Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where I Come From

In listening to someone, it can be valuable to know where they are coming from. If you are interested in where I am coming from, here it is. 

I am licensed as an architect, and have practiced several kinds of architecture (eg: residential, industrial, commercial as a project architect) and educational and institutional as a draftsman (yes, pencil, pen and ink on vellum). Before becoming and between stints as an architect, I worked for a specialties supply distributor (summers for 3 years), a modular and prefab homebuilder (2 years), residential remodeling tradesman (2 years), and precast concrete detailer (4 years using AutoCAD) and precast concrete project manager (8 years). I've been back at architecture using modeling software for the past 15 years. That's about as brief as I can be about my work history.

As for my current firm, I will say that modeling has made the design and documentation components of our work easier for us. More on that later. Since we have been at it for 15 years, for the applications we use, the modeling part of the learning curve is behind us. However, I can't say that the BIM learning curve is behind us, because 90% of our clientele (all small businesses and about half general contractors) has yet to wake up to the potential of BIM or any part of it. 

In fact, operating cost, let alone life cycle cost, is not even really on their radar. When it comes to design and contracting services, they want only what the statutes and regulations require. Whatever else we do is on our own dime or, if we have our wits about us, as extra services when these are requested. First cost rules. So I preface my comments with a disclaimer that I do not practice BIG BIM. I model. But I am concerned that when a client does ask for BIM services, I be in a position to advise them intelligently, and know what services I can provide, and what services I cannot.

Our projects are typically delivered by a kind of Design-Build process. In the typical setup, Building service (MEP) systems are designed and installed by subcontractors selected by the GC who is selected by the owner who negotiates a GMP with the GC based on preliminary drawings (and, if we have room in our budget) visualization models. As part of our basic fee, we are responsible for design of the shell, interior partitioning, and building code compliance, providing services (MEP) design-build contractors with background CAD files or paper base sheets, and publishing the paper document set for minor subcontractor bidding and jurisdiction review. Or fee includes hourly rates for negotiating regulatory issues with jurisdictions, and publishing any resulting revisions to the permit and construction documents.

So, that is where I am coming from.