Abilities in basic design may be being overlooked in recruiting decisions in favour of skills in Building Information Modelling, a new report suggests.

In its report The Role of the architect today and tomorrow, recruitment outfit Hays said there is concern amongst some segments of the profession that a potentially excessive prioritisation on the part of employers with regard to BIM skills over and above basic design abilities may have long-term consequences for the profession in terms of its skills pipeline and reputation.

In the survey, Hays said, a number of professionals raised concerns that employers are placing undue levels of weight upon BIM capabilities and are potentially giving insufficient levels of consideration to the fundamental design competencies of their candidates.

Indeed, more than nine in 10 architects ranked technical knowledge and capability as either extremely or moderately important within their profession, while 76 per cent ranked creative design skills as either extremely or very important and 77 per cent suggested that hand drawing and sketching skills will always be critical.

Irrespective of digital technology advances, a number of those surveyed suggested that hand drawing skills offer speed and flexibility which is unmatched by digital technologies, and that such skills can provide the basis for inspiration and the spawning of new ideas.

A number also note the brain and hand work together simultaneously, and that drawing on a computer activates a less creative area of the brain compared with that which is activated through hand drawings.

Moreover, whilst BIM skills are important, it appears that many architects in fact feel that these can be acquired on the job.

Whilst 46 per cent say they have been hired for a role without having the required software experience, 83 per cent of those say it took them less than six months to upskill in this area.

Adam Shapley, senior regional director of Hays Architecture, says architects recognise the need to upskill in new technology but adds that many are concerned about an emphasis on this taking excessive precedence over core design abilities.

“Architects are clearly passionate about their profession,” Shapley said.

“They are influential creative thinkers who take their responsibilities seriously. They have a strong social conscience and embrace sustainability. They are good communicators and have mastered the art of diplomacy in order to deal professionally and effectively with their clients.

“But they are concerned about the quality of design standards since some employers have made hiring decisions based on a candidate’s BIM skills rather than their design capabilities.”

Notwithstanding this, however, the survey also indicated that both BIM and broader technologies are acknowledged as being important.

Only 19 per cent say they believe there are a sufficient number of professionals with suitable Revit skills to meet demand both now and in the future. A substantial number believe architects over the next few years will need to become familiar with digital design-to-fabrication tools (53 per cent), augmented reality and virtual reality tools (53 per cent), writing algorithms and software to generate architecture (27 per cent), composites (18 per cent), scripting (14 per cent) and artificial intelligence (12 per cent) in order to do their job effectively.

Hays says employers should value strong technical foundations in software such as Revit within candidates but should not prioritise this at the expense of creative ability and should consider training the right candidate in Revit if necessary.

For candidates, Hays suggests becoming proficient in Revit but also stresses the importance of going beyond that and developing expertise in as many programs as possible in order to enhance employability and transferable skills.

Candidates should also demonstrate an appetite to learn quickly and continue to develop strong technical abilities, Hays said.

  • All bull… I went to a few interviews and all they are interested in is whether you are good at revit, other experiences and capabilities are totally not relevant in retrospect. That is where the industry is heading, a cad monkey tied to the limitations of a program that was not developed for architecture design in the first place.

    • I think you're right Sam. Creativity will go out the window if this takes over.

      I remember checking over a builder's 32 standard designs (CAD documentation) and it became clear that the operator was deficient in checking and the basics of dimensioning; it was as if the mind of the operator was constrained. The price of the working drawings was also about double that of someone using the old drawing board and tee square method of drafting.

      The cut and paste mentality is also detrimental to creativity in my opinion. There is also a loss of labour when machines do the drafting; and whilst the architect or draftsman is actually doing the drawings, the brain has far longer to make creative ideas gel. Perhaps that, together with smaller parcels of land, and the fact that building firms are becoming larger, is why housing has so much less variety, each house with its pasted central porch.

    • I thought that Revit WAS specifically designed for architecture. I know that Archicad (not mentioned but equally popular). I think that the focus on production has always existed – especially in large offices – and firms used to call those who did this 'draftsmen'. I agree with the lack of flexibility of all CAD systems (except Sketchup perhaps) compared to hand drawing. Most designers, even if they really like using CAD, will still start designs .with pencil and paper.

  • Architecture is an art and the real artists will continue to work productively and creatively with whatever tools allow them to achieve their desired result. The availability of better tools will only advance the art form.
    Revit is not BIM. The I in BIM is for information, the 3D model produced within Revit without the appropriate information available at different stages as the life of the project progresses is only a 3D model.

    • This is a good point. But what happens when that artist completes works that are too big for him alone? Who does he hire? Someone with a similar temperament? Or does he just need to hire someone to execute? One can see how both potential employees can be hired easily. If an academic institution were to have a goal of maximizing the number of careers, they could tend toward producing designers as much as they could toward "button pushers". The student themselves could then be swayed either way.

      Out of this we don't simply have a culture of 'artists will be artists', but a more troubling one where whole industries are finding lowest common denominators and possibly even preventing future artists from flourishing.