After serving 30 years in construction management, what led you to establish the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering at Stanford?
I observed that information management was the most powerful tool a construction company had to differentiate itself in terms of productivity. Paper drawings and specifications made it impossible to create an integrated approach. More academic work was needed to come up with the right tools for integration.
What is the future of 2-D construction documents? Right now, they're legally required documents of record. Within the next 10 years, 3-D models will become the document of record.
How does 3-D modeling improve jobsite productivity? Accurate geometry leads to greater productivity. All the pieces fit together on site, you can link your designs to off-site fabrication, and fewer problems come up in the field. It's possible, however, to go beyond that using information that's part of building information modeling [BIM], such as what the materials are, how to procure them, and how the building can be managed and maintained.
What should architects do to cultivate a leading edge? Architects would benefit by working collaboratively with contractors who want to use building information modeling. They should get experience using BIM tools not just for design, but also to link to construction.
What is the greatest challenge architects and engineers face in the next decade?
First is to learn how to use modeling tools and reduce the time and cost of making a building by at least 25 percent. There has been no real change in our industry's productivity for the last 50 years. Second is to design buildings that are more sustainable and meet green building goals.
How can architectural education be improved to address these challenges?
There's too much emphasis placed on art and insufficient emphasis on how buildings perform and how they're constructed. I'd like to see architects work with BIM tools from the start of their education.
Laurie Manfra is a freelance writer based in New York City.