With a wealth of technological tools at their disposal, the question for architecture firms becomes one of how best to use them most effectively. While new technologies present great opportunities for design, an overlooked aspect to their use may be in bringing clients into the design process much earlier than they used to, in order to give them a better sense of where the project is headed.
“3D models are allowing clients to become more engaged in the design process,” said Dale Thwaites, Architectural Technologist/CAD-BIM Development & Support at BKDI Architects. “Prior to the use of 3D modeling techniques, clients may have looked at a set of drawings and felt they had a complete sense of the project. Their reactions upon completion of the building often revealed that their understanding wasn't as in depth as they believed,” Dale said. “They might say they understand it but they didn't really until they got on site, and were sometimes surprised by it. Now they're more engaged in the design process with you when you create a SketchUp model.”
It's not just clients who see a benefit from being brought in to the design process earlier, as calling on the expertise of contractors and subcontractors has led to technical issues on a number of building sites being headed off at the pass. “We can rely on contractors to understand how various components are going to work far sooner in the process,” said Bill Mitchell, Director with BKDI Architects, adding that many contractors are already on board with the use of modeling programs, though the coordination hasn’t been there between all parties. “Contractors are beginning to build their own models to check conflicts. The next step will be for us to be all using the same model.”
With the increase in modeling, clients are now expecting more information much sooner in the process as well, something firms need to be aware of, in order to manage expectations about how much of the final building a model is meant to represent. “It's portraying a vision of a finished product much earlier,” said Bill. That potential for misunderstanding is well outweighed by the chance to keep problems from propagating through the design, however.
Complicated sets of connections, or potential spatial conflicts that in the past might have been left to be figured out during the construction phase can be solved before a shovel ever hits the dirt, saving time and money for everyone. “We're getting a 3D model of the project, which is enabling us to find issues earlier than we would have in the past. There's a huge value in that,” said Bill.
To learn more about Building Information Modeling (BIM) refer to our previous post BKDI Architects is Making a Switch: AutoCAD to Building Information Modeling (BIM)!