A Lot of BIM-Washing Going On.

Since I started working in the Architecture profession upon graduation in 1991 – I have been told of AT LEAST 4 software that were going to “revolutionize” the Architecture industry and that, “Anyone who does not learn these will become, obsolete.”   The first time it happened, people rushed-out to get trained, to ‘wisely’ follow the advice of the people telling them to do so.   At that time, I believe the product was called, “CADVANCE”.  Everyone paid for the training and some firms – not wanting to get, “left-behind” – bought a copy for every work station in their firm.  The same trend continued into the future with the the next software and the next, and the next…. after-that, however, people quickly caught on that, “Wait a minute…the people telling us that we will become obsolete unless we learn these software packages, just happen to be the manufacturer of the software!”  Eureka! Coincidence or something more?  

“I am not kidding this time – you had better learn BIM, or else…..”

AutoCAD was the the mainstay throughout-it-all.  A solid 1o years passed in-which people quit trying to compete with AutoCAD and knew that the rumor mongering was futile. During this time a whole new generation of Intern Architects entered the workforce, wholly unaware of the previous software posturing that had already taken place, in years passed.

Enter BIM:  Building Information Modeling.  Which is heralded to be the savior of the industry and… (all at once – in unison – everyone say it together: “If you do not lean BIM you will get left-behind.”  I myself became AutoDesk certified in BIM, simply because I was offered to be trained on it – not at my own expense.  I was completely blown away, not because I thought that it had something so wonderful that I had never seen before, but at how “blah” the whole process was.  I no long felt like I was drawing or really creating, but simply managing a long series of folders. I found the stylus to be jumpy and imprecise AND the final product had a very cartoonish, frankly, a non-professional look – everything from the text, to lay-out, to the “MODEL”  itself.  I can see what the future goal is – to provide this, “model”, that could be turned over to the contractor and projected in a holographic image on the construction site in full Scale....it is a long way from that.

Just turn over “the model” to the contractor and voila!

In this recession, that we are slowly creeping out of — the software whoring process has been even more interesting…and even more sad to observe  than in other years  that were  good times for Architecture, and the country as a whole.  During this recession recruiters called people and said, “Do you know BIM?” When the  person said, “No”, the recruiter let out a pensive, “Mmmm” or *sigh* intimating that…IF only you knew BIM they could find you a position, immediately – which was dubious and murmurings of kickbacks from software companies to recruiters have been under-foot, which does not take a rocket scientist to figure out, although, it may, because there are many Architects that are unable to make the correlation, still.  This line of questioning sent hoards of people running to independent software centers to be trained on the faulty assumption that if they learn BIM — they will immediately be able to find work.  Many found out that was not-so and were perplexed, “The recruiter sounded like if I knew BIM, he could place me???”   Kickback, anyone? anyone?  The fact of the matter was that we were/are in the deepest recession since the great depression – banks are not lending even a penny of the stimulus money that they have received, thus, the software that you know/knew was a mute point  if developers are unable to obtain loans to even hire Architecture firms.

Recruiters intimated (and lined their own pockets) that, if only you would get trained on BIM

The rub is this: It does not matter what software, what program, how many or to what length that you know  if you do not understand Architecture and do not have experience creating REAL buildings, with it.  I think BIM appealed/appeals to many, for several reasons. I was told, “Oh it is so great – it does the detailing for you!”…Really?  The details I saw/have seen it “provide” are an outline of a shape that, frankly, would be REALLY embarrassing to slap onto a sheet.  I pointed that out to a colleague who said, “Well, yes, but it is a start it gives the basic shape of a section and then you go back into Auto-CAD to finish detailing it.”  Right.  If you are sectioning an item and you do not immediately have the final “shape” in your head that it should look like, you really have no business in this profession, in the first place.  Which I think is why many of these various software appeal to a certain segment of people – they feel that a portion of their ineptitude can somehow be masked in or behind the software. I have seen/witnessed,  people drawings on BIM that do not know the various sizes of metal studs, or, when which one is appropriate or when after a certain height it requires a larger stud or a lesser gauge, yet, they gleefully boast how they “know BIM (Revit)”.

You can “know” word processing software and not be an author, or, do these people think that a writing software makes them a novelist?  The craze, regarding – going to learn the software and THEN getting the job is perplexing, since, the software used today in firms did not and do not operate that way.  It is not possible to become competent on a design software by merely taking a class – the proficiency comes from working on it, on real projects, within a firm setting.  I started working on Auto-CAD in 1989 and I am discovering new commands and different ways to do things – weekly,  AFTER 20 years!

I could not imagine the level of either hubris or, perhaps, ignorance, that it would take for someone to go to a firm, after taking a semester long AutoCAD course and telling the firm that they “know” AutoCAD;  the firm owners would chuckle behind a solemn face, but, yet, the same firm owners think that a 3 dimensional program can be learned off-site, in a week?  Has the world gone mad?

I have the latest Equipment – so this means I am good, right?

Moreover, until very recently people thought that BIM was a safety net and some form of insulation against lawsuits. The first BIM lawsuit ever just concluded. What happened is this:   The project was a life-science building for a major University.  The design team designed a small plenum (narrow) – the HVAC equipment selected, fit into the plenum space exactly in “the model” but not in the real world; it would have fit, but, it took a unique installation sequence that needed to be specifically detailed out – as in a performance specification – which brings up another danger: People seem to think that because this “model” has so much information that they have to communicate less, when in-fact it is just the opposite. Relying on “means and methods” as being up to the contractor is only inviting lawsuits.  The oddity in this lawsuit was: since the owner, owned “the model” — to get the legal ball rolling the contractor first had to sue the owner who in-turn sued the Architect.  The Owner, a defendant in the lawsuit, paid out over 1 Million Dollars. The Architect and their insurance carrier took a 2 Million Dollar hit, and, like so many Architecture firms, they were only insured up to 1 Million in Errors and Omissions Insurance – which is a classical mistake – the Insurance should cover the value of the project PLUS some – in this case the Professional Liability Carrier paid out 1 Million and the Architect paid out 1 Million – which was close to the amount of the Architect’s design fee.  The building is now up and running.  The fix: An HVAC system with a narrower duct profile was selected.  A few of the incredulous explanations/excuses were:

  1. “It all fit in the model!” – Which illustrates a high level of INEXPERIENCE on that of the design team – meaning that this lawsuit would have taken place regardless of what software was used.
  2.  “The Contractor was not sophisticated enough to understand the sequence and make it all work!” – SHOCKING, to think that there are unsophisticated contractors running loose…I can hardly believe it! ;)If the building sequence was not obvious, then, a performance specification should have been issued.  The more information generated does not mean less work – it means, more!

One Response to “A Lot of BIM-Washing Going On.”

  1. marimbamallets Says:

    Software whoring is shamefully plentiful at all levels. It gets to where the good stuff is hard to pick out from the crowd.

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