Functionality before construction

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Before the architects can think about which products and technologies can solve a presented problem, they first have to determine what it is that will solve the problem. And the core of an infrastructure facility is its behaviour, its functionality. Thus, OIAm states that the architects must decide on infrastructure functionality, before any work can be done on designing the actual construction.

Many infrastructure architects tend to think in constructions, products and point solutions. This does not necessarily lead to bad architectures, since most architects are unconsciously skilled in their profession. However, modern infrastructure products and solutions are increasingly complex, have increasing capabilities, have ever more intricate configurations, and often depend on many other infrastructure facilities. All this complexity detracts architects from their focus on the core functionality requested. It also obscures interoperability issues in infrastructure facility chains, which means that after realization, a facility may not be as reliable or flexible as the architects envisioned beforehand.

Infrastructure functionality is actually much less complicated than the products that embody it. Therefore, once we start looking at infrastructure facilities as combinations of infrastructure functions rather than infrastructure components, we require less concepts, strongly reducing the complexity of the model. Losing information on the facility’s actual construction has little or no impact at the architecture level, while the benefit is a better understanding of the infrastructure as a whole, providing the architect with more insight and grip.

The primary job of the architect then becomes: to determine which functionality is actually required by the stakeholders, to combine this with functionality that’s required internally in the infrastructure facility, and to prescribe how this functionality is interrelated. OIAm words this as “functionality before construction”.

This OIAm premise fits neatly with the OIAm workflow. OIAm assigns the Functional Design phase, dealing with functionality and requirements, to the architect. The next phase is the Technical Design phase, dealing with construction, technology and products, which is assigned to the designer. While the activities of an infrastructure architect in real life may be more diverse, OIAm defines the Functional Design phase as the infrastructure realization process up to the point where specification of the infrastructure functionality and architecture requirements is completed.