Bridging the Design Team Communication Gap

As our industry pushes forward with new and (debatably) better technology, key members of the design team are being left out. Communication and knowledge transfer between senior and junior level design team members is a significant struggle for many AE firms and this gap appears to have grown increasingly wider over the years.

When CAD was first introduced, some technically savvy design team members gravitated towards it, but many preferred to continue drawing by hand. This wasn’t too much of a divide, however, since CAD is simply digitized hand drafting. The senior and junior level design team members could still speak the same language as the information was visually represented the same way.

The adoption of BIM widened the gap. Since the model is a virtual representation of the designed building it should be the ideal environment for sharing knowledge. What’s happening instead is the senior design team members are disconnected from the rest of the team due to the complexity of the modeling software. They’re afraid of opening the model because they might break it and even if they open it “read-only”, they may find it too difficult and time consuming to navigate.

This is a problem because part of the design team collaborates in 3D, but then must provide flattened information (2D drawings) to senior design team members for review, which don’t include all the information contained within the model. For example, if an element represented by a generic annotation is modelled using incorrect dimensions, the senior design member can’t see it. Design knowledge could be communicated more efficiently if all team members were involved in the modelling process.

So how can we get the whole team on the same page? There are various solutions available, but it’s important to choose one that’s intuitive, unintimidating, and portable. At our company, we chose a solution that allows all team members to view the model in a separate, safe environment with visibility into the information contained within each element. The models can be accessed on their desktop computer or a tablet in the field. If an issue is identified, it can easily be marked and assigned to a fellow team member for correction or follow-up. The modellers within the team can click on the issue and view it within the modelling software for quick resolution. With this solution in place, everyone can collaborate within the same platform regardless of proficiency in the modeling software.

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