Insights from Experts: Bill Beyer on Design for the Business Journal


Bill Beyer, FAIA, Manager, Architecture
Years with Opus: 12
Project Credits: Ascension Catholic Church & School Remodel, St. Catherine University Butler Center Expansion, Visitation School Heart & Mind, Saint Thomas Academy Activities Center and Luther College Aquatic Center
Event: Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal's Table of Experts: Design & Construction

Key Points from the Panel

  • On technology impacting the industry: "Opus is using Total Station, the tool used on the stadium, to take 3-D building information models to the site to reduce the amount of error, which also helps improve project speed, cost and overall outcome. But BIM tools are so powerful that it's taken 10 years to get 50 percent of their potential used in the business. Ten years ago it was much more difficult to convince our construction counterparts how good Revit would make their lives, and now it's used on virtually every project. We're also starting to integrate virtual reality into our design technology tool box to improve the client experience and help them truly envision their new space.

    "It's a steep learning curve, too. You don't just buy it and use it. You have to train people on it for three or four years. When I was on the national board of AIA, one of the issues we focused on was interoperability of these systems, because there were multiple BIM platforms that didn't talk to each other, and lead contractors had one software while the subs had something else, which created a number of challenges. And what about the legal issues of sharing a model? Who owns it?"
  • On collaboration between design and construction teams: I practiced 34 years in a traditional architectural practice and the past 11 with Opus, following a design-build model. The design-build project delivery model is the easiest and most productive architecture I've ever practiced. It's not that you can't use the traditional delivery model, but you don't partner with the same contractor every time. For me, it's night and day. I see the direct benefits of design-build on the project and for the client, and we have clients who have experienced both approaches tell us that they really appreciate the value, clarity and convenience that design-build delivers."
  • On whether he advocates for one model: "I've found that on most projects, especially with clients who have less experience with design and construction, having a team includ­ing the builder, designer, and owner talking continuously from the begin­ning through the construction phase, you can get the pricing understood and present cost trade-offs much more quickly and effectively than otherwise. This empowers the client to make informed decisions for best outcome and satisfaction."
  • On the role of architecture, design and construction in affordable housing/housing booms: "One of my first projects was with Burlington Northern Land Development Co. It owned the entire Minneapolis riverfront, from Henne­pin to Plymouth Bridge, and in 1974 they wanted to develop housing on the river. In part, the 1974 recession killed it, but also notable was the fact that we interviewed multiple devel­opers at the time and we couldn't get anybody to figure out how to do it. Now downtown has thousands of units, and the riverfront is a thriving residential community. My takeaway is that driving change in a large city takes significant time."