Architect Panel Finds BIM a “Must Have”

8 May, 2008

Marketing agency gathers architects to obtain information about trends in sustainability and product selection.

A recent panel of architects gathered by Function, an integrated marketing agency specializing in communication solutions for the building and construction industry, found that that the use of building information modeling (BIM) is on the rise among both architects and construction companies, making both key targets for building product manufacturers.

The panel was composed of a diverse group of architects who specify products in commercial and residential markets. Discussion topics included sustainable building practices, BIM, emerging trends, effective manufacturer communication, and product selection.

"Architects are a major influencer group in the building and construction industry, and being able to get first-hand information from them is incredibly valuable," said Dana Castle, principal and managing partner of Function. "Conducting these panel discussions allows us to obtain a deeper understanding of these influencer segments -- their likes, dislikes, ideas, and opinions. This insight is a key component in developing the strategic programs for which our clients rely on us."

Panelists included Katie Pedersen, Perkins + Will; Newell Watkins, Houser Walker Architecture; Ernest Hooks, Jr., HB and A Design Group; Ivan Ocampo, Brunning & Stang; and Jeff Wren, EarthStation Architecture.

According to information gleaned from the panel discussion, green building and sustainability remain top-of-mind for architects. Conversations ranged from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects to costs, challenges, and client perceptions of green building. Green washing, according to the panelists, is one of the most challenging aspects of sustainable design. Many product manufacturers make claims about the environmental friendliness of their products -- many of which are inaccurate -- leading clients to form a false impression of a product's ability and expect results that are not deliverable, the panelists said. As architects and professionals work to create results for clients, it is critical that they be able to identify what products will work for the project and realistically meet the needs of their client.

As one of the newest technology/practices in the AEC industry, BIM was a key topic of interest throughout the panel discussion. Many of the panelists stated that they are either using or exploring BIM as a tool. The panelists also discussed the fact that contractors are rapidly adopting BIM as well. BIM allows contractors to view what the building will look like when it's finished from a diagrammatic standpoint, identify challenges, and test potential solutions. BIM technology also enables contractors to quickly and directly resolve a conflict by looking at the 3D model, resulting in saved costs and saved time on the project.

Panelists agreed that when sourcing products, their first objective is to evaluate the quality of the product and how appropriate it is for a specific job. Some panelists revealed that if a product manufacturer has a library of BIM models completed and the products meet the needs of their projects, those products are more likely to be included in the architect's model.

"The market is actually catching up to where there's enough competition among the product manufacturers realizing that 'green' is beneficial and sustainable product costs are decreasing," said Wren. "Ultimately you think about your children, and we've got to leave some sort of legacy regardless of the bottom line. That's really where it starts for me - wanting to create an environment that is common sense, makes good space and is going to do a bit to help sustain the life that we have here on this earth."

To find out more about the topics discussed during the Function: Architect Panel and to view footage, visit