Collaboration within the Architecture Industry
From the oxford dictionary, architecture is the science or art of designing and constructing buildings. Architecture involves a lot of this including the planning construction, designing structures by manipulation of materials so that they can meet a social environmental, functional, technical or aesthetic value. Estimation of construction costs, scheduling and the administration of construction of the buildings is also part of what architecture encompasses. In the past architectures conducted almost everything involving a construction, except the practically building work. As of today, for a building to be constructed, there is a lot of collaboration involved. Interior designers, engineers, electricians, construction managers, governing authority representative and owner’s representatives are only a few of the players that collaborate with architectures to ensure a structure is brought up successfully to meet the specifications and the requirements of the owner. It is therefore very evident that architecture is no longer a one man’s game. The collaborations have brought with them benefits and also a few challenges.
Research suggests that architecture is not a one man’s game. Architecture is old. The very first publication on the topic was in the 1st century AD. This publication was by a roman architect known as Vitruvius. According to this architect, a building had to poses three main principles for it to be considered satisfactory. The three principles were:
- Beauty- the building had to be of aesthetic value meaning it had to be appealing to the eye.
- Durability- for a building to be termed as satisfactory, it had to stand strong and in good condition for a very long time.
- Utility-the suitability of a building to the purpose it was meant for was also a major principle in determining the quality of a building. Over the years architecture evolved from construction of buildings to roads and even bridges.
An architecture industry requires an integrated approach for faster completion and desirable outcome. According to Collins (2011), different teams including the owner, project manager, interior designer and the architect are brought together to ensure that the project outcome is viable and efficient. Coming up with a workable team for delivering successful integrated project requires commitment. All the participants are supposed to: identify a mutually agreeable goal and objective; develop arrangements to define roles of each participant; and recognize the organization structure to avoid conflicting roles.
Every integrated project has stages in which each actor has a responsibility to carry out. From the conceptualization phase through construction, every actor has relevant role (Collins, 2011). Below is a description of each phase and the collaborating responsibility of each of the actors.
The manager, interior designer, engineers and architect with other stakeholders must come together to define WHAT is to be built, WHO is to build, and HOW it is supposed to be done. The manager is expected to come up with goals that define the performance and function of the project to be executed (Lowe, 2009). He also determines the project procurement process, he gives out data regarding the physical factors of the area in which the project is to be constructed and provide policies and legislative framework affecting the project.
According to Yazici (2010), the prime designer must come up with the project schedule i.e. commencing time through the completion period; visualize the adjacency concerns of the project and its massing; and provide a sustainable design that has the least cost and least impacts on the surrounding. Together with the engineers and the architect, the designers must be involved in cost information, the procurement process and awarding of tender, and validation of the scope of work.
Criteria and Detailed Design
After decisions are made on the scope and schedule of work, the project commences. Each option and decision is analyzed and evaluated, tested and selection of best option is done. It should involve all the actors to finalize the scope of the project, design of the building systems such as the structure and skin, the schedule and cost estimates (Lowe, 2009).
The project manager facilitates site input and reviews of user group. He/she then gives a feedback to the team in regard to revision. Together with the project coordinator, the manager coordinates the overall schedule of performance of every actor, organize and direct the overall team (Collins, 2011). The designers also have a role to play; they integrated the design input, issue regulations required for the project, outline the specifications of the project and refine the design schedule.
In the detailed design concludes WHAT is to be done in the project. All design decisions are made here. All the project systems are defined. Engineers define and coordinate the project elements (Lowe, 2009). The quality levels of materials are established and the project commences after verification of schedule, cost, prefabrication decisions and tolerances by all actors.
Documentation of the Implementation of the Project
At this stage, everything shifts from WHAT to HOW the project is to be implemented. The actors come up with construction methods and means, the schedule, finalized costs, and a document defining and visualizing the final project (Lowe, 2009). The construction health and safety guidelines including control of noise, infection, vibration and injuries are all defined as per the owner and legal standards.
This is the phase where each actor actualizes the project. Every person has his/her role to play as per the schedule and responsibility allocated. The manager ensures compliance in terms of obligations, organize the procurement required equipment and materials and also coordinates the team (Yazici, 2010). The interior designer is qualified to select and procure all accessories, furniture and materials of a project. At the early stages of construction, the architect can work together with the designer in making the floor plan and placement of artwork and furnishes. Interior designer can also give a helping hand in making the architectural details of cabinetry, lighting and carpentry design.
Use of BIM in the Collaborative Approach
An important model that illustrates the need for a collaborative approach is the Building Information Model (BIM). It is a digitized three dimensional representation of a project and its distinctive characteristics. A door, for instance, with its defined dimensions and material is hosted and related parametrically to the wall of the building. In addition, the BIM provides a consistent view of the representation which saves a lot of time to designers and engineers. According to the National BIM standard, 2010 (as quoted by Post, 2008), this model involves virtual designing and construction through the life cycle of the project.
There are two types of BIM: the lonely and the social types (Vardo, 2009). “lonely” BIM excludes the construction manager while the “social” involves all actors. The most collaborative BIM is the “social” since it enables architect, engineer, construction manager and the designer to share the model. Moreover, the building information from the model can be shared among the whole team. After collaboration of all actors, the information generated can be used to prefabricate the required products.
According to Post (2008), there is another form of BIM known as “intimate” BIM. This model involves the team members and the owner sharing the project rewards and risks. A combination of “intimate” and “social” BIMs enhances efficiency through reduction of the cost and time in the project and also in production of high quality drawings.
Each project actor can use the Building Information Modelling through the planning, design, construction and operation stages (Kenley, 2010). BIM can be used during the design phase since it has an influence on the cost of the project. The entire team can come together and analyze the projected issues which would otherwise incur extra costs to the owner. This can be done through cost-benefit analysis (CBA).
Kenley (2010) stated that at the design phase, the project engineer and architect are involved in energy analysis and also in testing of their design knowledge. Through the model, the construction manager can come up with value, sequencing and engineering reports. If the team comes up with a 3-dimensional plan, the owner can decide whether he/she likes the design before construction commences.
BIM can also be used at the construction phase for accurate building purposes. BIM can generate survey points for the sight which would allow for accurate positioning of hangers; this eases the work of the contractors (Lowe, 2009). Managers must also plan for transportation, fabrication, installation and coordination during construction; this information can be updated on the model.
According to Yazici (2010), BIM can also be used to monitor and plan for the workforce. The Laser Scanners of the 3D model are used to monitor the location of workers at the site and also monitoring the daily activities. Using the same model, deviations from the original plan can be detected and changes made before any damage.
At the post construction stage, space and asset management, building maintenance, disaster planning and management and record modeling facilitates easy building maintenance through its operation phase (Post, 2008). The model can be used to build system analysis based on lighting, energy and mechanical analysis. Moreover, the BIM can be used to upgrade the components of the building. The table on the following page shows the uses of BIM at each stage of project development:
- Examining existing conditions
- Estimation of costs
- Phase planning
- Site analysis and programming
- Reviewing of design
- Analysis of energy
- Authoring of design
- 3-D coordination
- Site planning and utilization
- 3-D control and planning
- Record modeling
- Maintenance and scheduling
- Analysis of building systems
Opportunities and Challenges of the Collaborative Approach
Whenever all the actors work together, the intensity of work is reduced. Conflict of interest and duplication of work is also minimized. Through BIM, all work done during construction can be monitored and corrections made in case of divergence from the existing plan; this minimizes emerging issues that would interfere with the whole process. Furthermore, all actors are satisfied due to transparency as they are involved in the whole process. Although collaboration is encouraged, it is undebatable that factors such as culture and consumerism would hinder full participation. Some designers would not be willing to share their materials and knowledge with engineers or architects and vice versa. The upcoming technology has also hindered collaboration as most of the work has been mechanized.
Case Study: Gensler Company Architecture
History and background
Gensler architecture was founded in the year 1965 by Drue and art Gensler and their associate James Follett. At that time the company’s main focus was corporate interiors but with time it has ventured into other numerous areas. They include: architecture and design of retail center, airport, education and recreation centers, urban planning and design, environmental graphic design, sustainable design consultation and brand strategy. The company has its headquarters in San Francisco, United States. The company is responsible for construction of major buildings all over the world and in 2000 it received an award for the architecture firm of the year from the American institute of architects. Structures like the Shanghai Tower in China, Facebook in London and The Avenues in Kuwait are products of this firm. As of today the company is home to a population of more than three thousand three hundred employees.
The company’s location is one of its strength, since it is easily accessible by customers from all over the world.
The company has built a strong brand that is recognized by people all over especially because of the breathtaking structures that they are associated with all over the globe.
Manpower- with the large number of employees in the company, there is delegation of duties which ensures that everyone produces their very best in the company.
Due to the various collaborations the company has with businesses dealing with interior design, manufacturers of construction materials and engineering companies they are able to come up with structures that are simply exquisite.
The company has a focused team in management meaning that the daily running of the business is under scrutiny and supervision of a very able team.
The company’s position in the architecture industry is also a major strength, since it is involved in setting standards in the industry.
Diversity- the company offers a variety of services having lately ventured into the health and wellness sectors which means they have a large and diverse source of revenue.
The company has not penetrated the markets in the world in the architecture industry. This means their market is not widespread and therefore there are parts in the world where no one has an idea that the company actually exists.
Dependence on material manufacturing companies- the firm does not produce is own material and therefore if anything goes wrong with the manufacture of materials, it could mean problems to the company.
Prices- the company charges prices that are considered expensive and hence some customers may prefer other companies to them.
The architectural industry is under rapid growth and being the best they can be able to maintain their standards and reap large profits.
Increased interest in real estate- all over the world, people have grown interest in the real estate business providing a booming market for architectural firms. This is a great opportunity for Gensler.
Developing countries- this is a great opportunity for Gensler since as a country develops, it requires lots of structures and infrastructure where the company comes in.
Interior design- this industry is growing rapidly and since Gensler also offers this services. It proves to be a great opportunity for the company.
The greatest threat for the company is competition. There is great competition in the architectural industry. The company’s main competitors are URS Corporation and HOK Groups Inc.
The other threat is government interference. Policies and regulations put in place by the government for construction of structures are a threat to the company.
Economic crisis- the current economic crisis that has hit the world is another major threat for the success and survival of the company.
Problems brought about by partnerships and collaborations with other businesses is another issue that poses a threat to the company’s success.
Technology- with the everyday of growth and change in technology, the company faces a challenge of keeping up with what’s new in technology.
Issues and challenges
Cultural variances are a challenge for the company since it has to meet a customer’s need despite differences in culture. The company also faces a great deal of problems when it comes to creating customer friendly costs and at the same time making enough profit to sustain the large task force. Managing the large number of staff and ensuring that every one delivers is another issue that is affecting the company.
Divided attention is also a problem though not a major one; it affects the company all the same. With the company venturing into different sectors, it become difficult to ensure every single one performs.
Economic crisis that has caused a recession recently is also a problem for Gensler.
The company should put up strategies that ensure that the company is not shaken by the economic crisis.
By ensuring that the staff is strictly professionally qualified in their area of work, the company will reduce the amount of supervision required and hence making employee management easier.
The company should also evaluate critically any business before getting into collaboration or partnerships with them.
One of the main reasons why the company has made it big in the very competitive industry is because they have encouraged collaboration with other sectors such as interior design unlike others who ensure that all the work is done by the architects.
Collins, R. (2011). “BIM for Safety, Virtual Design and Construction VDC Application.” Intelibuild
Kenley, R. (2010). Location-Based Management for Construction. Spon: New York
Lowe, R. H. (2009). Construction Lawyer28.1. Associated General Contractors of America.
Post, N. M. (2008). “Building Team Views Technological Tools as Best Chance For Change.” Engineering News Record.
Vardaro, M. J. (2009). “Weighing the Issues on BIM Technology.” Interview by Calvin Lee. Zetlin & DeChiara LLP Review. Web. May 2010
Yazici, O. C. (2010). “BIM, Scheduling and RFID.” Personal interview