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Editorial: Levy has something to say about BIM for sole-practitioners

Not much has changed for both sole practitioners in the economy and the discussion around BIM. But Levy offers small-scale practice a unique view for BIM adoption


Today we published our in-depth interview with architect, researcher and educator, Francois Levy, AIA, of Austin, Texas. His recent book on BIM, titled “BIM in Small-Scale Sustainable Design” offers architects in small-scale practice much to think about.

Levy makes a cogent argument for small-scale architectural practice to adopt BIM now. Why wait he argues. “Any moment is a good moment to re-evaluate how important our contribution is to society and how we practice.”  His book factually reminds us that residences alone consume 20 percent of our national energy footprint, here in the United States. And this says nothing about the smaller non-residential buildings small-scale architectural practices focus on.

It is also worth noting that approximately 80 percent of all architectural firms are small-scale practices, ranging from sole-practitioners to 15 people. But here’s an interesting connection we’ve made between what Francois Levy argues today and what we discovered in our Architosh BIM 2010 Survey Report published just a few years ago.

Sole-practitioners are the fastest growing segment of US-based architecture firms based on AIA research back in 2010. It was posited then that the economy’s quick and steep down-turn led to this quick rise. Well, the economy hasn’t much changed much for architects in the US today, still.

As it turns out a cursory review of our BIM report from 2010, reviewing the data of over 410 participants, showed clearly that sole-practitioners were a group which were feeling left out of the BIM debates. This group noted that what they really needed was for BIM tools to be easier, since they had to float the entire practice themselves the big issue was efficiency of time as applied to adoption of BIM.

This is where Levy’s book comes in. He began writing his book about the time we published our BIM report and up until its publication what he has found as the number one cultural challenge for small-scale practice BIM adoption is training costs. In essence, he is saying the same thing. To quote:

“Well, if you throw the entire office at this at once then that means a hundred percent of your personnel is tied up in training and learning a new workflow. That’s tough. If you are a sole practitioner, the same is true.”  Not much has changed in two years. The BIM talk is still largely focused on bigBIM. And that’s good for Levy’s book because he points out a way forward for BIM for small-scsale practice.

In our BIM report from two years ago we discussed this issue in relation to what the tools can do to help such users adopt BIM. Levy instead doesn’t do much focusing on this problem and in the article notes that there is only so much simplicity you can do. Instead he addresses the gains which BIM can offer the sole practitioner and in this he focuses on such items as offering better design overall and in response to the climate. So to recap why sole practitioners should adopt BIM. Here’s why:

  • Because small-scale structures contribute a collectively massive footprint on our national energy use
  • Because there is no ideal point to evaluate our social good as architects, now is good as ever
  • Because BIM allows a practitioner to create better design by allowing validation and testing of design assumptions that are purely qualitative
  • And finally because BIM allows for better sustainable design and climate-indexed design

We enjoyed putting together our article on Levy as it confirmed many of the data from our BIM report from two years ago. The economy is still tough and BIM chatter today is still largely focused on large-scale practice. But it can’t stay that way forever and it shouldn’t. Levy’s book offers much to this discussion. We hope you check it out.

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