The Royal Institute of British Architects champions better buildings, communities and the environment through architecture and our members. We provide the standards, training, support and recognition that put our members – in the UK and overseas – at the peak of their profession.
In this article I wanted to discuss Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the role that Architects play in this new process. I argue that Architects are a key member of a team who can reinvigorate their project leadership role as a client advisor, lead designer of the design team, model manager and post completion Asset Information Model gatekeeper. Also I go on to urge the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to demonstrate leadership by supporting Architects, making them central to the successful implementation of BIM by leading this process and communicating the benefits to clients.
I believe that the public and the construction industry generally are aware that Architects are passionate about the design of buildings and are creative thinkers. However Architects do offer much more to a construction project; this ranges from Project Management skills, Leadership skills, project and consultant coordination, client liaison, construction management and so on, all specialist skills within the construction project timeline. The advent, and Government adoption, of BIM offers opportunities for new services from Architects, as well as other consultants, in the delivery of high quality architectural projects to clients, whether these are public or private sector clients, professional (contractor) clients or medium/small domestic clients.
The growing adoption of BIM and lessons learnt have recently started to be shared by early adopters, usually contractors who have invested early to investigate the benefits and challenges of BIM. As an Architect who has worked on early BIM projects I would say that BIM demonstrates that there are significant benefits during design and construction. These include:
- BIM Improves Productivity
- BIM Increases Collaboration
- BIM Offers Clash Detection and reduces risk
- BIM means Architects have the opportunity to be lead designer
I believe that opportunities exist for Architects to re-establish or reinvigorate their role as the lead designer, collaborator and coordinator, which is reminiscent of the role architects traditionally held. This role has been eroded over the last twenty years with the mainstream advent of different contracts (Design and Build contracts for example), loss of client trust, diversification to specialist/narrowed roles and the shift of responsibilities to project managers, encroaching into what Architects considered their traditional role.
RIBA and new services
The RIBA in my opinion is to date missing the opportunity to promote their members’ skills across a wide range of areas, and have narrowed their offering to that of design and creative thinking, solely as a specialist skill set above all others. In my opinion architects perform a variety of activities across project stages and situations, which can go unrecognised by clients. In contrast, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has developed additional, and now accepted roles for clients (e.g. project management), and should be respected for identifying these opportunities. I would like to see the RIBA support members with the promotion of BIM as a role changing development.
With respect to BIM, I am passionate that architects could offer additional services including but not limited to;
- BIM Client Advice – clients will need help procuring projects, for example schools and housing, and will need support with the development of their Employers Information Requirements (EIRs) which is fundamental to the information received for Asset Management.
- Building Information Managers – specialist knowledge of the design and construction process is required to create and manage models and the team set up (BIM Execution Planning). It has been suggested that Project Managers could do this but I believe that architects are much better placed to establish this role due to their knowledge and understanding of the details of the project, particularly the creation of the model and information embedded within this, across work stages and during the construction process.
- BIM in Design – A model has to be coordinated, developed, shared and managed in addition to the simple benefit of clash detection. Architects can perform this role and reduce risk across the project for clients.
- BIM during Construction – Architects will need to supply contractors with updated models that they can use on site to coordinate the works, help with programming and with activities such as health and safety planning.
- BIM post Construction – clients will need models managed and updated over time to cater for alterations made to an asset. This potentially is a huge area of growth and opportunity with large client bodies requiring the assistance to store, manage and update models over the life of a building.
BIM Leadership and Support
One of the reasons for writing this post was to begin a debate that urges the RIBA to demonstrate greater BIM leadership and show their members that they are ahead of the curve rather than falling behind. With the RICS, they have already established an accreditation service that certifies BIM managers, which is a demonstration that they have identified an area for future services to be sold to clients. Additionally the RICS has published a world wide BIM implementation guide – the very title of which is impressive and a little worrying at the same time for Architects. As I have stated above, I believe that Architects could be providing additional services to Clients, Contractors and Facilities Managers throughout the design and life cycle of a building project. However, it needs to be recognised and acted upon by the RIBA, particularly as their mission statement is to “provide the standards, training, support and recognition that put our members … at the peak of their profession.”
Architects cannot develop in a vacuum with a few individuals flying the flag across the profession. In order for architects to receive the right advocacy to clients, I would like to see the RIBA investing time nationally and regionally for members to support their development in order for clients to invest in BIM services. If clients can see these services then additional fees could be charged but they need to understand the tangible benefits and outputs and, if they do, then Architects will be able to generate additional revenue through additional services.
A L S T U D I O is an innovative practice committed to the delivery of the highest quality construction projects by utilising and supporting industry collaboration and technology that results in satisfied clients with excellent buildings. We develop, offer advice and support projects and practices with the process of Building Information Modelling to save time, work to project budgets and reduce carbon on projects for clients.
A L S T U D I O offers the following services:
- BIM Client Advice
- BIM Training
- Organisation BIM Implementation
- Project BIM Consulting
- BIM Process/Government requirements
- BIM Software Solutions
See https://allisterlewisstudio.com/services/ for more details.