Integrating Architecture into an Engineering practice

Business operations in the modern-day built environment are regulated by gaining a competitive advantage.  A strategy in this context is differentiation — standing out from a monopoly of similarly qualified firms with similar expertise, people, and experience. This has led to the formulation of Integrated Practices — a  single firm offering comprehensive services such as Architecture, engineering, and construction management — the most preferred organizational structure in the AEC industry. The advantages are reduced project costs and swift project completion, saving a lot of resources in the process. In addition, integrated operations promote efficiency and much-required linearity in handling construction projects throughout the project lifecycle.

Today, design professionals face challenges on multiple fronts — adapting to rapid upgrades of technology, delivering quality projects, aligning to the various advancements in design and construction techniques, and excelling in the profession itself. However, recent studies have indicated a lack of growth in productivity and innovation in the construction domain. This has led to projects running behind schedules and incurring unwanted cost overruns. To combat this, effective coordination must be imposed during the design phase itself, and the stakeholders need to be well equipped with useful information regarding the project’s progress through an integrated model.

Industry 4.0 aims at extensively digitalizing the AEC industry to build a strong foundation for future operations. With advancements in tools and software — interlinked communication technology and cloud-based data storage systems have eased daily operations. It is really interesting how BIM enables integrated practices to work efficiently. BIM is one major platform that unites various project stakeholders, sharing knowledge and enabling real-time monitoring of construction projects. The multiple features of BIM allow designers to assimilate a 3-D integrated model, assigning a schedule to the project, cost estimation, sustainability measures, overall project life cycle analysis, and extending stakeholder communication and collaboration. Navisworks Manage, a BIM  software, allows for clash detection at the project design phase itself to reduce wastage and loss of time in the project execution phase. Additionally, BIM is gradually becoming a widely accepted and adaptable tool for all running practices to evolve to integrated digital operations.

Firms today are looking to align principles of Design and Construction as they adopt the methods of integrated practice such as design-build and fast-track production, demanding a cohesive approach to undertake and deliver successful construction projects. The relevance of client experience is a key differentiator, overtaking price and product for AEC firms. Looking at the future, adopting lean construction practices to enable Integrated Project delivery seems a sensible, sustainable construction practice.