Why Your Company's Design Process is Broken

February 22, 2018

Ever wonder why we do things the way we do them in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Industry?  Have you ever become frustrated because you KNOW there is a better way to execute a task, but your firm won't give you the freedom that you want to make it happen?  I know I have certainly been there.  I remember even in my early years working on massive projects for the largest Healthcare firm in the United States, questioning why we were doing things the way we were doing them.

Using BIM Like it's CAD

The very first issue I see played out over and over again at most firms is using Revit (A Building Information Modeling Program) like AutoCAD (A Computer Aided Drafting/Design Program).   I believe the fundamental reason is that most firms deliverable at the end of the day is still a 2D set of PDF Drawings (and still will be for a long time).   

Many times the building information model is just a by-product of the pdf set, and not an integral part of the process.  However what if we used a different process to get us to the permit set? 


"Many times the building information model is just a by-product of the pdf set, and not an integral part of the process."


This leads us to the next point, the data drop chasm....


The Data Drop Chasm

I can't tell you how many projects I've seen start in Excel, and NONE of data makes it to Revit.  There is often so much valuable information during the programmatic phase including

  • Program Area

  • Room Department, Sub-Department, etc.

  • Affinity & Departmental Adjacencies

Further, when you start working with room data sheets, you start getting into even more valuable information like

  • Finishes

  • Power

  • AV

The way I see most of our industry creating this data is with Microsoft word templates.  Why not build this data into excel, assign it to the room space program, push the data into Revit using Dynamo or another 3rd party tool, and over come the very first data drop at the beginning of the project?  Once the space program is pushed into Revit, you can then begin placing the rooms (and their data) onto the floor plan.


We're Not Iterating Efficiently

Another challenge firms face is creating an efficient way to iterate designs.  Most firms are still using mostly static modeling techniques, spending days and weeks authoring tens of sketchup models and revit design options. 

I remember one project in particular, I modeled 27 options with each option having sub-options.


The more we can use computational tools like Grasshopper and Dynamo, the more efficient our process can become.

Further, we can start to use these tools for data driven design, and problem solving.  The next big paradigm shift is using the data to drive design, not just to schedule door hardware.


"The next big paradigm shift is using the data to drive design, not just to schedule door hardware."


Bill Allen is CEO and President of EvolveLAB, a computational design and BIM consulting firm.  Bill enjoys teaching architects, engineers, and contractors and often leads discussions for the American Institute of Architects, Rocky Mountain Building Information Society, and Autodesk University.  Bill is a design technology evangelist who loves to help firms standardize and implement efficient processes at their firm.  If you want to reach out to bill, you can contact him directly at bill.allen@evolvelab-inc.com 






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