Although architects expect to keep a central role in the construction process, and still see themselves as the main influencers of all steps in the process, they also perceive a growing influence of other parties involved. Due to trends like the increasing complexity of buildings, and the increasing complexity of the construction process, for instance due to the focus on sustainable construction, more specialism is needed in certain steps between concept and finished building. Since architects cannot be specialist in every field, more work is outsourced to consultancy companies, like engineering companies to calculate certain technical specifications, or consultants specialized in laws and regulations. As a consequence, these specialist parties are gaining influence in specific parts of the construction process.
Digitalization in the construction process
When looking closer, however, another trend can be seen that is expected to have a major impact on the division of roles, responsibilities and influence of parties involved in the overall construction process in years to come. That trend is digitalization in the construction process, or more specifically the use of BIM.
We have been tracking BIM usage since 2013, and BIM was the central theme of the European Architectural Barometer of Q4 2017. Then, architects remarked that BIM enables them to work more closely with stakeholders in their projects, and gives them the opportunity to exchange information easily. This all leads to a smoother and faster process, less errors in design and it makes sure the architects are in control of their projects. Also, we have seen that the development of BIM usage, and the shares of projects in which BIM plays a role, vary between countries.
Leading role architect
Our current research shows that the parties involved in using BIM vary per country as well. As can be seen in the image, for instance, the share of BIM-related projects in which a main contractor is actively involved in using the BIM-model varies between a mere 11% in Germany, and a whopping 43% and 45% in Belgium and the Netherlands respectively. In the majority of BIM related projects in all European countries, the architect is still the leading party in updating and checking the accuracy of BIM-models used. When we zoom in on the Netherlands and Belgium, however, a shift in roles becomes apparent.
Impact of BIM
Next to allowing architects to exchange information with stakeholders more easily, and allowing them to keep overview and control over projects, BIM also allows other parties involved to retrieve and add information. That data-exchangeability is the essential benefit of BIM. But that also means that BIM allows parties other than the architect to gain influence on the overall project. A main contractor actively involved in using the BIM-model, for instance, can exercise influence on the earlier stages, the design phase, of the project.
This becomes apparent when we look at BIM-related projects in the Netherlands and Belgium in which a main contractor is involved in using the BIM-model. In about half of these projects, the architect is still the leading party where it comes to updating and responsibility for the accuracy of the BIM-model used. However, in one out of five projects in the Netherlands, and one out of six in Belgium, that leading role is taken by a main contractor. Additionally, in one out of five projects in both countries, those responsibilities are shared between all parties involved.
These results, of which more detailed figures can be found in the Q1 2019 European Architectural Barometer, show that the trend of digitalization in the construction process indeed affects the roles and responsibilities of architects and other parties involved. BIM allows other parties, like a main contractor, to increase their influence on the overall construction process, and as BIM usage continues to grow, we expect this effect to be ever more substantial in the future.