BIM AND THE MAKING OF YOUNG ARCHITECTS
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is creating a win-win situation between architectural firms and young graduates of architecture that did not exist before. Consider this: Firms used to put a great deal of emphasis on young graduates’ work experience–many still do–before hiring them. The law of supply and demand has always been tipped in favor of architectural firms. BIM now has introduced a new dynamic that may be shifting the advantage a little bit to the side of young graduates, proficient in BIM, at least the 3-D part of it.
Many firms may have seasoned architects who are skilled and experienced in either designing or putting buildings together, but less skilled in BIM. They may have worked many years using 2-D Cad, but have difficulty transitioning to BIM. This opens up a range of job opportunities for young graduates who have used a BIM program in college and can hit the ground running. In fact, prior work experience in an architectural office, which used to be weighed heavily in hiring decisions, now takes a back seat to how well an architectural graduate fresh from college knows a BIM program, especially when a firm is under the guns to complete a project after a team member, with good BIM skills, quits in the middle of a project.
However, for design firms and young architects to both benefit from this win-win situation, a conscious BIM strategy of leveraging the experience of seasoned architects lacking in BIM skills and young architects who are BIM-savvy must be developed coherently to benefit the firm and advance the career path of young architects. At the foundation of that strategy is the recognition that BIM now has the potential of narrowing the experience gap between seasoned architects and young architects. It is not only the years of experience and the number of projects completed that separate an experienced architect from a young graduate, but the ability of the experienced architect to work in a 2-D environment while conceptually understanding how the building components fit together in 3-D and anticipating where problems may lie and preempting them. It is a skill long valued in an architectural office that now must be married with the BIM and internet savviness of young architects.
While lacking in experience, compared to a seasoned architect, a young graduate, who has mastered the 3-D world that is central to BIM, does not have to rely on just 2-D drawings and extrapolate the information in 3-D to understand the building, but in reality starts working right in 3-D. He or she virtually sees the building in 3-D much the same way–or even better–the seasoned architect used to conceptually conjure it up in his/her mind with 2-D drawings.
A big part of architecture revolves around the geometric organization of spaces and building components, and how they fit together. Once you have solved that puzzle, you are halfway there. BIM, especially with the clash detection functionality, makes it possible for a young architect to see in 3-D whether something fits or not without trying to imagine it from 2-D drawings. In other words, what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG). However, the BIM argument with respect to what a young architect can virtually see in 3-D design does not negate the experience of the seasoned architect, less skilled in BIM, but instead should raise the strategic awareness of how the strength of both can be leveraged for the benefit of the firm, the seasoned architect, and the young architect.
It is important for firms to be aware of the value young architects with BIM skills can bring to a firm, and explain to them that the BIM model is the closest thing to the real building as you can get. As they work on the BIM model, they should seek to own it and understand how the pieces fit together. In other words, BIM should make them learn faster and better if they are conscious about their work on the model and deliberately curious about architecture. It is a far cry from when young architects used to be confined to just doing bathrooms drawings, which still have to be done, but hopefully in the model as much as possible.
Young architects are today internet- and technology-savvy, and should be encouraged to apply those assets and skills in researching on the internet products, manufacturers, and details necessary for a project under the guidance of an experienced architect who will shape their research work with his/her own experience. The internet is as much a part of architecture as the Sweets Catalogs we used to use in the US (they are now on line), and the young architect can gradually begin to develop an understanding of how to make a selection decision of a product among many, and why one manufacturer’s detail is more suitable for a given building condition than another.
For this win-win situation to work, however, the firm’s BIM strategy should encourage experienced architects, less skilled in BIM, to temper any professional hubris they may have and know that BIM does not make their architectural experience irrelevant, and that they should in no way hold it against young architects for knowing something that they do not, nor should they implicitly or explicitly seek to undermine their confidence and nascent professional career. Instead, experienced architects should raise the young architects’ awareness of the importance of their BIM skills, which, when combined with their experience, can benefit everyone, including the firm, the career path of young architects, the project and all the way to the client. That is another dimension of how BIM is changing the experience and skill rapport in a design firm.