avoid the problems they are experiencing in the traditional process.

Owner groups are actively working to correct these problems. One active owner group is The Construction Users Roundtable (CURT). CURT’s goal is to “create strategic advantage for construction users.”

A call to action

In 2004, CURT issued a call to action white paper titled Collaboration, Integrated Information and the Project Life Cycle in Building Design, Construction and Operation. In the white paper, CURT issued a firm and clear message—Stop the finger-pointing, litigation, and lack of accountability that seem to be business as usual. In 2005, CURT followed up with a second white paper titled Optimizing the Construction Process: An Implementation Strategy.

CURT’s documents have acted as a wake-up call to the architectural profession. They have offered a strategy for owner leadership in enabling change needed in the construction industry. One could argue that they are responsible for much of the recent focus on BIM and integrated practice in the profession.

In 2006, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), CURT, and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) began a joint effort to transform the construction industry. The leadership shown by owners, contractors and architects working in tandem is critical to the future of the industry.

This joint effort is one of the many initiatives looking at interoperability, collaboration, risk management, and integrated processes. Unfortunately, many of these initiatives are overlapping and disconnected from others.

Retain the advantages

Someday architects’ processes will be highly integrated with construction. Someday you will routinely share models electronically with the entire team. Someday you may see bidding reduced to a profit auction with all other costs tied to the market. However, these are a future reality.

Today’s reality is that even with an integrated process, you issue bidding and construction documents. In an integrated process, you have to get to the same places. The difference is that the work effort has changed.

A generic traditional process goes something like this:

You start with Schematic Design creating design concepts for owner approval. This approval requires a lot of faith and trust, since you include very little real information beyond aesthetics.
Next, during Design Development, you define and develop the project’s systems. Up to this point, the process is in the designer’s control. Outcomes depend on the designer’s abilities and knowledge.

Next, the process moves to Construction Documentation and a handoff to the production team occurs. You continue to make critical project decisions. The bulk of project detail is added at this time.

If the designer was able to get the required decisions and finished the design process under budget, the production team’s work is simplified.

If not, they take the handoff with a big disadvantage. They find themselves having to reinterpret and implement the work of the designer. Sometimes with his or her close involvement. Sometimes without input, while trying to make up for lost ground against the design fee.

Is it any wonder that architects have cost overruns and errors in their documents?

With an integrated process, you reverse this situation. You arrive at the start of construction documents with much of the work done. You have made the critical design decisions and included them in the prototype. You have confirmed material selections in the prototype. Production templates are set to generate the documents—plans, elevations—sections—details—schedules—et al. All coordinated, labeled, and in your preferred formats.

If your engineers and specification writer use compatible systems, their work is coordinated, interference checked and tied to the project index. Your effort to produce construction documents comes down to cleanup and packaging. The production team does not have to reinterpret or wait for decisions. They assemble the documents. It is much more controllable and predictable.

Excess Perfection Syndrome

Building information models and shared information (interoperability) make it possible to replicate the real world in your computer. With enough time and energy, a model can have nearly as many attributes as the real thing.

Much of this information is already in the model and tools. This information costs little or nothing since it has been—“captured.” You must then add information, since every model requires some level of customization to match an existing condition or to reflect the design.

You must have a plan for managing this information. At every phase specific information and detail is required to get the job done. In the ideal, you place this information in the model, nothing more, and nothing less. Over-building models with too much information results in lost productivity.

Over documenting can dramatically affect your bottom line in an integrated practice.

Check your ego

Today, architects are players in a very small part of the built environment. Much of the world works with almost zero interaction with architects, contrary to some architects’ notions of their role in the process. Studies have shown that most people have never even met an architect.

Studies have also shown that most architects tightly focus on the “traditional” core of the business and they pay little attention to what happens before schematic design or after construction. Strangely, many architects seem to think that the built world revolves around them.
It does not, by a wide margin.

There is a much larger world of built things, where architects are never involved. Integrated practice opens up this world to architects. Owners have strongly asserted a need for better integration of processes. They see building information modeling technology as the means for streamlining the built environment from cradle to cradle. They are exploring how to correct the industry’s problems.

Architects, to great extent, have abandoned the larger world issues to focus on design and construction. Because of this narrow focus, many do not see architects as critical to integration. BIM and integrated practice make it possible for architects to expand into areas where few of them have gone before. However, until it happens, a false sense of his or her place in the world can limit an architect’s options.

Many do not realize how closely architects’ skill sets match the needs of integrated processes. Integration is a team sport. Architects manage teams. Not only design teams. With these skills, architects are ideal candidates for leadership in the integration process. However, becoming leaders in this change will not happen easily. Owners, contractors, engineers and unlicensed professionals with technology skills are all exploring how to lead the process. These same professionals are questioning architects’ ability to fill a leadership role in correcting these problems, since architects have generally not “stepped up to the plate.”

At a basic level, Architects synthesize information and manage complex processes. Few can rival these skills. Applying these skills through integrated practice allows lets architects focus their skills to solve the problems that plague the industry. Step up to the plate and get it done!

Status quo

We designed this course to help you understand how building information modeling and integrated practice can change your life for the better.

The solution began to take form in the 1970s. The ‘70s were an era of confusion, conflict, and change. McGovern lost to Nixon in 1972, and by 1974, Nixon had resigned. Intergraph was getting off the ground and AutoCAD was not on the horizon. The anti-war movement was in full swing. The floppy disk and the microprocessor had recently appeared, but most of us were still punching cards—if we used computers at all. Most considered Toyota to be a cheap import aimed at those with limited resources. Ford Motors was the gold standard. Futurism was in full swing. The possibilities were endless.

Embrace change

I left graduate school at the height of a recession. Jobs were scarce. After nine months of looking, I got my first job in a “real” architectural office.

They were a progressive growing firm. They sharply focused on productivity and profitability and they taught how to carefully budget and manage projects. They were constantly looking for better and more profitable ways to do things. They accepted overlay drafting, paste-up, and any other hand methods that got projects out the door faster.
They were a very detail-oriented firm and were quietly controlled by one of the first Certified Construction Specifiers (CCS). He taught me to pay attention to the details.

The firm’s senior designer would produce a sketch. The rest of us worked out the details. We eliminated the problems. As long as someone made the effort and spent the time to resolve conflicts, we picked up most of the problems in the process. As a fallback, the firm had people full time on construction administration to catch anything that others missed.

They did design/build and design/build/leaseback, but most of the projects were design/bid/build.
My first project with an agency construction manager started in 1980.

In the mid-1980s, things began to change for the firm. The specifications writer retired, I left and they had to hire new and less-experienced people. People sued them—several times, usually for something that they missed. The construction administration department could no longer talk their way out of the errors and conflicts with the documents.

The senior designer started to accept only waterfront projects for close friends. He did not have the time to handle the details and no one with enough experience was available to do it for him. They went from a high-profitability, growing, and dynamic firm to a static one. They lost their momentum.

The principals were perceptive enough to know that they needed to change something. They hired a management consultant, who met with limited success. They tried mergers, without success. They made functional changes.

In the mid-1980s, I returned in a leadership role. My partners expected things to work just as they used to. However, it was not possible to roll back the clock. Now there were more and hungrier competitors. Economic conditions had changed. Staff expected higher salaries and clients were demanding more in less time. Computers were becoming an issue. The firm’s inertia was gone.

Construction management and design/build had taught me that it is much more cost effective to have all of the issues examined as early in the process as possible. I knew that projects that were properly budgeted and designed within the budget had a much higher chance of success.
We hired a senior construction manager to work with the senior designer in an attempt to correct the problems. Rather than solving the problem, hiring the construction manager seemed to signal the end.

The partners resisted making additional changes and refused to fund solutions. As a group, they had tried too many things, without success. They took the—“we will try one, and if it works, we will talk about another,” approach.

Computerization was becoming a problem. Partners’ attitudes were—“You can try it if you want, but I will never touch a computer.” A longtime drafter was “allowed” to try Cadvance, but only as long as it was profitable. The firm’s engineers were trying AutoCAD and they hired a drafter who knew how to use Microstation on UNIX, so they tried that too.

After months of meetings, they authorized a group to find the best solution for a CAD system. We looked at everything on the market—worldwide. We concentrated on products that would work within an agency construction management approach.

We developed a rough business case for the process. In 1990, we found the technology that looked like it would solve the problem. We began look at how we could tweak our process to make it happen.

We ended up buying ArchiCad. It worked with our rough business case. We started with one seat. We trained two people in the week after we got the software. Within nine months, the entire architectural staff was using ArchiCad and we had five seats, with no additional outside training.
A senior architect was using ArchiCad to prepare all documents. Drafters were using ArchiCad for construction documents. New interns were producing virtual reality fly-thrus after only two days on staff. The software worked.

However, things were not getting better for the firm. It became obvious that we could not correct the problems by buying new software. The projects done per the rough business case went well. The projects done in the regular way did not. Broader changes to the business operation were required.

The partners continued their no-technology bias and the firm splintered into disconnected studios. We could not reach a consensus about how to move forward. Organizational change was not possible due to too many legacy issues. By November 1996, the problems had reached an impasse and Design Atlantic Ltd was born.

As often happens, we resolved never to repeat the same mistakes. We resolved to use technology as a tool to create better architecture. We conceived a test platform for new ways of doing the business of architecture.

Do not let your firm go the way of the firm described above. Embrace change and do what is necessary to adapt to integrated practice.

Control your projects

“If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes,” quipped Ian Thompson, vice-president of Standing Stone Consulting Inc. Ian’s comment came on the heels of a meeting with a school superintendent to discuss how to structure the team on a new project.

The superintendent required a textcourse approach and could not conceive of why a high school might need CPTED support. Safety and security were critical. However, the superintendent could not be convinced of the importance.

The meeting was one week before 9/11.

Sometimes you just cannot change a preconceived notion. Sometimes the local situation and pressures force people to make the wrong decisions. As a professional, you still have to try.
Over the years, how many projects have you seen that started with a flawed plan? How many were under-funded? How many were over-scoped? How many missed a critical piece that led to failure in the end?

A primary goal of integrated practice is to avoid this type of failure. These failures happen because of a small, easily correctable flaw at the beginning. Conceptually it is simple to correct them at the beginning. In practice, it is much harder.

It seems simple. You have to start right

It seems simple. You have to start right.

As we completed more and more projects, we saw a disconnected process. People were forgetting the basic equation. Moreover, problems usually resulted ….

We saw a typical scenario play out repeatedly—the owner hires an architect without really keying him or her into the fiscal realities.

The architect creates a design that responds to aesthetic requirements but misses the issue of sustainability.

They build a facility that is too large or too expensive for funding to support. The organization struggles financially to operate the facility and then (and only then) the realization occurs that they missed something…

Use good business sense

As a profession, architects’ process is rooted in tradition. As a group, architects give too much power to legacy systems when they should be making changes using good business sense. The days where an architect could design without connecting to the client’s business systems have passed.

Technology is commercially available to allow architects to do a much better job at controlling projects, from the very start of every project. They no longer have to rely on manual linear processes to produce quality work. Architects now have databases, the Internet and BIM. It is time to become leaders in making the change

I’m an owner. Why should I care about BIM?

The convergence of BIM and the growing sustainability ethic offers architects an opportunity to engage the whole spectrum of building and project types in a richer way. Architects can offer real value to facility owners and their respective communities.

This same convergence also offers architects the best opportunity in decades to reassert their value to client-owners in what is their core market—design.

Architects synthesize information and manage complex processes at a very high level. With these skills, they are ideal candidates for leadership in the building information modeling process. Integrating their practices will help them maintain their distinction as a profession and avoid the creeping irrelevance that comes from their steady march away from risk.

Using process such as Integrated practice, architects—both large and small—can improve how they deliver their services. These processes foster just-in-time-decision-making, eliminating duplication and making the correct data available, when and where needed.

Analyze your projects in ways that once took weeks and cost a lot of money.

When you deliver integrated services, you help your clients make better and earlier decisions, saving them money in the end. They will see direct advantages that do not come from the traditional design process. Your work begins to benefit all parts of the construction industry. Everyone profits.

Some of the benefits that come from integrated practice and BIM include:

Reduced risk

You engage owners earlier in a more collaborative way. You help them with early decision-making support and assurance of project outcomes.

Virtual design and construction reduces risk.

You are better able to withstand public scrutiny, the political climate and funding discussions.

You detect errors—before they cost significant money, time or pain.

You assure the necessary quality at the lowest reasonable cost.

You deliver construction simulation before building—resulting in fewer misunderstandings, a faster bidding process, reduced bid-day surprises and less disputes and claims.

Managed change

There are fewer change orders, fewer mistakes, and fewer losses.
You simplify integration of new team members into the process (CPTED, Emergency Services, tools developers, psychologists, manufacturers, et al.

Diversify and compete in a wider spectrum of service areas and client types.

Repurpose your work products for downstream reuse to support phased delivery.

Create clarity

Study organizational structures, physical requirements, and operations issues in depth, early.

Capture intelligence and rules. It helps you to begin the knowledge management process.

Manage constraints to enable faster, better, and lower-cost outcomes for both yourself and your clients.

Improve profitability

Projects have a higher percentage of senior staff time and much-reduced production staff time, resulting in higher effective multipliers.

New projects experience 8-15% savings in project costs. Follow-on projects that reuse project data result in increased profitability of 8-35%.

More accurate cost estimates at earlier stages.

Improve communications

Create, manage and integrate high performance communications among owner, designer, constructor, and new and unique team members. Develop more effective and simpler collaboration tools.

Build diverse teams in rapidly evolving and competitive markets.

Foster full participation by all team members.

Efficient process

You improve project control—you can better document decisions, consistently.
You get more time and energy for design—fewer issues to “work out” during CDs. Better-coordinated documents and a revision process that is more efficient. Spend less time on drafting.

You produce higher quality outcomes with fewer hours.

You can build complex geometry. Work with up-to-date and real-time information. Create just-in-time imagery for your clients.

More sustainable

The process is inherently sustainable.

You build project databases designed to predict and manage future alterations. Data connects to the facility management database—giving a fast return-on-investment.

Owners see direct advantages to their operations, which do not come from the normal process.

They see why this approach saves money in the end. They can, at little or no additional cost, end up with easier-to-manage facilities.

You integrate facility management and GiS for better long-term management and operations of facilities.

You improve accountability.

You improve efficiency and allow for a more diverse practice.

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