It's time for the cross-over from real world to digital for small practices and contractors
We have been working with digital modelling and also use CNC fabrication of various types for smaller building elements like stairs, furniture and fixtures, writes Kieran Gaffney, Konishi Gaffney Architects. But I have been frustrated that more output from digital to real-life is not readily available. There are opportunities, such as at the off-site fabrication hub which is being set up by Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, for digital to real world crossover for small practices and contractors and I’m interested in our practice exploring these.
I most enjoyed the talk by Schueco on its Parametric glazing system, which was a specific take on how digital technology is changing the production of buildings. It was very interesting and well presented.
Both architect and engineer speakers gave examples of the BIM model as a communication tool for clients, planners and public rather than an enhanced ‘federated’ model. This may be because, as we heard, PM and QS roles lag behind designers in terms of implementation. All speakers emphasised the collaborative and shared output associated with BIM as the main innovation.
I’ve been prompted to explore modelling tools (we use SketchUp) and the Schueco software plug-in: even though this is intended for big office facades, I’d like to see if it could be adapted to smaller projects.
Other attendees I spoke to were from larger practices already using BIM. They commented on how it was changing their workflow but not really changing how they actually design, instead streamlining the production process through better communication and collaboration.
I’m not particularly interested in mass producing architecture because buildings tend to work better when they are site specific. The example of assembly line car manufacture doesn’t apply to buildings and so the architect/small contractor approach to making buildings remains relevant. However we need to move towards more intelligent models to allow us to explore new materials and processes and to help pin down costs and timescales – and to make sure we don’t feel left behind.