The Architect and BIM: the end?

BIM and Revit

For the past two years Invantive has been working with BIM (Information model for construction) and everything that is involved with BIM regarding town and country planning. There are fine products such as Autodesk Revit that are provided with a new release every year, which shows the market is developing quickly. For us it is very handy that we can create plugins with C# and Autodesk Revit that can combine spatial information with databases full of interesting numbers and facts.

C# and Revit, that’s technology

C#, Autodesk Revit, BIM - these are aids and technology. What I personally find more interesting is what the modern developments mean for the job of architects. I come from a family of contractors, entrepreneurs, architects and creative people on both sides. As a true citizen of the Dutch province of Limburg I am proud of my entire family, but I am most interested in everything creative myself. In a different era I might have become an architect instead of an entrepreneur in the field of IT. This explains my interest in the changing role of architects.

Architects like to be seen as creative, but according to the BNA, the role of an architect is more and more to coordinate. That is a weird combination. Organizing, planning and creating are talents that I only seldomly find in one person at the same time. Also I don’t think that people with this seldom combination of creativity and organizational talent would end up choosing to be an architect.

The architect: Jack of all trades?

Using the Information model for construction (BIM) makes it very clear: who is responsible for the coordination of changes to the design? Is the client responsible? The architect? The contractor? It is not a good combination to apply systematic automation whilst each party has different wishes about the responsibilities regarding the complete design.

A surprised look

I relived this conflict in my head during the New Year celebration organized by NVO-NCW Midden. I came into contact with somebody that works for one of the larger engineering agencies in the region - they design complex machines based on orders. When I asked how they deal with the responsibility for the machine’s operation, I got a surprised look. After that he explained that is a non-issue for mechanical engineers. The person that takes responsibility will get into trouble when his contractors don’t do their work properly. That’s it.

If I apply this simple rule to the current role of the architect, I wonder to what degree architects take responsibility for the result as requested by the client. BNA’s initiatives to expand the role of the architect to process management form a battle fought in the background. In the end the client determines who is responsible - that is the person the client signs a contract with to deliver a certain result. Often the seller will be a real estate developer, contractor or a person providing funding. Despite all the defects of sellers, the client is better off that way.