When it comes to taking on large design projects, the bigger studios often have an advantage. With fewer designers and resources, it can be tough for small studios to compete successfully for large scale projects, and difficult to attract big name clients.
One way in which small studios can work to overcome this problem is to move up to model-based design. Award winning ARCHICAD, has been BIM Product of the Year for the past seven years providing numerous features and design processes that can be particularly beneficial to smaller teams.
What can smaller studios do to stay competitive?
Small studios may have their limitations, but there are also some important advantages to operating as a tight, compact team. In a small team, it’s typically more important that each member is well-rounded rather than highly-specialised, and such people tend to be more creative overall than those who are deeply specialised in one area. Small teams are more often comprised of people who know one another well and have learned to work together effectively, whereas this isn’t always feasible in large teams or studios.
The small team environment is more conducive to flexibility, good communication and collaborative work that includes most or all team members. In contrast, while in large studios extensive resources may be more readily available, the chains of communication are typically longer and more branched often making teams slower to respond to communications and less able to adapt to changing circumstances.
The advantages that a small, highly efficient team brings to the table may be one reason why the majority of architectural studios are small and medium enterprises (up to 30 designers).
Even so, smaller studios often do feel the pressure to compete with larger enterprises as well as with each other, and this means there may be pressure to expand in ways that may not be feasible, either fiscally or practically. However, there are alternatives to the traditional form of expansion, and growth need not necessarily mean increasing the size of the design team beyond what is reasonably affordable.
Small studios that are willing and able to adopt new technology, or to explore new ways of performing tasks, can often use this flexibility to leapfrog their similarly-placed competitors.
Or, they can turn competitors into work colleagues by opting for collaboration instead, allowing a studio to access the additional workforce it needs, without the expense of hiring extra staff. Either strategy can allow a studio to punch far above its weight in terms of the size and scope of projects it can take on.
Embrace new technology
Despite the potential advantages of the smaller studio, it’s still difficult to overcome the simple fact that with fewer people working on a given project, more time is needed to complete some stages than would be needed with a larger team. So, for small studios, success requires a high degree of efficiency, and sometimes, a new way of approaching day-to-day operations.
In some studios, for instance, the answer has been to look to other industries as the inspiration for managing workflow incorporating elements that are more commonly seen in the tech industry than in architectural design. More specifically, instead of completing every project wholly in-house, it would instead outsource work when necessary, collaborating with different design teams and other specialists to complete each project to the highest standard.
“For us it was all about being able to do the work of a Company twice our size without having to grow, by being uber efficient. so, we started looking at tech Companies to see how they work”. John Moorhouse, Constructive Thinking
Adopting model-based design, in the form of BIM authoring tools such as ARCHICAD has major benefits to smaller teams. Fully three-dimensional at every stage of a project, from conception to completion studios can be paperless, modelling entirely in 3D, with only brief, targeted ventures into 2D detailing at specific points in a project.
Ultimately, improved efficiency means higher productivity, a better ROI, and a more profitable business. And this can help a studio maintain profitability at a smaller size, rather than succumbing to the pressure to attempt expansion. Another advantage for small studios that adopt the BIM approach is simply that small studios have historically been relatively slow to do so, often under the mistaken impression that BIM is only suitable for large-scale design projects.
A key limitation of small studios is the sheer difficulty of putting in the hours needed to complete a large-scale project. With fewer team members, there’s simply no way to compete with large companies in terms of available people-hours. And often, small studios are limited in their ability to bid for projects because their design teams lack specific skills or experience that might be more prevalent in a larger studio.
One way that small studios can deal with these issues is by trying to collaborate with other studios that are working within the same constraints. And as such studios tend to discover, ARCHICAD, BIM server and Teamworking can help facilitate communication even between teams in different countries and make collaboration both easier and more productive on projects of any size.
ARCHICAD users from different locations, or even from different countries can log in to collaborate in real time, meaning that geographical location is no barrier to getting the job done.
BIM and model-based design software are increasingly common features in the studio environment, but what can ARCHICAD bring to the construction site, and how does it benefit smaller studios?
The answer lies in Graphisoft’s BIMx, a mobile communication tool for presenting design intent. Available as a free app for iOS or Android BIMx has some highly useful features that make it perfect for use in the field. It’s particularly useful for on-site viewing of 3D model data and makes it easy to communicate to clients and contractor’s specific details of a given design.
Clever use of templates that allow for the extraction of exact bills of quantities and building schedules. This means, for instance, that a contractor can click on a building element and automatically receive a count of the primary materials required for its construction. Studios can develop a range of templates that make communicating with the design team, as well as clients and contractors, easier, faster and more accurate.
Size doesn’t need to hold small studios back
For smaller design studios, competing for larger projects can sometimes feel like an impossibility; however, technology offers ways to redress the imbalance without sacrificing the advantages of a smaller, tighter and more efficient team. Embracing new technology such as ARCHICAD can be a means of helping small studios do more with less, allowing them to compete successfully on a global stage through improved efficiency and facilitated collaboration.
Aimed at providing a fast and personalised response to the needs of the small to medium sized design studio if you require any further information on implementing ARCHICAD , please contact us on +44 (0) 121 447 7788