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Position Your Architecture Firm to be a New-Generation Project Leader

He who pays the bills gets to call the shots.

Today's clients demand higher quality, lower costs and faster schedules while pressing for increasingly risky and complex construction projects.

This has led to both opportunity and an interesting quandary for the architecture industry.

The predicament? Architects being forced to play nicely in the sandbox with construction contractors. Instead of the traditional "design-bid-build" workflow where the two parties infrequently, if at all, communicate with one another, contemporary construction projects have created new models of delivery centered around collaboration. This is most often referred to as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

And therein lies the opportunity - very few architects or construction professionals are qualified to lead this type of collaborative effort. Opportunity awaits if you or your firm can fill this void.

Here are two ways you and your firm can step to the forefront as an integrated project leader:

Getting Comfortable with Building Information Modeling

"I like my original AutoCAD just fine, thank you."

"Revit's too expensive."

"Recent graduates don't know how to use BIM-based software."

There are a hundred and one reasons why now may not be the right time for your firm to switch to 3D modeling. They may all be valid reasons. You may be right to stay away from BIM for now.

What you shouldn't do, however, is bury your head in the sand and pretend that industry-wide acceptance of 3D modeling is still 50 years away.

At the very least, start becoming familiar with the BIM process: Which software would I prefer? Which types of clients would be most willing to pay for 3D modeling? How many firms in my area already perform at least some work using BIM?

When the time comes to make the full or partial transition to BIM, you'll have a game plan ready to put into action.

Breaking Down Communication Barriers

Let's face it - most human beings aren't good at communicating. Each person has his or her own, unique way to view the world and can't fathom how anyone could have a different perspective. So, too, are the attitudes that many architects and construction contractors have towards one another.

Barbara Jackson, Ph.D. and DBIA says it best in "The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice":

"Architects press for enhanced design, contractors press for budgets and schedules, and each party may feel threatened by the other's point of view. While the discipline that is 'leading' the team is most likely to succeed in forwarding its approach, the fact remains that the owner wants it all - an integrated solution that enhances design as well as the budget and schedule."

So who's the most qualified to lead this integrated project? Jackson suggests that neither an architect, builder or engineer are qualified to lead a collaborative effort if the only thing they can bring to the table is their own industry expertise.

"An Integrated Project Leader must rise above any single discipline perspective and develop a disposition for collaboration across disciplines, demonstrating appreciation, enthusiasm, and empathy for what others contribute," Jackson said.

Communication, collaboration and empathy - three skills that are not on the syllabus of most architecture programs but required if you want to capitalize on the ever-increasing need for integrated project leaders.

The Author

Steven Burns, FAIA

Steven Burns, FAIA, spent 14 years managing his firm Burns + Beyerl Architects. After creating ArchiOffice®, the smart office and project management solution for architectural firms, Steve brought his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is perfecting the business strategy and product development.

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