BIM, NATURAL TOOL FOR YOUNG ARCHITECTS
In a previous blogpost, BIM and the Making of Young Architects, we discussed BIM’s positive impact on the training and growth of young architects, and what that means for a design firm. In this post we explore further how young architects can positively impact the profession and the design firms they work for.
Young architects can no longer be taken for granted as before. They used to be at the low end of the totem pole as the last hired and the first fired in a slowdown. Their low pay was ironically their best salvation, as firms may afford to keep them while letting go expensive and experienced architects. Young architects were seldom considered crucial part of the core staff the firm considers vital for its continuity, especially during tough times. Getting a meaningful raise meant job hopping from firm to firm until they find their footing and a salary that suits their taking.
Things are changing now due to BIM. Today young architects walk into a firm, well-equipped with coveted BIM and digital skills that make them more valuable than ever before. They are part of the first generation that has fully grown in a digital age. In school of architecture, they are trained in multiple BIM applications and related digital tools, and use expensive equipment, such as powerful machines, digital plotters, CNC machines, 3-D printing, and a range of technology equipment that rival what you find in any technology-oriented firm. Their affinity with technology is breath-taking. They do not have to adapt BIM, nor is BIM a new tool to them; it is a natural tool, and possibly the only tool they know in architecture. Ask them to do something in 2-D Cad, and they get bored, because they can do it much faster in 3-D and generate the needed 2-D drawings. This makes young architects very valuable in a design firm, which now needs to undergo a significant cultural change to make good use of what young architects bring into a firm. (In an upcoming blogpost, we will explore in depth this issue of cultural changes in design firm due to BIM.)
What young architects lack is professional experience in a range of areas, but with their BIM skills, they should be able to pick up things faster than ever before. The reason is that the BIM model they work on is the best teaching tool there is. When they are properly supported and nurtured, and they show dedication, curiosity, and diligence, they can quickly pick up things that used to take architects many years to learn because of the old way of relying exclusively on 2-D drawings, which had a lot of built-in gaps that only experience and vigilance could close. The BIM model they build today creates a fully immersive experience that hastens their learning curve and clears their blind spots. After a few buildings under their belt, they begin to develop a broader understanding of architecture, compared to even older architects, because they work with much better tools than before.
Even issues related to building codes and consultant coordination will not escape them, if they are allowed to attend model coordination meetings with the consultants and the contractor. Doing so is not a waste of time. In fact, when young architects prepare BIM models to exchange with the various consultants, they are in the thick of the consultant coordination and learn on their own what is involved in the consultants’ work and its interface with the architect’s. When they receive an IFC BIM model back from the structural engineer suggesting changing beam sizes, they are among the first to know about the changes and to have a first-hand knowledge about updating the architectural BIM model. This consultant coordination in no longer the sole domain of the project architect or project manager; it is open to everyone working on the BIM model. It is important to drive the point home that the potential quality of the experience young architects develop working in BIM is wholesome and near complete, because very little happens outside of the BIM model–so we hope.
The natural affinity young architects have about BIM makes them potentially better designers also. Because of the instant visual feedback they get from the BIM model, they get a faster appreciation of what a design idea may look like before committing to it. They can generate alternate design concepts faster for senior designers to evaluate. In fact, increasingly some are designing buildings without ever sketching on tracing paper, and there is nothing wrong with that. Grab the tool that suits your habit to pursue the design your mind’s eye captures.
However, young architects’ contribution to a firm does not stop with one BIM application. They are adept at using a variety of BIM-related applications, particularly involving visualization and even generative design programs for firms that are at the cutting edge of design. Young architects are also great consumers of internet and social media, and they share information about the latest and greatest apps in the field of architecture and technology, starting when they were in school of architecture. Through the internet and social media, they studiously follow what other firms are doing and what type of design is being produced. Firm management should be fully aware of this, and put in place a policy of leveraging young architects’ social media skills to benefit the firm.
So how do you know when young architects are learning faster and better with BIM? The answer is when they get to a point where they are empowered to indicate to senior architects that something does not work in the BIM model before they even find out about it on their own.