The education of BIM, or lack thereof?

I’ve been noticing a trend lately that I both think is very encouraging, and at the same time, very frightening. If you spend any time on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and are researching BIM in Architecture you are very likely to happen upon some of the same cast of characters that I both admire and respect. Here is a few that I can think of just off the top of my head.

Jared Banks – www.shoegnome.com
Paul Aubin – www.paulaubin.com
Bob Borson – www.lifeofanarchitect.com

I know there are plenty that I am not mentioning here, but if you do a quick Google search, I’m sure you will find plenty of others on your own. These and others are constantly providing me with additional information (sometimes its just entertainment) on this exciting journey I call a career.

That’s the good side. Here’s the bad…..

I’ve noticed that most of the Architecture schools have begun to incorporate BIM into their curriculums. Ok, that’s not the bad part, I’m getting there. As a result of this I have noticed that most of the recent graduates are listing BIM or their favorite program as something that they now have experience in. Let me stop you right there recent graduate, simply making a cool model for your professor is hardly BIM experience.

Now, I’m not trying to bash these people, I simply want to say that there is a lot more involved in this paradigm shift then what you have been exposed to so far. I also think that the schools are doing a piss poor job of introducing this to the future generations of Architecture. Why aren’t schools using their typically awesome computer resources, close proximity of various AEC students, and the freedom to push these software packages to limits most professionals can’t, to better prepare students for what we actually do for a living?

Here’s my thought… Have a one year class/studio that is mirrored in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction classes at a university. This group of professors can then decide on a building type that is to be designed and explored. Here’s the kicker. Part of the requirements for this class will be that you have to coordinate this design with the different students from other disciplines. Will it be as detailed as a professional set of construction documents? Who knows, maybe, but it will help students learn that their designs don’t exist in a bubble. Each professor can still push the ideas that they are individually trying to teach, but a lesson that will come about on its own is that of collaboration/teamwork.

Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but I think our education process should help teach real world processes along with the theories.

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2 Replies to “The education of BIM, or lack thereof?”

  1. The problem with schools introducing students to BIM is that a majority of the associate professors and professors are neither practicing architects, nor are they deeply involved in this emerging technology. Even people who have been in the industry for a number of years using BIM authoring software aren’t even doing BIM, completely. The exploitation of the complete capabilities of BIM has stalled for a handful of reasons at all levels but the highest. And even at the biggest firms working on the most complex projects, BIM is still not executed as it could or should be. I think that the people who are using BIM to it’s fullest are firms like Gehry Technologies or Case Inc.. The firms who are great at understanding the 4d, and 5d parts of BIM are typically the huge construction organizations, or consultants that actually leverage the technology in ways that it was envisioned for.

    There are a handful professors and schools who are wielding BIM in ways that will help their students achieve a level of competency that you speak of. A few schools out there that do incorporate BIM into their curriculum as you have mentioned. Typically having their upper division students work with students of different degree paths. The one draw back is that these students are introduced at such a late stage in their studies that they don’t get to enjoy the benefits of cultivating these relationships for a longer period of time. The schools I know of that do this sort of cross disciplinary integration are Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of Southern California, and maybe a handful of others.

    The hardest part about BIM adoption for the industry is the shift from being great with spreadsheets, a pencil, people skills, and something that can produce construction documents; To being a person that understands 10 different software applications, how to generate construction documents, scripting, software programming languages, and be on their way towards licensure. The deeper you go into BIM the more your realize how neglected it is in some areas. Thus having a educational system prepare a student for a real world experience in architecture across various disciplines is one thing, though if they are familiar with the theory of how BIM is or can be used is probably all we can expect.

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    1. Great insight Willard, I’ve long thought there were too few actually in the industry, teaching the next generation. If that and such a silo approach to the education process could change, perhaps this profession could grow at a more rapid pace. Convincing those in power at the universities though, that is a bigger challenge.

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