Mind & Matter


Sketching the Future: Part 2

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The current Building Information Model (BIM) movement is pointing towards a paradigm of independent intensity. It supports a CAD file that is a veritable island of deep information—a kind of virtual, interior-focused sandbox in which the entire design and construction team can play, test ideas, and query data. Although cumbersome, this model works marginally well in today’s practice, and a growing number of public and private entities are requiring that the model be handed over at the end of a job for future reference. However, the question is—does that model file simply go into a virtual storage locker, requiring years of upgrades and conversions in order to avoid becoming tomorrow’s microfilm?

The future BIM paradigm will be one of interdependent intensity. Tomorrow’s CAD files will not be islands, but rather exterior-focused nodes of activity within a sea of broad information. Take Google Earth, for example. I can focus on a model of the Campidoglio and query it with a click—I am then directed to a website where I might find historical data, books with editorial reviews and user-generated opinions, snapshots, panoramas, plans from different time periods, etc. The wealth of information we can obtain via this paradigm will likely accelerate, and one day we can imagine using Google Earth like a time machine to study any building site in the past, present, or future—complete with soil reports, local material resource data, energy consumption estimates, social demographic statistics, or carbon footprint information. No doubt, virtual models of contemporary buildings on Google Earth will also become repositories for this kind of information—not as cumbersome data files that get filed away on a remote server, but as intersections of information accessible to global scrutiny (building security consultants take note here).

The ramifications? Architects will begin thinking “outward and connected” rather than “inward and disconnected.” The change won’t be easy, and many architects will feel challenged by the empowerment now granted to a wiser public. However, a model of interdependent intensity may be the only way that a global society can use technology both to learn from our collective past as well as to formulate a successful future for our physical environment.



Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 3:35 PM Thursday, November 19, 2009

    ...but who is going to pay for it? What are the legal issues of so much information being available to people who may not know how to use it to the best end? Information is not free, as much as I wish it to be.

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.