How Architects Lost Control of the Design Process…and How They Can Get it Back - VIATechnik | BIM, Virtual Reality, CAD, Estimating, Scheduling Services

How Architects Lost Control of the Design Process…and How They Can Get it Back

Danielle Dy Buncio
Founder & President
Jan 17

design process

Building projects are becoming more complex, which is making it increasingly difficult for architects to maintain control over their initial vision.

From Imhotep to da Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright to Gehry, architects have been capturing the public’s collective imagination for thousands of years. As the authors of both our day-to-day environments and most cherished monuments, architects define how we have lived, how we live now, and how we might live in the future.

Up until about a half-century ago, architects had, at least relatively speaking, total control over the building process. Not only did these “Master Builders” draw up the designs, build models, and pitch their ideas to owners — they also drafted detailed, practical construction plans and would often be found pacing around worksites, directing builders on how to best execute their vision. However, as building practices and structures themselves have advanced, architects’ level of control over the execution of their designs has diminished substantially.

Architects Face a Growing Challenge in Risk Aversion

It’s not just evolving AEC processes that have brought more cooks into the kitchen — one of the primary drivers behind the modern architect’s shifting role is a growing industry-wide aversion to risk and loss. This aversion has shifted the focus towards avoiding short-term challenges at all costs, rather than how to maximize long-term value.

At some point, owners realized that they could actually sue architects for supposed “negligence,” and as a result, architects began to cede some of their control to external parties (engineering firms, product manufacturers, contractors, etc.) in an effort to disperse liability.

In an increasingly complex AEC environment, this trend has only intensified. Going forward, it’s likely that contractors and subcontractors will actually take on a larger role in the technical design work, further diminishing the architect’s influence and control.

Putting Architects Back in the Driver’s Seat

When architectural designs get broken down into smaller pieces and distributed among everyone involved in the project, the proverbial game of telephone begins to affect the final product. So as an architect, how do you take what has become a sprawling, unwieldy process and make it manageable again?

Centralizing Control With BIM

In order to improve visibility and oversight, architects need a centralized platform that de-silos individual design processes. 3D modeling programs like Revit can be integrated directly with engineering and structural software like RISA-3D and RISAFloor to facilitate seamless collaboration and information sharing, as well as increased transparency throughout the process. Moreover, these programs allow engineers, contractors, and subcontractors to work directly from the original model, resulting in a stricter adherence to the architect’s initial design.

Data-Driven Design

As more stakeholders enter into the design process, they bring their own opinions and ideas along with them. While collaboration is, of course, important in any AEC process, many architects are finding it’s much harder to convince others to follow their lead and/or go with their ideas.

By capturing information — which could, for example, involve running predictive performance models or observing how people interact with a 3D virtual environment on a 1:1 scale during a VR experience — architects can add weight to their decisions and opinions, as they’re informed by hard data rather than conjecture.

The Glory Days, 2.0

Ultimately, innovative AEC tech like BIM and VR allows the modern architect to organize and manage every detail of a project’s design while still integrating outside insights where appropriate and clearly communicating updates to all involved parties.

Architecture will always be about grand vision, but putting that vision to paper has, admittedly, become a pretty challenging thing to do. Fortunately, technology has upheld its end of the bargain by delivering tools capable of meeting this challenge — now it’s time for architects to take the leap, adopt cutting-edge tools, and reassume their role as the “Master Builders” they once were.

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InvestmentsUniversitiesFacilities
Danielle Dy Buncio
Founder & President
Jan 17

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