Or will it free designers to enrich the creative process?
I heard an interesting remark recently from a fellow architect regarding building information modeling (BIM).
"BIM will be the death of design," was the charge. "It will turn us from architects into technicians."
Well, I think we've all heard this kind of charge before, such as … when sustainability became a driving design issue, when CAD hit the marketplace, at the advent of the Rapid-o-Graph … keep on going. The answer, essentially, and to me, is that technology will never overcome human creativity (that last weird part of 2001, A Space Odyssey, aside).
BIM is just a tool—it's the software that allows planners, designers, manufacturers, constructors, and owners to work from the same object-related database. By that, I mean that every door has its specifications attached to its plot on the plan/elevation (they're one and the same, this is integrated 3D). Every window, chair, fume hood, whatever, has ordering, delivery, installation, and maintenance—full life-cycle—information embedded in the database. The "modeling" part of building information modeling means that we can run testing sequences against the whole building: its performance, constructability, cost—you name it.
So: with all this detailed information, will BIM transform architects into technicians? No! Much of the valuable data in a building information model is behind the scenes, available to the appropriate stakeholder at the appropriate time. Decisions can be more informed because of these data, but decisions don't necessarily have to be more complex or detailed. Think of it as designing by building—virtually. I can place objects in the model and they can be fluid ... at once specific and generic, changeable on the fly. I don't have to nail all the parameters at the get go. But the richness of the data allows the model to be testable, and this is truly valuable to a designer. Imagine a world where designers can understand the ramifications of their decisions at the time the decisions are made. That world is now.
Work today is more complex, and technology is simply making that complexity part of the normal working environment. Through the increased efficiencies and effectiveness of BIM as a tool, and especially if leveraged through collaborative delivery models like Integrated Practice, architects can attain higher profiles, produce more work in a richer environment, and buildings will go up with more precision and higher quality to the benefit of all.
What do you think?