BIM: A Boon or Bane to Innovative Design?


What is the significance of tactile experience in the process of design? As BIM (building information modeling) takes over from traditional design processes of drawing and building physical 3-D models, some architects and designers question whether computer modeling can hope to inspire innovative design. Computers feel inherently impersonal to many, and everyone has experienced the “mistake” in molding a 3-D model by hand that turned into a distinctive design feature. Traditionalists insist that removing these tactile processes from design effectively quashes true innovation and the joy of artistic creation.

Proponents of BIM note that the interactivity of computer modeling software such as Revit, which is compatible with MEP and structural engineering platforms, make projects come together more easily and with fewer lags between the various entities involved in construction. In the initial phases, the ease of changing the design – and the ability to determine its feasibility – actually offer far more design possibilities than 3-D modeling ever could. Yes, it takes dedication to use the time BIM saves toward more innovative design, but taking time for design has always been a challenge in a do-it-yesterday world.

I also have to wonder to what extent generational attitudes toward computers plays a role in this controversy. Computers, tablets, and phones are anything but impersonal to almost everyone under 30. They signify connection to friends, family, and the world at large, and provide inspiration and new ideas culled from people and places earlier generations were not able to access so easily. High school students interested in architecture learn computer-aided-design, not hand drafting, to realize their visions. For them, CAD is their tool for creating innovation, as much as hand drafting was the primary tool for earlier generations.

BIM is here to stay, along with its many benefits, and its growing acceptance among the engineering and construction industry makes its implementation an architectural imperative.