Putting BIM at the Heart of a Small Practice

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017


David recently had the honour of being asked to write an article for Wiley Publishing’s prestigious Architectural Design magazine, for the May/June 2017 edition; Workflows: Expanding Architecture’s Territory in the Design and Delivery of Buildings’.

The article echoes a thought process upon which we built the foundations of DMA – a way of working that allows us to combine intelligence, technology, creativity and a little bit of fun! After all if we don’t enjoy it, why are we here? The principles underlining our practice are those of innovative thinking and the willingness to seek out and adopt new ideas, then put them in to practise. As a result, we were at the very forefront of BIM and the evolution of digitising construction design. David’s article about BIM in small practice explains just how we did it – see an extract below:

At David Miller Architects, starting out as a small architecture practice in the mid 2000s, we realised that the commercial context in the UK presented some real challenges. We could see an increasing polarisation between small practices working on bespoke one-off projects while larger practices were sweeping up most of the available work through client framework agreements and partnering arrangements with large construction companies.

Similarly, we could see a developing separation between the ‘design’ and ‘delivery’ functions of the architect, which seems to miss the point that both functions are interdependent and inform each other. It became clear that risk-averse procurement practices, especially on publicly funded projects, had the potential to constrain us or even lock us out. If we were to grow and get the opportunity to work on larger more interesting projects, we needed to find a way to disrupt the status quo. We believed that Building Information Modelling (BIM) provided this possibility.

My own early career had been in the offices of Santiago Calatrava and Future Systems working on projects with complex geometry. So, from the inception of our practice we naturally used 3D tools to develop all of our projects.

However, this was inefficient as we had to flip from one workflow to another to reverse engineer our 3D models into 2D drawings required by others. The tipping point with this approach was a pool house project for a private client. Originally a concept by Ushida Findlay Architects, the project was complex for its size, but we ultimately resolved it by bringing together a number of 3D digital models to address the coordination issues. This was when the penny dropped, that as designers we can add considerable value through our ideas, but the time expended communicating these ideas erodes that value, and our fee.

We needed to find a better, more streamlined way of working. The initial appeal therefore of what became BIM was the opportunity to work in a linear manner whereby the level of definition increased in a single environment without breaking the workflow. This included the opportunity to invite collaborators into that single environment.

If you’d like to read the full article visit Wiley Publishing here.