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The process outlined above is an extremely complex form of integrated project delivery. By definition IPD leverages early contributions of knowledge and expertise through the utilization of new technologies, allowing all team members to better realize their highest potentials while expanding the value they provide throughout the project lifecycle. By using existing design contributions and utilizing BIM technology, an independent entity can then manage and coordinate the information into interchangeable modules. To take it a step further, these modules could be pre-arranged into recommended configurations with additional options.
This database of recommended configurations (totaling 25,139,467) can each be revised by the owner to include any of the 999 possible considerations that were not chosen in the top 0.1% of quality according to the system. For instance, a recommended model may call for Low emissivity glass, as a specification of the “glazing” component of the 15 original components, but the owner may prefer to save money on low-e glass because he lives in a more temperate zone that is not subject to heat loss in the winter. The “design” process can then occur in a multitude of ways.
The Owner could hire a consultant to facilitate the traditional schematic design process and then make recommendations based on the owner’s preferences. The second option is that the system could be selfnavigated by the owner. Imagine going to a website and entering your zip code. This information automatically reduces the amount of possible options by prioritizing models that are configured to allow the proper amount of solar gain and summer shade. The zip code can also begin to analyze building codes, styles of surrounding buildings, and property values to provide more feedback to the owner.
Subsequent screens can prompt for additional information including number of rooms, material palettes, and accessibility needs. The idea would be to develop an interface that is so user-friendly, and convenient that anyone could visit the site and leave with an image of their configuration on their land. Just as in real estate after configuring their custom design, the system offers them a chance to place a deposit to ensure that no one else will purchase their same design. If they decline, the system takes the user feedback to suggest alternate configurations to the database. The future of building construction will more closely resemble shopping online for cars, from the vantage point of the owner.
In order for this system to work, the primary focus must be the quality of the designs. If the craftsmanship of any component is lacking, so will any end configuration that uses that module design, and consequently the validity of the entire system will be compromised. For this it will be critical to adopt a system of managing the “art”. A great way to understand this is by observing the stock photography industry. Getty Images has established a strong precedent in the business of managing artists’ rights. The agency manages an archive of over 70 million stock photographs that are made available to clients at fees that vary upon the usage. This service is incredibly valuable to creative professionals, the media and corporate entities alike. It allows them access to the rights to use photographs that are perfectly catered to their needs. They can select an image that already exists and download it instantly, whether It’s the work of a photographer that is deceased or lives on the other side of the globe. This allows them to bypass the antiquated process of hiring a photographer, paying him for his services and hoping that the end result is what they desire.
The business model of the photographer is not much different than that of the architect. You may even say that advances in photo technology and applications such as Photoshop create the same challenge for professional photographers as AutoCAD and Google Sketch-up create for Architects. This business model is also invaluable to the photographer. It enables the artist to focus solely on the quality of his work while expanding the breadth of his exposure to the entire world. By adopting this model for the BIM database, it gives architects the chance to submit ideas that create solutions to problems that may not exist in his realm of consciousness, but are perfect for some client. It also assures that he will be compensated for the use of his ideas. The architect will become the intellectual proprietor, earning money at the click of a mouse. The promise of earnings is his incentive to provide the highest quality design to clients, just like the stock photographer.
The last component of this solution is the building process. As we’ve discussed before, BIM technology allots many opportunities for increased efficiency and savings on the building site. This is the nature of the IPD methodology. By having all of the solutions perfected on the front end, construction will become as simple as color-by-number. There will be virtually no need for RFIs, inspections, or supervision from the designer. Information provided by the BIM model would be so precise that construction process could begin to more closely resemble the manufacturing process, harkening back to the assembly line.
In addition to increasing the speed and accuracy of construction, this information will eliminate the production of waste on the site. Clients and builders will save money because materials will be purchased to the exact specifications. As the system gains popularity, there may even be incentives to make the modules available in kits. Building components can be pre-assembled in manageable units; think tilt-up construction. This application is especially promising for emergency needs such as disaster relief and solving the global need for solutions to homeless and problems associated with informal settlements.
The future of design and construction will be dictated by technology and the need for and increase in shared information, efficiency, and the value that it adds. Building Information Modeling technology has all of the capabilities necessary to leverage current and future banks of data that can provide a multifaceted and mutually beneficial infrastructure to owners, designers and constructors alike. By utilizing complete sets of building data, Architects can shift from the arduous task of managing an office and simply focus on creating new designs and profiting from their ideas. With access to this refined data, the construction process becomes so highly efficient that the traditional issues associated with the process are eliminated completely.
Builders will be able to more accurately manage budgets, schedules and waste because they will not have to play the usual guessing games. The greatest benefactor perhaps to this technology is the client. The owner benefits by seeing a finished product and understanding everything about it before it ever exists, rendering the decision making process easier than ever imagined. The term client will become more universal with services being extended to a far greater extent of individuals in the World, including those who benefit from the efforts of governmental and non-profit organizations’ efforts to relieve global housing issues.
It has been said, “nothing is a new creation, rather everything is a re-interpretation of a design that came before it.” By leveraging state-of-the-art technology and interpreting the business models of successful entities, the design and construction industry can provide better solutions, increase efficiency and improve client satisfaction.
–James K. Holder II
James is a Professional Photographer, Architect, and Designer living and working in Atlanta GA. His website is @ James K. Holder II Photograpy and his Blog is The Eclectic Rogue.