Our Technology

So why is technology important? It affects every aspect of our lives: distance, movement, interaction, travel, communication…and so much more. Managing the information required to design and build a building is complicated, communicating what your building will be is challenging.  In an age where everyone carries around a GPS in their pocket, you should expect your architect to constantly use technology to bring you value.

WRA/HD: Accessing Information at Higher Resolution

by Jeff Miller, AIA, LEED AP Principal, WRA Architects

I was late to the HDTV party, largely because my wife and I purchased a very nice Sony 27-inch television with built-in surround stereophonic sound when we got married 21 years ago, and it just wouldn't die. After purchasing our new HD television, and upgrading our cable service to receive the HD signal (at a much greater expense than I anticipated), I have become an HDTV snob. That is to say that I would almost rather watch Prairie Dog Town in HD than a Cowboy game in regular low resolution…almost.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the architectural equivalent to HDTV. At first glance it may appear as a luxury, but once immersed, you wonder how you ever lived without it—the "resolution" is just that much better. There is a price to pay: the expense of the software and hardware upgrades and the manpower to build an integrated graphic model in the computer. Since most of the drawings are done in 3D, there is more opportunity to visualize and share the details of the project earlier.

The beauty (and power) of BIM, however, is not the graphic modeling, it's the "Information Modeling". The idea is that all information is eventually integrated into the graphic model. You could click on a room, run a report and get a list of all the finishes. Click on a finish and get a readout of the Sherwin Williams paint number. Eventually you will be able to select all the light fixtures and instantly get a count of how many bulbs of each type are in your building. And if the model is updated with regular maintenance you will be able to dig deeper and know when each bulb was last changed. Inventories will be more accurate and less time consuming, and your warehouse space will become more efficient with just-in-time overstock.

Theoretically, when everything is wireless and each light fixture has its own IP address, they (the light fixtures) will tell you when they need to be replaced.

BIM is the platform on which this kind of facility management will be built, and it will provide the graphic interface to make this possible. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

As technology advances, it's the interface that enables it to be valuable. Ten years ago it was extremely valuable to be able to copy a contact list into an e-mail, send it to multiple people so they could print it out and tape it next to their phone (the phone that was tethered to the wall). Today it's easy to automatically upload the latest centralized office contact information to our iPhones every fifteen minutes.

Bottom line is that you should expect your architect to be using BIM now because it is the foundation of your future facility management. Soon your contractor will be expected to use it too, less for the construction process, although it will minimize communication errors, but more for the amount of information determined during construction that will need to be in your database or "building information model" for your facility management.

And finally your facilities director will want to use the graphic interface to continue updating the building database for the life of the facility. Once he upgrades to a BIM system he will likely become a BIM snob. That is to say, he will almost rather watch his iPhone to see how many kilowatts of energy the new high-bay fluorescent light fixture in the gym is using than watch the Cowboy game in HDTV…almost.