BIM (Building Information Modeling) is not a new concept, but with technology now approaching the forefront of building design, it has inevitably, and aggressively, permeated the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. So what does this mean for a BIM specialist or the emerging graduate’s career? Options.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Career Center found that over half of the jobs posted required Autodesk Revit software or BIM skills (Shore). Most types of architecture and engineering firms require BIM talent. How do the expectations and skills of those various positions compare, and how does cross-functional knowledge benefit the overall design process? We sat down with a few of our Revit savvy teammates who took the leap from an architecture firm to see how and why technology systems design has become their focus.
BIM Career Tips: Architecture vs. Technology
With a background in interiors, BIM specialist Sylvia Wong says that as an architect, your focal point is broader, encompassing overall building structure and where spaces will be located. “You’re still using Revit, and engineers have to adhere to codes and regulations, just like architects,” she says. “It’s your focus that’s different.” On the technology side, the design centers around how technology enhances building function and occupant workflow.
BIM Specialist Frances Sin, an interior design transplant, was referred to TEECOM by an employee who told her, “It’s all about production and if you enjoy doing that, it’s a good fit.” Frances loves Revit problem-solving. She works closely with engineers to review the models and back-check to ensure each set adheres to standards and schedule. “We [architectural designers] know what architects’ drawings look like and that knowledge helps the client because we can catch something if it doesn’t look right.”
“Though technology is a smaller scope,” says Carolyn Kimbro, Senior BIM Specialist, “the systems you are designing are at a much higher level of detail. That’s the biggest difference I noticed.” Carolyn came from an architecture firm specializing in upscale residential projects, and now she primarily focuses on complex data center projects, guiding junior BIM specialists, and brainstorming new tools.
What made you take the leap and change your career path?
Francisco Capristo, Senior BIM Specialist, recalls an old project in downtown Oakland that he worked on at an architecture firm years ago. “I saw a 3D scan of that building and that was the first time I saw anything like that.” He was immediately drawn to the new technologies emerging in BIM and spent a few years at BIM consulting firm, becoming well-versed in 3D models, laser scanning, and clash detection. “I was mainly drawn to TEECOM because of their forward thinking in the use of technology and encouraging employees to do the same.” At TEECOM, he plays a vital role in production for mission critical projects, bringing a wealth of BIM knowledge beyond his architecture experience.
Sylvia, who works closely with BIM mentors and project leads like Francisco and Carolyn, says “It was my desire to learn, willingness to be open to new information, and not being afraid of not knowing something. Bottom line: curiosity.” Eager to understand all the more technical aspects of design, she is always seeking out ways to expand her BIM knowledge.
At TEECOM, BIM specialists help produce sets that include telecom, audiovisual, and security systems design. Carolyn notes having that variety of disciplines under one roof provides possibilities to grow your skill set. “[I realized] that architecture is a broad field to be in and here there are specialized groups to focus in. Also, TEECOM is a smaller firm than many architecture firms so there’s more opportunity.”
What challenges might people anticipate when switching from BIM for architecture to BIM for technology design, and how did you personally address those challenges?
“Being afraid of not knowing things. Thinking, ‘Am I even qualified?’ or ‘What’s expected of me?’ Yes, I know Revit, but I don’t know anything about conduits.” Sylvia recalls feeling unsure in her beginnings as a technology BIM designer, but the engineers and senior BIM specialists are always willing to answer questions and provide clarification.
Also, tools such as pyRevit, Dynamo, Revizto, and RFtools save a lot of time for TEECOM BIM Specialists, often cutting project set-up time in half. “The Power Tools,” as Frances likes to call them, “are a BIM specialist’s BFFs.” These allow our Revit programming wizards like Tyler Kvochick (Design Technology Specialist) and Alan Zhao (BIM Specialist) to write scripts that “manipulate the data in the model and help find different ways of doing the same thing, quicker,” says Francisco. In a nutshell, these tools remove monotonous workflows so the production team can focus on the more important nuances of BIM.
Carolyn says if she has a problem to solve for a client, her team is the best resource. She’s able to bounce ideas off of engineers and other senior BIM specialists and propose new tools to be made. She attended Autodesk University’s AU conference along with Francisco and Frances to find out what’s new in BIM and what can they bring back to the firm to be more successful.
In terms of project management, mindset, and experience, architecture and technology BIM are anything but mutually exclusive. Weekly production meetings allow the group come together and distribute workload to establish balance and support. Creative thinking has collectively empowered individuals to come up with ideas for tools vastly improving their workflows. And ultimately, cross-functional knowledge helps diverse teams coordinate their time, people, and quality of design delivered to the client.