September 18, 2012, by Amy Cattrell

Pose for the Camera

Over the past decade, our industry has undergone a fairly dramatic shift in the way we design our projects.  The most recent available data shows that the majority of architecture firms have now embraced BIM software to some degree as the primary tool for aiding in the creation of construction documents, but those construction documents themselves are often still stuck in the past in terms of how our design is communicated.

As we design, we take advantage of 3D views to twist and turn our eyes around complex virtual assemblies to ensure that they conform to both our design intent and the laws of physics while avoiding collisions with pipes, beams and cable trays which we've imported from our consulting engineers.  It's all part of the sophisticated virtual pre-construction thought process.  And yet, when it's time to document these spaces for the contractor, we often revert back to our old habits of plopping 2D plans, sections and elevations onto our sheets.  This seems to be the area in which BIM software can provide the greatest increase in the quality of communication of design intent between architect and builder, and yet it is often avoided entirely.

Are we scared of changing the way we document for fear of alienating contractors?  Does it seem less "formal" to provide a comprehensive 3D view with well thought supplemental 2D companion views as opposed to creating a number of 2D views with the same old notes from our 2D past which continue to convey far less understanding of the space that the architect wants the builder to create?  I'm not entirely sure what the answers to those questions are.  What I do know is that we now have the tools to instantaneously create views that can take exactly what is in our mind's eye and forcefully insert it into the minds of the contractors.  This would seem to be the logical next step in the evolution of documentation, following in the footsteps of the evolution of our design process.

At SHP, we are continuously encouraged to provide the most accurate Revit model possible.  This has led a number of our designers to embrace the evolution of documenting our complex spaces in more creative ways, which has subsequently led to fewer misunderstandings by the time our documents make it into the hands of the people who are actually tightening the screws on some custom casework or hanging a custom cloud ceiling.  Is it perfect?   Not yet.  But as long as we continue to model our spaces with more and more accuracy, they will be continue to be ready to pose for the camera; or even better yet, pose for the builder.