Just wondering about BIM

Last week I went out to drinks with an architect friend and after covering the ups and downs of personal life, we got to talking about architecture. We went covered spec’s, drawings, firm living, and firm dying before settling on BIM.

I have written before about how BIM or more accurately 3 dimensional modeling programs awakened a spatial sensibility in me that I didn’t know existed. The ability to see your ideas represented in 3 dimensions on the computer was a wake-up call for me. After working with modeling software in school and in firms, I began to wonder about the untapped potential in the building models I was making. Lots of ink has been spilled and pixels arranged over the potential of BIM but I think the conversation I had with my friend might be a new wrinkle.

BIM allows you to virtually construct a building and everything that goes along with that. Depending on how well you model things, a BIM file can tell you how much drywall is in your project and how much it is going to cost to purchase. It can tell you much area is you can rent, lease, or sell per BOMA’s byzantine guidelines. It can even estimate future energy use of a building, coming closer and closer to our engineers energy modeling programs with every passing day. This is all common knowledge and is utilized to varying degrees by architects the world over.

The new wrinkle the came up in my conversation was the following. Architects create these models and if their client is tech savvy enough, hand the BIM files over. The client then takes the file and mines it for all the useful data. They take that data and in some form hand it over to their facilities person who in turn uses it to learn how to maintain the building. This seems reasonable enough but to my friend and I, it seemed that in that process, there were a few unnecessary steps.

If the architect built the BIM file using software that is specifically designed to allow for information mining, wouldn’t they be the best people to manage this file as the building operates? They already know the file, the software, and the building intimately; to me that seems to qualify them as a manager this virtual file of the building.

I realize there are some problems but let’s explore the potential first. Imagine that as the building is constructed, the architect adjusts and corrects the model to mirror the built project. This would include wall location changes, material and product substitutions, etc. Then once the building is completed, the architect in conjunction with facilities, begins to record information about the building. What the life expectancy of that light bulb and when should it be changed. The BIM file becomes a mirror of the building itself expect unlike the building, it can talk back. Scheduling maintenance based on product information that already exists within the model.

To me this represents an extension of the architects’ role, one that puts him directly in touch with the actual performance of their design. It offers the potential of a new revenue source for architects as well and putting architects in much closer contact with their work.

Are you excited to be done?

This weekend I was asked if I was excited to be done with school. I have been asked this question before and have given a variety of answers, typically depending on how well or poorly my classes are going at the moment. But this time I paused and gave it some thought before answering. Maybe it was because I was in a car in the midst of a long, long drive or maybe because I am only one semester away from finishing up my degree. Either way, I cobbled together a more in-depth response that has stuck with me and prompted more thought and reflection.

Over the past 2 years of school, I have become more and more acquainted with the value and importance of academic thought. I believe that schools are pushing the boundaries of architecture just as much if not more than practice. The restrictions and fetters of practice just are not present in academic thought. The ideas are free to be as broad, crazy, and impossible as the creators imagination allows. There are restrictions but they are not comparable to the parameters of practice. As I understand it, the goal of school is to broaden your mind, to find information and even inspiration in unlikely places, and to chase ideas and concepts down various rabbit holes to see what becomes of them. The focus of school is on the ideas and concepts and the exploration of those is paramount.

I have been lucky to roam the academic world for the past two years but I can honestly say that I am ready and even excited to leave. In practice there is a rigor born from reality that is not present in school. Meetings and consultants and red lines are all realities that must be addressed. The intricacies of all of these things have real impact manifested in a leaky building, a happy client, and a bloody set of drawings handed down to the intern from the project architect. I miss these kinds of interactions and the learning associated with them.

I want to better understand how a building is actually put together. In studio, I would design a space, a form, and investigate it for quality and function. I would analyze the light quality through daylight studies, the energy use through modeling software, and the spatial quality through renderings. I would try to understand the concept in an academic sense. What I am most looking forward to now is testing those ideas in a real sense. Taking a concept and expanding the testing of it beyond the academic aspects, taking it to a real Client with a budget and sorting through how to achieve the concept.

School has been very worthwhile by providing me with a level of confidence in my ideas that I previously lacked, but what I am looking forward to most now is the testing of these ideas against the realities of practice. We’ll see how it goes but for now, I can say that after reflection and though, I’m excited to be done with school.

Discovering Denver: The Highlands, Sloan’s Lake, and Edgewater

As our loyal readers can tell by now, Denver is full of great neighborhoods to fit every kind of personality and lifestyle. To that admittedly diverse collection, I would add the whole of the Highlands and Sloan’s Lake/Edgewater.

I’ve been living in the area, Edgewater specifically, for almost 2 years now and have been exploring the surroundings on foot, bike, and a bit of driving, and I’ve just barely tapped this area’s potential. From restaurants to parks to houses, this area has some of the best in Denver.

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Charting a way forward

I just started working again after a last-minute mad dash to finish schoolwork for the semester. With the help of some bad timing and the luck of the firm having a lot of work, I was put on a project with a deadline in under a month. The team members around the office were already in full production mode and I joined in to help on the interior elevations and the subsequent interior details. It’s a big project and having worked at the firm previously, I am aware of the office standards (such as they are) and how projects are organized. So I jumped right in and pretty soon I found myself with a string of questions for the project manager and the project architect. In the interest of (hopefully) not wasted anyone’s time, I put together a list of my questions in an email and then laid out what I thought we should do. My hope was that they would look at my questions, review my potential answers, and then say something to the effect of ‘sounds good, get going on it,’ or perhaps ‘sounds good, change this, don’t do this, go do it.’

As I was putting together this email, I got a sensation that I had just done this and in fact, I just had.

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Oh dear, how did we get here?

Now Panic and Freak Out

Running out of time…

The blog post you are about to read has very little to do with design or even architecture. It is all about the last couple weeks in a semester when there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. I really thought that this time around I had my school work under control. I worked steadily and consistently on my classes, consciously trying to chip away at the work to be done, keeping an eye towards final review and all the things that went along with it. And here we are, 2 ½ weeks away and I’m in full freak out mode.

How does that happen? Continue reading