After noticing a huge inefficiency and disarticulation in their processes (working separately in design, modeling, and documentation), David Miller Architects (DMA) decided to immerse his company into the BIM (Building Information Modeling) world in 2008. Despite their success, this experience of trial and error gave them a series of lessons that are important to consider when rethinking the way we do architecture.
‘BIM gave us an opportunity to reimagine the practice, in a much more structured and organized way. Then, it allowed us to have more quality control, [and be] more organized and thorough, which is really important for a small practice trying to grow. And that really increased the confidence in some of our clients,’ says David Miller.
We spoke with the British architect at a conference in June 2018 in Santiago, Chile, which included the seminar “Why Implement BIM in 2020” organized by Planbim. This seminar identified 7 key points that can facilitate the implementation of this paradigm in an architecture office.
1. The smaller your office is, the easier it is to implement BIM
According to David Miller, implementing BIM has little to do with the software itself, but rather, with changing the way you work. For this reason, it’s much easier to face this process when the transformation is managed in a small group of workers:
We had quite a young team; they were very comfortable with technology, comfortable with new ways of working. In the following 10 years, we grew our capability and we grew our ability around BIM with that team.
2. Be aware that you will go through different stages
When starting the BIM implementation, Miller explains that it’s normal to go through a series of “maturation” stages. The first is the so-called “Lonely” stage (where your office uses BIM, but the companies you work with don’t), then the “Informal” (when you have already implemented BIM but it’s not formalized or institutionalized), and lastly, “Contractual” (when BIM implementation is mandatory in more than 60% of the projects of the office). In these stages, its efficiency reward is reflected, which increases exponentially against costs.
3. Modify your work environment
It’s essential to adapt your work environment to a collaborative work structure, always attaching the necessary data to share and work quickly. Also, the work environment must be designed for immediate communication:
BIM allows you to give younger people more responsibility earlier in their career, which helps their confidence and helps them grow. This is good for them and it’s good for the business; it’s good for staff retention and it’s good for the atmosphere in the office.
4. Invest in training and tools
In Miller’s experience, the investment in implementing BIM is divided into hardware (20%), software (30%), and staff training (50%). The human cost doesn’t only imply training, but requires a lot of effort to keep the person you trained:
Perhaps half of the cost was training, and that’s actually a good thing to be doing with your team. It’s about developing a strong relationship with your team; it’s hard to find good staff so if you have found a good staff it’s good to train them and hope that they stay and grow with the practice.
5. Don’t restrict yourself by the size of the projects: BIM works on all scales
It’s not necessary for your architecture office to develop large-scale assignments to work with BIM, nor is it a requirement that for only projects that “start from scratch:”
We found, in fact, that BIM works incredibly well in refurbishment projects and historic projects, and also the size isn’t a barrier. We use the same techniques on smaller projects as we do on larger projects. It’s about implementing the processes to do things better.
6. Coordinate all work through a single way of using BIM
It’s advisable to use a single manual (or, at least, the same rules) to guide the overall work analysis system and ensure the same standard of information at all levels. At David Miller Architects they are guided by the official English standard, taking advantage of local regulations and opportunities.
7. Using BIM is not necessarily against creativity
In the David Miller Architects offices, the architects create different libraries by typology and then design through modules that adapt to the particular project, identifying opportunities in the existing context. It’s also necessary to model this context to obtain richer models and coordinate all the specialties through a single model. In this way, designing from modules is not the same as generating repetitive or homogeneous designs, since it allows for generating diverse and appropriate typologies for each project by having the complete information:
On the contrary, this ‘digital kit of pieces’ allows us to be much more efficient and gives us more time to develop the creative part of the process.