Utilizing BIM for Sustainable Architecture

An analysis and continuation of my graduate thesis at the University of Texas at Austin.

How do we improve AEC relationships in an economic downturn?

Posted by Justin Firuz Dowhower, AIA, LEED AP on September 24, 2010

I came across an insightful post by Phil Bernstein entitled: “The Destruction of Trust,” which talks about the current state of AEC groups during this economic downturn.  Generally speaking, the combination of high-unemployment, low-balling fees, cut-throat bidding and skepticism within the building industry has created a climate of distrust between AEC groups.  The biggest fear, according to Bernstein, is that the surviving AEC groups and the building industry as a whole could be permanently damaged if these trends continue.  The key to avoiding this fate would be for all project stakeholders to maintain a vested interest and commitment to long-term sustainable practices (not only environmental, but also economical and social), which would include not low-balling fees and the discouraging of highly competitive bidding practices.

The practice of developing healthy relationships between stakeholders might be a good credo or mission statement, but I believe it is much harder to put into practice.  So how can this goal be achieved in a practical fashion; how do you create trust in a distrustful environment?  Well, as I explain in Chapter 5 of my thesis, my theory is that “collaboration can happen earlier in the design process and new relationships can solidify faster with the use of BIM.”  I realize that BIM, in and of itself, is probably not a panacea for eliminating the ills currently afflicting the building industry, but this economic downturn presents an opportunity for AEC groups to use BIM as a means for holding everyone to a higher standard of accountability and creating more transparent decision-making workflows.  I believe this opportunity will determine which AEC groups will survive over the long-run and will inevitably shape a lasting impression on the building industry as a whole.

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