Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In Response To | The Next Generation of Obsolete Professionals

As the title states, this is in response to an article over at BIMstop, found here. I post this response here, as I use a dirty word and, well that's all...

Regarding "The Next Generation of Obsolete Professionals" article I will take a different tack and pose that schools are not putting out possibly "obsolete" professionals by not teaching Revit or Archicad or whateverCAD, it is rather by not preparing these young people for the realities of the current and future state of Architecture...which is the future of AEC and AECO...all together, not independent!!!

The learning of software-x in schools is needed but there is a larger conversation in the context of "The Next Generation of Obsolete Professionals", namely the need of Architects/Engineers as independent factors at all. Looking out 10 to 50 years, will society need (NEED) the Architecture or Structural firms as stand-alones or would civilization be better served if AEC firms become the predominant building creators?

Do Automotive designers work in companies independent from the Automotive manufacturer? For the most part No.

The 500# gorilla in the room called possible obsolescence of our industry may be that the future will see Architects/Engineers working in AEC offices and not necessarily being or needing to be independent entities -from the owner's $$$ perspective at least this seems optimum. I argue that from the Architect, Engineer and Contractor’s perspective this be seen as optimum as well.

BIM and further IPD, as we move closer to that industry wide, create a scenario where teams must be truly integrated for optimum efficiency and value (not to mention profit). It is increasingly more prevalent that those integrated firms will surpass what independent or ‘anarchist-process’ firms can possibly produce. I say Anarchist-Process since each independent player (A, E and C) each model for differing bottom lines and the use cases for BIM are so numerous that these different ‘bottom-line’ models or BIM are usually competing with one another’s use case or at best only marginally integrated. AECO needs completely integrated BIM, not marginally integrated BIM.

If Architects or "Designers" do not know how buildings 'go together' they are not much more than illustrators at best -and there is dwindling need for them (unless they want jobs in AEC offices to provide pretty pictures alone).

There are already too many folks that call themselves designers yet who are not; those who do not know or care how the "design" can possibly be built (if it even can be for the given budget). These Architectural Illustrators are part of what is keeping the wastefulness alive in AECO and that waste must surely stop.

The waste must stop, not because I am stating it, the waste will stop because it will be increasingly unacceptable by those in power (read as Owners (AKA: The $$$)).

BIM can empower the Architect and designer, Engineer and Contractor; therefore, BIM is needed to be studied and mastered in both higher education and in our industry.

BIM is not about making document sets and the example you provided of a set made in Adobe Illustrator looking unrecognizable from a Revit (for instance) set is arguably, if not technically preposterous.

Does Adobe Illustrator count anything? Does Adobe Illustrator have any ability to parameterize the objects for any number of AECO needs? No and NO.

Technically a piece of printed paper can belie it’s originating creation software (etc.) so ontologically you have a minor point. Now expand that point to be a serious one, as we do not only print once for instance… Make a change to the amount and kind of windows in a building (late in CD) and re-print...tell me how long those changes take in AI, how many views and schedules and calculations are incorrect (or how much more time (read as budget) is wasted using an inappropriate tool)... and then try and argue of the differences being imperceptible. I say that would be dramatically perceptible in every way, including graphic ‘look’.

Other than making pretty pictures of abstracted things that 'appear' to be buildings and document sets Adobe Illustrator is a meaningless point to raise. So too are the other non-BIM tools. Shit, I have seen a survey (graphically) created in Excel and although it ‘looked’ and ‘printed’ like a proper digital survey, it had absolutely zero usefulness outside of that print. It helped the project zero percent and actually cost time and more money since a real digital file was commissioned, therefore I would argue that the Adobe Illustrator set of documents is a tenuous point to attempt… BTW: that Civil Engineer is no longer doing business as far as I know, I suspect due to the inane nature of his software and process choices.

Only those software that support object-based information and data embedding are true BIM authoring tools. That is simply what BIM is after all.


Rhino, 3DMax, Maya, Sketchup, Maya, etc. are generic modelers and do not even say they are BIM authoring tools, no matter how useful they may or may not be in an Architectural or even as bit players in a BIM process.

BIM is intrinsically so much deeper than just paper output. If Architects truly adopt BIM, they would have to agree that the best course for the project is an integrated approach. A, E and C and even O being in tight collaboration, if not the same companies.

Those that hold the view that the Architect's function is to create design intent document sets, are most likely going to see the demise of the standalone Architect and possibly usher that in to existence.

Tell me one building of any importance, created in the past decade that was drawn by hand...the whole CD set... That scenario is where we may find Architects who do not comprehensively adopt BIM and IPD workflows in the years to come...BTW: This point is software independent…it is Process Dependent.

There are plenty of programs, even in Universities that teach software usage, even BIM software, but the needs and issues facing AECO is not in learning any one software, the issue needs to be learning the BIM and IPD processes... software(s) can always be learned inside or outside of school.


  1. Such a great response. And my example re AI was simply intended to draw attention to the obviously ridiculous nature of the current curriculum. The fact that students think they can produce an AI CD set to mimic a BIM software is where I see the future of the AEC industry falling, and where the term 'obsolete' stemmed from. You are very right in saying that BIM is a process, a mindset, an holistic approach to design and construction that reduces time, cost etc. Something that clearly has not been conveyed to future professionals and graduates if they are trying to tackle BIM with AI.

  2. Many years ago I had a Dean at a University ask me to join a panel of industry experts to help in planning a move from a 4-year Architectural Program to a 5-year degree. I believe I was asked to join that panel based upon my use of AutoCAD. It came as a huge surprise to many involved that I didn't argue for software education. I argued that the 5th year should be jobsite/real world construction. The Dean was incredulous "We educate Designers!". I pointed out that I had dealt with "designers" that drew lighting fixtures that couldn't be re-lamped, as an example. The electronic age for our industry, AEC, taught an entire generation how not to communicate. Generate your bases and toss them over the fence, iterations, instead of talking as a design team about what needed to happen. BIM and IPD do not work well in that environment.

  3. I agree with so many of your points that I wanted to jump in on one that I thing might need further development.

    I want to make sure that this post does not completely discount the importance of design. It is true that some architects have the strength of that vision but not much strength in the construction process its true. This is the side of architecture that gets the most press and is the "sexiest" and draws many people to attend architecture school thinking that they don't need anything else in order to succeed in architecture. However there are many experienced and construction-tested architects out there who know good design AND good construction practice.

    And on the flip side, contractors have a tendency to sacrifice vision for expedience in construction process leading to some pretty bad buildings on the other end of the spectrum.

    Designers or "Architectural Illustrators" aren't going away anytime soon! They are an essential part of good building.