Reinvent to Remain Relevant

by John Stebbins, Assoc. AIA

As a 3D technology provider to the AEC industry for the past 22 years, I have been in a unique position to observe architect’s complaints and fears about their own profession being marginalized, especially now that contractors and owners are positioned to benefit from utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Architects often wonder: “Why should I go along for the ride?”

The architectural profession in the US is at a crossroad. Architects could and should be leading the BIM revolution, but hesitate because of their fears, marginalizing themselves, net result, even more. Architects need to “go along for this ride” because nothing less than the future of the profession is at stake!

As my very enlightened architect client/colleague Kimon Onuma, FAIA (of BIMStorm fame) says: It’s time to “Evolve or Dissolve”. And, Tom Mayne FAIA of Morphosis (Pritzker Prize Winner) says: “Change or Perish.”

I personally believe that architects will win ONLY if they establish more of the leadership necessary to pilot the entire AECO industry through the immense changes BIM and IPD are stimulating!

This means taking on more risk and letting go of fear.

The big opportunity I see is to take the lead on more design-build and IPD projects, where collaboration is king and someone has to lead and orchestrate The Team. What AEC profession is traditionally best known to orchestrate this type of collaboration? Answer: the architect. More and more, I am seeing that BIM and IPD are about leadership more-so than software or technology. BIM and IPD are PROCESSES, not software. New processes need to be led.

I observe that one of the main reasons architects hold back in leading this change is that their piece of the AECO pie is relatively small (in terms of money to be saved) compared to the contractor or the owner which, as I understand, is a disincentive to lead or change. Currently, owners and contractors are the driving force behind BIM.

Another way to say what Onuma and Mayne have so aptly said above is “Reinvent to Remain Relevant.” The future of a whole noble profession is at stake here. Therefore, lead on and reinvent your future. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

One last thought…when I was a kid, my neighborhood friends and I used to play a lot of the conquer-the-world board game “Risk”. We would say to each other “He who hesitates, fails.” We coming-of-age-kids somehow figured this out as we played the role of make-believe generals. The time for hesitation’s through!

Categories: BIM, IPD | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. John

    I believe this is true, yes the architect in the US has been so marginalized that it sicken’s me. This is mostly due to a very aggressive contracting industry and clever client’s that pit us against each other, especially over the issue of fees… well the architect has taken the bait, so perhaps its really his/her fault in the end.

    Then their is schooling issue, go to school for six years, graduate with little marketable skill’s that you can use in a office environment, no wonder why architecture salaries are so low out of school, they can’t do anything…

    The only way this profession can survive is for a “Hero Architect” to rise up, yes a reinvented architect – and show us all the way…

    P.S. I’m working on it!


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