Too clever by half

Words:
Craig White

How are you getting on with BIM? My guess is that you are either revelling in it or, struggling mightily. If you’re really lucky, your answer was ‘What’s BIM?’

The premise is simple, an integrated 3D model and database that shares all the information generated by the design team from which all production information can be generated. The QS can use it for costing, the main contractor can build from it, the client can use it as a facilities management tool and, at the end of a building’s life, it can help in its re-use, disassembly or recycling. All good, however, the road to hell is paved with simple premises!

At my university there was only one PC in the whole department. It was kept under lock and key and no undergraduate ever got to see it. However, I have used CAD since my first job in an architect’s practice. As the youngest person, it was assumed I would know how to use a computer. I didn’t of course, but I could read the manual. The practice had a state-of-the-art system that went under the splendid name of the Really Universal Computer Aided Production System, or RUCAPS. There was no mouse, you had to enter data by typing in x and y co-ordinates for every line that a pen would later follow on a plotter. It was so clever, clients came in to watch plots emerge from this wondrous machine.

Since those heady days, CAD has continued to play a big part in my working practice. When we set up White Design, 15 years ago, we went digital throughout. Shocking then, not so now. Our first project for Velux was generated entirely in 3D with planning drawings pulled from the model. We issued all the production information as hyperlinked PDFs so you could navigate from GAs to details, to specification and back again all with a click of a mouse. All very leading edge. Or so we liked to think.

So I’m no luddite. I can push a 3D model around, get funky with Photoshop, poke about in html and tweet like a sparrow and I’m certain that BIM will work, one day. My only problem with all things digital is when you’re standing in the rain, on a site, up a scaffold, looking at a detail that worked in BIM but doesn’t in reality, with a subcontractor who needs an answer – now! On these occasions, I very rarely slip out my iPad to consult the BIM. Instead, I ask to borrow a pencil and scratch some analogue graphite on the nearest bit of non-virtual wall. 

Craig White is a founder director of White Design

Latest

With retail flagging how can we bring life back into towns? Architects, this is your chance to step up

With retail flagging how can we bring life back into towns?

Gundry + Ducker's innovative design for the RIBA Marketplace stand at this year's Futurebuild event is made from Rockwool insulation and Rockpanel cladding for a restful, reading room feel

RIBA hub design at Futurebuild keeps things quiet

As cuts in public services bite ever deeper it’s down to local people to save and reinvent neglected or redundant structures. Architects play a crucial role

Local activists need public-spirited architects

National Museum, Tartu, Estonia

National Museum, Tartu, Estonia

Impressive productivity gains are offset by rising payroll costs in the RIBA Business Benchmarking Survey  this year

Revenues are rising twice as fast as staff numbers