Today, after practicing social distancing and isolation for 8 weeks, I would like to share some thoughts about BIM managers. It may be that I am missing some human interaction after all these technical posts.
This pandemic has disrupted our usual lifestyle, from our daily interactions with relatives to contact in the workplace. Companies, regardless of their size, have been pushed to organize and deploy infrastructure to allow employees to work from home. In creative fields like graphic design, writing and even in the tech field, this kind of set up is not novel and it has been in place for some time.
But, what is happening in the Architecture field? Well, not all companies are performing uniformly and a majority of firms would rather have their employees back at the office. Also, this is not a unidirectional feeling, a good number of architects would rather go back as well, and not precisely because they are in a forced lockdown and wishing to break free in order to stretch a bit.
Pre existing conditions
Why is this so? If graphic designers can and like to do their job remotely, what is making architects different?
It is said that architects have a close relationship with the materiality of the elements used in the design process. And bricks, cladding pieces, and entire windows are too big to fit in your home as samples.
Or that the architectural design process needs human interaction in a constant back and forth way, so having everyone in the same place makes this process more efficient.
But away from those arguments, I would like to point out and discuss the technological lag in the field, which to me, is the main reason why we are not working remotely.
CAD software was extended and made it into general use 30 years ago. The first use for drawings dates back from the 70s. It took around 20 years for a CAD program with no collaboration tools to be widespread.
BIM, on the other hand, is luckier. Revit was launched in 2004, after being acquired, and mass adoption happened in 2012. Figures can vary but that is what happened in North America, and most places will follow:
So, the rate of adoption is much faster in BIM, which is 8 years in contrast with the 20 years of CAD adoption.*
Why is this data important? Well, the architecture field has been working with a tool that doesn’t have any type of collaboration for 30 years. In this scenario, having all the staff under the same roof is essential to overcome the inability of the software to create a group inside its domain. The central archive was in the local server and access to it is fundamental for any kind of work to be done. It could be compared to the librarian working from home without its registry.
So, with BIM software and cloud servers, working remotely is no longer a problem. Now it is the moment to overcome past limitations and contribute to set a telecommute workforce, gaining efficiency and sustainability. And because old habits die hard, here is where the BIM Manager needs to prove and push not only what is possible, but what is a necessity.
BIM Manager roles
The BIM manager is a role that has been created to cope with the implementation of this new technology and software. The range of responsibilities and duties vary across different firms, but in general, there are a few roles that are common and can be highlighted:
- Manage office-wide drawing standards and BIM systems, including BIM Implementation Plan, BIM Naming Standards, workflows, software in use, and so on.
- Manage and coordinate different discipline teams involved in the project, including BIM Execution Plan, clash detection, and assigning team tasks and plan model deliveries.
- Manage and create enhanced software for the use of the team to improve productivity. Out of the box software solutions don’t always suit the needs of firms, and having custom solutions can improve drastically its productivity.
What a BIM Manager can do?
Can a BIM Manager do all these tasks by himself? Probably not, and here is where specialization kicks in. Although holistic knowledge of the construction process is required as well as being experienced in the other roles, specialization is a good way to get the most out of BIM.
For example, a BIM manager that specializes in discipline coordination will likely develop extraordinary skills in clash detection, 4D sequencing, costing, and building lifecycle management.
What is the most valuable role of a BIM manager
Apart from the roles mentioned previously, the function that can be highlighted above any other one is to be a problem solver and to create value.
The BIM manager is a problem solver that brings in value to the organization in the technical, technological, and organization fields.
The architectural and construction field has become much more competitive, with thinner benefits and more requirements in terms of deliveries. The tools we used haven’t picked up to cope with these new demands, and the traditional workflows are still in place.
And in this environment, a BIM Manager can thrive by contributing not only to the technical side but also on the business development side. It is obvious now how a BIM Manager can contribute to solve and improve the technical side of a practice. But what has not been made clear is how the BIM Manager can improve the business.
If we think what is the core business of an architecture practice, you may think that it is the delivery of a building. Well, you won’t be that off. What is a huge part of that process is the issuing of drawings and coordination to bring into reality that building design. The switch from the old CAD system to BIM technology is not just a different way to draft and model the building. BIM has introduced a whole new dimension of complexity, the model is just not 2D or 3D drawings, but a complex system of data that is interrelated and from which each organization has to plan accordingly what to take out of it.
BIM is a database that happens to have a modeling interface as a way to input data.
So, a BIM Manager is the connection between the organization and this new technology, enabling the old workflow to migrate into a new way to manage and create data. In this context, a BIM Manager is the figure that can make the old machinery work better, improving efficiency, and streamlining the use of technology giving an edge to the organization.
TLDR, a good BIM Manager is almost a requirement for any company that wants to keep it competitive. More competition, less margin in profitability, and software with steep learning curves are some of the elements that a BIM Manager can help to alleviate.
* Sorry ArchiCAD, you may be the first, but the adoption rate is what I am counting.