The main criteria for choosing a designer

In Hungary today, 20-30% of every 10 construction projects fail or die during the design phase. Roughly 60% of what is built is economically bankrupt, the handover is delayed, it ends up in litigation and nobody wins at the end of the day. These are mainly the major investments. Finally, probably 30-40% are successful. They are set up by individuals and multinationals, with a very good sense or consciously structured project coordination.

If you want a successful project, the first critical point is the choice of designer. There are three aspects to consider, the third being the most important for the success and cost of the investment.

1. See what kind of houses the selected designer designs

In other words, do you like his style?

It is different for everyone and there is no universal truth. If you are thinking of an organic public building, you will never get along with a minimalist designer, and if you want to make headlines in Octogon magazine, you will never ask for a mediterranean style house.

Still, if you’re not thinking about private investment, but perhaps something that will

egy évtizedre meghatározza egy városrész vagy egy utca hangulatát, esetleg pár száz embernek fog munkahelyéül szolgálni, akkor mindig törekedj az
strive for architectural quality.

Check out contemporary architecture, Dezeen or Archello for inspiration. But there are also many talented Hungarian architects.

Most importantly, under no circumstances should we allow a single-family home builder to sum up a tasteless building from all the Archicad elements and plaster finishes he knows, just because we didn’t bother to pre-qualify or pay 1% design fee more.

2. Ask how practical are his/her houses?

The other side of the coin is that we have a lot of very talented designers who perhaps put a little more emphasis on the mass proportions of the building and the context of the spaces and materials than on the real needs of the actual use.

In some cases – a museum or a public building – this may be very appropriate, but often the desire for self-expression overrides this in projects where it would not be justified.

Decide how functional you want your buildingto be and consider this when choosing a designerotherwise…

The result: dead spaces, expensive buildings, and a non-functional floor plan that draws out the Big Dipper… So, in practical terms, the designer is creating a “sculpture” where the user is more of an annoyance or distraction, but ultimately a tolerable factor for him.

3. How “buildable” were the designer’s previous plans?

This is a critical and expensive point at which a significant proportion of Hungarian construction projects bleed to death.

Let’s assume that everything went well. Our designer has designed a house of high architectural quality, cost-effective and usable – which is to be expected from a designer of good ability.

The involvement of engineers and co-designers and the design of the building’s construction plans – its structure, mechanical and electrical systems, and nodes – will begin.

Unfortunately, it may then turn out that the toolkit of our excellent and responsive designer is not suitable for designing a house of great complexity.

I’ve written a lot about this in our blog and case studies, so I won’t go into it now, but instead, I’ll share with you what I think you should ask your designer if you want a successful BIM project.

To BIM or not BIM, that is the question.

Ask him what he thinks BIM is.

If our designer starts explaining the theoretical meaning of Building Information Modelling in a bit of a rambling way, he has probably never done it before.

Ask questions, give you examples: how they use it, what are the practical benefits, but know that BIM is a toolkit that increases the efficiency of the construction industry from design through construction to operation.

Ask him to show you a point cloud in his office.

In a company working with high-level BIM, point cloud is as much a matter of course as a water meter is for a bricklayer.

Part of a laser scanned point cloud of an industrial facility with modeled mechanical elements (BuildEXT)

If he doesn’t have that, he’s never done a field survey before, so he’s working from manual measurements, so there will probably be a lot of small discrepancies that will hurt him during the construction.

Ask him to open a multi-disciplinary BIM model.

If he can show you a model that includes not only the architecture but also the structural, mechanical and electrical systems, chances are good that he or she can build a prototype of a building in the digital space and you will get high-quality designs.

If he only has a model of architecture and the other disciplines are in 2D, then welcome to a time travel to the ’90s.

Ask how is a thermotechnology or building structure sized?

If the answer is to calculate room by room, or perhaps to measure the bracket flat per frame position, then we are back to the technologies of previous decades, which will impose significant investment and operating costs on the customer during construction and operation.

If the answer is to run an energy analysis of the building on the hottest summer day, God forbid, using finite element methods to run the load on the building frame, then we have a good chance of success.

Solar analysis of the ZenGarden office building, which also houses BuildEXT’s Budapest office (BuildEXT)

Ask how the sectoral models are coordinated?

If the explanation starts with saving IFC and doing a clash detection in a program, it means that although there is a 3D model of everything, they cannot follow the changes in the design, or only slowly and with a lot of manual work. This usually leads to 20% extra work in construction.

If it says that the disciplines work in a central model and can see each other’s work in progress, you have a good chance of a successful project.

Ask him how he delivers the plan out to the site?

If the answer is pdf and hard copy, that’s like using a typewriter to draft a contract today. If he says he’s using a cloud-based system that even has a ticketing system integrated, then they’re in the average level, but it’s not BIM yet, because there’s no model behind it.

If he claims he’s using a model-based CDE environment that can take the complete multi-disciplinary model out to the site on a tablet or phone, you have a good chance of success.

Ask him how he manages changes during construction?

If the answer is Excel and email and phone, you can expect a few weeks of design change cycles, and almost certainly a lot of conflict and expense to get the solution built in reality before the designer can track it down.

If the contractor can indicate this in a model-based software, the designer can see it immediately and the plans can be updated after the modification by a synchronization, you have a good chance of success.

BIM workflow is based on all actors working and sharing information in a Common Data Environment (CDE)

Ask him what BEP and classification he uses in his design?

In such a case, the designer should pull out the office standard, which is a 60-page document that sets out who has to deliver what model, how the participants will work together, what the plan format will be, and what level of detail and information content the model will contain.

If you have one, there is a good chance that at the end of the implementation you will have a model that can serve as the basis for a facility management system and makes your life easier for the next 20 years.


These differences may seem small, but the difference in impact is huge.

In practice, the perception and utility value of a house is determined by the talent and skill of the designer, but

the economics of the investment and the success of the construction project are determined by the engineering qualities and technological skills (BIM) of the designer.

The situation is complicated by the fact that, in today’s Hungarian context, it is very difficult to find a designer who can claim to be a self-proclaimed designer who does not use BIM – but that is no more than saying he uses a computer.

This is the basic assumption today, it is the way the technology is used.

A large part of the profession still has conceptual problems in the field, and a small part understands it, but it is still only theoretical or the first stumbling block and only a handful of players have managed to develop a well-functioning workflow in BIM-based design.

As long as a project is small enough and not too complicated, the risk is not so great, because the contractor will sort it out on site, and that’s what design engineering is for.

synlab laboratórium BIM modell

But above a project value of about HUF 1 billion,
it is life-threatening to start designing and coordinating
with traditional tools.

I think this is what the next few years will be about, and sooner or later, after the development centers of the multi-companies, the big investors, and later the small and private developers, will understand the sense of this operation, which can be expressed in numbers.

Until then, good learning and lots of pilot projects for everyone!

Csaba Livjak

Talk to Csaba about this article

CEO, Founder

Get in touch

Read more articles by this author!