I've recently given a few talks on the implications of model-based "measurement" strategies for the building industry, and how the ability to measure outcomes prior to construction becomes the basis of all sort of new stuff, particularly new delivery and compensation schemes. The delivery implications will be the subject of another post.
It occurs to me, however, that this latest development in the evolution of use of BIM technology for building might be seen as a third "segment" in the technology's evolution. I'm not talking about the UK model for BIM 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0, but rather the emergence of a third motivation for technologic-based change in industry process. Here's a quick sketch:
While there was lots of theoretical work on the idea of BIM in building (so called "product models"), early commercial implementations like ArchiCAD and first-generation Revit were focused on the first wave modality: improving drawing production. No one questioned whether orthographic projections of plans, sections and elevations were sufficient for the problem at hand, just that they needed to be better. If we could just "fix" working drawings, all would be well.
The argument evolved as we began to realize that drawing issues were a symptom of an even larger problem, industry productivity. Between the Egan work in the UK and the seminal CURT Whitepaper 1202, technology catalyzed a conversation about how to improve the overall results of the construction process, attacking the putative 35% productivity loss so often discussed in tandem with BIM.
As BIM matured and adoption became more widespread, and concerns about sustainability changed the frame of reference from delivery silos of design, bid and build to overall building operation, a third wave has now begun characterized by what I'll call industry effectiveness, or achieving better outcomes. Early experiments in IPD--where project players are rewarded not based on lowest cost but on performance of the built artifact and the processes that create it--meaning we're now getting to a very interesting part of the discussion. Making digital prototypes of a design that are performative implies that outcomes can be better measured and predicted (think energy simulation) and even tied to contractual terms. If technology, delivery models and contracts, and industry methodology can evolved accordingly, the benefits should reach everyone in the building supply chain.
I will also note that these three waves of development roughly parallel Negroponte's three stages of technology adoption/use described in The Architecture Machine, accomodation (using technology to replicate an analog process), adaptation (extending the newly digital process into new, incremental functionality) and evolution (creating new, otherwise unanticipatable practices). Of course, the wave of evolution for buidling is likely to be long and challenging, but might allow us to remake the industry in novel but desperately needed ways.